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5 tips to successfully launch your website in a foreign market

Launching your website or promoting an existing one in a new market can be very easy… if you know how to do so and if you have the resources for it!

Here are 5 easy steps to consider prior to launching your website into a new market. It is extremely important to get it right from the beginning as having a website which is country/culture tailor-made will naturally help your ranking and SEO work will help you push your website further higher.

  1. Search: Legal issues in the countries you are targeting.
  2. Understand: Keyword Research conducted by native speakers.
  3. Assess: Know your competitors.
  4. Convert: Turn your website into a local website.
  5. Adapt: Search engine opportunities.

1. Search: Legal issues in the countries you are targeting

It is extremely important to check this one first as it can save you a lot of money and troubles. Often it can be boiled down to two different cases;

  1. The country’s law does not accept your product/service/website.
  2. The country you are targeting is not “Internet friendly” and opportunities there are extremely limited or, at best, challenging to overcome.

No need to have a gambling website in order to be banned from the Internet in some countries. It can be more complicated than it appears. First of all, a product or a service can be disapproved in a state and perfectly allowed in another. Some services can be allowed but strictly controlled by a government. Some status can be very unclear: a product can be allowed by EU law, for example, but still forbidden on the country-level.

Some countries can also be very challenging when it comes to accepting foreign businesses in general, especially if they do not have a physical office in the targeted country. It is the case for China, for example.

Finally, as a general note, some countries are not Internet friendly and promoting your website becomes utterly challenging or nearly impossible. RWB published the Internet Enemies Report 2012 where the list of countries can be found.

The World's Internet Enemies. Global Map

In short, it is always better to double check in order to avoid expenses and to focus on unrealistic goals.

2. Understand: Keyword research conducted by native speakers

Conducting market research has become fairly straightforward with the different Keyword Research tools available these days. It might not give you a deep insight of the market you are targeting, but it will surely point to the right direction.

First of all, it is important to define who your target audience is – sex, age, profession, interests etc. Once done, you will be able to define which search engine(s), social networking sites and other digital platforms you want to target and then choose the right keywords you need to consider.

As a general tip, I would advise to define categories prior to conducting the keyword research but also not to pre-expect any results and try to keep your mind as open as you can as you might find that the audience you are currently targeting is behaving/searching differently than what you initially thought.

Secondly, forget direct translation! It will only give you an idea of a topic priority within your own language boundaries. By doing a keyword research directly in the target language for a target country, most popular terms and ideas should be found. Last but not least, ask a native speaker to conduct the keyword research. Native speakers not only can speak the language but also carry with them the culture they grew up in, conceptions and traditions. They will naturally include keywords which carry the right meaning and concept.

Finally, it becomes more and more important to consider mobile platforms and therefore to collect data for those platforms. Search behaviour can vary dramatically from desktop to mobile. Different keywords can/should therefore be targeted for the two different platforms.

3. Assess: Know your online competitors

You might have an idea of who your direct competitors are, but it is highly likely that these will vary substantially across markets. Knowing your competitors and keeping this list updated will give you a good idea of what strategy you need to consider and what goals are achievable or not. By knowing exactly who you are going to compete against gives you a better understanding of what steps you need to take and forces you to understand how those competitors are currently achieving their position. This step is extremely important, especially when you want to define a link building strategy.

4. Convert: Turn your website into a local website

It is utterly important that your website means something to the audience you are targeting. Please bear in mind that interests may, again, differ dramatically from country to another – even for target demographic segments where age, gender, affluence etc. are similar.

So by doing a direct translation of a website you might find that even if that website is highly popular in your own country, it might not get as much traction in the other country you are targeting. In this case, the primary reason will often be a lack of adaptation and local trust anchors.

Trust anchors are extremely important. At one glance, it is really easy for an Internet user to decide whether they can trust your website or not. It could be through flags, colour schemes, payment facilities and symbols. This step is absolutely essential if an action is to be expected from the user, such as registration/signup or payment.

5. Adapt: Search engine opportunities

Prior to defining your strategy, an easy way to ensure an effective presence in search engines is to check what kind of features different search engines offer. A good example is Naver; you can see that the interface of South Korea’s most popular search engine is really different from any other search engine and has been tailored to fit the needs of Korean users. It displays features which are very popular amongst Korean users and even Google decided to follow more or less the same layout for its google.co.kr platform in an acknowledgement that its traditional approach simply would not cut it.

Google versus Naver comparison search engine results

It might become a bit trickier on Google when you target different countries, but native speakers can help you define what the most important features are from their point of view. After identifying what features targeted Internet users are using the most, you will be able to put a strategy together and aim for what your targeted audience is actually looking for.

Wrapping it up

Successfully launching your website in various markets is possible as long as you are able to be flexible in terms of content and to focus more on what the internet user wants than on what you would like them to see. Expanding online into a new market is essentially not that difficult, however succeeding is. Anyone can convey a message, but conveying the right message often takes time and effort. Remember that local players are already doing most of these things by default, and it will almost always be those guys you will have to compete against.

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Benjamin Lefebvre

Director of Business Solutions at Webcertain
Ben is the Director of Business Solutions at Webcertain Group, leading the organisation’s solutions unit with the objective to expand into new markets and sectors, and focusing on driving growth whilst directing the business commercially. Ben is passionate about sharing knowledge at various international marketing conferences, and is also the head of the North American branch of Webcertain. He ensures that all clients’ international digital marketing strategies have been adapted appropriately to each target market; he has an extensive linguistic background and over ten years’ experience in the field. Ben is originally from the north of France and lived in the UK for eight years, and is now based in Canada.

2 Responses to 5 tips to successfully launch your website in a foreign market

  1. Steve says:

    Thanks for this, I’ve been thinking about selling my products overseas, but it’s obviously hard to gain the understanding and confidence surrounding. Really helpful info. Steve

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