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Key takeaways from International Search Summit Global Virtual Edition 2021

The International Search Summit Global Virtual Edition 2021 is now over, and it was a great success! A big thank you to all the speakers for sharing their valuable insights and all the attendees for making it such a great interactive event.

It was our biggest ever virtual event, with more attendees than ever before. It was also a very international affair, with attendees from over 20 countries and speakers from over 10 countries!

If you bought one of our “Plus” tickets for the event, we will add you to our Self-learning platform in the next week, where you will be able to access the recordings and slides from the sessions. You do not need to do anything – we will email you once that has been done.

If you missed out on the event, but would like to access the recordings and slides, never fear – you can sign up to our Self-learning platform!

To give you a taster of what to expect, and to give you a nice re-cap of the last two days, this blog post will round up some of the key takeaways from the International Search Summit Global Virtual Edition 2021.

Live Q&A session with Google

We kicked off the event with an hour-long Q&A session with John Mueller from Google. Attendees asked a lot of very important questions, and John gave some very interesting answers! Here are just a few of the many questions that got answered:

  • How should you determine SEO priorities? It depends! You need to audit your website, how it ranks, your competition, etc. Ask yourself what the low hanging fruit are; where are the opportunities? So, it is more about your strategy and goals – and then how SEO can help you achieve them.
  • Will hreflang be simplified/changed now that it is more widely used? There are no plans currently to simplify or change hreflang. Google has not been able to figure out a simpler solution, and also now that people have got used to it, it might be worse to change it! However, Google does recognise that it is very easy to make a mistake with hreflang implementation, so if anyone has any ideas on how to do it better, please let us know!
  • Are hreflang and ccTLD the same thing? Hreflang and ccTLD are not the same thing – ccTLD is geo-targeting, whereas hreflang is not changing rankings but showing the right URL. So, you should use hreflang in conjunction with ccTLD if you are having issues with rankings, or if you are showing the wrong content.

How to set your international PPC campaigns for success

Anna Milburn from Webcertain then took us on a journey of discovery, delving into the world of international PPC. Here are some of her key insights:

  • Never translate your keywords, as you could be missing opportunities by not targeting the terms that your audience is actually using.
  • You need to adapt your ads to account for different search engine character limits – for example, ads on Naver and Google in South Korea will need to be different.
  • Generally, you need a minimum of one month for any data to be collected and make some tweaks/optimisations, but between three and six months is a good time to run a campaign to decide if it is right in that market.

Using audiences to unlock ROI in global paid campaigns

Navah Hopkins from Adzooma continued the paid marketing theme, although with more of a focus on audiences:

  • Audience is the most powerful lever in paid campaigns, even more than creative.
  • Having a form to collect email addresses is worth having – they can give lower engagement but better results from those who do engage.
  • Be aware that motivations differ between markets – think about your audience’s wants and needs.
  • 74% of marketers do not personalise and customise creatives – thereby missing huge opportunities as your message may be falling flat with a huge portion of your audience!

Day two of the event started with a glimpse into the future, with Janet Romero and Joel Brandon-Bravo from TransPerfect looking at where digital marketing is heading:

  • Social listening: 50% of marketers worldwide relied upon social listening during the pandemic. Monitoring what people are talking about around specific topics can help brands to develop relevant content strategies that will engage with customers.
  • Cookie apocalypse: Using cookies for marketing has actually not been that reliable, as it is device-based, not always well-matched, and retargeting can be too aggressive. Instead, businesses should really get to know their audience and build relationships.
  • Cultural differences: How people interact with websites depends a lot on culture. Western cultures are used to clean websites with dropdowns, whereas Eastern cultures prefer a more cluttered experience where all the content is there in front of them. Having a good international website means taking your UX global too, not just your content.

Core Web Vitals: What, how and why?

We were pleased to have not just one Googler on our agenda, but two! In this session, Martin Splitt from Google looked at Core Web Vitals:

  • There are three Core Web Vitals, which measure the following:
    • Visual completeness, i.e. how quickly the content shows up when a user loads the page.
    • Interactivity, i.e. how long until a user can start actually interacting with your website.
    • Visual stability, i.e. how much of the content moves (e.g. when a button appears and shifts the content down), meaning the user could click something unintendedly.
  • Core Web Vitals are part of Page Experience – and therefore have an impact on rankings. So, they matter!
  • Be aware that the measurements are rough – so you will never get exact answers, or the same every time.
  • Do not get hung up on individual metrics – use them to identify trends.

The importance of localisation in SEO

Veruska Anconitano from Canva took us in a new direction, looking more at language and the localisation of international websites:

  • Did you know that 60% of websites are in English, but only 26% of people speak English? This means there is still huge opportunity for businesses to create content in other languages, with less competition!
  • Often, processes and structures for SEO-localisation are not put in place – and each department works on its own. That will not bring success!
  • A good starting point for SEO-localisation is to look at your existing data and understand what is happening on your current website.
  • Put clear guidelines in place, i.e. what should and should not be in included, how the brand should be represented and which keywords you plan to use.
  • Providing a good user experience and knowing the culture of the target market is very important. If you make people feel at home, they will convert!

Content and international SEO: How and why everything has changed

Mordy Oberstein from Semrush continued the theme of international content, but with more of an SEO spin:

  • If we compare the US, the UK and Australia, they have similar cultures and use the same language, but they are very different when it comes to what appears in the search. The average percentage of keywords bringing the exact same top ten results in the US and UK is… 0%!
  • Entities are not universal.
  • Your international content strategy needs to go beyond data – you need to predict user needs.

How Google’s MUM will change SEO and PPC optimisation

Veronika Höller from CompuGroup Medical took us on a deep dive into Google’s MUM:

  • MUM is part of Google’s change from search engine to answer engine – and it is covering 75 languages. It is going to take a long time to fully roll out.
  • MUM should enhance experiences for users and provide opportunities for businesses who focus on quality content.
  • It is very important to have the technical aspects of your website all working well – speed is key.
  • Go beyond just text content and think about your visual content too. For example, do not just use stock images, it is better to take product images or create your own images that better serve the customer instead.
  • Use all of the options available for responsive ads – e.g. use all the headline options – so that you give the AI the most information to work with.

Scaling keyword research globally: A shift to intent and entities

Bill Hunt from Back Azimuth Consulting closed the event with his fascinating talk on the changing nature of keyword research:

  • Results are changing – they are becoming less product-focused and more on answering questions on what to do with the product – across all markets.
  • Makers of products are being squeezed out of the SERPs by websites reviewing or selling their products – as the latter are better responding to user needs and intent.
  • Using entity tags makes it easy for Google to understand a website, and more likely to rank it – often ahead of other websites which might be more relevant, but are less explicit in what they do.
  • You can gather valuable information from product managers and in-market managers on what people are actually looking for – this can be a better starting point than tools.

I hope these key takeaways have given you a brief but illuminating snapshot of what International Search Summit Global Virtual Edition 2021 was like!

Recordings and slides from the sessions will be made available on our Self-learning platform in the next week. If you bought a “Plus” ticket for the event, we will give you access as soon as this is available. If you did not buy a “Plus” ticket, you can still access it by subscribing to Self-learning.

Or, if you would prefer to attend an in-person International Search Summit, we will be running the event in Barcelona on 18 November 2021. Learn more and buy a ticket for the Barcelona event here!

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Gemma Houghton

Director of Marketing at Webcertain
Gemma has worked in international search marketing for over ten years and is Director of Marketing at Webcertain, overseeing all marketing activities for the Group. She also organises and programmes Webcertain's International Search Summit, a search marketing conference focusing on international and multilingual online marketing which runs across Europe and the US. Gemma holds a Professional Diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, a Diploma in Management and Leadership from the Chartered Management Institute, and a BA joint honours degree in French and German.

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