Search engines are evolving quickly, thanks to the fast evolution of AI and machine learning. These changes are forcing the SEO industry to shift tactics from keyword-centric to topic coverage strategies. Recently, Search Engine Journal provided a high-level view of this phenomena.

For companies with only one market or one language websites, this evolution it’s a simple revision of content creation processes, improvements on copywriting guidelines, and a fantastic opportunity to revise the internal link structure of their websites. As usual, international and multilingual websites have a different set of considerations to analyze. These are my three hypotheses.

“If your SEO strategy has a heavy focus on keywords, you’re not optimizing for the future” Blas Giffuni.

Market cannibalization

It’s common to see that the primary market website overtakes the local results of secondary markets. For instance, performing a Google search in Peru drives many results from Argentinian, Mexican, and Spain websites. 

This market shift may happen due to lack of local sites covering a specific topic or the reduced number of sites covering the subject in a particular language. It could also be that the primary market websites have been around longer and gained links from multiple locations over time. 

Website owners should make sure to have a proper hreflang implementation and provide the right geolocation signals to Google. Guiding Google and users to the correct local version of a site reduces market cannibalization. Here are some additional considerations for international SEO.

Battle of creatives

Something I found interesting after spending a decade on the localization industry, is the constant battle between translators and local copywriters. 

Each approach has pro and cons, centralization of marketing message with translation by an LSP provides more control and a unified global brand. Creative local teams, often offer a better local experience, but the brand message may suffer, or worst could be unknown to corporate.

In my opinion, covering topics rather than keywords provide an edge for translators and LSPs as the content may or may not include local versions of the keywords. The search engines could still be able to understand, index, and rank the content properly.

Faster global expansion

I may be biased, but In my experience, proxy-based translation technology is the fastest way for companies to launch and test new markets. One of the major cons that I see for this technology is the difficulty to use synonyms and regional keywords simultaneously within the content of the site.

Proxy-based translation technology relies on an origin website. Usually, these websites are the ones of the primary markets and have a decent technical SEO structured and a well-planned content strategy. Both easily replicated by the proxy approach. 

It seems that the evolution of search may be beneficial to companies in favor of a proxy-based website translation approach.

To conclude -in my opinion- the approach to reach international markets online depends on the size of the opportunity and the resources allocated to each market. The global digital experience is a critical factor in a world-class customer and brand experience.