When it comes to localizing your website, how do you select the markets and locales that have the highest potential and offer the highest ROI? What numbers do you or your boss need to make the go/no-go decision? Here is a potential sequence of steps you can take, and a selection of useful tools you can use along the way.
1. Get a feel for your potential local markets using Google Market Finder
You can’t go wrong by first exploring the insight provided by Google Market Finder, which is designed to assess the attractiveness of international markets for your specific products. It does so by using the vast amount of search and AdWords data available to Google, and automatically translating your selected keywords via Google Translate, in order to calculate the cost of acquiring new online customers in your selected locales.
The core of sound multilingual SEO is, of course, using the most relevant keywords in a given locale rather than direct translations, and Google Market Finder does a reasonably good job — very much like Google Translator Toolkit — of finding locale-specific translations, including alternative translations. It also combines several variants of the same keyword or Google AdWords broad-based matches into one keyword.
For instance, if you look for opportunities to acquire new customers in the interior design space across Europe, Google Market Finder will rank the markets as follows, using the number of local monthly searches and the current recommended bid for your selected keywords. For more comprehensive results, use Google Keyword Planner to get suggestions for additional keywords.
2. Calculate the search traffic volume and potential traffic from markets you are not currently targeting
Use tools such as Similarweb.com to understand the locale-specific amount of traffic in your vertical industry, which competitors currently get the biggest share of the pie, and the traffic sources that attract the highest volume of traffic. Look for trends as well as seasonality in traffic and keywords.
Also consider your current rank and the volume you are getting in that market, which will form your baseline metric — the sources, keywords and traffic you get now in the given locale, even without any website localization in place.
3. Analyze how your competitors currently perform in these markets
Use tools such as SearchMetrics or SEMrush to understand the amount of traffic — both organic as well as paid — your key competitors attract in given markets using local search engines and the specific organic and paid keywords. Also take note of the main organic competitors they face to understand in more detail the level of competition in the given market and the number of common keywords used.
For instance, using the same example of interior design and the German market, SEMrush will provide the following analysis of how Houzz, the fast-growing platform for home remodeling and design, performs on Google.de.
4. Conduct more in-depth keyword research in target markets
Equipped with the data collected above, or working with your local office or marketing teams, drill down on the keywords that really drive local traffic in the selected markets. Look for search volume, CPC, AdWords competition, search patterns, and trends. You can use Google Keyword Planner or alternative tools such as KeywordTool.io to uncover some highly-valuable long-tail keywords that are still very relevant and popular, yet enjoying lower competition.
This may be a valuable tactic when entering a new market with a freshly-localized website and content, since it is reasonable to assume that most of the top organic keywords will be “taken” by companies that operate in the market already — local competition or global companies that have entered the market before you, and so have built good local domain authority, traffic and followings. As always, attracting organic traffic is much cheaper then having to opt for paid keywords, which only drives the cost per click higher.
5. Understand your conversion rates and conversion value
How does your online traffic translate into the goals you have set for yourself online, and ultimately into new revenue? Every business is different, and each will track their own goals, but you should have a clear overreaching goal for your website, as well as interim lead indicators or milestones that lead to it.
This can be the number of leads that perform a specific action on your website, or the number of qualified organic leads that proceed to the next step in your online sales process, eventually resulting in an actual purchase or other conversion. Each goal can have a value, such as the average purchase, which you can use to calculate the return on your customer acquisition activities and costs.
6. Calculate the ROI of your potential website localization
Knowing the average conversion rate and your average conversion value, it is then easy to calculate the theoretical break-even point for your website localization project, and the number of visits your localized website needs in order to achieve that point. For the number of conversions required, divide your localization costs by the average conversion value over time. The number of visits needed is then calculated by dividing this number of conversions by the average conversion rate (percentage).
There is also a very friendly and easy-to-use ROI calculator, prepared by Aleyda Solis, International SEO Consultant and Founder at Orainti, which will help you calculate those break-even numbers, as well as the theoretical ROI of your international SEO.
7. Decision time
There are always multiple factors when it comes to website localization decisions, but being equipped with the right numbers and metrics is important to support your decision. Even if the numbers don’t show a clear ROI in the short term, there may be other reasons to proceed, such as strategic or marketing goals. It is also useful to remember that full website localization is not the only option. Consider partial localization — focusing on the main pages, the main touch points in the online purchase process, customer support — simply put, the content that is critical for achieving your specific objectives in the market.
Learn how you can nail organic search in international markets in our Guide to International SEO.