A Setup Guide For International SEO Objectives & KPIs

  ●   January 30, 2019 | Blog, SEO
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January 30, 2019 | Blog, SEO

Our setup guide for international SEO objectives and KPIs is intended to help you establish a framework for reporting on success of your international SEO campaigns to various stakeholders.

We’ll also share insights on our recommended KPIs to monitor when reviewing performance across a global portfolio of websites.

The first step is to define the objectives of your business’ international SEO strategy. This will vary significantly from business to business, but there area a few important KPIs which should be referenced as part of this planning process.

The KPIs to include in your international SEO plan:

  • Percentage uplift in organic sessions for target markets.
  • Percentage uplift in organic conversions for target markets.
  • Keyword ranking changes for relevant local search engines per target market.
  • Acquire backlinks from regional IPs relevant to target markets.
  • Increase in measurable ROI attributed to SEO.
  • You should ensure that these SEO KPIs and goals are setup for each local market. It is not satisfactory to only analyse top level metrics, although this should be considered for communications with senior management.

It is extremely important to have a clear set of SEO guidelines and KPIs outlined for international SEO when working with multiple local agencies.

Setting up local market reports using views with uniform KPIs and segments to accurately evaluate performance globally is the key outcome of your planning stage.

We have encountered a number of instances where tracking for smaller countries has been badly maintained.

To retain a dependable international tracking setup, you must make sure that all KPIs are recorded consistently across all websites in your international portfolio.

How to prioritise markets for international SEO

When planning an international SEO expansion, it’s useful to produce organic forecasts using a click-through-rate model which will help you to scope the size of opportunity and prioritise SEO efforts across various international markets.

The best method for this is to undertake a localised keyword research project for each priority country or region before producing a full forecast.

You can also use the localised keyword research to perform competitor gap analysis for each local market, using the following method:

Upload your priority localised target keywords into a ranking tracking tool, and download a top 20 ranking position competitor report. Select a few competitors that are operational and ranking in your priority markets, then assume that you could obtain their rankings after SEO efforts.

Apply an industry average click-through-rate model organic ranking positions in that industry, and you should be able to calculate an estimate organic sessions uplift obtainable in that market.  You can use this to evaluate international expansion SEO opportunities, which will also help when setting realistic objectives.

If you do not have the full localised keyword research, you can use SEO tools (such as ahrefs and Searchmetrics) to identify the localised head terms per priority international market using your English-language keyword research.

Calculate the variance between the US / UK head term monthly searches and the localised head term for your local market. This can give you a rough indication of size of opportunity.

Calculating organic session variance across international sub folders and sub domains

However, if you have completed the keyword research in English-language for the UK or US, and you already have international sub folders or sub domains live on your website, you can use a tactical calculation to forecast size of opportunity. This process involves the following:

  • In Google Analytics, you can review to see the quantity of organic sessions for the US / UK section of your website over the past 12 months.
  • You should then be able to check the number of organic sessions from the relevant international markets via Geolocation in Google Analytics.
  • Calculate the % variance in organic sessions between the international markets.

How to review the Geolocation of organic sessions in Google Analytics

Useful tip: In Google Analytics, review Audiences > Geo > Location to identify new locations which you can prioritise. You will probably include these locations when expanding your HREFLANG.

How to calculate international market opportunities based on head search terms

If you do not have the luxury in Google Analytics of having enough Organic traffic for multiple international markets there is another way to roughly calculate the potential opportunity across different markets which can help you prioritise the next market to focus on.

Option 1: If you operate in a market where certain head terms are globally used, for example, in the internet security space “DDOS” & “CDN”, you can follow the below steps:

  • Get the search volume for a bucket of head terms in the international markets
  • Calculate the % variance between the total UK or US search volume
  • You can then apply this variance to your localised keywords by multiplying the keyword’s average monthly search volume by the variance to estimate the size of the opportunity.

Option 2: If you operate in a market where keywords are highly localised and there is no globally used head term then you can follow the below steps:

  • Identify the head terms in the UK or UK then localise a small number of them
  • Get the search volume for a bucket of head terms in the international markets
  • Calculate the % variance between the total UK or US search volume
  • You can then apply this variance to your localised keywords by multiplying the keyword’s average monthly search volume by the variance to estimate the size of the opportunity.

Always remember that realistic and reliable SEO forecasts are often an essential part of building business cases for international SEO that win buy-in from senior management.

How to setup tracking to monitor SEO performance across an international portfolio

There are various ways to track SEO performance across international markets, and much will depend on your company’s international site structure (e.g. Separate ccTLDs, Sub folders or Sub domains).

The technology stack you will require to monitor the suggested KPIs include platforms such as Google Analytics, CRM platforms (e.g. SalesForce, Eloqua, Hubspot) and keyword ranking tracking technology compatible with regional search engines (e.g. GetSTAT, Dragonmetrics).

You may encounter a scenario whereby your company’s Google Analytics is not adequately setup due to tracking inconsistencies or errors when segmenting traffic from different countries, regions and markets.

Always remember that realistic and reliable SEO forecasts are often an essential part of building business cases for international SEO that win buy-in from senior management.

The benefits of using a tagging management platform

We recommend setting up a tagging management platform when implementing a tracking setup across an international portfolio. There benefits of this include:

  • A TMP offers greater tracking flexibility
  • There is much less reliance on development support, which can delay implementations
  • It offers improved visibility on tracking implementations added
  • A TMP offers much improved opportunities for collaboration across international stakeholders.

Setting up Search Console and integrating with Google Analytics

You must ensure that your Search Console account has been setup to enable data sharing with your relevant Google Analytics account. You must do this before measuring brand versus non-brand organic sessions performance.

Google has a useful article here that provides a step-by-step overview of how to link Search Console and Google Analytics.

Measure brand vs. non-brand organic sessions

There is considerable difference in the organic traffic that lands on your website from branded traffic versus non-brand traffic. Users are likely to be in the consideration or decision stage if arriving to your website using a branded search query (e.g. “{Brand-name} services”) as opposed to being in the awareness stage if using a non-branded search query (e.g. {Product-name} services”).

We suggest that you segment out your branded and non-brand organic sessions to more accurately report on engagement across different stages of the inbound funnel for international markets.

You will likely also see that branded organic sessions vary substantially per market, as your company’s brand awareness varies.

Here are a few tips for segmenting out your branded versus non-brand organic sessions:

  • Create brand regex string that captures all possible variations of your brand name.
  • Ensure that Search Console has been linked with your Google Analytics data sources.
  • You can then use the Search Queries report in Search Console to filter to branded or non-brand search queries.
  • This will give you a sampled representation of the split of your organic traffic. You can take this split and apply it to your organic traffic to get estimated total traffic figures.

Google Analytics setup audit for data integrity

We highly recommend undertaking a Google Analytics tracking setup audit as part of the international SEO planning stage to ensure you are basing your strategy on accurate, trustworthy data.

Our recommendations for your Google Analytics setup:

  • Undertake a tracking audit to ensure that conversion touch points across your website(s) are set up correctly for different countries, regions or markets.
  • Set up filtered views for each country, region or market as is relevant to your strategic targeting.
  • Set up a global view that includes all of your priority countries and regions which are aggregated to provide an overview of performance across the entire international website portfolio.
  • We understand that each business has different tracking requirements, with varying degrees of complexity. Semetrical are able to provide consultancy and implementation support, so please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Presenting and understanding your data

There are a number of data visualisation tools available for you when considering how to present your data in a digestible format that is easy for people to understand.

At Semetrical, our preferred platform for data visualisation is Google’s DataStudio. The functionality allows for easy integration with Google Analytics.

You should work towards establishing different DataStudio projects for your priority international regions, whilst also including separate views within those projects that show the performance of specific countries within the region.

DataStudio reports can be setup to automatically update on a weekly basis due to the Google Analytics integration. This can be extremely useful when sharing performance reports among within regional stakeholders, and offering them the opportunity to review on an on-going basis.

There were contributions made to this guide from Thomas Voyle, Dominic Whittington, Heemesh Vara and Benjamin Beckwith.

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