With the ever-evolving infrastructure and procurement process within the NHS it’s not surprising that healthcare organisations in the UK are looking to improve export strategies to provide a more sustainable level of income.
With the release of reports like the Carter Review 2015 many organisations are hoping to break into new or expand within existing foreign markets to increase brand awareness and sales or strengthen existing relationships. Launching your business on a global scale can be rewarding but challenging to get right from a marketing point of view. Often your website becomes the focal point of any campaign as a tool that can still do the talking even when you’re asleep – more importantly, it’s where you can eloquently tell your story, in a way that resonates with different target audiences in order to attract their attention.
Whatever your reasons for looking to create an international web presence, there are some practical and technical considerations when launching your website onto the global stage and in this blog post, we aim to provide you with a starting point for your internationalisation project.
Firstly, it’s important to understand the scope of the project:
- What countries/regions do you need a presence in?
- What languages do you need to translate content into?
- Will the nature of the content be different depending on the country or language of the user?
- Who will manage content and should there be restrictions on what some people have access to manage?
- What are the cultural differences within your target audiences that you need to be aware of?
- Are there any regulatory differences you need to comply with – particularly in your terms and conditions?
To facilitate this, it’s important to agree the intended user journeys by mapping out who will be using the site, where they will be visiting from, what language they speak and what information they will be viewing. Understanding this will help determine similarities and/or differences to enable an appropriate solution to be architected.
Practical & Technical considerations
Once you have established what information you need to present and to whom, you can then start to make decisions on the following:
- Content strategy
- Translation requirements
- Hosting locations
- Domain Name strategy
Will you need to translate all the copy on your current website or provide different country specific content? Google Translate is a great tool but the translation doesn’t always carry the same tone so we advise specific translations in order to maintain brand integrity. How will you communicate with the market and how often?
When reviewing the practical and technical requirements, the first consideration will be to decide where your website needs to be hosted. Does the market you want to enter have any special considerations regarding the ability to view websites outside of their country?
In terms of domain name strategy there are a couple of popular options…
- CCTLD (County Code Top Level Domain), e.g. .co.uk, .fr or .de native to the country or region that you’re trying to target – a strategy currently employed by Amazon although many major brands are moving away from the CCTLD structure to gTLD to signify a unified, single, globally reaching brand.
- gTLD (Generic Top Level Domain) An alternative to CCTLD which has no designated geographic affinity. A strategy currently employed by Apple where all content resides on the primary domain but is segregated into separate folders depending on where the user is visiting from (see below).
When using a gTLD, you can still designate country specific content in one of the following ways:
- Country-coded Folders, e.g. https://website.org/fr – again, used by Apple
- Sub-domains, e.g. https://de.website.org – This strategy is starting to be used less and less by major brands as it tends to dilute domain authority.
In addition to considering how users will interact with the site, it’s also useful to understand how search engines will index content for international sites and this may have a bearing on decisions made for the above.
For the most part search engines can deduce the targeted country for a site by crawling the existing content, language, addresses and international formatting send signals to search engines enabling them to logically conclude the host country.
Things to consider are:
- The use of Hreflang tags on multi-language sites
- Setting the correct format for name address and phone number i.e. using international formatting on the site.
- Using a CDN service (Content Delivery network) ensures faster download speed
For single sites that target multiple countries introducing a Hreflang tag enables content to target users in a particular country, setting the correct format for your organisation’s name, address and phone number will provide a strong indicator of the intended country to display and using a CDN service (content delivery network) if targeting user across multiple countries will send strong signals to search engines in order build trust and authority which in turn will result in better ranking of content.
And finally… Go global but think local
The ability to create one ‘global’ site with multiple content types and languages can provide great efficiencies but the concept of localising information should not be forgotten.
If you are targeting the Spanish market for example, a user visiting from this region should feel like the website has been created for them – there are several ways you can do this:
- By auto-detecting their location
- By presenting information in their native language
- By providing easy to find contact details for someone in their time zone
Going global often requires you to think local in the first instance.
We hope you have found this blog post useful and if you would like to discuss your international website requirements, please get in touch.