The pandemic period verified how quickly companies are able to adapt to changes in the market. Those that reacted quickly were the fastest to bounce back from the crisis and could even benefit from it, which can also be seen in the marketing industry. How does it relate to international activities?
According to the Central Statistical Office (CSO), in recent years the number of companies owning foreign units has increased by as much as 3.4%. We have simpler and faster foreign payments and increasingly widespread use of digital technology solutions.
In addition, the lion’s share of promotional activities has moved to the web in pandemic and this trend continues. All of this encourages you to expand your reach into foreign markets. However, before you decide to take such a step, it is worth preparing well.
What to keep in mind when starting out
The country in which you are trying to implement a given business model should be dictated by market research findings. The first four markets that WhitePress® entered were Czech Republic and Slovakia, but also Romania and Hungary, because the level of development of the industry and formal requirements on these markets proved to be the most favorable.
What should you check when considering expansion into a particular market?
- National legal standards, tax law, RODO regulations and regulations governing operations in a given market segment,
- formal requirements for establishing a company/affiliate,
- competitiveness of products or services,
- logistical requirements (e.g. in case of e-commerce),
- market specifics and current situation,
- estimated costs of implementing the model on the market,
- marketing in the market and SEO analysis.
It is also important to emphasize here the huge value of the team. It is definitely better to build local teams and choose the right people who are familiar with the industry than to control all the activities from the office in Poland.
Even the best analysis of a foreign market will not allow us to understand it in the same way as native specialists who have been functioning and working in a given environment for years.
We should also remember about the need for technical changes of the website/platform. In the case of WhitePress®, this required the implementation of a number of new functionalities that allow us to operate in numerous markets. In 2018, we managed to put the platform in version 2.0, where transactions can be made in different languages and currencies, between companies from multiple countries.
SEO in foreign expansion
In addition to changes in software, it is worth remembering that the website – the place where customers will go – also needs to have a new version. Even at this stage, you should plan your site structure and content to be search engine friendly.
– When we plan to leave the country, we usually prepare for it carefully. It is no different with the foreign expansion of your website – to survive on a foreign market, you need to take proper care of your website.
First of all, do not try to conquer the world with a national domain – .pl or other ccTLD domains, they will not work well on foreign markets. Opt for a global domain, preferably .com. You can also consider creating a separate site for each new market, but this is a much more time and resource consuming process.
Secondly, prepare the appropriate language versions and then tag them correctly in your code using the hreflang attribute. Third – take care of the content. Let your content be created by native speakers of a given market. Translations usually do not fully convey the meaning of the message and, as a result, do not look natural.
And fourthly – look locally for SEO. Check what SEO practices are used on a given market and adjust your strategy accordingly. Do keyword research in the target language, checking search volumes. Again, translating phrases may not be a good match and as a result, we may end up positioning ourselves for phrases that do not make sense from the searcher’s point of view – says Tobiasz Szlęk, International SEO Manager at WhitePress®.
Domain and international activities
As our expert points out, the issue of the domain is very important, not only because of SEO, but also users and even budgets on foreign markets.
The most popular 3 options are:
- regional sites on subdomains (https://pl.pinterest.com/),
- regional sites on subdirectories (https://www.picodi.com/sk/),
- local top-level domains (https://www.notino.sk/).
The mentioned options have their advantages and disadvantages, of course. Local top-level domains are the most expensive option (they usually have to be bought back), but they are also the most readable for local users.
In WhitePress® we initially did it this way, but the time has shown that it is not the best solution for us. The expansion turned out to be dynamic and this growth requires a coherent structure, especially for SEO purposes. In the end, we took over the domain whitepress.com in order to create an international parent domain independently of the Polish site and to move the foreign sites to the subdomains whitepress.com/[region].
Content in international marketing
When deciding to expand, it’s worth being aware that every element of customer contact will need to be translated, and to do so head-on. From website content and text operators, to trademark and name customization, to promotional content creation and social media activity.
When getting down to translation, it’s a good idea to first conduct a thorough marketing analysis in the context of the trademark names, which will answer the question of whether they need to be changed; whether they are offensive or vulgar in another language. Do you know the case of the Krakow hotel in the Boner Palace? Before the original English-language name of the Boner Palace was changed, it had managed to stir up quite a bit of controversy.
When it comes to on-page content, such as category, service or product descriptions, it is also worth being vigilant. We at WhitePresss® are against automatic online translations that usually do more harm than good. Did you know that there is an ironic Facebook fanpage dedicated to the disastrous product descriptions on AliExpress and Shein (Descriptions from Aliexpress)?
Examples can be multiplied. While Google Translate does a pretty good job of translating English into Polish, the results with other languages can be comical. The best offers won’t fly in your mouth like roast pigeons – this is an example from our own backyard (a sentence from a Hungarian ebook translated automatically).
Our experience shows that “manual” translations or creating a completely new text is the best solution. The WhitePress® website and administration panel were translated by local teams that specialize in the industry and know the functionality of the platform well. This resulted in translations that required no additional work: intelligent, using the right vocabulary, and without linguistic calumnies.
Link building and content marketing internationally
It is slightly different when it comes to publishing content on a company blog, as part of PR campaigns or sponsored articles. In this kind of content, we do not recommend translations, even very good ones. For several reasons:
- the cost of translation is usually higher than the cost of writing a new article,
- some content cannot be translated in a 1:1 ratio or requires basic knowledge of the subject,
- the translation will not be properly optimized for SEO, such content should be tailored to the relevant market.
So who should write articles for your foreign website?
We strongly encourage you to work with local copywriters. This is how we ourselves provide our clients with specialized, high-quality content in various languages.
At WhitePress®, we have learned what to look for when working with copywriters from other countries:
- create detailed guidelines with the use of appropriate units (e.g. in Poland they are priced per characters with spaces, while in most of Europe – per words)
- Add SEO guidelines preceded by keyword analysis for a given market,
- pricing negotiations must be relevant to the market: it is good to know the average rates of local authors.
It is surprising how different are the prices for copywriting in different European countries.
Link building abroad, on the other hand, crashes mainly due to difficulties with content distribution and link acquisition in the new market.
One convenient solution is to use our platform. WhitePress® now operates in 22 countries – almost all of Europe plus Turkey and Brazil. This means that you can order publications on portals in the country of your choice as well as order content in any language and pay in any currency. An intelligent search engine with a number of filters allows you to choose the right sites for the publication of articles, and the entire order process is simplified to the maximum in terms of formalities and billing.
Another way to build brand awareness and acquire new links on the foreign market may be to establish cooperation with associations and entities related to the industry. Joint content campaigns, mutual seasonal promotion or exchange of publications are just a few proposals that can be put forward to potential partners.
Awareness of the different nature of the market is important in many areas of activity. In online marketing, it is crucial to take this specificity into account. No matter how universal the nature of a product or service is, a strategy based on calculating actions taken on your own field will not bring the expected results.
We, at WhitePress®, have seen it many times, e.g. in the case of the egobait content campaign, which was very successful in Romania and less popular in Holland (despite its high potential). After carrying out the same project in Czech Republic, we came to conclusion that the title should be different. Learning from experience, we gave the action a different name, organizing it in Slovakia (very similar in terms of industry) and it turned out to be a hit.
In order to accurately predict which ideas for campaigns will work in a given country, we need not only a thorough analysis of the market and competition, but also a consultation with people who deal with the industry on a daily basis. This is one of the reasons why creating local teams is so important.
– Customers in a country have different interests at different times. Summer looks different in Norway than in Spain, so the needs of the people in these countries are also different. When creating content and communication, it is important to pay special attention to this aspect and promote first and foremost products and services that are likely to be successful in a given market.
Another important issue is the budgets for activities in given countries. It is worth to find out the differences in this area. For example, positioning in Romania is cheaper than in Germany, as well as creation and distribution of content. Adriana Fiszer, International Business Development Manager in WhitePress®, says that it should be taken into account when costing activities.
It is also worth remembering that the communication can be prepared for a specific language or for a specific country. When the inhabitants of several countries speak the same language, we try to create content that is language-oriented and not region-oriented. It gives better results than targeting only one market.
Foreign expansion is a huge challenge for a company that requires solid preparation in various areas. The experience gathered by WhitePress® shows, however, that with the right approach and thoughtful choice of solutions, there is a good chance of success in operations abroad.
Author: Patrycja Kosek, Digital Marketing Manager in WhitePress®
She has been dealing with content marketing for six years. She has worked on content optimization and link building for Aplikuj.pl and currently supports the marketing team in WhitePress®, coordinating content marketing activities in Poland and on foreign markets. She cannot imagine the world without good coffee, books and music.
The article was written in cooperation with WhitePress®.