How to do outreach for international SEO
Written by Zeph Snapp and published
Think outreach is a tough job? Try doing it in Spanish, French or more – in addition to English.
International SEOs face the same issues all SEOs do (proliferation of spam, low regard for SEO companies, etc.), except that we operate in markets where the number of websites is much smaller, and webmasters are even more suspicious of outreach efforts.
Here are some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about how to properly do outreach for international SEO.
Lay the right foundation
The most important part of great outreach happens before the actual contact – it’s about laying the best groundwork possible to make outreach seamless.
Localize your content
Before you even think about starting an international SEO campaign, you have to properly localize the content on your website. This means you have to decide whether you are going to divide your website by language, country or region.
Distilled wrote a guide to making these decisions, and it’s a great place to start.
Translate with care
For the love of Pete, please use decent, human translators!
The first thing that any decent prospect is going to do when they receive your outreach email is go to your site. If the site is poorly translated (or not translated at all), they’ll probably ignore your outreach email completely.
Moreover, Google takes machine translation as a negative signal and may de-index your site if you insist on using this method.
Hire fluent outreach representatives
Nobody likes to get emails with spelling errors, grammatical issues, or stuff that is just plain wrong. You can get away with having a French Canadian do outreach towards sites in France, or a Mexican SEO do outreach towards all Spanish language sites, as long as you are transparent about who you are and where you are from.
What you can’t do is have someone who speaks Spanish doing outreach to sites in Brazil. Machine translation has come a long way, but not far enough to be trusted on that level.
Outreach is the act of creating a relationship from nothing. Don’t make it any harder.
Building customer personas for international SEO projects is crucial. What need does your product fill in the market you’re targeting? Do you need to change your offering or message to fit the needs of the local consumer?
The best example of smart targeting is McDonald’s, which always make an effort to localize its food. For example, an Egg McMuffin in Mexico has refried beans. They don’t serve pork in the Middle East.
The same goes for the messaging of McDonald’s. In the U.S., the chain is known for fast, cheap food. Its marketing shows happy people, but also highlights bargain prices.
In developing markets, eating at McDonald’s is a status symbol. People dress up and go on Sundays with their families. So in these markets, McDonald’s marketing relies less on price, and more on the experience of being in the restaurant.
Make your outreach on point
When you do outreach towards websites in other languages, you have to be on point every time. International SEOs don’t have the luxury of sending out hundreds of generic outreach emails at a time, knowing that there are always more fish in the sea – because the reality is, there aren’t.
Prospect with tools and by hand
Once we’ve determined the verticals that are relevant to a website or a particular piece of content, we get to work looking for relevant sites.
The first place we look is our client’s own existing backlinks, in a process called link reclamation. If the site has been around for a while, or has been doing great work in English, we can find any links from foreign language sites and ask the owner to change the link to a more appropriate page. (Editor’s Note: Raven’s Backlink Explorer makes finding backlinks simple.)
We can also repeat this process looking at the backlinks of our competitors.
Next, we use advanced search operators based on our keywords and verticals to find more prospects. Like most SEOs, we’re always in a time crunch, so we use tools like the Prospector Tool from Citation Labs. They are making an effort to localize the tool for languages other than English, and it’s an excellent way to get an initial prospect list.
But even that list is going to have many sites that are simply not relevant to our outreach effort. We manually go through and look at every site to determine whether or not it’s a good fit for the campaign.
Put social first
I’ve been collecting data about the most successful ways to conduct outreach for Spanish SEO, and reaching out to prospects via social media is twice as successful as email or contact forms for us.
Our first choice is always to contact prospects via Facebook. If we can find them there, then first touch is a short message letting them know that we found their page as part of some research we are doing and asking them for an email address so that we can chat further.
If outreach takes place via Twitter, the message is even shorter, but with the same general message – something like, “We’ve got something you might be interested in, please DM us your email”.
Appreciate the romance
The aim of our first contact is always to elicit a response. We don’t need them to, say, agree to a guest post or a link after that first touch. We just need them to write, Tweet, or Facebook us back. Once that happens, the battle has already been won.
We’ll chat about their site, hobbies, and whatever else they want to talk about until we’ve built a relationship that makes sure we have a ‘yes.’ This sometimes makes the process longer, but it’s ultimately worth it.
Make templates less obvious
In a recent #seochat on Twitter, I had this exchange:
It may not be ideal, but writing templates comes with the territory. But that doesn’t mean they’re all exactly the same.
We generally write a template for each type of interaction (first touch, second contact, etc.) as well as for every vertical we are going to approach.
For example, if we are doing outreach on behalf of an ecommerce platform, we’d write one for aspiring entrepreneurs, another for educators at business schools, and another for review sites.
Be informal and honest
Our method is to be completely transparent. We tell prospects right from the start that we are working on behalf of a client. (For some reason there doesn’t appear to be the same stigma surrounding that approach as there is in English language markets.)
One substantial difference when doing outreach for foreign languages (specifically for Spanish SEO) is the presence of multiple forms of address. In Spanish there are two forms of address. In other languages there are even more.
It’s important to always project professionalism, but in all but a very few cases, using the more informal address has been proven the most effective for us.
Educate to add value
Once our outreach has proven successful, we write everything from scratch and to the specification of each site owner.
It can be frustrating when the webmaster asks you to make multiple edits, forgets to include the link you agreed to, or publishes the same post on multiple websites.
In some international markets (or at least in our market), there is far less awareness of SEO among website owners, so we end up teaching some best practices along the way.
For example, let’s say they don’t get the anchor text right (or forget to include the link). We might point out how internal linking might help their own site. This helps us get what we need, but they see the benefit, too.