I don’t think I am the best SEO out there. And I am not the most well-known SEO.
But when you have been doing SEO as long as I have, eventually you meet most of the players in the space.
And over the years, I’ve met a lot of Google employees. Some of them were in high positions, while others were not.
Out of all of the Google employees I met, none of them told me anything that shouldn’t be made public. And I also never put anyone in a position that would compromise their job.
But what was crazy is that the SEO advice I got on August, 2015, from a Google employee changed my life.
And what’s even crazier is that the advice I got on that particular day, is probably known by almost every SEO out there, but I bet less than .01% of SEOs use this strategy.
In other words, a Google employee shared knowledge that was readily available on any major search blog, yet I was too lazy to implement what I already knew.
So what did I learn?
Well, before I go into what I learned, lets first share the results of this one SEO tactic. The reason I’m doing this is that if I just share the tactic with you, most of you are going to ignore it like I did.
But if I share the stats with you first, hopefully, you’ll be more open to implementing what I am about to teach you.
So here are my traffic stats from August 2015 for NeilPatel.com:
And here are my traffic stats for the trailing few months after I had learned this new strategy:
As you can see from the image above my traffic was growing. I went from roughly 100,493 unique visitors a month to 144,196. Not too bad.
But here is the thing… my traffic was naturally growing from all of my other marketing efforts. And I didn’t even start implementing what I learned from Google until November 28, 2015.
And the results didn’t kick in right away. It took over a year before I really started seeing growth. But once I hit the 21-month mark, things really started to skyrocket.
So, what was the big lesson?
Well, maybe you’ll be able to figure it out by looking at the screenshots below. What’s the big difference in the screenshots below?
Here’s the first one from NeilPatel.com:
And here’s one from the KISSmetrics blog (which I now own – I’ll blog about this another day):
And here’s one from my older blog, Quick Sprout:
What’s the big difference between them?
All three of the blogs are about marketing. The content is similar… so what’s the difference?
KISSmetrics and Quick Sprout generate their traffic from roughly the same regions. But NeilPatel.com, on the other hand, generates traffic from regions like Brazil, Spain, and Germany at a much higher percentage.
So why is this?
Google told me to go multi-lingual
It’s hard to rank on Google.
No matter how many blog posts I write about SEO, most of you won’t rank well because it takes a lot of time and countless hours of work (or money).
But as my friend at Google once told me…
There is already a lot of content in English but not enough in other languages even though the majority of the people in this world don’t speak English.
In other words, you need to translate your content.
On November 28, 2015, I published my first article in Portuguese (if you click the link there is a good chance it keeps you on the English site, so you may have to click the flag next to the Neil Patel logo and select Brazil after you click on the link).
Fast forward to today and I have 4,806 blog posts published on NeilPatel.com of which 1,265 are in Portuguese, 650 are in German, and 721 are in Spanish.
I slowly started to go after more languages because the strategy is working. Here are my traffic stats in the last 31 days in Brazil:
And here are the stats for German:
And Neil Patel Spanish:
It takes time to do well within each region when you localize the content, but it’s worth it because there is literally no competition.
Seriously, no competition!!!
And I know what you are thinking… people in many of these countries don’t have as much money, so the traffic is useless and won’t convert.
If that’s what you are thinking then let me be the first to tell you that you are way off!
You need to look beyond English!
Let’s look at the most popular languages in the world:
Now let’s look at the countries with the largest populations:
And lastly, let’s look at GDP per country:
The data shows the majority of the world doesn’t live in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, or Australia.
There are so many other countries to focus on.
Not only is there a lot of people in regions like Brazil, but their GDP isn’t too bad. And yes, there isn’t as much money to be made in Brazil as there is to be made in the United States… but in the U.S. you have a lot of competitors.
While in Brazil, it’s much easier to dominate, which means you can probably make as much money in Brazil as you do in the U.S.
To give you an idea, when my ad agency expanded to Brazil, we generated over a million dollars in revenue in less than 12 months when I can’t even speak one word of Portuguese.
Well, technically that’s a lie. I know enough Portuguese to order a water and tell the waiter that I don’t want salt on my food 😉
Just think of it this way, we were able to grow when only 3% of Brazilians speak English. That means I had little to no involvement, yet we still do decently well.
And my efforts look minuscule when you compare them to companies like Amazon. They keep investing in regions like India even though it keeps losing them money. They even announced how they are going to pour in an additional 2 billion dollars.
If you want to grow fast like Amazon, you have to start thinking big.
And international expansion should be one of those big thoughts.
Even if you aren’t able to service some of these regions, what’s the harm in spending money to first build up your company’s brand and traffic in those regions? You can then worry about monetization later on.
But you better hurry… time is running out.
It’s like the wild west
In that time, we talked shop, we shared stories from our personal life, he convinced me to stop investing in hedge funds, and to put all of my money back into the web… and best of all — he explained how regions like Brazil are the wild west.
But he didn’t mean that in a negative way. The opposite really.
Instead, he was just explaining how regions like Brazil have little to no competition and are growing fast. Those who are patient will make a lot of money in the long run.
He was spot on!
It’s why Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft focus heavily on internationalization. They all know you can’t build a gigantic business if you only focus on the English-speaking market.
To give you an idea on how much energy these companies spend on globalization, one of my Microsoft friends (who’s an executive), broke down why Microsoft is trying to stop piracy in China.
If everyone in China stopped pirating Microsoft products and paid for them instead, it would add roughly 138 billion dollars to their market cap (according to him).
Now, of course, if they stopped piracy, not all of those people will pay for their products. But still, it just shows how much more money is to be made by Microsoft in China.
There is even a ton of money to be made overseas for you. You just have to be willing to make the bet.
You’ve already seen my traffic stats and you know I’m growing fast overseas. I’m not monetizing in enough of those regions and that will change as time goes on.
But I made the internationalization bet years ago, and I keep increasing the amount I spend each year.
Here’s how you expand internationally
I’ve done better in Brazil than Germany and all of the Spanish markets. It’s not because I started to go after Brazil first, it’s because I had people on the ground in Brazil from day one.
It took me too long before I started to add people from those regions to the team and expand.
If you don’t speak the language and you don’t understand the culture you won’t do well no matter how good you are at marketing.
This was my biggest lesson I learned, you need people on the ground!
The second lesson I learned is translating your content isn’t enough.
Even if you adapt the content to the region by adjusting everything, you still won’t be successful because people within each region maybe looking for something else.
For example, in the United States, companies are looking for me to write more advanced marketing content. In parts of Latin America, on the other hand, people are looking to learn the fundamentals of online marketing.
For that reason, my team had to start creating new content just for regions like Brazil. This helped tremendously.
As you can see from the screenshot above, the most popular piece of content written for Brazil wasn’t a translation (it’s number 2 on the list, number 1 is a tool).
I rank #2 (behind Wikipedia) and before the YouTube results for the popular search term portfolio:
And that image above also gets me to my last point. You need to really build a brand in each region or else you won’t do well.
I speak at more conferences in Brazil than I do in Germany or any Spanish country.
Although people believe there isn’t much money to be made from Brazil, I get paid $25,000 to $50,000 for an hour speaking spot every time I fly out there.
Eventually, I learned better ways to grow my brand internationally than speaking (as that isn’t scalable).
I acquired the tool Ubersuggest for $120,000 as it has a lot of traffic from different parts of the world. Now I am improving the tool and expanding its functionality betting that in the long term it will bring me even more traffic and awareness.
I know the advice my Google friend gave me wasn’t rocket science, but hey, it worked really well.
We tend to forget and even ignore the things that are staring directly at us.
We all know the majority of the world doesn’t speak English, yet we all focus our marketing efforts on the English market.
If I were starting all over again, I wouldn’t create a website in English. Instead, I would pick a region in Europe, like France or Germany, where it isn’t as competitive and where their currency is worth more than the dollar.
Not only would I see results faster, but I would make more money because there wouldn’t be as much competition.
And yes, it did take me a while to see results, but since then I have run many more experiments and if I had to start over again I would:
- Create separate sites per region – it’s easier to rank a localized site that is hosted within that country than it is to rank a global site. If you already have strong domain authority like me, don’t use subfolders, you are better off using sub-domains (I did this wrong). To give you an idea, when we create brand new sites with their own domain, focused on one region, we typically are able to climb to the top of page 1 within 3 to 4 months.
- Use hreflang correctly – there are many ways to use hreflang tags. If you aren’t familiar with what they are, in essence, it tells Google which pages focus on which regions. What’s tricky about hreflang tags is that you can either focus on a specific region or language (or both). You have to make sure you pick the right one.
- Buy instead of creating – if you really want to grow fast, just buy sites within that region that aren’t making much money and then fix them. This is the quickest way to grow.
And I will leave you with one final thought…
Google doesn’t penalize you for duplicate content. Translating your content and using hreflang won’t get you penalized.
Now, if you use an automatic translation software and your translations are done poorly, your user metrics will probably suffer and there is a higher chance you’ll suffer from a Google penalty. So translate your content manually.
Are you going to go global? Or are you going to stand on the sidelines and watch others pass you by?