Taking your website global

When you decide to take your business global, you need to tailor your website to your new markets. Get advice on making this means of communication just as effective internationally as it is in Canada.

Before you select an export market, you need to think about your website and online presence (social media, etc.).

  • Look into Internet usage in the country

    Before you start optimizing your online presence for a particular country, you need to know how the Internet is used there. If the Internet is not used very much in your target market, it may not be the best medium for reaching your potential customers.

  • Make adjustments for the local bandwidth speed

    Before you build a website, make sure your customers can access it without waiting forever for it to load. Customers in North America can usually load websites quickly, but potential customers in Latin America with less bandwidth may have to wait a long time for your website to load. Bottom line? Tweak your site for each target market.

  • Choose the right Web hosting service

    Before you decide on a server to house your site, you need to know how well it works in your target market. A poorly optimized Canadian server may not work well in Europe, making your site slower to load there.

  • Use a top-level domain (TLD)

    Your site should always use a TLD with a target market extension (.ca, .com, .fr, .co, .uk, etc.) or a more general TLD (.com, .net, .org). A website for the American market with a .fr extension will probably not be well received by a North American audience. Using a TLD for a particular country (e.g., .ca) could also negatively affect your foreign search engine ranking.

Once you've selected your market, you will need to tweak other aspects of your website as well.

  • Choose the languages and structure for your site

    Take the time to determine what languages are spoken in your target markets. Even if the people in 2 countries speak the same language, they may speak different dialects. For example, a site translated into Canadian French may not be quite right for France.

    Meaning of terms: Make sure that the terms used on your website have a universal meaning. For example, what we call a soccer equipment vendor in Canada would be called a football equipment vendor in Europe.

    Units: Units vary by country. For instance, product sizes should be expressed in metres and centimetres in Canada and in feet and inches in the United States.

    Language options: Make the language options easy to find on your website so users can quickly select the right version of your site for their background and needs. Remember that they may not necessarily visit your home page.

    Site structure: You need to determine ahead of time how content will be organized on your site. This will help users understand the content and help search engines index it. For example, content in Canadian French may be posted on www.votresite.com/fr-ca/ and content in American English posted on www.votresite.com/en-us/. By structuring your website this way, it will be easier to add new versions in other languages later on.

  • Avoid cultural faux pas

    Make sure to choose colours that have the same meaning worldwide. For example, green represents nature and the environment in North America, but symbolizes infidelity in China. Also steer clear of images that are not universal. Though the North American market may like seeing a Christmas tree on your website during the holidays, it may not go over well with your customers in the Middle East.

  • Make your local presence known

    To earn the trust of your site visitors, you need to be present in their market. If you have your sights set on both the American and Canadian markets, it would be much better to have a toll-free (800) number than a local number.

    Using a local address can also make a big difference. Posting the address of your European office on your European website will show that you have a local presence, even if your address is really just a P.O. box. Adding a local address will also move you up in the search engine rankings.

    Showcasing your expertise in your target market is also a good way to boost your buyers' confidence. If you're trying to sell your product in Africa, you should post testimonials from African buyers on your site rather than just testimonials from your Canadian customers.

  • See how much traffic your global expansion has generated

    Once you've optimized your website for global expansion, analyze the results for each market. Segment your site visitors by geographic location and language to identify trends that will help you make strategic choices about your online presence. For instance, you might notice that your German visitors leave before the transaction is complete because shipping is too expensive.

  • Optimize your search engine ranking with SEO

    With search engine optimization (SEO), you can optimize your search engine ranking in all your markets. Find out what the most popular search engines are in your target markets, choose the right keywords for optimization and formulate a link search strategy tailored to your markets and the languages spoken in them.

  • Use the right social media for your global markets

    Before you start creating accounts on every social media site, find out which are most popular in each market. Facebook is blocked in China, for instance, so you don't need an account for that market. Once you have a good understanding of each target country, you will have a better idea of how many accounts you need, the languages to use and the editorial strategy to follow. You will also need to decide who will be in charge of these communication tools since you may need people who speak multiple languages.

Desjardins can help you do business internationally, maintain good relations with your foreign customers and suppliers and manage your business risks. Contact Desjardins International Services