Top 5 Things to Consider for International SEO Strategy

published by on 23rd April 2014 under Digital Strategy, eCommerce, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Internatioanal SEO

International SEO is the phrase used for optimizing websites targeting multiple countries or multiple languages or both. Have you thought about how Google and other search engines will treat your website when you want to appear in search results for multiple countries? Here are 5 most important things to consider when building website for multiple countries and languages:


1.       Domain & URL Structure

When you think about international reach, this is the very first factor that you must consider. Making decision on URL structure can be vital. There are many factors that you may want to consider when looking at improving your reach internationally. Here is a chart to explain pros and cons of each from Google webmasters help:

URL structure





  • Clear geotargeting
  • Server location irrelevant
  • Easy separation of sites
  • Expensive (and may have limited availability)
  • Requires more infrastructure
  • Strict ccTLD requirements (legal)

Subdomains with gTLDS

  • Easy to set up
  • Can use Webmaster Tools geotargeting
  • Allows different server locations
  • Easy separation of sites
  • Users might not recognize geotargeting from the URL alone (is “de” the language or country?)

Subdirectories with gTLDs

  • Easy to set up
  • Can use Webmaster Tools geotargeting
  • Low maintenance (same host)
  • Links to all the pages count towards domain authority
  • Users might not recognize geotargeting from the URL alone
  • Single server location
  • Separation of sites harder

URL parameters

  • Not recommended.
  • URL-based segmentation difficult
  • Users might not recognize geotargeting from the URL alone
  • Geotargeting in Webmaster Tools is not possible

The selection between ccTLDs and gTLDs comes down to the resources & time available for SEO of the websites and availability of domains. If you operate in more than 2 countries, we recommend that you should be looking at sub-directories with gTLD (.com, .org, etc.) option. These are easy to manage and have a clean structure. Moreover, from an SEO point of view, the efforts put in to building links to any part of the website will benefit to build overall domain authority of your website in search engines.


2.       Geo-targeting of Websites

The use of ccTLDs ( is generally considered as a strong signal to tell users and search engines about your targeting location of the website. But as mentioned above regarding the cons of using ccTLD and limited availability, most of the SEOs prefer subdirectories or subdomains.

So, how to approach geo-targeting for gTLD (.com, .net, etc.) with different locations? You may also have your servers located outside New Zealand due to your infrastructure needs. So, by default your website geo-targeting may be totally wrong to search engines.

This is not very hard; you can always use Google webmasters tools to tell Google about your targeted location of the website. Here are your options:

a)      If you have a .com or any other gTLD and want to target users in NZ only:

-          Set up Google Webmaster Tools

-          Go to the specific URL after logging in

-          Click on the settings button in top-right corner

-          Go to “Site Settings

-          Set country to “New Zealand” under Geographic Target

b)      If you have .com or any other gTLD and want to target users in multiple locations:

-          Submit different sub-directories/subdomains as different sites in Webmaster tools. i.e.,, etc.

-          Now you will have different sites under Webmaster tools dashboard

-          Set specific locations for each as shown above

-          This will tell Google that any pages or content on these sub-directories /subdomains targets different locations. i.e. targets NZ users

Remember, you can register subfolders separately in Google Webmaster Tools and designate a different geographic target for each subfolder.

Find more information about geotargeting here.

Also, there are many types of global-TLDs that you must be aware before picking your domain. You can find a complete list of geotargetable domains here.


3.       Duplicate Content

Websites built for different regions and in different languages may present content that is same or similar and available on different URLs. According to Google, this is generally not a problem as long as the content is for different users in different countries. But, we recommend that you should use the previously mentioned techniques to differentiate geo-targeting of the content.

If you are providing same content to the same users with different URLs, you should pick a preferred version and redirect appropriately (i.e. if you have domain and .com/nz version on gTLD with same content). You can also use rel=canonical link element. But we prefer to set 301 redirects to the preferred version, so that you carry over the SEO value from the old version if there is any.

Moreover, make sure that the content is tailored to the specific audience. For example, if you are an e-commerce store, use local terms and addresses where possible. Here is the list of major On-Page elements you should consider updating according to the targeted country:



H1 & H2 Tags

Copy on the pages

Internal linking on country specific directory/domain

Easy navigation to switch to other countries

Currency & forms

Local content


4.       Different Languages

Language is critical to success of international SEO of the website. When you want to provide content in different languages with the different locations, you should be looking at this carefully.

According to Google, the best way to target users for that language is to use visible content in that language on a specific URL. Don’t just translate the content with an automatic translator and create multiple pages, Content must be translated by professionals to make most sense out of it. Google suggests using robots.txt to block search engines from crawling automatically translated pages on your site if you still want to use automatic translators to generate multilingual content.

You should also perform a native keyword research to target the best keywords for targeted countries. Even, there are different types of English languages available for different countries i.e. UK English and Australian English are different. Use of local words and phrases enhance long tail SEO and improve visibility in the search engines.

Language Meta Tag

With the help of rel=”alternate” herflang=”x” tags, you can specify multi-language URLs in the same domain as a given URL, or use URLs from a different domain.

Find more information on this topic here.


5.       XML Sitemaps

When optimising your website for different locations, make sure that each version uses XML sitemap and register this with search engines. For the gTLD websites using subfolders/subdomains, create a separate sitemap and submit it in Google Webmaster Tools as a different website under specific profile for each country.


In conclusion, SEO for multi-regional and multi-lingual websites is the key to get more qualified traffic to your website from different locations across the globe. Getting your basics right is very important, so that you have the best chance of success.

Should you want to expand your website internationally or you have any issues regarding your international online presence, talk to FIRST today for expert advice.


Useful Resources

Google’s Official Guidelines for Multi-regional and Multilingual sites

 Setting Geographic targeting in Google Webmasters Tools

 Help Google Serve the correct language to your visitors

 40+ Tools to help your International SEO

 International SEO Checklist

Social Media Marketing – 48 key insights from FIRST

published by on 15th April 2014 under Social Media Marketing

Key insights on social media marketing

FIRST on Social Media Marketing

  1. Sales people using social media are achieving and exceeding targets at a greater rate than those who are not, and yet “50.1% of sales people who report using social media state that they spend less than 10% of their selling time on social media.” (Source:
  2. Interesting stat from a CEB survey: B2B brands that connect with their buyers on an emotional level will realise 200% greater “impact” compared to brands that are primarily empathising business or functional value (n=3,000). (Source:
  3. Is short-form video something that traditional (commercial/pro) video perhaps doesn’t achieve as well? For example showing customers what happens behind-the-scenes? (Source:
  4. The LinkedIn Volunteering Marketplace: An absolutely brilliant idea, thank you LinkedIn for getting this established, what a great use of the platform for the common good of society. (Source:
  5. Glad to see Yelp making it to our shores. App installed! (Source:
  6. From comparing Facebook and Twitter revenue, monthly active users (MAUs) and avg rev/user it seems Twitter is lagging behind on the monetisation front (company lifetime adjusted). But the 75% of ad rev from mobile suggests at least that bit is working – cf 53% for Facebook per Q4 earnings report. But then again FB has nearly a Bil mobile MAUs. (Source:
  7. Seems entirely logical: “Extraverts much more likely to share on Facebook”. (Source:
  8. Facebook website and app retargeting has now launched globally via custom audiences – nice. (Source:
  9. Facebook’s “Like” button is pressed on average 254,629 times per second every day across the web (Nov 13 stat) (Source:
  10. APAC social network ad spend projected to be $3.60 USD per network user for 2014. Compare that to US (North America) where eMarketer is predicting $32.82 USD per user. (Source:
  11. Facebook is phasing them out, Google is launching them, but “promoted stories” on Google will work a bit differently: The +Post ads will allow advertisers to showcase things like Hangouts – and distribution is across the entire GDN. (Source:
  12. A recent Infosys survey (n=1,000) has found that more consumers are interacting with retailers on Facebook than on any other platform: “The two websites most commonly selected are Facebook [first], followed by the retailer’s website.” 89% of these consumers have reported that such brand interaction has at least some impact on their purchasing habits. (Source:
  13. Dear Princeton University RE: “Facebook will undergo a rapid decline in the coming years, losing 80% of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017″, have you considered Google Trends consumer search volume for “air” has also been declining steadily..? (In fact, our projections show that by the year 2060 there will be no air left) – Love, the Facebook Data Science team. (Source:
  14. Find out how Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm ranks your friends for no other reason than to feel l33t. Go you haX0r, you! (Source:
  15. Primer on Facebook/Twitter retargeting capabilities. (Source:
  16. Did you know that LinkedIn is now responsible for over 60% of all visits from social media to corporate websites..? (Source:
  17. Imagine being able to beef up the profile of your B2B prospects with a psycho-analysis of their intrinsic needs: What motivates them, what they believe and what their fundamental needs are. This goes beyond “sentiment analysis.” (Source:
  18. According to its S-1 filing, Twitter’s advertising revenue per timeline view is around 7 times greater for the US compared to its international markets. (Source:
  19. Currently CTR for Facebook FBX newsfeed retargeting is 49x greater than FBX RHS ads..! (Infographic). (Source:
  20. Interesting to ponder the “shelf life” of video posts on social media. On YouTube the avg. video receives 40% of total views in the first 3 weeks of publishing, 30% in weeks 4-12 and another 30% within 12 months of the publishing date. (Source:
  21. Is short-form video something that traditional (commercial/pro) video perhaps doesn’t achieve as well? For example showing customers what happens behind-the-scenes? (Source:
  22. Five Vines are tweeted every second, pretty impressive for an app only launched in January. (Source:
  23. Think you know what LinkedIn is? (Source:
  24. The NSA should possibly think about it’s social media policies with respect to LinkedIn. (Source:
  25. How will Facebook accelerate usage of graph search? Obviously they need query volume for search ads to attract any real $. Is graph search really the best answer to mobile+local+social? Or is the new Google Maps with strong links to G+ better suited? (Source:
  26. Has anyone’s LinkedIn account been enabled with either of these new features as yet: “Who’s viewed your updates” or “You’ve recently visited”…? (Source:
  27. Targeting using Facebook’s Partner Categories based on Acxiom, Datalogix and Epsilon data. Download the category list in Excel format (scroll down). (Source:
  28. Creative ways to use Pinterest: Run a campaign to benefit a charity, collaborate with guest pinners (contributor boards) or use it to tell your company’s story. (Source:
  29. Avg. e-com email conversion rates are 4 times better than social. Yet we suspect not many advertisers are using FB retargeting fully. (Source:
  30. Kim Dotcom invented two-step authentication? Patent looks serious enough. How bizarre. (Source:
  31. As of May 10th Facebook Home is only in the top 500 in 19 countries, and not in the top 150 for any. Best ranking: Norway at #191 (App Annie). (Source:
  32. FB newsfeed video ads trial starts in July? So very soon you’ll need to decide if you’ll like X brand, download Y app and watch Z video. And then check in with your friends, that is, if you can find them. (Source:
  33. YouTube Trends Map: See which videos are trending right now in cities across the U.S by shares and views, and filter by age, gender. (Source:
  34. Interesting stat: Instagram got to 100M users faster than Facebook (Zuckerberg). (Source:
  35. Three future use cases for Facebook’s graph search: Sponsored results/query targeting (AdWords-like), display retargeting via FBX and offers/coupons in search results (Kissmetrics). (Source:
  36. Wolfram Alpha analysis of Facebook usage data: Standard population dynamics at play, but nevertheless interesting to see that the older we get, the more we talk about health – and the less we talk about fashion. Would be interesting to see that broken down by nationality. (Source:
  37. What 23% of con­tent is pro­duc­ing 66% of daily social engage­ment and 74% of viral reach on Facebook? – Video (Adobe). (Source:
  38. Absolutely spot on: “Just as inauthentic fans cannot create authentic engagement, neither can inauthentic engagement build authentic brand value. Asking people to spell your brand name one letter a time or share your picture of a vegetable on a unicorn doesn’t spark awareness, consideration, preference or usage.” (Source:
  39. Twitter keyword targeting in timeline has launched, allowing advertisers to “reach users based on the keywords in their recent Tweets and the Tweets with which users recently engaged.” (Source:
  40. Sponsored search ads twice as trusted as social media brand/company posts; Europeans are more cynical of all types of advertising comms (Forrester, n=58,000). (Source:
  41. Coke: Social media buzz doesn’t drive product sales (60M FB fans). We respect companies that let data dictate digital reality. If you want to drive incremental profit, optimise Search + Email channels, in the context of solid analytics and CRO. (Source:
  42. What will you do with Google+ in 2013? Decide now before being left behind. (Source:
  43. Interesting insight into LinkedIn’s online, offline and nearline systems infrastructure. (Source:
  44. Interesting to read that 82 percent of Facebook’s traffic results from just 8 percent of the 240 billion (!) photos in storage. The Pareto Principle is everywhere. (Source:
  45. Still not sure about Google+? (Source:
  46. Certainly a good move on Twitter’s part, they do need revenue other than ads: “Tweeting a hashtagged keyword will make your Twitter account contact your American Express card account and make a purchase.” (Source:
  47. Got to love a good newsjack. (Source:
  48. Have you realised? Memes are naturally inclined to mutate > mutations increase social sharing > purposefully structured messages (that facilitate meme re-mixing) will take advantage of this > Profit. (Source:


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Searching for Home Loans Online

published by on 11th April 2014 under Industry Reports, Research

home loans image small

For the full report (PDF) please use our download form

Which New Zealand Home Loan providers are maximising their market share online?

Find out which home loan providers are taking the lead in organic search and how they’re doing it.
FIRST has investigated the organic search engine rankings for NZ consumer searches focused on home loans, utilising FIRST’s Ranking Based Reach (RBR) analysis framework. In addition, a consumer survey was carried out to discover what is most important for Kiwis wishing to apply for a home loan.


In this report we discovered:

  • New Zealand house prices rose by 8.02% during 2013, after a rise of 8.54% in 2012. House prices are still rising and also home loan rates continue to increase. Therefore, getting the best fit is even more crucial for consumers.
  • Due to their low RBRs, search results are broadly dispersed among a wide range of competitors, even more in mobile. In this competitive home loan and mortgage market, retailers are missing out optimising on the most cost effective marketing channel: Search.
  • 29% of all New Zealand smart phone users use their device for making online researches for “buying a house” and it is likely that these numbers will increase.
  • A considered digital strategy that integrates both organic and paid search should be a key customer acquisition and revenue driver for home loan providers.


Popular search phrases are missing from most sites and in most cases very little is being done with organic search.

FIRST uses its bespoke metric called RBR (Ranking Based Reach) to estimate how well each company is ranking in search engines. RBR provides a simple way to compare a website’s search engine rankings with its competitors. RBR is an estimate of the percentage of available search traffic a website will receive for a set of phrases – this gives the sites share of search or reach. It is weighted based on the popularity of each search phrase and the relative click through rate (CTR) of each ranking position.

For the full report (PDF) please use our download form

Performance Advertising – 22 key insights from FIRST

published by on 9th April 2014 under Digital Advertising

Performance advertising diagram

FIRST on Performance Advertising

  1. Nice little case study where GDN and GDN remarketing was used to drive up total traffic and conversion volumes for a search campaign that required tight geographic targeting. (Source:
  2. What if you took the first ever banner ad from 1994 (AT&T running on Wired) and ran that same ad on the Google Display Network today, how would it perform? – What a geeky idea, we love it! And interesting results, too. (Source:
  3. Retargeting by cookieID or email is coming to Twitter. (Source:
  4. One reason why DSP’s really don’t add that much value (or why its best to focus on performance and results). (Source:
  5. Dynamic remarketing is dynamite for e-com stores, and is only available in Adwords if your shopping feed is sorted, via Merchant Center. Here’s a good primer. (Source:
  6. The time has come for Facebook user harvesting/monetisation: Retargeted FBX ads now available in the newsfeed… (Source:
  7. OK so what does 1.8 trillion impressions equal in $ ad spend at, let’s say, $5 CPM..? Scary. (Source:
  8. GDN just got a serious global boost in available impressions. (Source:
  9. YouTube paid channel subscriptions may be coming soon –  $1 to $5 / month. (Source:
  10. Average non-brand Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) comparison to standard AdWords ads: For a 13% increase in CPC, advertiser yield on PLAs is much greater; a 241% better CTR, 59% higher conversion rate and an overall increase in ROI of 18%. (Source:
  11. eMarketer: RTB to account for nearly a third of total digital display ad spend by 2017 (US). (Source:
  12. Bringing commercial context to acquisition marketing: Consider channel budget allocation based on traffic volume, quality and most importantly, business value. (Source:
  13. Nice way to optimise yield automatically though we suspect if publisher uptake of this feature isn’t as high as expected, Google will lock this down as a more automatic feature “Click here to activate yield optimiser and start running auto-experiments”. After all, eCPM is what makes the world go around, especially for Google! (Source:
  14. Marin survey finds “important to help achieve business goals”: Paid search (78%), audience buying (73%), retargeting (68%), contextual display (65%)…but only 30% ranked “ads on social networks like Facebook” as important. (Source:
  15. Need to reach a gaming geek audience? Try targeting the YouTube Polaris channel via managed placements. (Source:
  16. Given we’re now all staring at eye-facing phone cameras, it’s unavoidable really that we’ll soon be measuring how many people *actually saw* our ads. But some sort of response measure is probably a better way to quantify effectiveness. Blinking? (Source:
  17. Amazon is much less competitive in markets where they don’t have a local presence. But consumers still use it as reference point for pricing and reviews. Now, imagine being able to retarget users against their Amazon view/browse/add-to-basket/buy profile! (Source:
  18. Much like TrueView for YouTube, Active View will benefit both publishers and advertisers in the long term. Ads that are actually “seen” (50% for 1 sec+, IAB) are obviously more useful than those that are not. (Source:
  19. Rewarding an advertiser’s product relevancy for searches with commercial intent has got to be a good thing. (Source:
  20. Obviously you would use both but when it comes to volume, Google wins. The difference in CR will be one to watch, bearing in mind Amazon has access to transaction history for logged-in users. (Source:
  21. Google has started their assault on (Source:
  22. Apparently consumers are 27 times more likely to engage with video ads compared to (non-video) banners? (Source:

Universal Analytics Now Universal…

published by on 4th April 2014 under Google Analytics, In The News

Sorry for the pun but yes, since April 2nd Universal Analytics (UA) is out of beta and available for anyone. To be fair, this was already the case since March 2013 but now all features from Classic Google Analytics are supported by UA, including Remarketing and Demographics & Interests data pulled from DoubleClick. These features were the main reasons that were holding most of you from migrating to UA but now that they are supported, you can do the big jump and take this as an opportunity to implement Google Tag Manager (GTM) at the same time.

Why Migrate to Universal Analytics

Universal Analytics by Google

  • Track user across multiple devices, sessions and engagement data with the User ID feature and access new reports like the Device overlap:

Cross-device tracking with Universal Analytics

  • Collect data from any digital device with the analytics.js JavaScript library for websites, the Google Analytics SDKs for mobile app tracking, and the Measurement Protocol for any other digital device so you can track basically anything – such as how many time your cat uses his scratching post;
  • Easily customise your configuration options, such as Organic search sources, Session and campaign timeout handling, Referral exclusions and Search term exclusions;
  • Create custom dimensions & metrics to collect data that’s unique to your business.
  • And finally, because you’ll have to migrate anyway. UA is now the only option for new properties and data collection from Classic Google Analytics will be deprecated after at least 2 years from now.


And Why Implement Google Tag Manager too?

  • You want to get more control on your marketing campaigns and get them live quicker;
  • You want to get more insight from your analytics easier and faster;
  • Your site uses more and more different tags, and it becomes difficult to manage them all;
  • You want to make sure that your tracking implementation is right;
  • You want more reliable data collection which won’t hobble your page load;
  • Your webmaster is tired of dealing with your tags that are clearly not his priorities.

Google Tag Manager benefits


How To Migrate TO UA USING GTM?

Alright but before you get too excited and jump into UA and GTM, you better plan things ahead a little bit.
So here is a quick check-list you should follow for a smooth migration:

  1. List and map all tags currently running on your site that you need to transfer to GTM, including Google Analytics events, custom variables and other customisations, such as cross-domain tracking or customised session timeout;
  2. Migrate your Classic Google Analytics property to Universal Analytics;
  3. Wait for the complete migration (up to 48hrs) – Do not change or remove your tracking code until the migration is completed;
  4. Create a GTM account with typically one container per site (property);
  5. Implement the GTM container code on all pages of your site;
  6. In GTM, set up your Universal Analytics tags (pageview, events, ecommerce) as well as other Non-Google and Google tags, such as Google Adwords Conversion tracking tag.
  7. Implement DataLayers (optional but recommended and sometimes required for ecommerce tracking for instance);
  8. Test your GTM container version with the Debug mode;
  9. Publish GTM container and…
  10. …at the same time remove all the hard-coded tags from your site that are now managed by GTM
  11. Be proud of yourself and enjoy your {{favourite drink}} ;-)

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