Congratulations – you’ve taken the plunge and launched your own small business in a difficult economy. Since you’re a Lifehack reader, it’s likely that your business has an online element – an ecommerce website, social media presence, etc. It’s also likely that your web presence is English language only, and you only receive patronage from English-speaking customers.

But why? Only 27% of all web users speak English – that means you’re missing out on nigh-on three-quarters of your potential online audience. In fact, no matter what sector you’re in, you’ll find it easier to rank on search engines in languages other than English, because there’s comparatively far less content and search engine competition.

It may seem daunting to think about exporting your products or services to countries where you don’t speak the native language, but in fact it’s a relatively easy process to test the waters in foreign markets with micro-sites – and thanks to tools like Google Translate and others that we’ll come to later, it’s also inexpensive. It’s a relatively simple five-step process to take your small business ideas out to the world.

1) Brainstorm markets

Your first step into international export is to use your knowledge of the global economy and world cultures to brainstorm countries where you think there may be a gap for your product. Let’s say you’re a designer of indie video games. You know that emerging markets like China and South Korea have rapidly growing economies, and you also know that culturally they’re very fond of technology and gaming – so it’s probably worth looking at launching a micro-site for those two countries!

2) Google Global Market Finder

This handy tool, Google’s  Global Market Finder, can help you test your theories. Brainstorm your list of English keywords (for instance, ‘videogames’) and select your region to test the traffic for its local equivalents. With the example above, it turns out that the markets with the highest search volumes for ‘videogames’, or the translated equivalent, are India, Japan and the Philippines – interesting…

3) Translate your micro-sites

Now you know which markets to target, your next step is to create your micro-sites (around five pages is average), get your content translated and localized (which means paying attention to local references, measurements, currencies, etc) and launch it – preferably on a local domain hosted in-country, or otherwise on a subdomain off your main site (you can always shift it to a local server later).

4) Optimize

But make sure before you launch that your website is optimized with your top keywords, which you will have decided upon by brainstorming, researching your local competitors, translating your English key terms and researching all of these using Google’s keyword tools.

5) Promote

Last, but not least, spread the word, by content marketing to relevant local websites (and building links), putting out press releases, and establishing your local social media presence (a foreign language Twitter account is a great way to quickly make a splash, but that’s a topic for another blog).

To turn your cottage industry into an international exporter, the steps are simple but the rewards are many – remember, on the internet no one knows your company is just one guy and a dog.

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