A woman checking her phone whilst carrying luxury shopping bags

The crucial role of SEO for luxury brands: Maximising global reach and relevance

From 2019 to 2023, the global personal luxury market soared by nearly 30%, hitting $387 billion in 2023. But growth has now slowed, especially in major markets like China and the US. The forecast for 2024? Modest gains amidst economic uncertainty. With challenges like financial slowdowns and geopolitical tensions looming, luxury brands face a bumpy road ahead. To navigate this turbulence, they’ll need to focus on engaging consumers, innovating, and delivering top-class quality.


Why international SEO is essential for British luxury brands

Given this context, international SEO plays a crucial role in enabling British luxury brands to broaden their reach and maintain relevance. Here’s why:

• Global expansion: International SEO can be used to enter new markets and connect with diverse audiences worldwide, extending brand reach beyond domestic borders.

• Cultural relevance: By tailoring content to connect with various cultures and languages, luxury brands can deepen engagement with international consumers.

• Revenue: Effective SEO can increase qualified traffic and conversions in your target markets, driving revenue growth.

• Competitive advantage: Smart use of international SEO can help luxury brands enhance their image and stay ahead of their competitors, positioning themselves as frontrunners in the global luxury market.


SEO vs. international SEO for luxury brands

It’s important to distinguish between SEO and international SEO, as they involve distinct activities. SEO involves optimising website content and structure to improve rankings for specific keywords, typically targeting local markets. By contrast, international SEO expands optimisation efforts to engage audiences in various countries and languages, considering factors like language preferences, cultural differences, regional search engine algorithms, and elements such as hreflang tags for international targeting.


SEO challenges for luxury brands

Luxury brand SEO presents its own set of challenges due to the unique nature of the sector. These include:

1. Limited search volume: Luxury products often cater to a niche market, resulting in lower search volumes compared to mass-market products. This makes it challenging to target relevant keywords with significant search traffic.

2. Longer sales cycle: For many consumers, luxury purchases can involve extensive research and consideration. This elongated sales cycle can make it difficult to attribute conversions directly to SEO efforts.

3. Balancing exclusivity and accessibility: Luxury brands typically aim to maintain an aura of exclusivity while also making their products accessible to potential customers. Finding the right balance in SEO to attract qualified traffic without diluting brand exclusivity can be tricky.

4. High competition: The luxury market is highly competitive, with established brands competing for visibility. Breaking through the clutter and establishing a strong online presence is not always straightforward.

5. Visual nature of products: Luxury items are often visually striking and rely heavily on aesthetics. Optimising visual content such as images and videos for search engines presents unique challenges compared to text-based content.

6. Global markets and localisation: Many luxury brands operate in multiple markets worldwide, each with its own cultural nuances and search behaviour. Implementing effective SEO strategies while considering localisation and international SEO best practices is complex.

7. Protecting intellectual property: Counterfeiting and intellectual property infringement are significant concerns for luxury brands. SEO efforts must include measures to combat counterfeit products and protect brand integrity. (Read Oban’s tips on international trademarking here.)

8. Brand reputation: Luxury brands often have a carefully cultivated image and reputation to maintain. Negative reviews or misinformation in search results can significantly impact brand perception.


Optimising the path to purchase with SEO

Many brands find it helpful to map SEO activities to each stage of the consumer’s path to purchase. For a luxury brand, this might look something like this:

• Awareness stage: At this stage, the emphasis should be on increasing brand visibility through content marketing, influencer partnerships, and effective use of social media.

• Consideration stage: To capture attention during the consideration phase, you need to ensure that your product pages and category descriptions are optimised with targeted keywords, and that you provide enough relevant information to support decision-making.

• Decision stage: Where brands have bricks-and-mortar stores, it’s important to optimise for local search queries. For online-only brands, offering incentives can help to encourage conversion. This might include exclusive offers or limited-time discounts.

• Post-purchase stage: After a customer has shopped with you, you can maintain engagement through email marketing, retargeting campaigns, and loyalty programs, encouraging satisfied customers to share their experiences through reviews.


How to formulate an effective luxury brand SEO strategy

Unlocking the potential of luxury brand SEO requires a multi-faceted approach. Steps to consider include:

Understanding audience intent:

• First and foremost, you need to understand how consumers understand and search for your product – what’s known as ‘audience intent’. Carry out comprehensive keyword research to identify long-tail, high-value keywords that align with the attributes of your products.

• Use tools like Google Keyword Planner and SEMrush to uncover niche keywords and search trends specific to the luxury market.

• Work with Local In-Market Experts to understand how consumers understand and search for your product in their market. Avoid simply translating your English keyword list – take the time to understand audience intent and search behaviours in different languages.

On-page SEO:

• Once you’ve understood your keywords, use them to optimise website content, ensuring they are seamlessly integrated into headlines, meta descriptions, and body text.

• It’s easier said than done, but you need to invest in compelling, informative, and visually captivating content that highlights the exclusivity and craftsmanship of your luxury products.

• Implement schema markup to enhance search engine visibility and provide rich snippets that highlight key product features and attributes.

Off-page SEO:

• Cultivate a network of high-authority backlinks from reputable sources within the luxury industry, such as lifestyle magazines, influencers, and publications relevant to your brand.

• Collaborate with Local In-Market Experts to identify relevant influencers and publications in target markets, using their insights to shape link-building campaigns.


• Tailor your SEO to resonate with diverse international audiences by implementing localisation techniques, including linguistic and cultural adaptation of website content – again, using Local In-Market Experts.

• Use geo-targeted keywords and location-based SEO strategies to capture the attention of luxury consumers in specific regions and markets.

Optimising for organic performance:

• Prioritise user experience by optimising website speed, mobile responsiveness, and navigation – this will aid both search engine rankings and user engagement. Optimising image sizes is one way to reduce site speed, as is eliminating unnecessary plug-ins and scripts.

• Conduct regular website audits to identify technical issues and opportunities for improvement, addressing factors such as page load times, broken links, and crawlability. SEO is an ongoing process, not a one-off burst of activity.

Managing reviews:

• Curate and manage online reviews and testimonials to build trust and credibility among luxury consumers. This means responding to reviews, both positive and negative, to show commitment to customer satisfaction.

• Encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on third-party review platforms and incorporate user-generated content into marketing campaigns to highlight authentic experiences and endorsements.

Magnifying influencer impact:

• Collaborate with influencers to create authentic, aspirational content that displays luxury products in real-world settings, driving engagement and brand awareness.

• Work with Local In-Market Experts to connect with influencers who are relevant to your target markets. Working with influencers who don’t feel relevant to your brand or audience can go disastrously wrong.

By carefully planning an SEO strategy that includes these elements, you can improve your online visibility, attract more visitors without paid ads, and connect with affluent shoppers around the world. Working with Local In-Market Experts who understand specific local markets can give valuable advice and make sure marketing efforts are tailored to your target audiences.


Common mistakes in luxury brand SEO

Despite their prestige, luxury brands may encounter missteps in SEO, including:

• Neglecting long-term strategy: Prioritising short-term gains over long-term sustainability can compromise brand integrity.

• Overlooking content quality: The content landscape is cluttered but unfortunately there are no shortcuts. Investing in high-quality, relevant content is essential for capturing the attention of discerning consumers.

• Ignoring technical optimisation: Neglecting technical aspects of SEO can hinder search engine visibility and diminish user experience.

• Underestimating localisation: Failing to understand the nuances of individual markets, languages, and cultures can result in missed opportunities or costly mistakes.

• Disregarding user experience: Prioritise user experience to avoid frustrating users and impacting search engine rankings. For example, a trap some high-end brands fall into is prioritising aesthetic visuals and elaborate animations over intuitive navigation and an efficient check-out process.

• Ignoring analytics and insights: Use analytics effectively to inform and refine your SEO strategy and identify opportunities for optimisation. Analytics will help you pinpoint certain types of content that your audience responds well to, as well as identifying search queries that customers use to find you.

• Overlooking reputation management: Prioritise reputation management to build trust and credibility among luxury consumers.


Crafting tailored SEO strategies for different consumer personas

Luxury marketers recognise that understanding their audience is crucial for all marketing efforts, including SEO. Audience personas are invaluable tools for effectively tailoring brand offerings. Regularly revisiting these personas is essential, especially considering how external factors like the pandemic can influence consumer behaviour. Working with Local In-Market Experts can help to customise audience personas for specific markets. Here are example personas for luxury consumption, though they will obviously vary depending on your brand:

• The Discerning Connoisseur: Values exclusivity and craftsmanship, placing high importance on heritage and authenticity.

• The Aspirational Trendsetter: Driven by status and social recognition, this persona is influenced by celebrity endorsements and fashion trends.

• The Timeless Traditionalist: Admiring timeless elegance and classic aesthetics, this persona is looking for high-quality design details and craftsmanship.

• The Tech-Savvy Innovator: Embracing innovation and cutting-edge technology, this persona seeks luxury products that are integrated into modern lifestyles.

• The Ethical Conscious Consumer: Prioritising sustainability, ethics, and social responsibility, this persona seeks transparency and authenticity from luxury brands.

You can read more about how to localise audience personas for different markets here.

Trends in luxury marketing in 2024

The big picture for luxury marketing in 2024 is characterised by digital transformation and the rise of younger consumers who place emphasis on personalisation, sustainability, and certain values. Key trends to note include:

A shift from things to experiences:
Consumers are prioritising memorable experiences over material possessions, prompting luxury brands to offer curated experiences and bespoke services. For example, Louis Vuitton’s venture into the hospitality industry with the Louis Vuitton Hotel in Paris exemplifies this trend. Dior is also embracing experiential luxury with plans to open a restaurant, the Monsieur Dior. Retailers are exploring experience-based alternatives for advertising, physical stores, and brand immersion, including pop-ups, activations, and partnerships with events like award shows and festivals. These experiences not only deepen consumer engagement but also facilitate cross-selling opportunities, data collection for personalised marketing, and brand partnerships.

Integration of artificial intelligence (AI):
AI is everywhere in 2024 and the luxury sector is no exception. Luxury brands are harnessing AI to enhance customer experiences through predictive analytics and personalised recommendations. Platforms like Net-a-Porter use AI to curate personalised shopping recommendations based on customer behaviour, past purchases, and fashion preferences. Brands are increasingly finding that judicious use of AI can optimise SEO efforts and help them stay competitive in the global marketplace.

Live-streaming growing in popularity:
Live-streaming has become a lifestyle norm in China, with luxury brands embracing this trend on platforms like Tmall. Lancôme and Dior have hosted immersive live events, offering customers exclusive access to fashion shows and beauty tips. As live-shopping gains traction, it’s projected to account for approximately 20% of global e-commerce sales by 2026.

Younger consumers redefining luxury retail:
Millennials and Gen Z are reshaping luxury retail, with their preferences projected to drive 70% of global luxury goods sales by 2025. These younger demographics favour quiet luxury (sometimes referred to as ‘stealth wealth’ or even ‘old money’), gravitating towards personalised experiences. Sustainability is also a key concern. Retailers must adapt to cater to these evolving preferences, incorporating subtler luxury goods, sustainable practices, and personalised shopping experiences to remain relevant.

Choosing an international SEO agency for luxury brands

So, as a luxury marketer looking to expand your global footprint, how do you select the right international SEO partner? Here are some agency attributes to look out for:

• Expertise in luxury sector: Look for an agency with a proven track record of success in the luxury industry, working with brands similar to yours.

• Global reach and localisation: Ensure the agency has extensive experience in international SEO and can provide localised insights and strategies, including having locally-based experts on the ground in your target markets to guide and shape activity.

• Reputation and credibility: Research the agency’s reputation and credibility within the industry. For example, have they won awards, and can they provide client testimonials from brands like yours? Have they been around for a long time with a well-established track record?

• Technical expertise and innovation: Ensure the agency stays abreast of the latest trends and technologies in SEO. For example, do they participate in industry events such as Brighton SEO and publish regular thought-leading content relevant to your industry?

• Ethical practices and clear values: Choose an agency that prioritises ethical practices in their SEO strategies and has a clearly articulated set of values that shape their culture (and are consistent with your own).

• Customised solutions: Avoid agencies that offer generic approaches to SEO and instead look for those that develop customised strategies tailored to your brand and your target markets.

• Collaborative approach: Most brands want an agency that can act as an extension of their team – so pick a group of people who value collaboration and transparency in their client relationships.

By selecting an international SEO agency with expertise in the luxury sector, premium brands can position themselves for success in the global marketplace. You can read more about how to choose and manage an international digital marketing agency in Oban’s free guide here. And you can find out how Oban can help your brand achieve global success by getting in touch.

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FAQs on SEO for luxury brands

How does international SEO help luxury brands to grow?

International SEO allows luxury brands to expand their reach into new markets globally, connecting with diverse audiences and extending their brand presence beyond domestic markets. By optimising their digital content for international audiences, luxury brands can increase visibility, engagement, and drive growth even amidst economic uncertainties.


What do luxury brands need to think about when they’re planning their online search strategies for different types of shoppers?

Luxury brands need to adapt their SEO strategies to evolving and market-specific audience personas, considering factors like changing preferences and behaviours over time and variations across different markets. It’s important to tailor keyword research and content to resonate with their interests, ensuring website optimisation for both desktop and mobile users, and using localisation techniques to connect with international audiences effectively.


How can luxury brands use SEO to navigate the path to purchase effectively?

SEO plays a crucial role at each stage of the consumer’s journey, from awareness to post-purchase engagement. By optimising content for search engines, luxury brands can boost brand visibility, offer helpful information for decision-making, attract more visitors to physical stores, and keep in touch with happy customers. This helps to maximise conversions and nurtures lasting relationships.


What are some common SEO mistakes luxury brands should avoid?

Luxury brands should be cautious of neglecting long-term strategy in favour of short-term gains, compromising content quality, overlooking technical optimisation, underestimating localisation, disregarding user experience, ignoring analytics, and reputation management. By steering clear of these mistakes and taking a comprehensive approach to SEO, luxury brands can stay ahead of competitors.

Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion.
Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.

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