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A 10-Step Guide to Ace your International SEO Efforts

What is International SEO?

International SEO is the process of optimizing your website so that search engines can easily identify which countries you want to target and which languages you use for your business. 

International SEO

Source:  https://www.searchenginejournal.com/international-seo-start-guide/ 

 

Is it necessary to go international? 

If you know that a good share of your website visitors and traffic, come from a different country than where you're located, speak different languages or both, then it may be time to make some changes to your website to create a better experience for all your international visitors. 

It means that you need to go international and set up websites for those countries. 

In short; International SEO is the process of optimizing your website(s) to drive organic traffic from: 

  • multiple regions 

  • multiple languages 

A combination of multilingual and multiregional SEO can be done. 

Example: You could be catering to people in Canada in English and people in France in French. 

 

Why should you care about international SEO? 

International SEO is a great way to grow your business. It helps in quickly gaining market share by focusing on multiple markets.  

A company started selling bikes in Germany. Soon, they saw that had huge potential to start selling across borders. This made them set up an English website focused on the English-speaking markets. They started gaining organic traffic. From UK, US & even as far as Australia. 

They tried their business with a relatively low investment, but after a certain point they validated that there was a huge demand.  
With international SEO they were able to reach out to potential customers around the globe and scale their business. 

 

Local SEO vs International SEO 

Local SEO and International SEO are very different from each other in various aspects, like: 

Expenses: As the scope of international SEO is much broader as compared to local SEO, international SEO efforts are more expensive.  

Content creation: For international reach, you’ll need to create significantly more content than local SEO. 

Market expansion: International SEO expands the target market that we are trying to capture, for which we need to have content that will meet the customer’s expectations. 

  

International SEO Strategy 

Let’s check out the 10 steps to success: 

  1. Performing market research: To get started you need to perform competitor research and strategically choose the audiences you want to target. 

  1. Collating Data:  Perform a detailed study about the need of international SEO. Set up a budget. Do not translate the keywords or content as translated content does not have enough search volume and does not provide catchy content. 

  1. Choose the best URL structure for your audiences: A good URL structure gains confidence and trust. 

You have various options for URL creation. 

  • Country code top level domains (ccTLDs) 

              Example: example.us 

Country Code Top Level Domain

Source: https://moz.com/learn/seo/international-seo 

 

  • ccTLDs or gTLDs in combination with subdomains 

Example: us.example.com 

ccTLDs or gTLDs in combination of subdomain

Source: https://moz.com/learn/seo/international-seo 

 

  • ccTLDs or gTLDs in combination with subfolders 

Example: example.com/us 

 ccTLDs or gTLDs in combination with subfolders

Source: https://moz.com/learn/seo/international-seo 

 

  • ccTLDs or TLDs with a combination of subdomains and subfolders 

Example: es.example.com/en-us 

  • gTLD with language parameters 

Example: example.com/lang=en-us 

gTLD with language parameters 

Source: https://moz.com/learn/seo/international-seo 

 

  • Different domain 

Example: exampleussite.com 

Different Domain

Source:https://moz.com/learn/seo/international-seo 

Every option has its pros and cons. By comparing them you can choose the right option for you based on your needs.  

Method 

Pros 

Cons 

ccTLDs (example.us) 

Easiest way to rank locally.  

It’s expensive and each site has a separate domain authority. 

Subdirectories(example.com/us) 

Easier to maintain than ccTLDs. 

It provides weaker signal to search engines and difficult for users to browse. 

Subdomains(us.example.com) 

Easier than ccTLDs. 

It provides weaker signal to search engines and difficult for users to browse. No benefit from domain authority 

  1. Define how to manage your International SEO strategy: Define about how you should get started with International SEO. Lay down a clear plan of how you want your international SEO strategy to be carried out and what you expect out of it.  

  1. Keyword Research & Keyword Strategy: Perform keyword research to write valuable content. Don’t just translate the content. Your keyword strategy defines what content you need to create to start ranking for the keywords. 

  1. How your localization process works: Your keyword strategy describes the content you need to write. While writing the content, you need to consider the keywords that you’re targeting. You also need to ensure that every piece of content has the keywords you are targeting.  

  1. Create link building strategy: Linking building is important to build credibility for your website. It will take time to gain links. To gain more links, you need to have a well thought link building strategy in place.  

  1. Optimize content: The content should be optimized for both your target region and its local language. Hreflang should be implemented to specify the area and the language of a webpage. This tag is used to differentiate between the websites, it tells search engines which pages should be targeted for which location. 

  1. Content Delivery Networks: For serving in multiple countries, CDN is important. CDNs use a group of distributed servers, they ensure that your users load the page from a localized version and not a single, centralized server. It helps to satisfy the user’s expectations, by providing good speed in loading the pages. As core web vital is a ranking factor, users will have a slow page speed which will ultimately impact their rankings. 

  1. Tools: We have various tools like Google search console, Ahrefs, SEMrush and Google Analytics. These can be used to maximize the impact of international SEO. They provide you with data about the traffic on your website, CTRs, time spent on the site and much more. 

Google should serve the right version:  

Hreflang tags:

Hreflang tags are a piece of code that sit in the backend of a page. It also sometimes sits in sitemaps. It provides Google with a list of alternative URLs for a specific page. 

This helps Google to understand: 

  • The current page intends to target which market. 

  • A version that needs to be served by default for users searching from markets, with no dedicated page. 

     Implementing hreflang will help to enhance user experience and benefits rankings too. It will       help in letting google know that the versions are not duplicate, especially the ones with same language. 

Code Sample: link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com" hreflang="en-us" /> 

While using Hreflang attribute, the below points should be kept in mind. 

  • Both the page itself and its translated variants should be referenced. 

  • Make sure to have bidirectional hreflang attribute references. 

  • The language and the region combinations should be defined correctly. 

  • Always set hreflang="x-default". 

  • We must ensure that the hreflang attribute and the canonical URL match. 

  • Use absolute URLs when defining the hreflang attribute. 

  • Use only one method to implement the hreflang attribute. 

Additional practices that can enhance your International SEO efforts 

URLs: The dedicated URLs should be for each localized content variant. Using localized parameters in URLs is not a good practice. The hreflang attribute should be used, so using a dedicated URL for each content variant is the best way. 

Using Native language: The right content should be shown to users, targeting the right language. The questions should be answered in the region’s native language. 

Don’t use automatic translation tools: We do not get exact translation of the word when translated, it changes the meaning of the content altogether. A literal translation of words and phrases is not a good practice. 

Avoid Geo redirection: Redirecting users based on their IP addresses should be completely avoided. It’s annoying for users and will confuse them too. 

No cross-country connections: It means, A British website should not link to a German-targeted page and vice versa. 

Competitor Research: Use competitor research to identify influencers in the countries you’re interested in. By looking at foreign influencers, you’ll be able to gain local links without a lot of effort. 

 

Benefits of International SEO 

International SEO helps in broadening your reach to multiple parts of the world. It is a great way to grow your business as it helps you get visitors from all over the world. To successfully carry out your international SEO efforts, you need to know the cultural differences in each country. Only then will you be able to establish your business in other countries and garner best results.