Get over the World With This International SEO Instruction

If your company sells products internationally, it’ t likely that you have a website – plus it’ s likely that you want that will website to work in all of your focus on markets. Unfortunately, this is where some businesses flunk: international SEO can be seen as very complex and can be a source of a lot frustration for many companies.

guide to international internet search engine optimization

My aim is to demystify the subject and help to clarify what must be done in order to open up your web site to new markets and toe nail international SEO the first time around, without producing some fatal and potentially very costly mistakes. That means that this is a fairly long read, so please get a coffee and get comfy.

Here is an overview of what you’ll understand today:

  • Features of consideration before you start optimizing for international marketplaces
  • Options for structuring worldwide websites for SEO
  • How to do keyword research designed for international SEO
  • Specialized signals for international SEO
  • Geo-targeting for international SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
  • Local listings marketing
  • International link building

NB : It’ t not always necessary to have an entire brand new website or subdirectory per nation, but the decision needs to be carefully believed through. If you create a specific squeeze page for a Spanish market and the remaining site is in English, you might disillusion the audience you were trying to focus on. It is necessary to consider the extent from the demand and the requirement for a potential brand new site/subfolder for specific territories and languages.

Can be your Business Ready to Expand to Brand new Markets?

Prior to diving into the technicalities, there are a handful of infrastructural considerations that I’ deb like to address, as I have seen companies unfortunately forget to acknowledge these, that has led to some teething problems that worldwide SEO alone could not address.

Market Research

Is there certainly a market for your products or services in the nations you are looking to target? I realise this may seem like a pretty condescending query; however , I’ ve worked with rate of interest cap that thought their target nation was in dire need of their providing, and it turns out they didn’t, or simply just weren’ t buying those services or products online. Cue a very expensive failing – so it’ s certainly a question that needs to be asked and explored thoroughly. Google’ t got a tool that can help you do this particular , but i’ d definitely suggest doing some thorough research in this field.

google marketplace finder tool

You’ ll also wish to scope out the competition abroad: What exactly is their offering and how do they will market themselves? Why is your item better than theirs? Crucially, if it’ s not, make it so. Take a look at what they’ re doing, is to do it better: your website, USPs, technique etc . all of these need to exceed their own as they potentially have the advantage of becoming local.

Are You Ready Logistically?

If you’ re selling products or services in foreign markets, you have to be ready for trading and have that procedure really nailed down: you need to be in a position to handle enquiries, calls, business potential clients, complaints and all. This means you’ lmost all need appropriate local distributors, telephone numbers, native speakers to handle calls plus emails, international delivery times plus costs etc . It all needs to be smooth and efficient, as local testimonials will be key.


Language plays a significant element in the development of an individual’ s character, outlook on the world and understanding of themselves. Don’ t think me? I dare you to contact a Basque person French or even Spanish, I guarantee you’ lmost all witness some of that Mediterranean interest.

In terms of establishing your website for foreign markets, I’ d highly recommend that your website really be in that language (unless of course you’ re trying to target English audio speakers in that country… but that’ s i9000 another story). Again, this appears self explanatory, but I’ ve seen websites meant to target France or German markets either composed exclusively in English or, a whole lot worse, a jumbled up mess associated with both, with homepages in the indigenous tongue but product pages within English. Be thorough and be constant: speak their language.

international seo language considerations

In addition , avoid Google Translate as much as possible. It’ s great when you need to purchase a beer in pidgin Colonial, but to effectively communicate with individuals about your IT software, this just doesn’ t cut the particular mustard. Imagine translating that final sentence, it just wouldn’ big t make sense: idioms cannot be translated actually. Not only does content need to be converted, it needs to be localised.

Finally, individuals and companies in this new market will likely possess different issues and needs compared to your current one, so make sure you tackle these in your copy to make the articles on your site as engaging, appropriate and compelling as possible to the market you’ re wanting to attract . This basically implies that you need to communicate your business’ t value in their own terms.

There are, of course , a lot more infrastructural considerations, but I think they are key to begin with. Now for the techy stuff.

The particular International SEO Guide

Although a pretty technical subject in some senses, international SEO doesn’ t have to be overly complicated, this just needs to be done right. Here’ s my attempt at simplifying it for you, and making sure that when you’ re building a website to focus on a certain country, it can be found in the kind of search engines. Without telling a search engine that will you’ d like to target a certain country, it cannot know, even though you’ ve written your content for the reason that specific language. You need to explicitly information search engine bots to crawl plus index your content in the right area. This is what international SEO is.

Preliminary Ideas

First of all, searches and search volumes are certainly not universal: by this I mean that will although your main target keywords get a specific amount of searches at home, they may not really do so abroad. Hence why key word research and competitor research are essential in the relevant language and area. SEMRush is particularly good for this – here’ s i9000 their guide on researching your own core terms for new markets.

Secondly, you will want to evaluate if you’ re already generating traffic from certain territories or not. To discover, use Google Analytics to check your present traffic from other countries and languages utilizing the Geo > Location tab, inside the “ Audience” section.

international traffic sources

In the illustration above, the website in question is getting visitors from multiple regions, despite not really being explicitly set up to target all those countries, which is encouraging if they would be to target some of those regions specifically – at which point the levels of visitors would increase substantially as the web site would be developed to target them intentionally.

Thirdly, even though Google may be king at home, it might not be abroad:

international search engines

There are more exclusions, but this graph already illustrates that Google is not the superior search engine in China (dominated simply by Baidu, as are other countries within South East Asia), Russia (Yandex – as are some Eastern Western countries) and Japan (where Baidu, Bing and Naver are fairly big). To see what search engines are utilized in countries around the world, use this handy website to do some research, it’ ll help you concentrate your efforts, as optimising for Search engines is not necessarily the same as optimising for Baidu (although there is a lot of crossover).

Now that you’ ve done the research, we can actually break on to doing it, so without more ado, here is how to technically construction a website to win the global SEO game.

Website Structure Choices for International SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION

When you’ re building websites for global markets, there are three main web site structure options to choose from: country-coded top-level domains (ccTLDs), subdomains and subdirectories.

Choice 1: CCTLDs

This route requires website owners to buy country-coded top-level domains which are tied to each specific target nation (for instance and etc . ).

This option provides the strongest geo-targeting signals to look engines and means that your machine location becomes less of an concern. With zero doubt left about which country you’ re seeking to target, it establishes trust in each search engines and people (when they get a domain contains their country program code, they are pretty certain that your providers are available to them).

This strategy is absolutely perfect for any kind of businesses that are only considering focusing on 2 or 3 countries – remember that We said countries rather than different languages – if you’ re aiming to target a vocabulary, subdirectories or subfolders are much better.

If you’ re trying to target more nations, I wouldn’ t recommend this as it’ s a bit of a logistical nightmare and you’ ll find yourself incurring some pretty hefty (and unnecessary) costs, what with purchasing domains, hosting each one, making sure machine locations are appropriate etc .

Here are the cons for this route:

  • As I’ ve just mentioned, it can be a very costly option if you’ re trying to target a lot of nations, and a struggle in terms of resources (imagine doing SEO work on 15 websites). You might even run into some problems regarding some unavailable domain names and also have to look for alternatives.
  • In terms of link building – which we all know to be a vital SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION factor – it means that you will have to build links to multiple websites as your domain authority will be divided between each domain. Link building is not easy enough with one site, envision with ten! If you don’t have a digital advertising team who is hot on this subject, I’d avoid this option.

Option two: Subdomains

You may have seen this before, by way of example: . So essentially, it uses an universal Top Level Domain Name (gTLD), using a country (or language) specific subdomain.

The benefits of accomplishing this:

  • They’re easy to set up
  • This option offers hosting flexibility
  • It sends the ideal geo-targeting signals to search engines

However , I’ m personally not that interested in this option as subdomains are much less trustworthy (to customers), not extremely user-friendly and also split your area authority in the same way that CCTLDs perform.

Choice 3: Subdirectories

By far my preferred choice in most situations, this means using gTLD with a country or language particular subdirectory, like this:   or -fr

If you’ re planning to target territories where more than one vocabulary is spoken (think Switzerland designed for instance), you will need a structure which includes both country and language subdirectories (so with the Switzerland example, , , and if you would be to target all languages spoken there).

This is an excellent option, as it allows you to consolidate all your link building efforts (the domain power of the main site is built together with that of the subdirectories) and it’s simple to set up and allows you to have a system to build on, should you need to include more subdirectories in time when/if a person grow to other markets. It also implies that if you update your sites, all the redirects are in one ht. gain access to file one site rather than having to do them for multiple websites. Remember that subdirectories do not necessarily have to include all of the pages on your primary site, they could include homepage, product/service pages, a blog section for the country and contact forms and so forth without necessarily requiring everything else which is on your main site – this particular entirely depends on you though.

Cons :

Compared to CCTLDs, subfolders don’ t send this kind of strong international signals, but many businesses do this as it does work – and you will send signals in other places (Google Search Console, schema markup, Msn Webmaster Tools, citation building and so forth ) that more than make up for this, as long as you’ re diligent plus consistent.

One more slight con: there is only one individual server location (then again, lots of sites that use CCTLDs don’ big t always host their sites upon relevant servers anyway). A site along with subfolders also opens up the question associated with what should or should not be within the homepage, and how to send strong indicators to show that your business and site is international – personally, I realize this as more of a design problem.

If it had been me, I’d go for the following choices:

CCTLDs easily were only trying to target 2 or 3 countries and knew with complete certainty that’ s almost all I’ d ever need/want to focus on, and had a strong marketing team which could tackle all the challenges that come with getting multiple sites.

Subdomains if I were trying to focus on more global markets: I just believe that it’ s much easier/cheaper plus less confusing to set up than creating a ton of websites – along with not requiring you to have to develop links to a multitude of sites. Large international businesses do this, such as Apple company, Zara, and Microsoft.

Once you’ve decided on the best web site structure for your business, specified what you would like to achieve to your web developers (who may also need to consider what kind of design to visit for depending on the market you’ lso are trying to target) and translated your articles effectively, you’ll need to start doing key phrase research.

International Keyword Research

As I previously mentioned, keep in mind not to use literal translations because they won’ t always be accurate or even relevant and they may not even be exactly what your target audience are looking for – therefore the importance of ensuring that a native loudspeaker with some experience in the industry you operate has checked them out. Furthermore look at what terms your competitors are utilizing in those countries – it will help fine-tune your own research.

As noted above, SEMRush is a great tool for this, as it can assist you in finding approximate keyword search volumes, but additionally show you what terms your competitors are usually ranking or advertising in Google adwords for in the target country:

international keyword research

Using a preliminary list you could also use equipment such as:

Whatever the tool you use, pick the best key phrases for your landing pages and optimize them – here’ s the great instruction on-page SEO to get this done.

Depending on the assets available to you, you could also use tools for example STAT or Authority Labs to your international rankings in every specific country for specific key phrases, as well as monitoring traffic increases plus fluctuations to your landing pages online Analytics.

Specialized Signals for International SEO

The following is a listing of strong signals that you can send to find engines to make sure they know what nation and language you’ re planning to target: the more signals you send out, the better search engines can understand what you’ re trying to do and provide your site to the most relevant audience.

1 . HrefLang Tags

These tags allow you to cross-reference web pages with similar content for different viewers. As an example, hreflang tags will inform search engines that although the content is nearly identical (although I’ d motivate you to make sure it isn’ t), one page or set of webpages are for German speakers within Germany, while others are for German born speakers in Switzerland and other types are to be served to Portuguese audio speakers in Brazil.

So think of it like this: The URL with a correctly structured plus implemented hreflang tag acts in this manner:

“ ¡ Hola! Google, I speak The spanish language to people in Spain and would like to end up being indexed – by the way, here are our cousins, they’re from other countries and want to be indexed by you within their own countries, if that’ ersus OK? ”

Hreflang tags are added to the particular < head> of a website (as well as the self referencing ones).

This is what they ought to look like, as an example taken from Apple:

< hyperlink rel=”alternate” href=” ” hreflang=”en-US” /> < link rel=”alternate” href=” ” hreflang=”ar-AE” /> < link rel=”alternate” href=” ” hreflang=”en-AE” /> < link rel=”alternate” href=” inch hreflang=”en-AM” /> < link rel=”alternate” href=” ” hreflang=”de-AT” />

Break it straight down and you get this:

< link rel=”alternate” href=” ” hreflang=”en-US” /> (I’ m the American version, make sure you index me in the US)

< link rel=”alternate” href=” inch hreflang=”ar-AE” /> (I’ m the Arabic edition and would like to be indexed plus served in the UAE).

< link rel=”alternate” href=” ” hreflang=”en-AE” /> (I’ m an The english language version and would like to be listed and served in the UAE with regard to English speakers there).

< link rel=”alternate” href=” ” hreflang=”en-AM” /> I’ m not going to are located to you – this is trying to focus on English speakers but I’ mirielle not sure what AM is meant to become and cannot find it in any hreflang generators, it may just simply be an error, they’ re very common.

< link rel=”alternate” href=” ” hreflang=”de-AT” /> (I‘ m a German version that will wants to be indexed and offered to German speakers in Austria).

Don’ t worry, you won’ t need to remember them all. Listed below are the tools to help you create them:
the hreflang Labels Generator Tool or, in case you’ re going down the sitemap route, here’ s the hreflang XML sitemap tool .

As soon as you’ ve set these upward, use Google Search Console to see regardless of whether it’ s picking up any mistakes. If there are any, it’ lmost all tell you what they are, and you’ lmost all be able to find a myriad of resources on the web that’ ll help you fix all of them.

NB : Most websites also make use of canonical tags to point search engines like google to a preferred version of a web page (sometimes multiple versions of web pages are created with trailing / and so on, so as to safeguard against any possible duplicate articles issues, canonicals are usually used). This is how they work:

  1. If a LINK has a canonical tag pointing to a different URL, this translates as “ Also hi Google, I don’ to want to be indexed, just ignore myself – but here’ s the twin, he’ s pretty great, index him. ”
  2. If an URL has a canonical tag pointing to itself, this implies: “ Hello, please index me personally and not those weird guys, I actually don’ t know what they’ lso are doing here. ”

I’ m suggesting this because it’ s probably that a page will have both a good hreflang tag and a canonical – if done correctly, they’ lmost all point to the same page, which transmits a message like: “ Hola Search engines, I’ m Spanish and method better than my twin so catalog me por favor, oh here are my cousins from other countries, make sure you index them too. ”

If you have an hreflang tag and canonical link directing to different pages however , it transmits the search engines a bizarre message associated with “ Hola, I’ m The spanish language, please index my twin. Yet I do speak Spanish so make sure you index me and my cousins from other countries. ” Confusing, right? Search engines like google think so too – and at this time they’ ll index the webpages they think are relevant, or not one of them – either way this is bad information, so make sure there aren’ capital t any inconsistencies.

2 . The X Arrears Tag

The xdefault tag is basically the default version of the site that you could choose to be served to people when the vocabulary or location tag doesn’ to match any of the available ones with no other page is better suited. Therefore say you have an UK and ALL OF US version of the site, but somebody from Australia searches for related conditions – you’ d xdefault these to a preferred version.

This is what this looks like:

< link rel=”alternate” href=”” hreflang=”en-GB” /> (For English loudspeakers in the UK)
< link rel=”alternate” href=”” hreflang=”en-US” /> (For English speakers in the US)
< hyperlink rel=”alternate” href=”” hreflang=”x-default” /> (For The english language speakers in other countries that may be looking for related terms or services and for which usually there is no specific site set up)

3. Meta Content Vocabulary Tags

The meta content language label indicates what language the code content is written in (and can include country too), and therefore indicators to search engines the target audience for your page. For instance:

< meta http-equiv=”content-language” content=”en-us”>

This is a much less strong signal than hreflang tags – to the extent that I usually miss to tell people to add these with an international SEO project.

4. Schema Markup

Incorporating schema markup is a very simple and effective way of indicating to search engines what your site is about, and what your company does. It’ s a collaboratively created, general language that all top search engines on the planet use to understand websites easily – you may have heard of it referred to as organized data, a hot topic within SEO at the minute.

You can add schema markup along with Google Tag Manager ( this is how you do just that ), markup each specific subdomain, subfolder or ccTLD with Organization plus LocalBusiness markup to tell them exactly where that part of the business operates (the organization schema should contain many locations as you’ re demonstrating that the business operates in all of these places), while the local schema should be placed on each specific place.

Bonus: Schema happens to be ranking factor – so not only does it make sure search engines like google understand your business and where this operates, it can help bulk out your understanding panel appearance to be displayed within local search results for your business.


So , you’ ve right now implemented all the relevant signals within the actual website: from the structure in order to language-specific content that is optimised subsequent specific keyword research and rival analysis in the local language and that considers cultural business practice and needs, all the necessary tags, localised content material, tone of voice, imagery and call in order to actions etc . Great stuff.

Unfortunately, you’ lso are not done yet. You now have to tell search engines what to do with your web site. As you know, for you to measure your SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION successes (or indeed failures), you will need Google Analytics to be installed for every property. You also need to add all of them to Google Search Console and Msn Webmaster Tools – both equipment that can help identify any potential specialized or indexing issues (as properly as the ability to geo-target your site).

You can monitor all domains, (or sub-domains plus subdirectories) separately in both Analytics plus Search Console like so:


international seo tools

Search Gaming console

Geo-target your internet site using the website structure you select – so if you chose a subdomain or even CCTLD structure, just add each one of these separately. If you chose to go down the particular subfolder route, set specific attributes in both Google Search Console and Msn Webmaster Tools as such:

google search console designed for international sites

Then ensure that your hrefLang labels are working (if there are errors, notice what it says):

international seo targeting

And finally, check that your own country targeting is correct:

international targeting simply by country

(If you’ve used ccTLDs this can automatically be detected. )

Look for this option within Bing Webmaster Tools here:

bing webmaster tools

Make the location to target here:

geo targeting in bing

Right now you’ ll need to work on off-page signals . In particular: Google My Business, Msn Places and domain authority.

Google My Company and Bing Places

Google My Business and Bing Areas are great tools that allow you to add your company and all of its locations, in order for search engines like google to know where you operate and also for individuals to be able to see your business on a chart when they search for it. It’ t also pretty handy as whenever someone searches for your company, they’ lmost all be shown a map along with your business on it (they’ ll end up being served the one closest to them if you have multiple locations).


Here’ s how to add plus manage all of your locations in Google My Company and in Bing Places .

International Link Building

Link building is an essential part of SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION, and should not be ignored, in particular intended for websites structured with ccTLDs plus sub-domains as there’ s far more work to be done now that you will find multiple websites that you need to get hyperlinks to.

Backlink will build your website’ s area authority as well as helping to promote your global websites and drive relevant nearby referral traffic – which in turn aids in the visibility of your international internet site in search engines (as well because building up word of mouth and brand presence locally). With this in mind, here are some things to consider:

  1. Local quotation building
  2. Common and competitor research: Will help you to discover websites relevant to your market, that may show you interesting types of content that you could also create. You’ ll discover where your competitors are listed (so useful directories that exist in this country) and what type of content people are talking about them and what content they’ lso are writing for outreach – overall, all of these methods can help you find possible placements.

    It can also help you to realize cultural factors within your target market (do they even use directories? What are these people saying about businesses such as your own? What type of press do you want to attract? Which usually to avoid? It’ ll also assist you to create lists of influencers plus local media that you may want to create relationships with.


  3. Use equipment such as BuzzSumo to discover what subjects and types of content work greatest in your target market (also helpful for rival research).
international link building

Avoid copying exactly what others have done (unless they’ ve done it terribly – ensure it is better) but rather, use this research to assist build up your own content strategy as well as for inspiration. Create attractive and optimised content for your new audience (about your products, services, how you can assist them, long-tail search queries for example FAQs and blog posts, thought management pieces, industry-related topics that may be appealing to them etc . ), which will after that earn you links.

SEO is very much a long online game (with some short-term quick earn goals, it’ s true) that needs a long-term bespoke strategy, and can only work if you dedicate time to this. For international SEO, make sure that every country has its own unique technique, as an one-size-fits-all approach will not be ideal and if you have multiple CCTLDs, it might lead to issues.

And that’ s it for the moment – good luck!

About the author

Eleanor Reynolds is an electronic marketing consultant at Hallam , providing SEO, paid search, content, plus social marketing work to a broad range associated with clients.

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