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International SEO: How to Optimize Your Website For Other Countries

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International SEO: How to Optimize Your Website For Other Countries

Read time 17 min read
International SEO

Test your SEO in 60 seconds! Diib is one of the best SEO tools in the world. Diib uses the power of big data to help you quickly and easily increase your traffic and rankings. We’ll even let you know if you already deserve to rank higher for certain keywords.

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International business is one that requires a website and a strategy; one you’ve likely implemented already. It is one thing to have that website online and yet another to make it work within the target markets. This is where a good SEO strategy comes into play. A strategy that can be multifaceted and complex, however, if done well, SEO can yield large dividends. 

The aim of this article is to dissect international SEO (search engine optimization) and elaborate on what needs to be done to expand your business into new markets through your website. This expert guide will help you navigate through this process without making any fatal mistakes that might cost you.

What is an International SEO?

International SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of creating optimized conditions for your web to allow search engines to identify which countries you want to target and which languages you primarily utilize.

It refers to optimizing your search parameters for different populations, countries and/or languages. These parameters can include geo-targeting, hreflang tags, and other localization signals used to target users globally. The idea is to attract more traffic on your website and significantly increase your sales in the international markets which would promote your business growth. It is indeed a great strategy that many companies opt for. 

International SEO

(Image credit: Merkle)

This is considered a complicated topic as far as technology is concerned. However, it doesn’t have to be complicated; it just needs to be done right. If you are building a website for a specific demographic, you need to make sure that you are listed in the right search engines. A search engine works so that you can specifically target a particular country. Failure to customize it, the desired results will not be achieved, even if the website is written in the target language. In International search engine optimization, you need to specifically instruct search engine bots to list your website and services in the right demographic, including country and language.

How Does International Search Engine Optimization Work?

A quick snapshot on how these strategies work is that search engines are instructed to match search results to the language and location of the user. There are unique signals that you add to help search engines detect the content available on the website. This content should be optimized for the specific country and/or language. 

This does not mean that you should have entire new websites or subdirectories customized for every country. However, the prospects and technicalities should be thoroughly thought through. For instance, if you create a landing page in German, yet the rest of the website is in Spanish, you will disorient the audience you are targeting and lose potential customers. You need to dig deep into understanding how far the demand for your content is reaching and the requirements for a potential new site in those specific demographics and/or respective languages. For example, this website assumes that English is ok in Scandinavian countries, which can never be the assumption:

International SEO

How Ready is Your Business to Face New International Markets?

There are important considerations to make before diving into international search engine optimization. Failure to overcome these obstacles might stunt your earning potential. Here are some of those considerations:

  • Define your market: Is there a particular market for the products and/or services promoted by your website? You need to be certain that there is a market for your product or service in the target country. Don’t make assumptions; research and come to a conclusion. Although google has a tool to help you do this, it is recommended that you do further research to strengthen your decision. This is what that Google tool looks like:

International SEO

(Image credit: Neil Patel)

  • Local competitors: How are the local providers of similar products marketing themselves to their customers? Are your products and services better than theirs? If not, how can you improve them? Remember that their advantage is that they are locally based, so your website, USPs, strategy, etc. should be top-notch. This is an example of a local competition worksheet:

International SEO

  • Detailed logistics: It is vital to obtain local personnel and professionals, including native speakers, to handle calls and emails. You need to be able to process inquiries, appeals, business prospects, complaints, etc. in a friendly and positive manner.
  • Language: When setting up a website for a foreign country, the language used should be specific to the country. Some sites are a jumble of languages, which promotes confusion. It can also make you look unprofessional and unreliable. Rather than using country names, consider using a sample of native languages, for example:

International SEO

Of course, there are other considerations to be made when setting up an International SEO strategy; overall cost, required expertise, cybersecurity, affiliate marketing programs, etc. but these are definitely a great place to start. With these strategies in mind, let us dive into the technical side of optimizing your website for international markets.

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Structure Choices for International Search Engine Optimization

There are three main website structure options to choose from; country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs), subdomains, and subdirectories.

  1. ccTLDs: This requires the acquisition of top-level domains that are linked to the target countries. For instance, www.mycompany.co.uk (United Kingdom), or www.mycompany.es (Spain). It is highly beneficial since it offers the most reliable geo-targeting signals to almost all search engines. This option best suits countries but not their specific languages. If you are looking to target the languages, then consider adding subdirectories or subfolders. It is also useful in targeting a few countries (less than three). Additional countries incur additional costs. Here is a little more about ccTLDs:

International SEO

(Image credit: Moz)

  1. Subdomains: This is an option that uses generic Top Level Domain Name (gTLDN). For instance, https://es.mycompany.com indicates that a Spanish language subdomain has been incorporated. The benefits of this option include their easy to set up procedure, flexibility in hosting, and precision in geo-targeting signals.

International SEO

  1. Subdirectories: This is a kind of a blend between ccTLDs and gTLDNs. (https://www.mycompany.com/es). This option is well utilized in countries where more than one language is spoken (https://www.mycompany.com/es-en/). This option enables you to harmonize the domain authority and subdirectories. It also provides an extension channel if you expand to other markets in the future. The vast features to choose from in this option – subdirectories needing not having all the contents of the main site make it even more useful.

International SEO strategy

There are billions of websites on the internet. It is the task of content creators to ensure websites stand out according to all SEO parameters. International SEO best practice is the way that makes your company website accessible with ease from any part of the world. Accessibility is a crucial indicator of the success of global brands. However, some brands do not do it right. Hence, they may achieve high SEO rankings locally but low rankings internationally. Below are tips to optimize your brand site for high international search engine ranking.

Consider keywords

When you mention certain words a specific number of times, say 2-3 times in your site, they are keywords. Mentioning keywords increases the chances that your site will be clicked onto by keywords searchers. Keywords-saturated content ranks high on search engines such as Google. People gravitate towards clicking links that appear at the top of millions of search engine results. Keywords are suitable for both international and regular SEO because they drive organic traffic. Besides mentioning keywords a specific number of times, they need to be of the right structure or length. Viable keywords are long and specific. Specificity suits International ranking because the world is diverse. Site visitors state names of specific countries during keyword searches to help search engines deliver specific results. This knowledge should influence your SEO plans. Diib® Keyword Research Tool compiles worldwide data and metrics, giving you the most current and relevant keywords for your niche. Here is what that tool looks like:

International SEO

Consider world languages

The world hosts billions of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Ethnicity determines linguistics. When creating content to target billions of people, you should apply an international SEO strategy to make your targeting efforts fruitful. Relying upon language to target people worldwide expands the scope of reach of your brand, regardless of the location of your audience. Be sure to prompt visitors of your sites to specify their languages of choice for accurate and useful targeting. Here is the Google Search Console page where you select your target audience and language:

International SEO

(Image credit: Moz)

Customize site user experience for visitors

Managing user experience is a top SEO best practice. It refers to making your visitors comfortable with using your site. The quality of user experience depends on how long visitors stay on your site and come back for new content. Improving user experience involves applying attractive site colors and fonts, posting readable content with attractive titles. Speaking of titles, ensure they appear in languages that your international visitors select. The content should appear in their preferred language and provide accurate communication. Therefore, you should either try to translate the web content into different languages yourself to bring out intimacy. Alternatively, you may hire the services of a multilingual translator. These efforts lead to high international search engine rankings based on organic traffic. Relying on translation software leads to inaccurate information that increases the bounce rate on your site.

Consider location

The location should not be a significant international ranking parameter at the expense of language. Besides language, target people based on their cultural backgrounds to improve the overall user experience. Afterward, complement cultural targeting with location-based targeting parameters such as currency, time zones, and phone numbers. Your brand site should provide users with the convenience to wire payments using their local currencies in their time zones. To show that you care, include appropriate formatting of addresses and phone numbers for respective countries.

Use file paths instead of subdomains.

Brand owners modify their site structures by creating site subdomains in attempts to achieve maximum international outreach. These subdomains accompany the base domain names but show specificity in countries and languages. If your brand has many outlets, a subdomain may specify which outlet. Subdomains are easy to create and use when targeting users in various countries. However, subdomains strip your primary brand name of valuable attention and sense of authority. Hence, customers may get confused and mistrust your brand site if it contains subdomains.

However, the guide on international SEO best practice 2021 recommends that modern brands restructure their websites to contain file paths instead of sub-domains. Unlike subdomains, file paths are location-specific. They identify the exact user on the site and their location through geo tagging technology. Besides, they protect against cyber-attacks while trying to access files such as images, sound, and web documents. Therefore, file paths are tools to avert cybercrime and improve relations with visitors based on trust.

We hope that you found this article useful.

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International SEO services

To access these services, you need to consult an international SEO agency of your choice. You require insights on improving your brand goals through ranking strategy. Brands can enjoy SEO plans regardless of their sizes, as long as the ultimate goal is global success.

SEO audits

These help in determining brand site SEO effectiveness. Organizations need to be ready for international attention before they can expand their horizons. Hence, your preferred SEO agency will carry out SEO audits to gauge brand readiness. Readiness forms part of your international SEO checklist to take your brand to the global level. Here is that checklist:

International SEO

Off-page optimization

It is essential for both local and global brands. Yet another international SEO checklist item is online activity to enhance brand memorability. Your brand name should bring organic traffic to your site through mentions in comments on social media. To complement your active participation in guest forums, provide good-looking backlinks to lead traffic to your brand. Remember to exercise moderation while using keywords (avoid keyword stuffing) to avoid flagging as spam by Google. Here is an example of keyword stuffing:

International SEO

Industrial analysis

Your international SEO agency will guide you in conducting environmental screening to analyze the strategies your competitors are utilizing. The analysis generates information and insights to enhance organic reach to worldwide audiences through strategic keyword utilization.

Language optimization

To ensure your site is efficient in worldwide targeting, it should provide customized content based on native language and regions. This optimization creates an opening for the international SEO agency of your choice to conduct screening of regions. The outcome is a regional analysis that provides insights on optimizing your site to engage people from the regions of choice. Your agency should help you to create custom links for specific regions. Agencies such as Google supports brand owners in managing multilingual and multiregional brand sites. This is an example of regional language analysis:

International SEO

On-page optimization

Among the SEO services used in the international markets, this is the most essential. Your site should match and surpass the expectations that your audience gets while off the site. Trust is essential to achieve a top SEO ranking, making global success a relational matter. Besides, information on the site must be in a language suitable for your audiences in specific regions. Your preferred SEO agencies will recognize that geo-tagging is vital for your brand. Visitors need to view relevant content based on their location. High-end on-page optimization increases brand accessibility to customers when they perform keyword searches on search engines. Posting keyword-saturated content makes fast search engine access possible. However, your agency should advise on the right amount of keywords. 

FACT: 57% of marketing executives say on-page content development was the most effective SEO tactic. 

International SEO analytics and reporting

Your SEO agency will give you regular updates on the online brand performance based on geographical locations. While targeting a worldwide audience, location is one of the most critical variables in measuring performance. The regional performance will help you to make important brand advancement decisions. Relevant information includes information on the regions where your brand performs best. The information also enables you to make comparisons and deductions. Relying on information on SEO ranking in companies across the globe, is key strategy SEO best practice because the secret underlying successful global brands is evidence-based leadership. Diib is well known for their International SEO software. Here is what that page looks like:

International SEO

Geotagging

Companies looking to go multinational require SEO plans to facilitate their global expansion. Geotagging involves adjusting websites and blogs to make your brand accessible to people in other countries in the world other than yours. File paths are international SEO checklist items that help SEO service provider’s access and modify site images, and text files for location and language-based customization.

International search engine optimization is about first understanding the needs of the customer and how to incorporate international seo google tools in marketing your content to these people. When international targeting is appropriately done, its presence should be nearly invisible to users – such that they will view the website as a local one. This is achieved through providing the users with relevant information, described in their language, and delivered within their region.

Diib®: Your International SEO Growth Experts!

International SEO can seem like a complicated and strange process, however, with the right advice and a little persistence, you can master this process. Diib offers comprehensive services that can make your International SEO campaign simple and straightforward. Here are some of the features that you’ll find most helpful:

  • Custom Alerts, which keep you informed on your website health and any changes to the google algorithms that can affect your local and international traffic patterns.
  • Objectives with customized suggestions on ways to improve your website health and organic traffic.
  • Clients insights into not only your own website health, but that of their key international competitors.
  • Allow you to sync your Facebook profile, giving you insights into the specifics of your social media campaign. Things like specific post performance, demographics of users, best time of day to post and conversions.
  • Provide a monthly collaborative session with a Diib growth expert that can help you fine tune your SEO efforts and guide you to growth and success.

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FAQ’s

Doing a targeted campaign for different countries, the strategy will look different than in your home country. First off, make sure the language or languages of the target country are being displayed predominantly and correctly.

There are several things to consider when your website goes global: 1) Optimize for target languages. 2) Avoid rigid local options. 3) Avoid excessive text in images. 4) Have a clear color scheme. 5) Localize the checkout process. 6) Optimize for local searches.7) Check loading speed.

Google recommends utilizing different URLs for each language you choose to target rather than using cookies or settings to adjust the content language. You then use hreflang annotations to Google search results link to the right language version.

SEO is still a wise and almost vital part of having an online business. Even if you’re looking to target local SEO and audiences, SEO can help drive long-term results.

First of all you need to open a new, incognito window and hit the enter button. You’ll notice at the bottom of the page, Google is showing you your geo-location. This means, despite the US URL showing, the results will be country specific.

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Daniel Urmann

Author Bio:

Daniel Urmann is the co-founder of Diib.com. Over the past 17 years Daniel has helped thousands of business grow online through SEO, social media, and paid advertising. Today, Diib helps over 150,000 business globally grow online with their SaaS offerings. Daniel’s interest include SMB analytics, big data, predictive analytics, enterprise and SMB search engine optimization (SEO), CRO optimization, social media advertising, A/B testing, programatic and geo-targeting, PPC, and e-commerce. He holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) focused in Finance and E-commerce from Cornell University – S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management.

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