INTERNATIONAL SEO BEST PRACTICES

Matthew Carter
Hello friends, my name is Matthew Carter. I’m a professional link builder for a large SEO agency in New York City.

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Make sure of the proper country code before setting up your URL structure. And keep in mind that regardless of the choices you make for your URL structure, Google may still occasionally show the wrong content to searchers. The hreflang tag can provide additional signals to help Google sort out when to show what.

Examples of companies that use subdirectories for their international websites:

See how Apple uses hreflang tags in its code to signal the language and country to search engines.

One way to gain international competitive intelligence using Alexa is to run a Site Comparison for your top 10 competitors. You can click the top right-hand drop-down and change views for any country worldwide. If your main competitors are getting a ton of traffic from one of your target countries, you can check out their international SEO tactics for that country.

Localizing content goes beyond the technical choices outlined above. International SEO can benefit from a well-rounded view of the users of a target country or language.

How to Use Hreflang Tags.

You have three choices for where to use hreflang tags:

If you decide to use hreflang tags, follow the guidelines below. WordPress users: You may be able to use a plugin to manage your hreflang tags.

Best for: A business or organization that wants to serve companies across multiple countries and keep its communications on one website.

The hreflang tag can include two components:

By pulling up the source code for Apple, you can see its hreflang attributes:

International SEO refers to optimizing your search presence for people who are in different countries or speak different languages. Using geo-targeting, hreflang tags, and other localization signals, you can target content to your users around the world.

Your URL structure helps Google figure out which of your pages to show searchers in different countries. This is part of geo-targeting, which focuses on location. To further target for language, we’ll show you how to use the hreflang tag in a moment, too.

Each tag specifies the country and language of users and is placed after the URL. “en-US” refers to English speakers in the United States, “ar-AE” is for Arabic speakers in the United Arab Emirates, “en-AE” is for English speakers in the United Arab Emirates, and so on.

Pros of using subdirectories: A subdirectory structure is easy to set up and maintain. Adding subdirectories to your website is simple and cost-effective. It only requires one website domain, and the authority you build up for that domain applies sitewide. Some think this option has emerged as the clear choice for nearly any business.

A Separate Website for Each Country.

Some sites choose to focus on language, like Facebook’s home page which allows users to select their own language . Air Canada uses a pop-up to let some users select their language, and country, sending them to a specific URL based on their selection.

Not sure which countries to optimize for international SEO? One input to consider is to identify countries that are generating a lot of links or traffic to your site. Use Alexa’s free Site Overview tool to check what countries are driving traffic to your site. If you see a lot of traffic from a country you’re not optimized for, you might consider optimizing for those countries. You can also use the Language report in Google Analytics to see what languages your users speak.

If your main page automatically redirects users based on their location or asks them to select the language for the page (like the Air Canada example above), you may also need an x-default hreflang tag. Google explains that this attribute value “signals to our algorithms that this page doesn’t target any specific language or locale and is the default page when no other page is better suited.”

Air Canada’s home page prompts visitors to choose a language.

Pros of using ccTLDs: Dedicating a separate domain using a country code offers the most powerful country signal to search engines for international SEO. It also tells website visitors that your brand is dedicated to its presence in that country.

Do you want to optimize search results based on language, geo-targeting, or both?

Consider Search Engine Preferences.

You can also target content by country AND language choice, like eBay, which makes separate marketplaces available in the local languages of 23 different countries. British clothing retailer Boden customizes content by country, with separate websites for customers in the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, France, Australia, and more.

Examples of companies that use separate websites (ccTLDs) for different countries:

Best for: Large businesses with deep resources. Because maintaining multiple websites is so expensive, it’s not usually a good choice for smaller businesses. An exception is if you are targeting China. It can be difficult for websites to rank on Baidu, China’s most prominent search engine, without the .cn top-level domain.

Here are four important steps to implementing international SEO on your site.

People in different countries prefer to access the Internet in different ways. Making your content easily consumable via the most popular devices can help with usability, which can impact SEO. Knowing how people access search helps you know where to put your efforts to optimize their experience.

Some companies choose to set up a separate website for visitors from each targeted country. This is called a local country code top-level domain (ccTLD). A ccTLD for your users in Spain would look like this: website.es.

How international SEO works: Google makes efforts to match search results to the language and location of the searcher. Special signals you add on your website help Google or other search engines know when your site has content that would be suitable for someone who is in a particular country or is searching in a specific language.

SEO is all about prioritizing your resources to achieve the most important tasks.

Be aware of changes in search volume and the meaning of the term to locals for your target keywords, as well.

If targeting a specific keyword in several countries, begin by analyzing the SERPs.

In order for your content to reach the audience you want, you need to consider URLs based on ccTLDs (country code top-level domains), subdomains, and subdirectories.

If possible, auto-generating content like product descriptions and meta descriptions can help you save both time and money and see results a lot faster.

Allocate Resources Appropriately.

Communication will help grow the company as one organization. If you’re a leader, this is a must – not just in SEO, but in any aspect of the business.

Remember too that for international SEO, links have different values depending on the origin of the backlink.

In this case, it is extra important that you connect with international colleagues in order to gain the best insight from other markets.

But don’t be tempted by unsolicited LinkedIn connections asking you to buy their links. Instead, build relationships with marketers or people from the industry you work in.

First, determine the search engine you want to focus on before going deeper into the technical optimization of your site.

Your time is better used somewhere else.

For example, the word “SEO” is a global term that is used in the same way in several countries. But searching for “football streaming” in the U.S. means something entirely different than “football streaming” in the UK.

SEO has grown more essential than ever before, with 68% of all online experiences beginning with a search engine.

Seek out both strong keyword volume and search intent in your terms of choice for each country.

And if you have to choose between working on task A or task B, ask yourself what would benefit the user the most. That’s your answer.

6. E-A-T is Here to Stay.

If your site gets a lot of backlinks from URLs ending with “.it” it gives Google the impression that your site is relevant to audiences in Italy and it can therefore rank accordingly on those local SERPs. Local links will have the highest impact on search results.

I recommend using this marketing calendar to get started.

A marketer wants to target more international markets and chooses to translate the whole site with a translation plugin.

Note: Hreflang doesn’t work with Bing or Baidu, which use the content-language meta tag:

Optimizing content to perform in several countries requires a solid strategy but in the end, it’s all about execution.

This is important to keep in mind, especially if you handle international SEO.

Last year the world changed dramatically.

5. Understand That Keywords & SERPs Vary from Country to Country.

In the UK, the search volume for the same term over the same period increased 175% from 4,400 to 12,100 in monthly searches.

Every country is its own market.

Since we’re talking about connections, you may work in a company where you’re sitting in different units around the world.

If not, subdomains are the next best thing. Lastly, you might choose a subdirectory if neither of the above options are suitable.

Google has also released its Year in Search, which can give you key insights into the market you work in.

With every update Google makes, it seems to focus more and more on on-page experience.

It’s always a good idea to prioritize your time based on the overall strategy, especially when working with different countries.

In short, thinking more locally is the key to international SEO.

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