Business owners offering products/services internationally want their website to work in all targeted market locations. That is where they require International SEO to make their presence felt. International SEO is seen as quite complex and this is where most of the businesses fall short.
Unlike the common perception, International SEO can prove to be essential even for small businesses by opening new markets and earning huge ROI. Hence, let us understand more about what is International SEO and some of its best practices.
What is International SEO?
International SEO is not entirely about launching sites with altered content, executing hreflang etc. International SEO is mainly about geotargeting. This includes organizing and optimizing your website as per the region. Enabling search engines to identify the countries, languages of each user your business is targeting in a particular location.
International SEO best practices:
The URL structure for international websites
The principal concept is that you need to have an accurate domain for your international SEO requirements. There are a few things to consider while choosing a domain name for international SEO. Domains like Country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) are applicable for a specific location.
Eg – www.example.fr & www.example.co.uk
Top-level domains (TLD) are used for geo-targeting specific countries. The subdomains and subfolders of ccTLD domains can be utilized for geo-targeting diverse countries as well.
Eg of sub-domain – https://fr.example.com. It uses a generic TLD with a country-specific subdomain.
Eg of sub-directories – https://www.example.com/fr & https://www.example.com/fr-ch
If you are targeting territories where more than one language is spoken, then a structure that includes both the country and language subdirectories is needed.
HrefLang was invented for business owners having multilingual sites and requiring search engines to send people relevant content in their language. This benefits sites that have similar content in multiple languages. HrefLang Tags allows cross-reference pages with similar content for different audiences and is added to the <head> of a website.
Eg – <link rel=”alternate” href=”https://www.example.com/” hreflang=”en-US” /> (I am the American version, please index me in the US)
Eg – <link rel=”alternate” href=”https://www.example.com/ae-ar/” hreflang=”ar-AE” /> (I am the Arabic version and would like to be indexed and served in the UAE).
There are three ways to implement the hreflang attribute:
- HTML tags
- HTTP headers
The X Default Tag
The default tag is a default version of the site you can choose to serve people when the language or location tag does not match any of the available ones and no page is better appropriate. You have a UK and US version of the site. So, when someone from Australia searches for related terms, you would X Default them to a preferred version.
Meta Content Language Tags
This tag indicates the language in which the HTML content is written and can include the country too. This information signals to search engines that target the audience for the page.
Eg – <meta http-equiv=”content-language” content=”en-us”>
International Keyword Research
Remember not to use literal translations as they are accurate or relevant. Analyze your competitor’s keywords used in those countries. You can use the SEMRush tool which is great as it helps you to find approximate keyword search volume, competitors rankings, or advertising in AdWords for the target country.
To measure your SEO successes, you need to install Google Analytics and Google Search Console for each property. Both tools can help identify potential technical or indexing issues.
International Link Building
Link building cannot be ignored particularly for websites with ccTLDs and sub-domains as you need to get links for
- Local citation
- Find websites relevant to your market and where your competitors are listed. Analyze what type of content people are writing for outreach which can help you find potential placements. This will help you to understand the cultural factors within your target market.
- Build your content based on the target user’s language and culture. Create attractive and optimized content for your audience about your products and services, long-tail search queries, industry-related topics that may be of interest to them, etc which will earn you links.
Difference between International SEO Services and regular SEO Services
Localization of website content is one of the first steps in International SEO. Your global page should not be a copied version of your home country website. Optimizing your site for an individual country’s local audience will enhance the overall user experience of the website. The overall performance matters or else versions of your website may compete against each other for rankings or may not be listed at all. For international SEO, each country should have a unique approach.
Explaining with an example, a website developed for India should not rank in the SERP of Mexico if a separate site is designed for Mexico. Misusing canonical or hreflang tags, will lead to non-indexing of sites by the search engines or generate duplicate indexing.
Note – Currently, the Google ranking factors have evolved. The rankings displayed are based on the search’s location and not the version of Google the searcher is using. Earlier several search results for similar keywords were shown by google.com, google.co.uk, or google.com.au. You may notice identical results in all the three Google searches unless you search in three different countries.
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