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How to Optimise Your Website for International SEO

Kinga

If you are a business looking to create new opportunities in the international market, you need to optimise your website for international SEO. 

While the search engine optimization process for Google is mostly global, international SEO focuses on building better visibility by targeting specific countries or languages. 

Based on a report by CSA research, 40% of global consumers won’t buy a product that is listed  in a language they can’t read, while 73% prefer to read reviews in their native language. 

This shows that having a global website does not necessarily make you successful in other countries. You need to do international SEO and here’s how you can get started!

What is international SEO?

International SEO (or global SEO) is optimizing your site content and structure to drive organic traffic from multiple countries and/or languages.  

It is built on standard SEO knowledge and skills, but with an extra step of making sure search engines can easily identify the target country that your content is created for. 

With international SEO, your website can cater to foreign markets like Spanish people in the United States or people in Spain.

Is international SEO for you? 

Unless your products or services are specifically local, any business can go international and target visitors from different countries.

However, should you?

For content and e-commerce marketing, promoting your website globally means reaching a wider audience and a higher number of visitors, which will increase conversions. 

Still, this comes down to reviewing market reports, statistics, and your website data to help decide if this move is profitable. 

If your business is already at the top in the country, and then looking to expand your business to other countries — international SEO is certainly for you. 

However, take care that you will also need the resources, production, and logistics capacity to fulfil international needs. 

How to develop your international SEO?

Google and other search engines work by matching the best result to a person’s query.

International SEO works by helping search engines identify the domains or pages you have for targeting different countries and selecting language-specific content for users visiting your sites.

This makes your business globally available, and your website will have better visibility in your targeted countries or regions. 

You can get in front of audiences in different areas by optimizing your website and creating multilingual and multiregional content. 

Get your website ready for global traffic 

To succeed in international SEO, let’s first look at the technical aspect. 

1. Website structure

A significant factor in international SEO ranking is your website and URL structure. There are three options to choose from, each with its benefits and drawbacks. 

Given that your website domain is www.example.com, let’s dive into each option: 

  • Country-coded-top-level domains (ccTLDs) are country-specific domains such as www.example.jp or www.example.my. This structure offers a clear geolocation signal and is suitable for sites planning to serve entirely different content to users based on their target country. Still, note that websites will have to start with zero SEO authority.
  • Subdomains like www.jp.example.com are great options when you are still showing the same website content and design but with different language variations. You can still geo-target within Google Webmaster Tools though they have a much weaker signal than ccTLDs.
  • Subdirectories like www.example.com/jp are convenient to set up and allow easy separation of sites. However, this website structure splits link authority among several sub-domains while the target location can be vague to users and search engines. 

2. Hosting location

Google is said to prioritize speed for ranking search results, giving fast sites an edge over sites that take longer to load. 

For international websites, your hosting provider can greatly impact your site loading speed and user experience. So make sure your website can be assessed in target countries quickly. 

Speed depends on the location of your server. The further away it is from your target country, the slower the connection can be made, which will result in a bad user experience.

When selecting a hosting provider, pay attention to the uptime rates and server locations to improve your website performance.  

3. Hreflang tags 

Hreflang tag is an HTML attribute showing the language and geographical targeting for a specific webpage, such as:

<link rel=”alternate” href=”https://www.example.com/” hreflang=”en-us”>

The HTML tail “en-us” here tells the search engines that the content is created for English speakers in the United States. 

Using hreflang tags, you can easily cross-reference pages with similar content for different audiences, avoiding content duplication issues. 

But note that this is only supported by Google and Yandex. For Baidu and Bing, use the content-language meta tag:

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

Overall, consider the search engine you are targeting and look into their respective technical optimization practices for your website. 

Best practices for a strong international SEO strategy

Next, here’re some best practices for optimizing your website and content globally

1. Analyse the competitive landscape

First, identify the target countries you want to promote products or services. 

Research business opportunities using your data and market reports from trusted authorities to decide your target countries and languages. 

Discover the top competitors in your target countries and conduct a competitive analysis of the businesses you will be against. 

Look into your future competitors, gauge their performance, and find your edge over them. Are you offering products or services they don’t?

This will help you further narrow down your target countries and identify the country you are more likely to succeed. 

2. Conduct an international keyword strategy

Always conduct keyword research. Though the Google algorithm is universal, search results can vary widely locally. 

Researching keywords specific to the country will not only let you understand the local market better, but you will also be able to adapt your message accordingly for better visibility.

Seek keywords with high volume and buyer intent for each country you target. Be aware of local interests and the native keywords they use. 

For example, white skin is a standard of beauty among Asian consumers. Therefore, to rank well in South Korea, Japan, or China — your skincare company should target keywords that involve skin whitening to be effective. 

Additionally, you can reverse engineer your current organic competitors in your target countries to determine their keyword strategy. 

3. Localizing your content and website

Preparing your website for international audiences is not only about translating content, but the goal should be for the website to appear natural in the country.

Even though there are convenient translation plugins, local translators who are aware of context can create more localized content that will boost online engagement.

From your content and image to website interface and navigation, optimize each element for the country’s local audience to boost their user experience. The key to creating this localized content, improving your site’s visibility by getting real-time news databases on user-provided keywords, can also be made with Google news API.

This should also involve catering to local consumer behavior, such as integrating preferred payment methods or shipping and delivery services.

Plus, you can create a new company and blog name in the native language to build a more local brand to better interact with your target consumers.

4. GMB, Bing places, and social media

While Google has stated that its rankings aren’t directly affected by business listings and social media profiles, these profiles can still be a powerful tool for driving traffic to your website. 

So set up social media profiles for your business in all of the key markets you’re targeting, and share high-quality content regularly.

Make sure to add all your websites as separate properties on Google My Business and Bing Places to help with local SEO. 

Because creating country-specific profiles can significantly boost your visibility and reach audiences who are searching with keywords like “Car rental in Japan.”

Creating a strong social media profile can help build up your brand among locales, which will help boost your visibility on SERPs. 

5. Diversify and allocate resources holistically

With more than one language or country to focus on, managing your international SEO can quickly become complicated and overwhelming.  

Prioritize time and resources based on overall strategy. Between creating a new blog post or optimizing an old one, focus on what you bring the greatest return on investment. 

Also, know that SEO is not a one-off project, so allocate resources for your technical and content management

It’s always best to collaborate with people who know what they’re doing. Hire content writers and SEO experts from local markets to ensure your international SEO campaign success. 

6. International link building

Like standard SEO, you need a link-building strategy to boost your website’s authority. 

For international SEO, quality backlinks are relevant links from your target country with high domain ratings, which can add value to ranking locally. 

After all, if your site gets a lot of backlinks from URLs ending with .ru, Google will recognize your site as being relevant to the audiences in Russia.

Key takeaway: International SEO checklist

Ultimately, the key to international SEO is providing an excellent customer experience to everyone visiting your site, considering their country and native tongue.  

Here’s a quick checklist to summarize everything you need: 

  1. Choose a suitable website structure
  2. Find a hosting provider that supports fast loading speed
  3. Implement hreflang tags
  4. Analyse competitive landscape
  5. Conduct international keyword research
  6. Use native-speaking translators to localize content
  7. Setup social and business profiles
  8. Diversify and allocate resources holistically
  9. International link building

Adela Belin is a content marketer and blogger at Writers Per Hour. She is passionate about sharing stories with the hope to make a difference in people’s lives and contribute to their personal and professional growth. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.  

How to Optimise Your Website for International SEO

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