What Is International SEO?

International Positioning Through SEO

January 2022

Wading into the waters of international marketing is a big step for any brand. It is a complex task but one that can bring a number of benefits.


There are a lot of factors that will determine the success or failure of an international digital marketing strategy so, in this guide, you will find some step-by-step tips to position your brand well in other markets.


This is assuming that your website in its original language is already fully optimized to be positioned on search engines. If not, start by taking a look at your native SEO marketing strategies.


* Do you want to boost your website's positioning on Google? We're sharing 10  keys to improving SEO ranking in our FREE ebook! Download it here.

International SEO


Study Your Market

Before you even start thinking about your SEO, you need to run a deep analysis of the country (or countries) you are planning on targeting.


To start, ask yourself how your products or services fit in there. It may be that you should consider adding special features, or it may be that part of your catalogue or website would not function outside of your country or region. Culture and local tastes and preferences are important factors to take into account.


If you run an ecommerce, there are logistical details that must be considered before launching sales options in another country, such as payment methods (the more types you accept, the greater your chances of increasing sales), exchange rates (it is always best to display prices in the local currency) or even international legislation in terms of exports and product sales.


The most important thing to know is which search engine (or engines) to aim for, because there is more to life than Google. In Russia, for example, Yandex reigns, and in China it's Baidu and Sogou.


Each of these has it's own SEO positioning regulations that you will have to study and adapt to. To know the market quota of each search engine in your target country, you can refer to reports made by organizations such as Experian or Forrester Research.


Lastly, make sure to study digital consumption habits in the countries you are targeting. Things like the internet penetration percentage, what kinds of devices are most frequently used, how popular online shopping is, etc.

Translate, Adapt, and Locate Your International SEO

The time has come to address the issue subject of language. According to your expansion strategy, you can find yourself in two different situations:

  • The countries share a language. If an American company decides to target the British or Australian market, for example, they can avoid the hassle of translating everything, but must still adapt their content to each country’s interests and take different spelling into account.
  • The countries have different languages. In this case you have no choice but to translate all your content into another language and, as tempting as it may be, do not do this by using an translation app. The results will contain mistakes and you will lose a good share of business opportunities before you even get started.

Regardless of which of these two situations you find yourself in, find an expert in multilingual SEO who can help you create highly efficient content for your target market. They will be able to evaluate your specific situation, and help you address the following aspects.

  • Research appropriate keywords in each language and/or culture. There is no point in translating everything word-for-word as the keywords you need are the ones that are actually searched for in each country. You can use tools such as Google Keyword Planner to get a better idea of what these are. 
  • Translate all of your website’s content, while respecting keyword density. In the marketing world, good translations can be quite different from literal ones, as they must adapt to the local culture and use of language. There are some companies who even change their product’s name due to it sounding inappropriate or wrong when translated. Get advice from experts to avoid any such problems.
  • Translate all invisible SEO elements like plugins, H1 and H2 tags, image ALT text, the anchor text for your links, and so on. All of this text should be translated into the target language, in alignment with the keyword strategy defined for that market.


Organize Your Website’s Technical Aspects

Now we come to what may be the most delicate part of dealing with international SEO position: the technical aspects of your website. Here are a few of the things you must take into account.


Architecture and Domains

The first thing you need to know is that there are two main types of domains:

  • Top Level Domains (TLD), which are not associated with any given country, like .net, .com or .org.
  • Regional domains, which are tied to a country like .co.uk, .es or .fr. These domains may increase your chances of positioning in that country, but will also decrease them anywhere else in the world.

Once that is clear, you will have to choose one of the following strategies:

  • Domains or subdomains by language: mysite.fr, mysite.en, mysite.de or even fr.mysite.com, en.mysite.com, de.mysite.com. Each domain is indexed independently and you can have different servers in each country. The great inconvenience here, especially with separate domains, is that the original website’s authority is not automatically transferred to the new ones. This means that you have to start from zero whenever you enter a new country.
  • Subdirectories by language (with one single domain and 301 redirects): mysite.com/es, mysite.com/fr, mysite.com/de, etc. In this case you are focusing on building up single domain authority, so any new languages will benefit from your previous work. The main drawback here is that this may slow down your loading times.
  • Subfolders by language: having a single domain and regional domains in the form of micro sites. This is more complex and difficult to maintain and therefore isn't the best option.
  • Different domain names for each language or country. The most radical solution would be to create totally different and independent websites. This might be right for your company if you are looking to integrate as much as possible into local markets, and want your different teams to work separately.


Hosting and IPs

Next question: where should I hire the host from? The origin of your IP can improve your results by 0.7 to 1 position, so it is worth looking into.


In general, the IP should be in your main market’s country. For example, if you are selling products in the UK and Australia but most of your clients are American, then your IP should be based in the United States. Nevertheless, having a fast server is more important in terms of position.


Additionally, do not forget to consider your content’s geolocation, as search engines generally favor local results.

The Hreflang Attribute

For your international SEO strategy to work, you need Google to “realize” that it is dealing with the same website, just in different languages (or adapted to different countries where variations of the same language is spoken).


For this to happen, it is essential to use the hreflang attribute, linking each language’s URL to each website’s homepage.


Multilingual SEO Plugins

We recommend two multi language SEO plugins for Wordpress, that will solve the hreflang issue easily:

  • qTranslate: dynamic content management in several languages. Rated 4.9 by users.
  • WPML: a simple but powerful payed plugin to build and maintain multilingual websites.


Link Building and International Content Marketing

So now you have your website up and running in all your target countries - congratulations!


But, as you already know, SEO is a long term investment and requires continuous effort and time even after its launch.


If you want your international SEO strategy to succeed, you need quality links from different countries and languages that are adapted to local culture and interests.



Strategies for Success With SEO Marketing

First, you need to understand what keywords your potential customers are using when looking for your services and products. In order to find the ones that perform best, you have different options.


The first option would be using a Keyword research tool, such as Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, etc. Another step is analyzing your website to find out which keywords are already performing well and also check out those that your competitors are targeting. Long tail keywords are very important, since natural language search is becoming more and more popular.   


Once you know the keywords that will help your potential customers to find you, get your content ready! Having a list of keywords is important but you must also market your content properly. Search technology relies on relevance and importance metrics, and these are measured by tracking how people react to your content by linking to it, sharing it, etc. This means your content should have some characteristics that make it shareable, linkable and traffic-friendly. You want to offer high quality content that includes all those keywords we previously mentioned, but you don’t want to bore your potential customers. The sweet spot length of content seems to be 2,250-2,500 words long according to Hubspot.


You content is a crucial part of your SEO strategy, but your on-page SEO management is also incredibly important in order to make the most of your online presence and achieve your business goals. Make sure your website structure follows a method that allows you to track different on-page SEO elements, such as URLs, page titles, and meta descriptions. Using a template to control these different elements will make your life easier and your management more effective. Always keep in mind what you’ve changed when you create new page titles, add new topics, or edit your site’s content.


Optimize for Conversions

If your main objective is to increase the amount of leads and subscribers who could potentially become customers, optimize this process. Each page of your website should present a conversion opportunity, so make sure you include calls to action for the different stages of your buying funnel.


Analyze the Results

You need to set up your analytics in order to get insights into how your strategy is performing. This will let you know what is working and what isn’t, so that you can make the necessary changes in order to achieve your goals. Google Analytics tends to be the most popular choice in terms of analytics packages and Google Search Console is essential if you’re serious about wanting your website to rank on Google. It gives you insights into how this search engine sees your website, links that point to your site, popular keywords, click through rates, etc.


You need to treat your SEO strategy as a living thing, since it will grow, evolve, and behave in different ways depending on the constant changes of digital marketing. This changeability requires digital marketers to frequently adapt to the newest trends and guidelines of the search engine and its algorithms. Some actions and tactics that worked a few months ago don’t perform that well anymore, and search engines have gotten better at detecting bad content, so some old school SEO tactics such as building lots of pages, focusing only on links, the amount of words, and filling the title tag with keywords don’t work anymore. 


Investing in your SEO strategy, implementing new ideas and following up are all necessary for achieving your goals and digital marketing success. You should also work on techniques that will keep your content alive longer, such as working on evergreen content that won’t quickly go out of date, enrich your content with mixed media, optimize it for sharing, repurpose older content and re-share it on your social platforms!


Simplify SEO to Help Your Business Succeed

The realm of digital marketing continues to change faster than most can keep up with, but it has become clear that the best way to establish and grow a business’ brand is to have a strong online presence. Strong online presences are most often associated with good search engine optimization so that the most efficient clients are targeted for your business. The problem with effective search engine optimization is that it can be quite daunting to everyone involved, even those team members who are most experienced can have difficulties understanding the scale of search engine optimization.


Effective search engine optimization has become an important tool for businesses to use, as it helps to dictate and report where the business is going online. The only problem is that those reports from SEO can often feel overwhelming, and elude to a sinking sensation without finding a life raft to hold onto. Search engine optimization tools that are available to companies on a real-time basis are things like conversions, rankings, click-through rates, cost per click volumes, peak click times, etc. It is easy to see how even the most experienced SEO experts will say that search engine optimization was complex a decade ago, let alone how it continues to evolve with each passing day. So the question remains, how do you and your team simplify SEO to help your business succeed, without getting overwhelmed in the daunting digital marketing realm?


Define the Goal

Every brand is different in terms of what they are hoping to accomplish online. Some businesses want to have better communication, provide a resource to consumers, or develop their brand and increase awareness. The best way to simplify SEO is to understand what your goal is. There are a few basic questions that can be answered quite simply by you and your team, to make sure everyone is on the same page. First, what is the purpose of your website?


Understanding the purpose of the website helps determine effective search engine optimization techniques and what you are hoping to achieve with your SEO efforts.


The second question is what measurements you will use to determine if your SEO efforts are successful? As previously mentioned, there are hundreds of reports that are available through SEO tools, but that doesn’t mean you and your team have to use them. Successful SEO can be as simple as increased traffic, better click-through rates, increased conversions/sales, higher revenues, or longer visits to the website. Understanding how you will measure your efforts will help you determine the SEO techniques you will use so that you don’t have conflicting strategies.


The last question you should consider with your team is based on your competitors. What are your competitors doing? Are they doing something well? Are you and your team hoping to differentiate yourselves? Is there something you can learn from their past mistakes? Answering these questions is important because you can identify windows of opportunity that you and your team might have overlooked previously.


To summerize, here are the issues you need to examine.

  • The purpose of your website
  • What measurements will be used in your SEO strategy?
  • Competitor analysis


Build an Effective Strategy and Set It Into Motion

Once you have answered the questions above, you and your team can start building an SEO campaign. Understanding where to begin will simplify and speed up your process.


It’s important to note that once you set the ball rolling down the hill, it’s harder to course correct than before it begins. This doesn’t mean you can’t course correct at all, however.


Make Adjustments When Necessary and Be Proactive

As with any digital marketing campaign, course corrections will need to happen as the marketing world changes. It is important to make sure that when a bump in the road occurs, that you are willing and able to course correct your SEO strategy without having to go back to square one.


In summation, simplifying search engine optimization campaigns is possible even though it can seem very complex. Streamlining your SEO boils down to understanding the direction you wish to go in, having a solid strategy that can carry you in that direction, and making adjustments without sacrificing all your previous work.

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Laia Cardona

Laia Cardona

Responsible for the inbound marketing strategy at Cyberclick. Experience in digital marketing, digital communication, media journalism, CRM management with Hubspot, creation of global content strategy, workflows and lead nurturing.