International SEO: How To Do International SEO
- February 13 , 2024
- 10 min read
- Invest in market intelligence to uncover international differences shaping behaviour.
- Tune website infrastructure and technical components to deliver, crawl, and index translations properly.
- Resonate powerfully with global visitors through culturally aligned translations, imagery and on-page elements.
- Adopt continuous improvement of strategies and expansion of targeting based on learnings from customised performance analytics.
- Conducting in-depth market research on international target countries provides insights to inform effective localisation strategies.
- Getting the technical SEO fundamentals right facilitates global discoverability.
- On-page localisation builds overseas credibility and conversions.
- Building internationally relevant links, monitoring rank positions specific to each country, and customising analytics by market accelerates growth.
Why Is International SEO Important?
An effective international SEO strategy is essential for brands looking to expand their global reach and unlock new overseas audiences. As more buyers search in their native languages to find products and services, having a multilingual website that resonates with international visitors and employs localization process best practices is critical for growth.
However, optimising a website for viewers from different countries and translations comes with unique challenges. Many intricate factors are at play, from influencing cultural nuances to increased competition.
This post will break down actionable tips to improve global visibility and connect with an international audience. Whether you’re looking to drive more organic traffic, rank higher in international search engines, or boost conversions across borders, you’ll learn research-backed international SEO best practices to set your sites up for overseas success.
By getting your international SEO efforts right, you can tap into the rising global middle-class spending power and position your brand as an authority worldwide. It’s time to explore some key strategies to claim that global edge.
Getting Started With International SEO
Laying the groundwork is vital before beginning an international SEO expansion to reach new global audiences and grow organic traffic abroad. Conducting detailed market research and assessing your current website’s technical readiness set the foundation for global SEO success.
Thorough market research allows you to tailor your organic SEO efforts based on insights into your potential international audiences and new markets. Analyse local search behaviours, dig into cultural nuances, identify the most popular platforms, research the competitive landscape, and understand global buyer preferences that dictate needs and search patterns per country.
Conduct a comprehensive assessment of your website using global SEO tools and site crawlers to uncover any lingering issues negatively impacting international visitors. Check site speed metrics across key countries you’re targeting, identify formatting quirks on translated or foreign language pages affecting proper crawling and indexing, look for redirection chains that may confuse, and more. Pinpoint both vulnerabilities to fix and quick wins to capitalise on.
Addressing these two foundational elements before diving into other areas equips your global business to support international visitors. It avoids common pitfalls that disrupt organic growth for brands expanding their overseas presence. Use the market insights to inform keyword targeting, on-page localisation, international link building, and customised analytics approaches.
Keyword Research and Targeting
An effective global SEO strategy relies on detailed international keyword research to identify the terms and phrases your target audience seeks in each local market search. Keyword variations across different languages and countries are prevalent, so localised data is critical.
Before expanding to a different country, take time to understand the nuances. Keyword research for the United States will vary greatly from many European and Asian countries. Look beyond translation and consider cultural perspectives shaping search behaviours.
Understanding keyword variations across languages
Leverage a keyword research tool like Google’s free Keyword Planner tool and paid tools like Semrush that allow language and geographic targeting filters for keyword research. Analyse the unique variations and quirks inherent across translations.
Localise your keyword research
Conduct keyword research and dive into country-specific search results data to unearth the niche long-tail keywords your potential local customers use, indicating commercial intent for your offerings—these present key opportunities with less global competition.
Prioritise keyword opportunities
Identify high-potential volume keywords and very targeted niche keywords, categorising them based on language, topic relevance, and skill level. Focus on converters versus vanilla informational terms.
Group keywords by language and target page
Organise your extensive keyword research findings into an international keyword matrix detailing priority or the right keywords per country target, designated campaign or landing page, and language/translation needs for search engine optimization.
Thorough and ongoing localised keyword research fuels every international campaign and content marketing strategy by revealing what drives consumers in each market. Use these insights accordingly across on-page localisation, paid channels, and analytics.
Technical SEO For International Websites
The correct technical SEO foundations enable your global websites to surface content across borders effectively and deliver positive user experiences that drive conversions. Here are some vital technical considerations when expanding overseas.
- URL structure – Carefully structure your site architecture and URL structures using subdomains, subfolders, or specific country-code top-level domain extensions to signal to search engines that certain sections of your site target specific locations. For example, fr.brand.com or brand.com/fr/ for France. This context helps local search engines understand relevancy per locale and show those URL paths accordingly in international SERPs.
- Content Delivery Network (CDN) – A CDN is a geographically distributed network of servers that accelerates the delivery of website files/pages by caching site elements closer to visitors based on their geographic location or IP address for location-based search results. This tool dramatically cuts page load times for global visitors. Faster sites improve visitor engagement metrics that search engines factor into rankings. It also provides a smoother experience for converting international visitors.
- Mobile optimisation – Over half of all web traffic comes from mobile devices globally. Ensuring your site is mobile-friendly and follows mobile-first indexing best practices through testing tools is essential for providing a seamless experience as international audiences connect with your brand via smartphones. Tuning sites to mobile expectations overseas expand your potential reach and market share.
- Sitemap creation – Properly structured XML sitemaps serve as a roadmap to new website content and pages for popular search engine crawlers to discover and index. This tool is invaluable in helping international search engines navigate more complex global site architectures with translated content, country/language subfolders, etc., as they index new pages. Similarly, hreflang tags (HTML hreflang attribute) act as signposts for international SEO, guiding popular search engines to the most relevant language versions of your web pages for specific regions, ensuring users get the best possible experience. Having international content indexed quickly enables it to start ranking for relevant searches in each locale.
Getting the technical foundations right eliminates duplicate content issues, reinforces relevance in local and international markets, and allows your optimised content to shine across borders. Pair this with ongoing content marketing and localisation efforts tuned to ranking success based on what you uncover from initial competitor analysis.
On-page Optimization For International Audiences
Successfully connecting with audiences overseas depends heavily on crafting website content explicitly tailored to each target country’s needs, interests, and expectations.
Proper on-page optimisation and localisation should address specific language translation needs and cultural nuances uncovered during initial competitor analysis.
- Language localisation – Professional human translation by a native speaker who intimately understands the culture and nuances of target countries will enable your content localization to resonate better with international audiences. This approach helps establish trust and credibility and drives more qualified organic traffic and conversions versus relying on an auto-translated copy.
- Meta tags and title tags – Crafting compelling, localised meta descriptions in foreign search engine result pages helps entice relevant organic traffic by clearly summarising page content in their native languages. Title tags optimised for non-English keywords and reader expectations provide another trust signal.
- Image optimisation – Images showing local products, menus with relevant food items, maps of local branches, staff from each country and other locally relevant photos will help international visitors better visually connect with and relate to your content. Also, optimise images for fast page speeds in each target country based on average Internet connectivity.
By personalising website content to align with cultural expectations and native languages and driving organic search queries in each market, you make meaningful connections with audiences worldwide. This tuning never stops as you continuously optimise based on analytics.
Building Backlinks For International SEO
Gaining backlinks from popular sites and influencers within your key international target countries helps boost authority signals crucial for ranking success abroad. Here are some of the most effective tactics to build local links:
- Submit to local business directories and claim listings in the native language to tap into active local search volumes more efficiently. Optimise for best results.
- Produce gated content assets like whitepapers and eBooks tailored to inform and assist international users on relevant topics. Enable inbound links.
- Conduct blogger and social media influencer outreach per country, offering unique data or expert insights to enhance user experience and local audience appeal.
- Distribute locally translated press releases to overseas news wires and platforms, driving pick-ups and links from foreign publications.
- Develop and pitch link-worthy assets like reports and data sets with embedded links to international journalists and content producers relevant to the target market.
- Sponsor or speak at international industry events in critical countries to build brand awareness and links.
- Identify relevant opportunities for resource page links from foreign academia, governments, non-profits and more based on the local audience.
While distinct, local SEO can indirectly support international SEO by establishing a strong foundation of search engine trust and visibility within your home region, potentially spilling over to broader international searches. Leveraging local SEO, outreach, and content production tuned into the needs of each international market builds authoritative backlinks over time. To achieve a varied and strong backlink profile, continuously expand and diversify link building initiatives across markets to strengthen signals.
Measuring and Tracking Your International SEO Performance
Regularly tracking key performance indicators at the country and language level provides the insights needed to refine your international SEO checklist and demonstrate expansion success across markets.
- Implement Google Analytics features like multi-domain tracking, currency conversion and secondary dimensions for countries, languages, etc., to analyse web traffic by location targeting and inform your market share.
- Review analytics across sources like Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools and Semrush sensor data to compare overall international traffic volumes, rankings and click-through rates by top-level domain.
- Track keyword rankings manually per target country for core terms, utilising rank checkers like MozBar to measure incremental progress.
- Set up automated rank tracking through software like SEMrush or Serpstat specific to target countries and different languages to easily monitor changes at scale.
- Create analytics segments and dashboards to filter performance data by priority country as part of regular reporting, highlighting international paid vs organic contributions.
Monitoring your presence, ranks, and engagement metrics in every market continuously fuels strategy refinements and underscores expansion milestones achieved across countries. Expand reporting as you grow your international footprint.
Growing globally in a digital era requires much more than translating your website content and hoping international audiences find you. There are immense opportunities overseas, but claiming your piece of the pie takes strategic planning and commitment.
By dedicating time to understanding the factors that influence consumers in each new market, optimising your on-page content and website structure to cater to international visitors, leveraging local promotion of your brand through foreign social channels and influencers, and tailoring analytics to unveil localisation gaps, you pave the way for global expansion and establish a solid online presence.
The world awaits your brand’s unique offerings. Are you ready to deliver locally and globally? Contact reputable international SEO experts who can help build your custom global strategy today.
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