Beginners Guide to International SEO Strategies

Want to reach more customers worldwide? Learn tips on writing for different cultures, finding the right foreign words to improve search rankings, and using simple tools to help more people find your business.
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    SEO.com Team Industry-Leading Experts
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  • June 18, 2024
  • 5 min. read

In today’s market, tailoring your website for different countries and languages is key to accessing global audiences and gaining a competitive edge. A robust international SEO strategy may be what your business needs to expand beyond your borders and enhance your brand visibility worldwide.

On this page, we’ll look at international SEO and provide valuable steps to building a successful strategy. Let’s get started!

What is international SEO?

International SEO is the process of optimizing your website to rank higher in search engines across different countries and in different languages. This approach involves considering the cultural nuances, search engine preferences, and user behaviors of the countries you are targeting.

An international SEO strategy is essential when the goal is bridging the gap between your business and potential audience across borders.

How does international SEO work?

While the process of making a website visible in several countries is relatively straightforward, international SEO uses a few key elements to help you achieve this goal and ensure your website is presented to the right audience.

Since Google and other search engines provide users with results that match their language and country, international SEO communicates with these search engines so they can easily identify your target audience.

Aside from country and language targeting through content, hreflang tags are another tool for supporting international SEO efforts. These attributes help search engines understand the language and country your content is intended for. You can also employ URL structures to target specific countries.

How to develop an international SEO strategy

To expand your reach across borders using international SEO, you’ll need to implement a powerful strategy that involves several considerations to ensure success. Here is a breakdown of the steps you should include in your global digital marketing plan:

Analyze the market

Market analysis is one of the first steps to creating an international SEO strategy. It involves gathering information about target audiences, trends, and competitors in the intended countries. This process provides insight into user behaviors and preferences, allowing you to tailor your content for them.

As part of your research, you can use analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, to examine website visits, performance, and conversions from specific countries and language groups. You can then use the findings from the analysis to fine-tune your strategy.

Conduct keyword research

Any powerful SEO strategy requires extensive keyword research.

When targeting an international audience, the process requires more than translating keywords that already rank in your industry. You’ll need to identify keywords that align with the language variations, search behaviors, and cultural differences of diverse audiences.

For instance, you must keep seasonal trends in mind because some keywords may have a high search volume during certain months, depending on the region. It’s also important to translate and localize keywords to adapt to the local context and cultural nuances.

Create localized content

Content localization follows a similar principle to localizing keywords. The process is all about adapting your content to resonate with a particular region. Creating localized content involves integrating those targeted keywords and using local phrases, idioms, and other regional identifiers.

You will also want to focus on minor adjustments such as spelling, measurements, or time and date formatting. For example, the spelling for “localization” in the US is different than in the UK, where it would be “localization.”

The goal is to make your content look and sound like it is written by someone with a deep understanding of the local area and ensure that it is culturally appropriate and clear. For that reason, you will want to avoid machine translations and rely on the expertise of a fluent or native speaker of the language.

Implement hreflang tags

international seo

Hreflang tags are HTML attributes that specify the language used in a webpage and the country it is intended for.

These tags tell Google and other search engines when you have pages with similar content in different languages, preventing duplicate content issues. They also help search engines show the correct version based on a user’s location and language.

You can implement hreflang on your website using the following methods:

  • Add the hreflang tag to the <head> section of your HTML site.
  • Include a hreflang tag in the HTTP header of non-HTML files on your site.
  • Incorporate language information into your XML sitemap.

Choose your URL structure

Selecting the right URL structure is vital for attracting users in international markets through organic search. You can choose from three main types:

  • Country Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs): A ccTLD is a two-letter domain specifically designated for a particular country. For example, the domain can be .uk for the United Kingdom, .fr for France, or .us for the United States.
  • Subdirectories: This URL structure allows you to create subdirectories or subfolders for each language or country while keeping the content within a single domain. If you have subdirectories for French content, the URL will look like “example.com/fr.”
  • Subdomains: Subdomains are extensions of existing domains that you can use to optimize the page for a specific language or country. They appear before the primary domain, so the URL looks like ‘uk.example.com’

Build international links

Acquiring backlinks from reputable sites in different countries can help enhance your site’s authority and boost your ranking on search engines on a global scale. For that reason, building international links is essential for increasing visibility in your targeted countries.

Similar to traditional link-building strategies, there are various methods you can use for international SEO, from identifying high-quality linking opportunities in particular countries to crafting valuable region-specific content.

 

Let SEO.com develop an international SEO strategy for your business

An effective international SEO is key to expanding your reach and gaining recognition on a global level. If you would like to develop a winning strategy, SEO.com can help. Contact us online today!

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