The Ultimate Guide to International SEO

If you are running an international business or you are thinking of expanding your business to the international market, then you need to know about international SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Many enterprise-level companies have different offices in different countries. For those that do not have multiple offices, it is common for them to ship products internationally. If that is the case, boosting your visibility on search engines in these different international markets will go a long way towards helping your business grow faster. Thus, it is better for you to know what international SEO means and how you can achieve it.

Before we proceed, let’s explain the meaning of international SEO. International SEO is simply the process of making your website optimised for an international audience, thus allowing search engines such as Google to understand what countries or languages you are targeting. This means that to optimise your website, you will have to undergo processes such as translating your web content into the different languages you are targeting. However, before you proceed with the translation of your website and other international SEO processes, you need to determine if your website has the potential of being optimised for international SEO.

Getting Started with International SEO

Google Analytics is a very important tool that comes in handy if you are thinking of using international SEO. With Google Analytics, you can check how much organic traffic your website gets from foreign countries. You may be surprised to see that your website is getting a lot of traffic from some countries that you had not targeted intentionally. What this means is that customers in these countries may probably be interested in what your business has to offer. If that is the case, then you can tailor your website to appeal to them better as well as targeting other foreign markets.

You may wonder if it is really necessary for you to optimise your website for the international market if you are already getting traffic. Well, it is very essential. Getting traffic and leads are two different things even though they work hand-in-hand. It is possible that many of your foreign visitors do not understand the language of your website. Besides that, using international SEO will mean that your website will be tailored to rank higher when people from those foreign countries search for a product or service you offer. And once your website is optimised, you can generate leads that will turn into customers.

The truth is that having your website optimised for the international market is a purely business move. If you are running a personal website, such as a portfolio website, then you should not bother yourself with optimising it to reach a greater audience. However, if you want to make more sales or get your business into a foreign market, then you need an international SEO strategy. When it comes to international SEO, there are two ways you can go about it. You can either target countries or target languages. We will explain the differences between the two in detail in the next few sections.

The Ultimate Guide to International SEO – Country Targeting vs Language Targeting

The decision to target countries or languages is one you need to think about critically before you make a final choice. While you may feel that it is an easy decision, you need to know that the process is not simply getting a domain with a country-specific extension. You need to plan so that the process can be a successful one. This is because if you make any mistake, it may render the entire process meaningless. The first mistake you need to avoid is not to confuse expanding your website into a different country with expanding it to accommodate a different language.

You may be tempted to translate your website to a language that you feel is among the most widely spoken languages. While that is not too bad, you need to consider your objective. Do a little research to see whether people speaking that language are more likely to buy your goods or services. You need to know that the top languages spoken in the world are not necessarily the same as the top languages spoken by internet users. For example, Portuguese, which does not seem like a globally popular spoken language, is ranked among the top 10 most spoken languages on the internet.

If you're thinking of targeting a country, you may also need to consider checking for the internet penetration rate of that country. Besides that, you'll want to check if what you're offering is something the people in that country need. You don’t want a situation where you'll target a country but you will end up not getting any leads or conversions. This will be a business loss since international SEO involves setting a budget for most of the processes it involves. You also need to know that some countries speak more than one language, so you must take that into consideration when optimising your website.

Understanding Language Targeting and Location Targeting

The best time to choose language targeting is if your business is content-related or you are providing a digital product or service such as a mobile app. What you need to do in this case is to modify your website to support the language you are trying to target. There are several ways you can go about this. You can use a subdomain, subfolder or URL parameters. With subdomains, you are simply creating an extra domain inside your main domain. So you can have something like and Using subfolders is a bit more effective than subdomains because they are easier to manage.

One mistake you need to avoid when using language targeting is to have your website content translated using a plugin or some translation tools. This is usually ineffective as the translated content will not sound natural to your audience and they may not understand the message you are trying to pass on. You need to also consider the keywords when translating your website. Additionally, avoid a language redirect, which automatically detects an incoming traffic IP address and changes the language of your site. Instead, you can indicate, using a window on your website, what languages are available for users to choose.

For country targeting, you may consider getting a country-coded Top Level domain such as if you are targeting the United Kingdom, for example. Before you do so, you need to check if it is popularly used in the country you are targeting. However, getting a new domain extension sometimes increases the need for more SEO. This is because a new domain will mean that you need to start the SEO for the website from scratch. This also means that all of the backlinks to your former website won't be available. You need to consider these factors when choosing international SEO that targets countries.

Pros and Cons

The Pros

  • You can reach new markets and get more leads and conversions.
  • International SEO will help your website rank higher on search engines.

The Cons

  • It's sometimes tricky to know which strategy to use, and if you get it wrong it can mean a loss for your business.
  • Embarking on international SEO can be expensive.

Other Important Considerations

When thinking about international SEO, there are some cultural and legal issues you need to consider. Every country has its own unique culture. So you will need to understand what is and is not allowed in the culture of the country you are targeting. Besides that, you also need to consider the local regulations regarding which product you can display and how to display them. Some countries may require you to provide more information to customers, so you need to be aware of this before you start modifying your website to target those countries or their languages.

The hosting server of your website can sometimes affect its visibility. For this reason, it is better if your website is hosted in a location close to the country you are targeting. The host server's location plays a crucial role in the page speed of your website. Consider this example. If your host server is located somewhere in Asia, and you are targeting a market in North America, there will be several ping requests from your customer's device on its way to your host server. This may cause some fractional delay in the page response time.

Whether you are targeting a country or a language, you’ll have to build links to your website. The best backlinks for your internationally optimised website should be from other domains that are in the same location as yours. However, it is not always easy to get backlinks from foreign countries because you may already have many competitors. Thus you need to develop a strategy to kickstart your international link building campaign. You can identify your competitors and check where they get backlinks from. You can then look for opportunities that will help you create your own backlinks.

Keyword Research for International SEO

The keywords you use on your website will go a long way towards determining how high it will rank on search engines. It is common for people from a specific country to use similar keywords when searching for particular things. Thus, you need to ensure that your website contains the right keywords so that when your targeted audience searches for the goods or services that you provide, the search engine will find and show your website. To ensure that you are using the right keywords, there are some handy analyses that you should do concerning your targeted market.

First, you should check the general keywords that are related to businesses with an online presence. These are phrases that drive traffic to the homepage of a website. Once you compile a list of the generic keywords used by people in your targeted market, you can then start making a list of keywords that match the category of your business. These keywords are more specific to your business, and they can help increase the reach of your business to more of the people who are searching for it. If you're dealing with products, you need to include keywords your customers search for relating to those products.

There are several tools online that you can use when checking for the keywords that have the highest traffic online and that are specific to your business and targeted audience. Google Trends is one such tool. It will show you the percentage of people in a region that searches for a particular keyword. You can also use tools such as SMErush, Ubbersuggest, Ahrefs and Lsigraph to find keywords that are related to the ones that are popularly searched. Some of these tools may even provide you with good suggestions on which keywords are best for your business.

Your Website Structure is Important

Another very crucial thing to consider when applying international SEO is the layout and structure of your website. If you want to make the most from your SEO campaign, you need to structure your website in a way that is visually appealing and easy to navigate. It's two different things for search engines to rank your website and for your website to then retain customers. Nobody wants to spend several hours trying to find their way around a website because they want to buy a product or service. So do pay attention to the structure and design of your website ensuring it targets your intended audience.

Payment Concerns for International Business

The advantages of getting your business out there to foreign markets are limitless. However, you may be worried about how you can get paid for your goods or services if you decide to go international and target that foreign marketplace. Well, the good news is that there are several online payment platforms that you can use these days. You should always remember, however, that you need to use payment platforms that are widely accepted in the market you are targeting. With this in mind, you can set up your website to accept payment from Debit/Credit cards as well as Paypal.

The Ultimate Guide to International SEO - Summary

In this article, we have gone through all the essential details of optimising your website to target an international market. While international SEO seems like a strenuous task, you can benefit from it once you do it well. Remember to always do research on your target market, whether you are targeting a language or a country. Additionally, pay attention to the keywords you'll be using on your website and ensure that they are the right ones. Finally, consider cultural and legal issues when optimising your website, as this can play a huge role in how effective it will be.

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