How to build an effective International SEO strategy?

Apr 27,2020 by Anushka Agarwal
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So, you have a business.

Since we live in the digital age, your business might have a website too.

That website gains its diversified backlink profile, high domain authority, and online rank by practicing local SEO strategies like keyword research and blogging.

Congratulations! You nailed your local reputation in the market.

But now, you want to expand your business globally. And this is where you will have to tweak your strategies a little bit.

Now, you have so many questions in mind. An international SEO strategy means new plans and practices. How do you merge international SEO strategies to work in sync with your local SEO guide?

Does it mean that you have to translate your content, build a new website, or just add and modify a few things on your existing website?

International SEO is tricky, but once you synchronize it with your local SEO practices, your business will reap immense benefits from it.

But how do you do it?

By the end of this article, you’ll have all your questions answered.

So, let’s dive in!

But, Before We Start, What Is International SEO?

In an abstract, global SEO or International SEO is a technique followed to optimize your content/website for a multitude of regions around the world.

Global SEO requires you to create content that is in coordination with different regions and languages, optimize that content for each region’s search engine results pages (SERPs).

For example, www.google.com servers the USA searchers, www.google.co.jp works for Japan, and www.google.co.uk work perfectly for the United Kingdom.

This means, if you want your website or contents rank amongst the top pieces in specific countries, you’ll have to work in accordance with the country’s search codes.

Difference Between Global SEO, Local SEO, And General SEO

Now, that you’re clear with what international or global SEO is, how does it differ from local SEO and general SEO?

General SEO is the one that covers both international and local SEO. This means that following the fundamentals of general SEO will help you to take care of both the markets.

 General SEO involves basic practices like keyword optimization, backlinks, sitemap, UX, and schema markup. No matter your goal, local or global, you will have to incorporate the aforesaid principles in your SEO strategy.

Local SEO is used for promoting brick and mortar stores in a given city, state, or country. You use the general SEO practices but rely on the customer reviews on Google, local directories, or third-party review sites for local search rankings.

Global or International SEO targets audiences worldwide. You’ll be optimizing the content for audience languages, cultures, behavioral tendencies, local internet regulations, and policies for every region. The modification of websites will be for Google because of its market share globally.

Why Is International SEO Important For Your Business?

Going global is not every business deal. However, if a major chunk of your business comes from outside your country or from a different country, then it might be time to tweak your content and website a little bit to create a better experience for your international visitors.

International SEO is not a foreign concept. Perhaps, you may be more familiar with its practices than you think. Consider it this way, international SEO is modifying your website for different countries and languages.

This is not the only reason why you should go international.

In a population of 7.75 billion people, 53.6% use the internet; 4.1 billion people access the internet daily.

Considering the humongous size of people on the internet, going global for better business opportunities seems like the right thing to do.

54% world population use the internet

Amongst the top countries with internet users; China, India, the United States, Brazil, and Japan are leaders in the list.

Top Internet Nations

According to a survey, Google has a 92% share of all the searches worldwide.

However, the competitive landscape changes across territories, along with audience behavior, and preferences. So, if you want to capture the attention of these markets, you will need to know how search engine functions and how consumers access them.

The Different Types Of Domain Structure

When bringing your content to an international audience, you need to plan your steps accordingly. Determining the type of domain you will be needing, is the first thing to do.

There are three choices for setting up your international domain architecture:

  1. A country subdirectory, post gTLD

Suppose your domain name is, example.com, you will add a folder for the country you are targeting. For example, example.com/uk/ for UK users, example.com/in/ for India users.

Since it is a directory is added to the website, it is called subdirectory, and it follows the ‘.com’, ‘.org’, or ‘.net’. This is called a generic top-level domain or gTLD. Such subdirectories are useful for adding inner pages too, like example.com/seo/.

Note, you will have to research each country’s vernacular for search engines to understand the meaning of the string.

  1. A country subdomain pre the gTLD

Although a subdirectory addition is an easy and inexpensive idea, it is difficult for users to understand the location targeted by the URL.

That’s where adding subdomains before the gTLD comes into being. For example, if you are targeting Mexico, then your subdomain name might be mx.example.com while a Korean language subdomain would be kr.example.com.

This process is expensive when compared to the previous folder method structure, and they are a little difficult to implement as well. 

  1. A country code top-level domain (ccTLD) to replace the gTLD

This is one of the best methods of implanting a particular website in a language. This architecture is more complex and expensive to implement since you will need to have a domain for every country.

In this method, a Japanese site would be example.jp while a Spanish site will be example.es.

Buying domains can be really expensive. While some of them can be purchased for $10, other TLDs can cost more than $1000, and even ask for a local address in the country.

How Can Domains Help In Your International SEO Strategy?

Until you are translating your content into a different language from an already existing website through a subdirectory or subdomain, Google will not plaster it as duplicate.

Duplicate content is not penalized, rather, filtered by most search engines. This means if you have published content in two different languages, it will rank differently for international readers.

However, some things have to be kept in mind when using any of the three URL architectures for your International SEO strategy.  

  1. Use multilingual meta tags

To make the distinction between subdirectories and subdomains clear in the eyes of Google and your readers, you’ll have to use meta tags.

What are meta tags?

They are lines in the HTML link of any webpage. It helps Google in understanding the context of the webpage. It includes headers, keywords, and other important elements that provide a gist of what the content is about. One of the important components is, language.

A meta tag for English looks like <html lang=” en”> This tag surrounds the entire content, helping Google to note what it is reading and who is it for.

Meta tags have to resemble both the country and the language listed on the subdomain or subdirectory. Suppose, you have a Japanese domain, jp.example.com. the meta tags for this domain and every blog post should be <html lang=”jp-JP”> to designate that this page for Japanese readers in Japan.

It also helps in allowing Google to crawl through the data published for other search engine results pages (SERPs) in other countries.

  1. Use ccTLD domains, but carefully

Although there are several advantages of using ccTLD domains; one disadvantage is, it doesn’t transfer your original domain authority to the translated one. You can, obviously, build up your reputation easily through optimized content, but that is going to take time.

Using subdirectories or subdomains with the same TLD, receive SEO acceptance from Google much easily and early.

Furthermore, ccTLD domains are used by Google for country targeting.

So, if you have some technical and operational resources running in a specific country, it is safe to use ccTLD domains.

However, since the process is both tedious and costly, take a plunge into setting up ccTLD domains only if you have experienced personnel at your side.

What Are The Right Ingredients To Get Your Website Ranked Globally?

Well, there is no perfect recipe for an International SEO strategy, but the following are some things that’ll help you to get your website acclaimed globally.

  1. Localize it

As explained before, translate or modify the content that suits each region you want to target. Well, the idea is to get the website translated into a language that is understood by the readers in a particular region.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you’ll translate all the contents into the preferred language. Add only that that catches suits the searches and keywords of a region.

  1. Keyword research

A keyword popular in one language isn’t always top-ranking in the other. You’ll have to research the top keywords in other languages. Well, luckily there are different keyword research tools available online that’ll help you in getting the most out of your content.

Once you have the right keyword idea for the market, start creating content that is relevant and highly searched online.

  1. Build links

Building links is difficult in English but somewhat easy internationally.

English offers some level of competition, but link building in other languages is relatively easy. Even people are ready to provide you links for your article.

Avoid spam sites, paying for links, and building rich anchor text links. Remember this market is not as competitive as the English one, so it won’t be hard to get rankings.

  1. Browser redirects

If you’ve used Google Analytics, you know the sort of data provided by it. Some of the details include browsers used, the places where people come to your website from, and the languages searched by the users, etc.

Similarly, your server supplies you with all those details. So, once you have a user from a country code that the browser doesn’t recognize, it can ask to translate the page or redirect the users to the website version that they can understand.

Suppose, someone is visiting this blog from Mexico, and your browser said that you’re preferred language is Mexican, then the website should automatically forward you to the correct page. For this, you’ll have to set up hreflang code needed for the site.

  1. Give it time

Well, ranking your blog on the first page of Google is a timely procedure in English speaking markets. Internationally, it isn’t that big a deal. It won’t take you forever to get your webpage ranked if proper tactics are followed.

Just like it does for the English site, getting the right traffic on your site takes time, but once it does, you don’t have to stop.

  1. Analyze the competitive landscape

You should always know who are you fighting against. So, analyze your bitter competition in the new market for that country. Focus on your organic competitors and those sites that have multitude of visitors.

Various tools can help in a quick analysis of your competitors in the targeted locations. Look for those websites whose traffic exceeds yours and are ranking the top in the market. This will help in customized your international SEO strategy for each region.

Conclusion

Yes, devising an international SEO strategy is a tedious approach. But with tools like SEMrush, Moz, and Ubersuggest with you, all you have to do is tabulate and collect some data and that’ll tell you how to proceed further.

The most important amongst all the other tactics is keyword research and content planning. Plan your URLs accordingly, and get ready for launching your website into the new market.

Take note, going international isn’t just about a new website, it is about traffic, high-quality content, and interested readers.

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