International SEO: Going Global

International SEO

In a nutshell, international SEO refers to the process of optimising your website for an international audience, speakers of a particular language, or those in other countries.

You might be keen to do this to expand your customer base, or to extend brand recognition to be seen as a global player against your competitors. If nutshells aren’t your thing, you’re in luck.

Here we delve into the details of international SEO to uncover what it is, what it’s for, and how to do it.

What is International SEO?

International SEO is a way of signaling to search engines that your website is catered to users who speak a particular language, or users in a particular geographic region.

Since search engines are designed to provide results to users that are most relevant to their location and language, indicating to search engines that your website is geared toward these differentiators will help to ensure your site is featured appropriately in search results, as well as improve the user experience for your target audience.

By using proper strategies, you will tailor your website to an audience based on their language or location, which helps to ensure they get the information that is most relevant to them. This includes, for example, matching the timezone and currency to the location your website is aimed at.

What is International SEO For?

International SEO is a strategy used by brands or businesses who want to appeal to a target audience outside of their home region. It is used to communicate to search engines that your website caters to a specific audience, helping your website get found and ranked in foreign locations, and improving user experience.

You might want to implement international SEO strategies if you plan to expand your customer base across borders, for example, if you’re a UK company and you want to make your product available across Europe.

You may also be interested in it if your product is well-suited to those speaking a certain language, for example, if you sell mugs with humorous French slogans, you may want to market these to all French-speaking people around the world, rather than just those based in France.

Do You Need an International SEO Strategy?

The answer to this question depends entirely on your goals and the scope of your business. If you run an independent coffee shop in Bristol then international SEO is not relevant for you, and taking actions that cause your website to appear in search results in Spain is only going to cause disappointment to Spanish users.

It can be complex and costly, so it’s worth weighing up the pros and cons before diving into the international market. Bear in mind that the most popular search engines in foreign countries operate differently from Google, so you’ll have to invest a lot of time in learning new SEO techniques, which can be challenging and expensive.

That being said, having an international presence can be profoundly beneficial to some types of websites, and in this case, a solid strategy will be necessary.

Country Targeting vs. Language Targeting

So you’ve decided you want to go international.

Now what?

Well first, you need to hone down your specifics. Decide whether you are appealing to a specific geographic location, known as country targeting, or whether you are catering to a specific language, known as language targeting, and then structure your URL accordingly.

Country Targeting

When targeting a specific country you have several options regarding URL structuring.

A country code top-level domain (ccTLD) uses two letters at the end of the URL to indicate to both users and search engines where the domain is geographically registered.

For example, if your website is registered in France, your URL could be examplewebsite.fr. Using a ccTLD is the most effective way to rank locally in your chosen geographic area, and it sends a clear sign to search engines that you are catering to a specific local region. A ccTLD is also a favourite amongst users in the local area, compared with other international-friendly URLs. The disadvantage of a ccTLD is that they are expensive to maintain.

Another option for your URL is a subdirectory, which for our example of a website that has content catering to residents of France, could look like this: examplewebsite.com/fr. The content directed at users in France would be located in a subdirectory or subfolder of the main domain. This is less expensive than a ccTLD, and easier to maintain, though it is less effective amongst search engines and less popular amongst users.

Alternatively, you could consider using a subdomain, for example, fr.examplewebsite.com. In this case, your international content would be kept in a subdomain.

Though easier to run than a ccTLD, a subdomain weakens the strength of your main domain authority and is less effective in communicating with search engines.

Language Targeting

To cater to speakers of a different language, you can use language meta tags on your website, or hreflang.

This coding communicates to search engines that the coding is available in another language. Language meta tags are useful if you want to appeal to a wider variety of users and geographic location isn’t important, for example, if your website is available in Spanish then you will feature in SERPs in Spain, Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, and other Spanish-speaking countries.

International SEO Top Tips

Consider Culture

Optimising a website for international use is not as simple as registering a local domain and translating your content. Be aware of the cultural significance of the area you are targeting, and adapt your content, design, and marketing accordingly.

Local Links

Getting backlinks from local websites will help your SERP ranking. Contact local companies and offer guest blogs, or reach out to local influencers on social media to partner with.

True Translation

Never use a machine to translate your website, because something will always get lost. Utilise the services of a language translator, ideally someone who is native to the area you are targeting, to ensure a smooth conversion and a considered interpretation of your content.

In Essence

You may have already gathered that international SEO can be complex.

It’s easy to get it wrong and cause damage to your brand, so in most cases, if you want to optimise your website for an international audience is best to leave it to the professionals.

Choosing an SEO specialist with experience will save you money in the long run, and crucially, will protect your brand’s reputation and help you get seen by a wider, or more specific, audience. If you have any questions or want to see how we could help, get in touch.

Karli Edmondson-Matthews
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