A beginner’s guide to international SEO

In this increasingly digital world, businesses across all sectors have no choice but to embrace the online sphere and target their clients and customers through that medium. One of the keys to that is being visible on SERPs, which means the importance of SEO is perhaps greater now than ever before – especially in sectors where the market is saturated with competition.

There are a few basic principles to ensuring best practice when it comes to SEO, but what about when companies are faced with the challenge of reaching audiences in different territories? It’s not just as simple as plugging your website into Google translate and putting the results live. So, here’s a beginner’s guide to international SEO and some useful strategies you may like to adopt.

What is international SEO?

International SEO allows you to promote your site and target other audiences that are situated around the world. Often, these audiences will speak a different language, but there are more factors in play than just the copy on the page.

You need to be able to meet the specific needs of the people in those areas, which means adapting your site accordingly. For example, you may not offer all of your products or services in every region, while you may also have to tailor your site to reflect changes in pricing, tax or shipping details.

Why might you need international SEO?

Modern businesses simply cannot afford to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach – especially when it comes to international SEO. Instead, you need to treat all of your regions and territories as separate entities, tailoring your online presence so it addresses the pain points of that particular audience and provides them with a viable solution.

Going international can be a difficult move to make, which is why you might decide to enlist the services of external SEO experts, and there are some fundamental practices that are important to master if you’re going to make your organisation a global success.

What are some strategies to boost your international SEO?

There are many different aspects to international SEO and there’s no magic formula for success, otherwise all businesses would implement it. Creating an effective strategy will depend on a wide range of factors such as the niche and the new territories that are to be targeted, but there are a few ploys that as a general rule will help you to shift the dial in the right direction.

  • URL structures: There are a few options here, including using a country code top level domain (ccTLD), a subdirectory or a subdomain of a generic TLD (such as a .com), or even a combination of these. There are pros and cons to each – a ccTLD, for example, is perhaps the simplest way to geotarget for regional SERPs but it can be inefficient to develop and maintain multiple separate websites, each with their own infrastructure and costs. Subdirectories, on the other hand, are often easier to initially set up and less costly to maintain but require correct geotargeting in Google Search Console and the implementation of hreflang tag markup to ensure Google understands the intended audience. 
  • Regional Search Engines: Statistics reveal just how dominant Google is when it comes to desktop traffic search in selected countries, but what about in those nations where other Search Engines are more prevalent? For example, Baidu is popular in China and Yandex in Russia, so if you’re expanding into those territories then you’ll need to optimise your site in accordance with their particular guidelines. 
  • Building Website Authority: Building authority through gaining quality 3rd party links to your website(s) is a vital part of any SEO strategy and can prove an extremely effective tool. Again, this is not something you can achieve with a blanket approach. The strategies you deploy in one country may not work in another, so you’ll need to research the individual markets and target those sites with the highest domain authority and the greatest relevance to your product or service using tactics appropriate for that market. 
  • Translations: Avoid using automated translation at all costs. Often, certain words won’t translate like-for-like from one language to the next, and automatic tools tend to spit out copy that any prospective customer would instantly recognise as being created by a machine. Take the time to use human translators to ensure that you capture the style, tone and context of the copy as it is intended to be read. As a result, you’ll have the solid foundations of a successful international SEO strategy.

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