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How to utilize international SEO for your business's website

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(Image credit: Image Credit: Atm2003 / Shutterstock)

When it comes to international SEO (search engine optimization), your company's respective international websites shouldn’t be “copied and pasted” versions of your  home country's site in different languages, even though this might be one of the first steps in translating and localizing website content. 

You should optimize sites for local audiences in every country, from news and offers to general user experience. A site with popular, high performing content requires additional editing and tweaking, and you should keep an eye fixed on overall performance while still paying close attention to each location.

International SEO is often a crucial way for a business to enhance its reach. With brief online research, you can find expert advice, and SEO agencies also specialize in international SEO best practices, providing effective information and support. 

In this article, we outline and describe several tips and tricks in more detail to help you take advantage of international SEO.

Tips for international SEO

Below are a series of tips and points of advice for you to consider when considering the ins and outs of international SEO, and about expanding your sites' reaches into new markets and nations.

1. Do you have to go global, and what exactly is your market like?

If you're unsure of the opportunities in different nations, it's always a good idea to seek out market reports, statistics, and your site data. Here's some information to assist you, should you decide the countries/markets to focus on:

  • Government and trading company websites provide the latest international business and trade news and statistics
  • Many companies offer internet-related reports and statistics, while there are also numerous sites with information on specific countries
  • Your analytics data: do you see anyone from other countries visiting your site? Is there a country that sends more traffic than others? This is worth paying attention to, especially if a number of them are already converting

2. Do you need a site for every country?

If the market is large enough, definitely. Not just for SEO reasons, but also to provide a better user experience for local visitors: it's always better to have a separate website for every target country in this case. However, this might not be a viable option for you, and in some cases, you'll need a site for every language spoken in a given target country.

3. Which domain do you need: ccTLD or gTLD?

If you'd asked this question in 2008, the answer had always been to travel with a ccTLD. The truth is that not everyone has this option, for various reasons. In 2021, this has less of an effect on your SEO performance than the search engines. You also have other options for specifically geolocating sites with Google.

4. What type of hosting do you have to get?

A web host's location was one of a series of essential elements when considering international SEO, in reference to geotargeting. However, it's no longer so important, and there are other ways to correctly display your site's target market to engines and regionally managed CDNs.

5. Have you observed the country's security regulations?

Every company is obliged to check, at regular intervals, all electrical devices and machines, equipment, and electrical systems. Occupational and operational safety are two essential principles for avoiding accidents, and can be relevant for international SEO, depending on the selected target country. 

For example, if you operate a distribution warehouse abroad in a given nation: should there be an accident, the certified results of such checks are decisive for insurance related costs. Both the testing of electrical systems and the testing of portable electrical equipment serve the first detection and elimination of wear and its consequences. 

Even if tests reveal a small deficiency, the client can potentially receive the relevant important certificate; employees can carry out the repairs directly on-site; and thus you can pass the test. It's obvious that such a requirement entails monetary losses and operational downtimes, and this is an indicator for having checks carried out by a specialist in good time.

6. Google or not Google?

While Google is by far the most widely used search engine, some countries have local search engines that are much more popular. Be extra careful when monitoring these local locations, and doing any additional optimization work.

7. Plan resources

One of the biggest challenges facing global websites is finding local resources. Nobody has unlimited resources in every target country, and this will become a bottleneck, especially since SEO is not a one-time project, but requires continuous effort. The key is to plan ahead of time for the distribution of tasks and responsibilities between headquarters and local offices, including:

  • Technical resources: IT and web operations
  • Language resources: localization and optimization of content
  • Website data analysis: reporting and discovering SEO opportunities

Before then however, you will or may not have offices or representatives in other countries, or resources available in local offices. In those cases, you have to think about whether you'd need to hire or procure more staff or external resources.

8.  Research

Your international SEO process should start with initial research to validate the potential for each international market. It's often an excellent way to prioritize, and set your goals. The first step is to seek out the present visibility, traffic, conversions, and conversion rate of your international organic search, by answering the following questions:

  • What other countries and languages have already got organic search visibility and traffic?
  • How big is the volume, the trend of the visibility of the organic search, and therefore the hits from the individual countries and languages over time?
  • What keywords and pages generated search visibility and traffic for the identified international markets?
  • What are the click-through rates of organic search and the conversion rates of visitors from the most important international markets?
  • What sales volumes and what trends are these international markets recording?

9. Targeting

Where is the organic search volume of relevant and comparatively competitive keywords sufficient to offset your SEO efforts? Select the countries where this is the case as priorities in your international SEO process.

If you've found that organic search volume is insufficient for a specific country, you can first select the language. This is always not optimal however, because if you've noticed traffic is too low, and you rate each country individually, each version should be as optimized as possible for the audience. It's far higher if you target the language.

10. Optimization

After you’ve chosen the international web targeting you would like, and therefore the type of structure to use, you need to tweak it to ensure it’s crawled, indexed, relevant, and provides the targeting signals you'd like to avoid misalignment for in search results.

Crawlability and indexability: Since each of your international sites must be crawlable and indexable, they need to be listed with their URLs in the appropriate web structure, and must not use scripts or cookies that don't allow search engines to index content correctly.

Relevance: It's essential to translate or localize the various elements of pages for every one of your international sites, using the keywords and phrases you identified during the initial research.

Denny Smith is an entrepreneur and writer.