International SEO: a Short Guide

by | Oct 14, 2021 | Content Curation, Content Strategy

International SEO: a Short Guide

If you need to create a global search engine optimization (SEO) strategy for your business, hopefully this short guide will help you. Why would you need it? For example, you might be planning to sell your products or services abroad and therefore want to appear in their search engine results pages (SERPs). 

What is international SEO? We could say that SEO is a process that lets search engines identify which countries and languages your website is targeting. To do so, you must optimize your website for those search engines. 

1. Choose your site’s structure. 

This means choosing among three options:

• Country code top-level domain (ccTLD)

This is a top-level country code domain that applies to a particular country or territory. For example, “.UK” for the United Kingdom, “.AU” for Australia, “.US” for the United States. These appear in the URL of the website.  To reach several entire countries, it would be useful to introduce different domains. 

• Subdomain

A subdomain is useful when you want to introduce localized websites to audiences in different regions but want to consolidate your domain authority. With this structure, you have yourbusiness.com/uk, yourbusiness.com/fr and so on.  The search engines will consider each subdomain as a different website. 

• Subfolder/subdirectory

If you’re planning on keeping your content the same across each of the languages you use on your site, then I find that a subfolder/subdirectory structure is usually the best approach. It’s a handy way to keep everything in order and comes with the added benefit that search engines tend to crawl subdirectories more often than they do subdomains. 

2. Determine Your Target Locales

This means working by languages and countries at the same time. For example, let’s say you decided to target Spanish speakers. In addition to the language, you’ll have to decide whether you are targeting Spanish speakers from Spain, Spanish speakers from Argentina, from Mexico, the Canary Islands. Or maybe the Spanish speaking community in a big city! The options are multiple. But the target needs to be clear.  You’ll need to define this as part of your global SEO strategy, as it will have a bearing on some of the choices that you make along the way. 

Why would you target a specific country?

The key reason for targeting specific countries with your website is if your business offering needs to be different for each one. If you sell goods to numerous countries, you’ll likely need different payment terms, shipping policies, imagery, payment processing tools and more. You may well also need to comply with different data protection requirements, which can also lead to changes in your content and offering. 

Use Google to trawl as much data as you can to support your country-specific approach (this is also known as geo-targeting). Just remember – not all countries use Google as their preferred search engine, and some don’t use it at all. So localize your research to focus on the top search engine in each country you plan to target, rather than just relying on Google. 

3. Research International Keyword 

Keywords are specific words that will help your site’s positioning. There are several tools to research keywords. For example, Google’s Keyword Planner, the Yandex Keyword Tool and the Bing Keyword Tool. Be prepared to spend plenty of time using them. 

4. Start Creating Content!

After creating a list of keywords, it is time to start thinking about creating content. Creating the right content for the right audience is a whole other project that includes different elements. After doing some market research and having decided what content to create, you need to localise it for the chosen targeted audiences.  

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