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SEO 26 min read November 15, 2022

International SEO Guide: Tips for Optimizing Your Website for a Global Audience

International SEO Guide: Tips for Optimizing Your Website for a Global Audience
International SEO Guide: Tips for Optimizing Your Website for a Global Audience
International SEO is essential for any business owner or freelancer who offers goods or services to buyers worldwide. And it’s a no-brainer that optimizing a website for users from different countries can take time and effort. 

This article will include the steps you can take to optimize your website for international visitors, including those worldwide. So, let’s dive right in!
Do you want to take your business to a foreign market? The critical element of successfully implementing your plan is international search engine optimization (international SEO), which will help your site attract new traffic and expand the activity horizons.

Three sets of questions immediately arise. Is your site an e-commerce site or one for getting potential clients? Do you want to translate or localize content? Do you want to target a language or country? A proper plan for promotion outside the country requires an effective international SEO strategy and technical skills.

The following experts from the Twitter chat will add commentary to today's article:
  • Montse Cano
    International SEO & Digital Strategy for Marketing, Product & E-Commerce Growth
  • Simon Cox
    Technical SEO Consultant, Website Optimiser & Digital Explorer. Founder of SimonCox.com
  • Olena Prokhoda
    Social Media and Community
    Specialist at Serpstat
  • Joseph S. Kahn
    President of Hum JAM
  • Joey Trend
    Co-Founder of Hum JAM
  • Amal Ghosh
    Passionate About SEO & Writing

1. What Is International SEO?

If you enter international markets, you should consider optimization for the country where you want to promote and sell a product.

International SEO shows the search algorithms which countries you want to reach or which languages you should use in your business for the page’s content. SEO for international markets is site optimization for different countries, languages, and audiences. Such adaptation attracts targeted traffic from several regions.
The main thing you should not do to become successful in international SEO is to use the same strategy for each target market. We’ve had proof over time that it doesn’t work. Localize, use local expertise, track, and keep an eye on how things go.
Montse Cano
Montse Cano
International SEO & Digital Strategy for Marketing, Product & E-Commerce Growth

1.1 What Are the Differences Between International & Regular SEO?

Regular SEO is the basis for international SEO. Promoting a website abroad requires the same skills as working in your location. And yet there are several nuances:
  • In addition to Google algorithms, a specialist must familiarize how to work with other search engines. Although Google is the most popular search engine in the world, a significant percentage of the target audience can use Yahoo!, Bing, etc.
  • International SEO expands the target market, so a specialist should conduct deep research to ensure that the brand meets potential clients’ expectations.
  • Large markets = more serious competitors, such as, for example, SEO International ltd, a transnational corporation. Therefore, the SEO specialist will have to spend much effort to compete with such giants.
  • Internationally targeted SEO requires more specific and quality content than regular local SEO.
And finally, promotion abroad is a large-scale and complex task. It takes significant financial resources to solve them. Therefore, the company must be ready for such costs.
In any SEO effort, it isn’t wise to enter blindly. That’s why we recommend great tools like Serpstat to do amazing AUDITS. (keywords, competitive, SEO, local now NEW TOOL! YAY!, etc.). This is a must-do and not be overlooked.
Joseph S. Kahn
Joseph S. Kahn
President of Hum JAM
Serpstat is a go-to platform to speed up search marketing goals achievement for SEO professionals, marketing experts, and agencies. This service can help you conduct a whole site analysis, analyze competitors, collect semantics, improve your site's content, conduct a site audit, perform daily rank tracking, and automate all the processes needed to launch an international SEO campaign.
Want to know how to make the most out of comprehensive SEO audit tools from Serpstat ?
You can sign up and get a free 7-day trial! Click the button below to know all the details.

1.2 Does Your Business Need to Go International?

Why does your business need international SEO tracking? International SEO benefits those who work with content, goods, and services in different geos or regions where people speak several languages. 

For example, a webmaster lives in Germany, but for some reason, he decided to sell products in Spain. SEO also needs to be adjusted so that search engines understand that the content is intended for Spanish-speaking users.

An online store is just one example of a website. It can be a landing page, a blog, a showcase site, or a forum. With the help of the international search system, users search for the things they need from any country.
Adapt your brand culturally, but you should invest in cultural sensitivity as a standard operational practice to ensure you continue to maintain culturally relevant connections with consumers.

It’s highly recommended that dates and times be displayed in the preferred local format to avoid ambiguity or confusion. The same is true for numeric formats, weights, and measurements.
Olena Prokhoda
Olena Prokhoda
Social Media and Community Specialist at Serpstat

Technical Considerations For International SEO

Interview With Gianluca Fiorelli

2. What Does the International Strategy Include?

Developing a website promotion strategy is a way to achieve long-term goals. Promoting sites without making an international SEO plan leads to inefficient budget spending, loss of time, and lack of desired results.
Having the right strategy is the biggest challenge in international SEO. Whether we talk about content creation, implementing hreflang tag, etc., we should have the right plan and sufficient resources to handle task completion on time.
Amal Ghosh
Amal Ghosh
Passionate About SEO & Writing

2.1 Country-Specific Domains

Choose the proper international SEO URL structure to make it easier for visitors and search engines to find your content. One of the essential international SEO tips is choosing a domain for a new resource.

We decided to ask our main speaker Montse Cano, an all-around digital marketer and project manager, which domain to select regarding SEO optimization.
That’s tied to a series of factors, such as resources or how well-established your brand is. ccTLDs are preferable, but they are more expensive to maintain, can be harder to outrank well-established sites, hosting requirements might change, etc.
Montse Cano
Montse Cano
International SEO & Digital Strategy for Marketing, Product & E-Commerce Growth
  • Regional Domains

Regional domains (ccTLDs) are top-level domains and include the country code. For example, .de for Germany, .fr for France, or .uk for Great Britain. Due to automatic localization, regional domains are perfect for attracting users from a specific country. 

However, you plan to develop a business in several regions. In that case, each country will require additional costs separately (domain registration, content, links, technical optimization).
  • International Domain

An international domain is a top-level domain that targets users from different countries. For example, .org, .com, .net. If you plan to offer your services worldwide, you will most likely prefer an international domain. 

A regional domain, such as .uk, can give users the impression that the site is intended only for Great Britain, which will limit your business.
Go for local TLDs for each country’s market. If that isn’t possible, then the main brand domain and subdirectories for country and language combinations, but it very much depends on the site type. Ecom would be a lot more complex to do this.
Simon Cox
Simon Cox
Technical SEO Consultant, Website Optimiser & Digital Explorer. Founder of SimonCox.com

2.2 Content Localization

Translating and adapting the content to the mentality and lifestyle of users from different countries and regions is crucial.

People in different areas perceive colors, numbers, and humor differently. If you adopt an article from one locale to another, do not forget to change the illustrations and links so that the content is in the user’s language.
  • Geotargeting

How to do international SEO by targeting a specific location? If you want to expand your business in another country, and you are going to create entirely new content for your new users, geotargeting is the way to go. 

This is a method of targeted information, considering the user’s exact geographic location. Any marketing campaign with accurate geotargeting attracts more conversions.
As Google emphasizes geo-targeting, country-targeting is preferable. It is assumed that a site is relevant to the geographic area targeted by the country-code Top-Level Domains, so it should appear in the SERPs.
Olena Prokhoda
Olena Prokhoda
Social Media and Community Specialist at Serpstat

2.3 Language Targeting

Language targeting allows you to tell search engines which domains, subdomains, subcategories, or site parameters are most relevant to users who speak a specific language. From the point of view of international SEO, language targeting is the best solution if the user’s location does not affect your site’s content.

At first glance, language targeting requires much less effort than geotargeting since you don’t need to develop new content. All you need to do is translate an existing page into any language and set language tags for Google and Bing, respectively.

The big problem with language tags is that, when done incorrectly, it is likely to prevent search engines from correctly indexing most of your content. It can have a significant impact on your traffic.
It depends on the search intent you are going for. If your product isn’t region specific and can be served to all, then why not target a language? However, most have specific service and shipping ranges. Therefore, targeting countries in your range is better.
Joey Trend
Joey Trend
Co-Founder at Hum JAM

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2.4 Analysis and Strategy of Keyword Research

Different countries may have various queries for the same product. The most vivid example of this problem in the SEO of an English-language site can be the difference between the English language in the USA and Great Britain: a baby carriage is called a “baby carriage” in the Americans, and a “pram” in the British. So how much traffic will you lose if you use the “pram” keyword for an American online store?

International SEO keyword research takes into account the linguistic features of each region.

How to Conduct Keyword Research in Languages You Don’t Speak?

  • Hosting

Does hosting your site on a local IP address give you any benefit in ranking and indexing in search engines? For successful site promotion, it is necessary to approach the choice of international SEO hosting responsibly.

Before starting SEO work, do not forget to check the following:

  1. Uptime shows the percentage of uninterrupted site operation time from the total time.
  2. Server response time: according to Google, using a national domain makes hosting a site on a local server inappropriate.
  3. Sites on the same IP: SEO specialists often recommend hosting a site on a dedicated IP address for good positions.
  4. Server location: for sites in a standard domain zone, the server’s location can signal your site’s target audience, which is very convenient when you use subdomains for geotargeting. Keep in mind that the further the server is from your target audience, the longer your site will load, negatively affecting behavioral factors.
  • Hreflang from Google

International SEO hreflang is a mandatory attribute for the technical SEO optimization of a multilingual site. With the help of the hreflang attribute, we indicate the language version of the site for Google. Google uses this information to display your content in the most appropriate language. However, the main benefit of hreflang in SEO is the solution to the problem of duplicated content risks.

Duplicate is when the same content is presented on several site pages.

Let’s imagine a situation where one site sells on several markets in different currencies in one language. You will receive several product cards, which will differ only in delivery and price. For Google, this will be interpreted as duplicate content, but if you specify hreflang in specific language versions, this question will be resolved.

How to Add Lang and Hreflang Attributes to the Page Code

3. International SEO vs. Local SEO

Once again, international SEO is site optimization for different countries and languages. It helps attract targeted organic traffic from several regions and people who speak different languages. International SEO brings convenience and value to users and web admins.

In contrast to international, we will mention local SEO. This is when you focus on local search, specifying a location. For example, you are advertising a coffee shop. Local SEO is aimed at a particular geo and requests such as “near me.”

  • The basis of local SEO is geo-dependent requests and map searches.
  • In America, local search is popular. People often search for stores and services using the query “near me.”
  • Local SEO is more suitable for companies with physical offices (shops, cafés, bars, beauty salons, auto repair shops, etc.).
  • International and Local SEO Trends

Among the leading trends in SEO promotion, the following can be distinguished:

  • Voice search is gaining momentum. More and more users use this function instead of manual input in the search engine.
  • Videos are becoming more and more popular. Therefore, use YouTube and other video resources for promotion.
  • Content adaptation for mobile devices is even more demanding. Your site should quickly adapt to mobile devices and tablets. So carefully study and analyze the market, and use Google Trends to keep up with competitors and preferred target audience.
  • Don’t forget about social media. Does it matter for international SEO?
We'd recommend you consider the Keyword trends tool from Serpstat to see the most popular queries for a selected city and country. You can get data for the selected period: from today to one month. The information is updated in real-time.

So, identify the most trending keywords and use them on a site, increasing traffic.
No more than it does to local SEO – it is essential everywhere to get your brand seen and its reputation built.

Surprisingly few brands are genuinely worldwide – only a handful, despite what you may think! Social media is the cheapest way to infiltrate new regions.
Simon Cox
Simon Cox
Technical SEO Consultant, Website Optimiser & Digital Explorer. Founder of SimonCox.com

How to Create Conversion-Focused SEO Content?

Bottom of the Funnel Content

4. How to Monitor Your International SEO Progress?

When you invest time and energy into implementing a search engine optimization strategy, your international SEO checklist should include different tools to monitor your progress.

Learn how to track SEO and start measuring your SEO progress so you can identify what’s working and what’s not.
Analytics, Tracking Results, and Strategy Adjustment

Promotion of the site abroad is a process that requires constant monitoring of statistics and prompt response to them. It is impossible to achieve a top position and stop the process – the competitive environment in the online space needs to be more dynamic.

Analytics allows you to assess the success of the chosen SEO strategy – traffic, conversion, visitor statistics, geolocation, and many other metrics. Based on the data, the promotion strategy is optimized.

4.1 International SEO Checklist for Evaluating the Effectiveness of Optimization

SEO optimization is an investment in the long-term development of the site, so you should not count on quick and apparent results. There are specific deadlines for promotion, which will be announced by the specialist when all conditions of cooperation are agreed upon, and the official contract is signed. It is helpful to focus on the essential parameters:

  1. Dynamics of organic traffic – you can trace apparent changes compared to previous periods.
  2. Positions of the site in search results – active growth is observed for all keywords (high-frequency, medium-frequency, low-frequency requests).
  3. High conversion is essential to achieve active users’ attention to the resource and increase the number of applications and orders and the average check size.
  4. Improvement of behavioral factors: the number of rejections, the average time spent on the site, etc. For indicators to grow, it is necessary to improve usability, improve the text, graphics, and video content, giving a complete response to user requests.
Serpstat Domain Analysis tools are worth considering when it comes to such analysis. Simply enter the required domain into the search bar, and go to the "Keywords" report to see keywords that an analyzed domain is racking for in Google's TOP-100 results and other metrics for analyzing the site's semantics. 
Serpstat Domain Analysis: Keywords report
Serpstat Domain Analysis: Keywords report
Want to know how to boost your international SEO results with Serpstat?
You can sign up and get a free 7-day trial! Click the button below to know all the details.

4.2 SEO Measurement Tools

The following tools will give you insight into how people interact with your website, who’s linking to your site, and more. Include as many helpful tools as possible in your international SEO plan to capture the data that aligns with your goals.


Google Search Console helps you understand how users find your site and which pages drive the most traffic. It also gives insight into the following:

  • Performance in search results;
  • Click-through rate;
  • Page indexing.
We recommend that all website owners set up a Google Search Console.

Google Analytics is a free and powerful tool for measuring visitors’ actions after landing on your website and is excellent for tracking your conversion metrics. Google Analytics has over 100 unique reports and extensive customization options.

You can use Google Analytics to isolate organic traffic for analysis or track SEO campaign activity using Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) codes. Month-over-month and year-over-year reports can show your progress over the long term.
As we have already mentioned, customers use this platform to reduce the time on common search marketing tasks, reduce repetitive, manual work and get more clients from search.

The common use cases are: competitors and backlinks research, keywords analysis and grouping for content optimization, organic and paid positions tracking, website issues analysis, and resolution.
Remember, SEO Does Not 100% Guarantee:
→ high positions in TOP: search engines introduce new algorithms and filters influencing job results;

→ sales from the site: getting to the top in search results does not guarantee sales growth since they consist not only of the quality of the Internet resource but also of the company’s pricing policy, delivery conditions, politeness of operators, etc.
The biggest challenge regarding international SEO is the lack of interest in creating content in the target language and then maintaining the strategy adapted to that market. It is key that adapted content and strategy are used.
Montse Cano
Montse Cano
International SEO & Digital Strategy for Marketing, Product & E-Commerce Growth

5. Final Thoughts

Entering the foreign market is an opportunity for the company to assert itself, improve its image, and expand its scope of activity. And it doesn’t matter whether your project promotes an online store or a service agency. Following international SEO tips will allow you to go this way quickly and without risk.

Optimizing your website internationally can initially seem overwhelming, but like most things in SEO, it gets easier with time and a little practice.
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