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Advanced Techniques for Optimizing Your Website for International SEO

In the world of SEO, we often only focus on the primary language and target market of a business–optimizing the website to maximize its performance in the search engine results pages (SERPs). What business leaders might often forget when building their websites is that different markets deserve a different approach to SEO when it comes to popularizing the website in different countries, cultures, and languages.

This is where international SEO comes in, as a way to boost your visibility in the SERPs and help you build brand reputation and authority across borders.

Today, we’re taking an in-depth look at international SEO, why it matters for growth-oriented businesses, and how you should approach your SEO strategy for different markets, cultures, and regions around the world. Here’s what you need to know.

What Are the Benefits of International SEO?

Before we get into the concrete steps and tips, let’s talk about why you should care about SEO on this scale.

Also, isn’t it just enough to have a well-optimized website to be able to rank high anywhere in the world? As you might have guessed, things don’t quite work like that, especially if you want to maximize your brand’s performance and visibility in individual markets.

You can think of international SEO as local SEO, actually, just for different countries and regions around the world. Just as you would take a very granular approach to optimize your presence in some local markets and communities in your country, you will use international SEO to achieve the same on a country-wide scale.

Here are some concrete reasons why this matters.

Local Visibility and Local Market Expansion

Thinking locally allows you to expand globally, and that’s something to always keep in mind when it comes to SEO.

Probably the most basic SEO tactic you can use to rank higher in a local market would be to use localized keywords and populate your Google My Business page with relevant local info. So, why not do the same on an international scale?

This is one of the key benefits of international SEO, as it allows you to optimize your content for various different regions, telling Google that your website is relevant to those specific audiences. Optimizing your content for local keywords and queries that a specific audience uses will then make your pages rank higher in the search results.

Enter New Markets before the Competitors

One of the benefits of international SEO that you might have not considered before is that it allows you to target and enter new markets before your competitors get a chance to steal your customers away from you. This is your chance to gain a competitive edge by targeting local keywords and identifying local markets around the world where your competitors haven’t yet established a presence.

While SEO is a long-term investment, moving fast to enter new markets pays off.

Solidify Your Brand Locally and Globally

Taking a granular, localized approach to country-specific SEO is one of the best ways to solidify your brand on a global scale.

This is not just about getting your brand in front of new audiences, it’s about long-term market retention and brand authority. It’s about optimizing the customer experience locally. Building brand authority internationally takes time and the creation of content that’s relevant to that specific target demographic. And you need to do it continuously, as SEO is an ongoing process.

Now that you understand some of the benefits, let’s jump into the steps you need to take.

1. Start with Local Market Research

Succeeding globally starts with local market research and prioritization.

Your first order of business should be to prioritize different international markets where you want your brand to have the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time possible. Keep in mind that international SEO is not about trying to dominate every market in the world, rather, it’s about maximizing the potential of a select number of high-value markets.

One of the best ways to make international market research more viable and efficient is to use a tool like SEMrush. This tool has all the features you need to conduct in-depth research of new markets, as well as to find out how your competitors are targeting different markets and what they’re doing to boost their presence in the local SERPs.

Using a dedicated keyword research tool will cut a lot of the guesswork out of the process, and it will allow you to create a comprehensive list of keywords and topics for different regions.

Once that is done, it’s time to put out some feelers with dedicated survey tools that will collect more in-depth, real-world data from actual local customers and audiences. You can use these surveys to gauge brand sentiment and recognition in the markets you’re researching, to analyze customer expectations, goals and habits, and much more.

Combined with keyword and competitor research, this will form the basis of your international SEO strategy.

2. Localize Your Keyword Research Strategy

One of the most important elements of international SEO is, of course, identifying the keywords that are relevant to local audiences.

This includes:

  • Identifying language-specific keywords
  • Considering local cultures and customs
  • Specific behaviors and behavioral differences between local markets
  • Analyzing local topics, relevant events, and trends
  • Identifying the top competitors in every local market you’re targeting

This last point is especially important, because you want to analyze your competitors and what they’re doing right, and of course, you want to avoid making the same mistakes they might be making. Analyzing your competitors will give you an insight into their SEO strategies and what keywords and topics they’re exploiting to drive local traffic to their websites.

Step By Step Guide to Keyword Search

Some of these keywords and topics you’ll want to include in your own SEO and content strategies, but some of them you’ll know not to use but instead to find better, more relevant alternatives. You can then move into branded keywords, complementing local phrases with your brand’s name.

Always remember to keep minute cultural and linguistic differences top of mind when conducting keyword research, however. For example, you will find that different countries where Spanish is the official language have completely different words for certain products and goods–so be careful.

1. Domain Considerations and URL Structures

When it comes to URL structures and your domain in general, you have to consider the option that’s the most viable for your business and your goals.You can choose between several options, including:

  • Country code top-level domains (ccTLD)
  • Subdomains
  • Subdirectories or subfolders
  • Or a different domain entirely

A country code top-level domain is a domain that uses a two-letter URL suffix like .US or .UK to tell Google where the domain is registered, increasing local visibility.A subdomain is a third-level domain that puts the same country-specific two-letter code before the URL. The downside is that these domains typically don’t get the “SEO juice” from their primary domain.Conversely, a subdirectory places the country-specific code in a subfolder on your existing, primary domain. An example would be “fancyshoes.com/us”, which shows the contents of the website in the preferred language of the user.Of course, you could also buy new domains entirely for every new market you enter, but that’s not something that an SEO expert would generally advise due to the effort it would take to build the authority of these domains from scratch.

2. Localizing and Optimizing Content

Alright, now let’s talk about website content in international markets.The first step here is to localize and translate your content. Now, localization and translation are two very different things, let’s break them down.Translation means simply translating the existing website content into the target language of your new market.Localization, on the other hand, means fully aligning the written and visual content of your website to the values, culture, trends, and language of your local audience. To localize effectively and avoid exposing your brand to various liabilities in local markets, you need to write a clear procedure outlining the exact steps your translators, localization experts, and content marketers need to take when creating content for the website.Aside from page content and ongoing content creation, consider:

  • Different time and date formats
  • Different local currencies
  • Seasonal differences
  • Legal and regulatory compliance between regions

 Combine localization with the local keywords and topics you researched earlier, and you will have a strong foundation to start climbing the SERPs.

3. Building Local Links to Boost Local SEO

Last, but not least, it’s important to adapt your backlink strategy to include gathering links on local websites and platforms with high engagement, ranking, and brand awareness. This will help you rank faster and higher because your new, localized website is bringing over some of that link juice from other websites in the market, which Google already trusts. Generating relevant do-follow links will require you to produce localized content with data, statistics, and talking points that are all relevant to a specific audience.Content variety is also important here, so consider publishing:

  • Detailed guides
  • Whitepapers and original research
  • Visualized data like infographics and videos
  • Case studies
  • Quizzes, surveys, polls, calculators and more

Aside from your own content, you should reach out to notable websites and publications to try to get featured in their upcoming posts. Getting a shout-out and a link to your new website from a notable figure in the market will go a long way in boosting your brand’s authority.

Over to You

International SEO is your gateway to higher brand visibility, authority, and long-term success in the online world. Optimizing your website to rank higher in different regions and in different languages demands a unique SEO strategy dedicated to localization as well as on-site, off-site, and technical optimization for specific regions. Now that you understand why international SEO is important for the future of your brand on a global scene, and now that you have the tips you need to make it happen, go ahead and start optimizing your online presence for the top spot in the SERPs.

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