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What Is International SEO?

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What Does International SEO Mean?

International SEO is a practice or, more precisely, a process. It means optimizing your site in a way that makes it easier for you to expand to international markets. This optimization will allow you to quickly identify which countries you want to target, as well as what languages should you add to your site.

SEO Best Practices

Targeting International Visitors

Are you getting lots of visits from different parts of the world, well beyond your home country? If so, you might want to improve your visitors’ experience by customizing your website for them. Language-customizing not only includes changing the copy a little to suit your international audience better but, in some cases, even translating it into other languages.

International SEO is a larger-scale geotargeting. It means that, instead of focusing your SEO on attracting potential customers from the local market, you’ll adapt it to different countries and languages.

For an in-depth international SEO strategy, there are a few things you’ll need:

  • Country targeting. For this, you’ll need to specify your target country or region by using a URL structure that’s friendly abroad
  • Language targeting. By using language tags, you can establish which languages your site will use
  • Multilingual content creation. Putting your content through an automated translator is much worse than keeping your website working on just one language. New text from different-language writers or translators will set you apart and allow your site to rank
  • If your product is relevant to a language more than a country or region, you can focus on that. For example, if you’re selling French music, there are plenty of places between the Americas, Europe, and Africa that speak the language, so it’s easier to target Francophones instead of people who live in France and Senegal.

Best Practices for International SEO

URL Structures

You start your internationalization strategy by employing particular URL structures for that purpose. You can go for a top-level country domain (ccTLD), a subdomain, a subfolder, a gTLD with language parameters or go for a personalized domain per country.


TechoPedia defines Country Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLD) as “a top-level domain name that is used to define the domain for a particular country or a geographical area.” These are often two-letter codes, like .uk for the United Kingdom or .ca for Canada.







A subdivision of a domain, it’s placed on a separate “third-level domain” that doesn’t necessarily have link equity with the base domain.





Here, the two-letter country code is in a root domain’s subfolder, separated by a slash (/).





gTLD with language parameters

When the root domain (ending in .com, .net, or .org) targets speakers of a specific language through a URL parameter.





Different domain

Having a different domain is simply creating a new root domain that specifies the target country or language.





You should consider each choice at length, as search engines take them into account in different ways. Below, you can see a little of what each of them entails:

Structuring a site for International SEO

Here you can see how different combinations of URL structures can internationalize a website, and how each is seen by search engines.

International Seo

In any case, search engines recommend you organize each section of your site in a similar way, as that makes it easier for crawlers.

Language-Target Your Whole Website or Just Specific Pages

By using hreflang or language meta tags, you’re letting Google and other search engines know in which languages you’ll be adding content. In the example below, you’d be telling search engines that this content is also available in Spanish:

Example hreflang tag:

<link rel="alternate" href="" hreflang="es-es"/>

Other Smart International SEO Practices

  • Make sure every bit of your website is available on the primary language of the region you’re tagging
  • Get translators or content writers: machine translators will never reach the nuance of human translation
  • Suggest a language, but don’t force feed it. Sometimes, visitors from other regions are more interested in the original copy than they are in the translation. Be polite to your users and ask whether they’d like to see the version from the most-spoken language in the area. Your visitor could be an expat or tourist!
  • Cookies and scripts showing differing languages are death. Search engines can’t see them, and sometimes they’re even unavailable for visitors

Vary Your Content Depending on Culture

The reason automated translators will never have enough nuance: adapting copy is much more than just translating the words. When you’re posting translated content, you need the text to say what you meant in the original post. That goes beyond idioms and right into a cultural approach to writing.

Besides merely using the language of the region you’re targeting, you need to “convert” content to its time zone, culture, currency, and even sense of humor. A good translator or a bilingual content writer will be a vital part of your international SEO. They can make the content seamlessly go from one language to the other. Ultimately, a well-adapted text will help Google show your site to the right people.

Other Ways to Improve International SEO

  • Hosting your site on a local IP in whatever region you’re targeting
  • Adding organic links to content in that area
  • Building links from local resources
  • If your targeted region has its search engine, find out the rules that will rank you there

In Other Words

Thinking of targeting one specific country? ccTLD might be the best choice for you. Language targeting will need more than that, such as hreflang, subfolders, and subdomains, with or without ccTLD.

Bright Vessel offers international SEO solutions for your brand to reach its highest potential, anywhere you’d like it. Contact us about bringing your website to the international arena.

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