International SEO Expert & Consultant
When you are a multinational, you need a website that can function and meet different languages, markets and expectations.
Whether you’re creating a new international website, expanding an existing website, or looking to enhance your current international offering, a number of key decisions need to be made.
International SEO is more than just creating content in multiple languages and properly implementing HREF LANG. It’s about understanding how people look for different countries and organic competition.
I have experience working on large international SEO campaigns for brands selling in Europe and around the world. I have also worked with companies outside the UK, from the US to New Zealand, integrating internal marketing teams or as an independent consultant.
Create an international friendly site
Decisions include whether or not to use a different ccTLD, subdirectory, or subdomain to structure your multilingual website.
From this, a database and URL structure can be established and the rest of the international strategy implemented, ensuring that the site launches smoothly and is ready to be published in various countries.
I do this by providing feedback and support throughout the development of the site, including health checks after the site is launched.
Optimization of international search
It is also important to understand that there are differences between “Google” as Google.co.uk ranks sites differently than Google.fr and Google.de. That’s why it’s important to do keyword research independently for each country, understand how to optimize each version of the site to best suit your target audience, and understand how your target audience searches and what they expect from a webpage.
I also have experience working outside of Google and Bing, optimizing websites for Baidu (China) and Yandex (Russia).
Baidu’s best practices aren’t very different from Google’s; however, there are some key differences to be aware of. For example, Baidu tends to penalize sites that include multiple subdomains, so this may be something you should consider when deciding how to structure your site’s database and URLs. The anchor text of internal and external links is also believed to carry more weight on Baidu than on Google.com.hk.
Google is the third most popular search engine in China, behind Baidu and Sogou. This is why it is important to consider Baidu’s SEO advice when planning to enter the Chinese online market.
Yandex, as a search engine, tends to favor high-quality content more than Google.ru, and this often means that companies that don’t invest enough in good keyword research, content quality, and content translation usually don’t. they get Yandex results. I can offer SEO advice from Yandex.
The Russian search engine is also known to exclude websites that are highly optimized or have “keyword-filled” content from its results.
International SEO is the specialty that focuses on implementing SEO strategy best practices for a website that wants to go beyond a unique market or language.
In other words, international SEO refers to the discipline that seeks the best strategy to follow for an online business that intends to penetrate international markets.
This can range from analyzing demographic, cultural, social and economic factors for target markets, linguistic complexity and keyword research, content strategy, public relations and branding parameters, localization needs, and the best-known factor on SEO. international: geographic domain segmentation, CMS. general website infrastructure and technology.
Of course, there are other less technical factors, but equally important to consider for the success of the project: the overall budget and personnel resources, the strength of competitors in the reference markets.
So what is multilingual SEO?
Multilingual SEO is the discipline that aims to apply SEO best practices to a web presence looking to expand into other markets through languages.
As a marketer, we tend to refer to international SEO and multilingual SEO interchangeably and the truth is they mean more or less the same thing.
If there is, perhaps international SEO is more comprehensive, as it involves addressing countries and regions, rather than just languages. So it has a geographical dimension.
SEO Freelancer is led by highly experienced SEO consultant Abhishek Prakash has been providing expert SEO consulting for over 11 years and has extensive SEO knowledge in all aspects of the SEO process. Over the past 11 years, we have provided expert SEO services to over 150 companies, helping them improve their Internet marketing. We have helped many companies create a dominant position in the rankings and, consequently, achieve higher organic traffic and revenue. Contact us today to find out what we can do for you.
Tips for International SEO Optimization
The website you own or manage targets multiple languages and geographic locations. You are tasked with establishing an international SEO strategy.
As part of this business, you are tasked with designing an overall SEO strategy for success.
Some of the questions to ask yourself right now are:
How do I promote my website internationally?
What is international segmentation?
How do I apply my SEO strategy to various countries?
It would be bad advice to present some sort of strategy definition template here, as every company is different and the correct strategy will be based on the exact characteristics, requirements, and capabilities of the company.
Global SEO planning for mobile users
Going global requires a carefully designed SEO strategy
The correct strategy will also depend on
the company’s ability to be agile (or adapt to needs)
The overall budget of the project
Dependencies and stakeholders
Technical infrastructure (feasibility / flexibility)
and many other factors and requirements, both technical and operational.
The above factors will be key in helping you formulate the right kind of international SEO strategy.
Often, such a strategy may be far from what you would ideally have. You have to adapt to the constraints of the environment in which you work. Things like business goals, resources, and existing technology can determine how ambitious you can be.
However, it is certainly possible to provide a picture of critical areas that should not be overlooked or overlooked when designing an SEO strategy for multilingual or multi-regional expansion.
Let’s look at some of these areas that will play a vital role in the success of your international SEO strategy.
Global strategic business plan
World map planning and business strategy
What does the company really want to achieve?
How fast do you want to do it?
… And how ambitious are they really?
Your international SEO efforts should start with a clear assessment of your business expansion goals. Your main focus here is to evaluate your organization’s plans, project ambition, and existing resources.
Based on your assessment, identify your strengths and weaknesses and find the areas where your opportunities are most substantial, then direct your attention and resources in that direction.
Evaluate how your online business model works and define your goals online. How do you provide services / products to your customers and what do you want to achieve with global SEO? Do you have the ability to provide the same goods / services globally? What are your current business limitations and how do you plan to address them?
Keep in mind that it is how you establish your global strategic business plan that will guide your international SEO strategy. It will serve as a roadmap in the future. Evaluate the skills and competencies of your staff members to determine what they can and what they cannot do.
Offer training as needed to make sure everyone is on the same page before moving on to the next step involving market research. Trying to understand the implications of internationalization with your SEO, in the beginning, can save you a lot of time and resources in the long run.
2. The investigation phase
Once the overall strategic business plan is defined, the next thing to do is to conduct thorough market research to determine the extent of the task to be performed.
At this stage, you will need to conduct international keyword research, competitor research, and establish a clear focus on how you will manage linguistic and cultural differences in different regions.
International keyword research
Market Street with food stalls and international flags.
It is vital to do good keyword research while doing multilingual SEO. Targeting the wrong keywords could easily affect your ranking, visibility and authority, derailing your efforts. This is where understanding and language skills become crucial.
Keep in mind that effective keyword research isn’t just about translating your English keywords into other languages. The most important thing to remember here is that location is key. Find a way to reflect and understand how natives perform their web searches and the exact terms they use.
The same is also true in markets that speak the same language. For example, while British consumers may search for the phrase “football boots”, an American looking for the same product may search for “football boots”. Therefore, you should do everything possible to make sure your target keywords reflect the local market.
To achieve this, seek native speakers for each market you target to guide you. In addition to understanding the local language, native speakers will also appreciate the regional nuances of that particular language and the behavior of local consumers that can help you achieve your goals.
Don’t be tempted to translate your keywords!
The main goal of competitor research is to find out who you are fighting against in the new digital market you are targeting. Competitor research helps you measure your potential competitor’s performance when it comes to paid advertising, SEO, and content marketing.
Take the time to get to know your competitors and what sets them apart. Think of this as a form of benchmarking to spot opportunities.
What are your main traffic sources? Which keywords give you the most traffic? What advantage do you have over them? Can you offer some products / services that they don’t offer?
You should also spend some time analyzing your backlinks and websites for strengths and weaknesses. Gather as much information about your competitors as possible because you will need it to outdo them. Check out their overall online strategy to find out the approaches they are taking to earn a successful ranking in your target country.
When researching your competitors, don’t just focus on Google. Try to find the most popular search engine in the country you’re targeting and focus on that search engine. For example, Baidu has a 75% market share in China, while Yandex has a significant market share in Russia.
3. Language considerations
You need to understand the nuances of your target audience to be successful. You should make an effort to understand which countries they come from and the languages they speak.
Detailed market and keyword research is essential to identify the unique vocabulary that users in a specific place use when searching for products / services online.
Learning the vocabulary of your target audience will help you speak to them the way they expect to be questioned.
For example, targeting the entire LATAM region with Castilian Spanish (from Spain) may not be as effective as you initially thought. Keep in mind that people in Mexico, Argentina or Chile speak Spanish with quite different vocabulary depending on the market niche.
For a large international project, you have to resist the temptation of generic languages. Whereas for a humble startup project with an initial foray into non-English language targeting, language targeting versus country language may be sufficient. It all depends on the complexity of the product, among other things!
For some projects involving different demographic groups as target audiences, thorough research is required to determine whether a single language is enough to target a specific country.
For example, the mere fact of indicating Belgium with a site in French does not reflect the multilingual reality of the country as they do. For example, the main foreign languages spoken in France are English, German, Italian and Portuguese.
To complicate matters, each of these three official languages has different dialects, with “Flemish” being a popular Dutch and “Walloon” the main French.
Furthermore, a market investigation for Belgium would not be complete without addressing the English-speaking segment of the population, which is 38%.
Each nation will always have their own language / vocabulary considerations and variations that you should be aware of. There will always be variations in the structure of the language, as well as some words to consider.
Strive to understand how your target audience in a particular country reads and assimilates content in their language. Keep in mind that if the language you are teaching a target user doesn’t actually speak to them, you will lose their trust and potential conversion opportunities.
4. Cultural considerations
Cardboard images of people dressed in traditional folk costumes from different European countries: Spain, Greece, Portugal, Slovenia
There are also many generally culture-based research implications that could affect the balance of people’s search intent in different countries. For example, seasonality plays a huge role in user behavior, especially when you think about the holiday months and general buying behavior throughout the year.
A summer promotion for Australia may not be valid for the United States in the winter. There are many other cultural complexities that you need to be aware of given the different languages spoken around the world.
For example, if your business decides to target France and the UK with a single product format, for example: male grooming, it will be crucial to take the time and try to establish the number of people in those countries from a variety of cultures. and cultural backgrounds of ethnic groups to guide their strategy.
Always remember the fact that a person’s physical location may not reflect their culture and identity. Therefore, general regional targeting may not produce desirable results.
5. Evaluate existing international sales and traffic
International traffic levels and conversion data from Google Analytics
Analyzing existing traffic from overseas markets and sales relationships will help us make a more informed decision to prioritize our internationalization efforts.
Before delving into the implementation of your SEO strategy, you need to establish your current visibility in the country you target. This will guide your next steps.
If you don’t have current visitors from that particular country, it means your top priority should be brand awareness. Focus on creating the best funnel content that will educate your target audience about your products / services.
On the other hand, if you have received a significant number of visitors from the country, it means that you may see people waiting to be converted. If so, your goal should be to get your site up and running, drive conversions, and focus on other, lower funnel actions.
Each of these situations presents a unique set of opportunities and challenges that you will face. However, starting the journey with a clear understanding of what is expected of you will allow your business to be successful in the long run.
6. Geographical targeting by domain and URL
There are several URL structures that you can use to target your site to specific countries. You can use a national top level domain (ccTLD), subdirectory, subdomain, or generic top level domain (gTLD) with language parameters. Each URL structure has its pros and cons.
The options are:
cctlds: local national domains. For example: yourgreatsite.jp for Singapore
Top Level Domain (TLD) subdirectories for targeting regions, languages, or both! For example:
yourgreatsite.com/jp or yourgreatsite.com/ja
TLD subdomains (top level domain). For example: jp.yourgreatsite.com
URL parameters. For example: yourgreatsite.com/pagetop1240?country=japan
All templates are approved by Google except the last one (URL parameters). Very rarely does an SEO professional recommend this these days.
Explanation of the different geographic targeting methods
We won’t go into detail on geographic domain targeting here, but it’s certainly one aspect of international SEO that you don’t want to go wrong with. It is also one of the most complex as it involves UX, technical input, marketing, content, development. For very large companies, an exercise like this can become very, very political.
As an SEO, your role will be to do as much research as possible inside and outside the confines of the company’s online presence before coming up with a compelling domain geolocation plan, ideally clearly stating the pros and cons of each option.
Additional methods of geographic targeting
You can use different geo-targeting methods to reinforce the local signals of your content that are displayed by search engines. There are several ways to geo-target your sites and pages in addition to the domain name itself. Google doesn’t even mention a few because we all know they are used to determine the suitability of your content for a specific region. The most popular include:
Geolocation mapping in Google Search Console: Go to the GSC dashboard and click on “Legacy Tools and Reports”. You should see the international targeting option which takes you to the language and country targeting page. From here, you can set the specific country you are going to.
The bad news is that Google has announced that the legacy Search Console tools will no longer be available later this year. It is unclear if there will be a substitute for international targeting in the Search Console.
Bing’s webmaster tools also allow you to set preferences for your region. You can do this on a domain, subdomain, subdirectory or even at the page level. However, you should only set your region preferences if the search engine has trouble ranking the right page for the right audience.
Using the Hreflang tag: The Hreflang HTML attribute, also known as rel = “alternate” hreflang = “x”, is used to tell Google which language is being used on a specific page on your site so that it can publish the page on Spider web. users searching in that language. This tag is extremely useful when you have created specific content for a local audience.
Local hosting – Having the regional version of the website hosted in the territory the website is targeting can help improve the geolocation signals. It is not the end of the world if this cannot be done as it is not always possible to get local hosting for every version of the website, especially in corporate environments. But if you can, it helps a bit, not just for SEO, but for things like page speed as well.
However, if local web hosting is not possible, using a CDN with a hub in or near the destination country will also help provide a better user experience for your users as your website will download more. quickly.
Link building: this method can be as effective as another … if you launch a product in a foreign market and fail to attract attention in those markets, link building is the solution. Once local brand mentions start coming in, in the form of links, your localized content will start gaining exposure.
Whether or not you need it as soon as you move to a region depends on factors such as market saturation, competition, and the uniqueness of the product itself.
Content Localization: This section deserves a title of its own, as it is too important, see section 6 to continue reading.
Local Currency: Adapt to the local market and mention the local currency when applicable
Payment Methods: Shows local payment methods.
Address – Displays the address of each local office in the website footer.
If possible, your site’s overall design and experience should also be developed to better address the specific behavior of your target audience.
Things you shouldn’t do
Some webmasters try to improve geo-targeting by redirecting users by IP address. This is bad advice and can cause your website to perform poorly.
Automatic redirection is annoying, confusing, and can even prevent visitors from finding certain content.
Fortunately, Google has added information on this (finally!) In their guidelines:
Do not use IP analytics to personalize your content. IP location analysis is difficult and generally unreliable. Additionally, Google may not be able to properly track changes on your site. Most, but not all, of Google’s scans originate in the United States and we do not try to vary the location to detect site variations. Use one of the explicit methods shown here (hreflang, alternate URLs, and explicit links).
Google support: management of multi-regional and multilingual sites
Avoid using cloaking, which refers to offering different versions of the same content to search engines and users. Some international SEO experts are tempted to use cloaking as a solution for automatic redirection, but since we’ve said that automatic user redirection is a bad idea, cloaking only makes things worse.
7. Translation and localization go hand in hand
Going international means you will have to produce the same content in one or more languages. Unfortunately, accurately translating a page into a local language can be difficult.
Translating your content into different languages is a challenge you face. How do you check and proofread a translation to make sure it is perfect? You need to make sure that the translated content is helpful in building trust with your target audience. Consider setting up a native speaker team to help you with the translation.
8. Technical considerations for international SEO
Technical infrastructures such as legacy CMS, databases, APIs and existing over-engineered systems can play an important role in international SEO, to the point of limiting ambition plans.
They can also be an asset at any time. It is something you should carefully study and incorporate into your plan early in the planning phase.
Content distribution networks
One of the thorniest aspects of global SEO is that of CDNs and load balancers. If they are public-oriented and accessible, this can be a problem as they can be tracked even if you have asked bots not to. Somehow they will meet, so a plan is needed.
Watch this webcertain interview with Jamie Alberico, one of the world’s leading SEO technical minds currently in the industry
Duplicate content caused by technology
If there are duplicate versions of your site, be prepared to face some cannibalization issues. Google’s bots are pretty good at these issues. It is more a question of visibility.
So be sure to check every public IP. Don’t trust Google to do this for you. Make sure you give them the right thing; is simple.
Server location or configuration
Working on multiple sites that target different countries and / or different search engines is really challenging, so finding ways to stay on top without taking too much time is crucial.
Targeting China effectively, for example, requires duplicating your website to be hosted in China IF you really want to give the competition a shot and outperform them.
Another challenge is the whole paradigm of replicating code to different servers. There are several ways to do this more or less efficiently depending on the resources. A small mistake on this front can be catastrophic.
Code distribution on servers
This is something you won’t have to worry about if it’s just an English copy. But the moment you step into the multilingual context and especially if the website collects data from a database and encodes it to return accurate results on the list page, you start dealing with URL tagging issues.
What is URL encoding?
URL encoding means to encode certain characters in a URL by replacing them with one or more triplets of characters consisting of the percentage character “%” followed by two hexadecimal digits. The two hexadecimal digits of the triplets represent the numeric value of the substituted character.
The term URL encoding is a bit imprecise because the encoding procedure is not limited to Uniform Resource Locators (URLs), but can also be applied to any other Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) such as Uniform Resource Names (URN) resources . Therefore, the term percent encoding should be preferred.
There will be implementation errors and / or oversights and if they are not updated in time, you will soon end up with two versions per URL. At some point the coding error occurs in the actual URL and other times in the canonical rel.
Use this tool to run some tests and learn how the encoding / decoding process works
For example: a URL containing the French region: Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes would be written:
www.mytravelsite.com/regions/auvergne–rhone-alpes special characters removed
www.mytravelsite.com/regions/auvergne-rhône-alpes special characters left inside
www.mytravelsite.com/regions/auvergne-rh%C3%B4ne-alpes the special characters remain but the URL is hardcoded
Some other special characters such as “ç” are encoded in UTF-8 as two bytes C3 (hex) and A7 (hex), which are then written as the three characters “% c3” and “% a7” respectively). long (up to 9 ASCII characters for a single Unicode character).
However, modern browsers display the decoded form, and many protocols can send UTF-8 without escaping% HH.
As an international SEO consultant or internal SEO director, it is often up to you to keep an eye on the different aspects of a website, to make sure you can report things very quickly if your monitoring systems report a failure, a deficiency, or problem.
Be sure to check everything in Google Search Console and quickly report any issues you may encounter.
In this step, you should present your standard operating procedures (SOPs) for SEO integration into all your other functional units: UX, content, product, technical development …
You can think of this as the best practices you need to share with all teams for a successful international SEO implementation.
UX Design wall with a variety of wireframes representing the different types of content to be implemented on each country’s website
UX teams, and particularly information architects, will appreciate the keyword research data you may have, especially if it shows strong demand for certain products or services the company offers that may have been overlooked through traditional UX processes such as sorting cards, inventory content or user workgroups …
Likewise, SEO best practice guidelines for technical development can be key to effectively implementing multilingual and multi-regional SEO. It’s best to consider things like avoiding automatic redirection of visitors and / or search engines based on browser settings or IP addresses before implementing it.
When it comes to the product, it is also wise to participate in the discussion of product development planning and, when the time comes, come up with ideas or proposals to implement things in ways that lead to better results globally, for example: appropriate margin scheme .
Things like using a dedicated URL for each variant of localized content.
10. Support international SEO
Once you have a plan of what you want to achieve with your international SEO efforts, it is essential to define how you will manage your overall SEO strategy. Think ahead and don’t try to limit yourself to one particular strategy. It is essential to clearly describe the long-term business benefits.
Feel free to try different things to determine what works and what doesn’t. Document every step you take and the outcome so you have a solid foundation for making wise decisions in the future.
Successfully executing your plan means building a case for your SEO strategy. With the acceptance and approval of top management; Resources, team support and SEO integration will follow.
Although it will still take some effort to ensure that your overall SEO strategy is actually executed. Things often slip into large companies, so you may end up having to use your business SEO skills. The good news is that once approval is obtained, contacting the parties to comply, follow and implement the plan makes it easier.
11. Plan your overall SEO training plan
Training, briefing on international SEO plans
International SEO is a complex set of methodologies, processes and techniques, so you need to find a way to make sure your team is competent enough. This is where training comes in.
Before proceeding with the implementation of your strategies, train your global team on how to respect different cultures and customs.
Some of the training areas you will need to think about for your team are:
conduct international keyword research
Outsourcing of content
Conduct awareness raising activities
12. Find champions and allies who support SEO
Internal seo samples
To be successful with this type of SEO, you will need to talk to the right people who have the keys to the international version of your business website and who can easily authorize your site changes.
It will need their support and trust to move forward and build the case for SEO internally. This is where you should put your communication skills to work. Make sure you are sending the right message to the entire organization and that everyone understands what you are trying to do.
This way, you will ensure that your resource request is supported by the voice of the community (internally).
You will certainly encounter challenges in your quest to scale international markets, but finding a way to engage the important people will help make navigation easier.
13. Evaluate and monitor the success of international SEO
Put simply, benchmarking can be defined as a standard by which something is measured. Benchmarking in international SEO is a critical aspect of the process.
Keep in mind that your overall SEO effort does not begin or end with creating the country subfolder for each key market.
Always try to keep everything under control, even if your site has already reached the top position in the SERPs for most geolocations.
Evaluate essential SEO and business KPIs before and after the implementation phases
Evaluate your performance over a period of three to six months, or six to twelve, to gain valuable information and insights before and after.
Tip: Don’t complicate things by creating the ultimate dashboard that aims to keep track of EVERYTHING
Collect your benchmarks, key performance indicators and data points that you will use to gauge your overall performance. These can be very different from project to project, but in general they can include:
percentage of organic search traffic by country
average page load speed by region, by content type …
Business leads generated by region
time spent on page, bounce rate, click-through rate,
No. of backlinks acquired by region
overall business performance by region at the time of implementation
This is perhaps the hardest part of the plan: finding a way to execute and keep track of your to-do list effectively.
As a team leader, you need to find a way to integrate your SEO plans into existing processes, communicate the strategy, deliverables and procedures to the entire team, and make sure the overall strategy fits well with your management efforts and methodology. of existing projects.
It is assumed that you have full management acceptance for your plan, approved costs, and allocated resources. If that’s not clear at all, you risk the plan failing. It is very important to address this issue in its entirety early in the process.
If the current project management methodology within the organization is agile, your SEO plan will be. SEO complements and thrives on Agile methodology.
Structure your deadlines and milestones to adapt to this way of working where criteria of maximum impact versus minimum effort must be considered.
Even though the overall project management methodology is conventionally cascaded, you need to structure your plan to fit international success.
In most cases, SEO won’t determine how development, marketing, and the product work together. Instead, it’s the other way around. Therefore, adapting your SEO strategy to the current environment and working methods is crucial for long-term success.
Congratulations and share the glory with the entire team whenever any milestone is successful and encourage them when something is not implemented 100% correctly. Basically, execution is primarily about good project management, communication, and good teamwork karma.
If you’ve read this guide up to this point, you can agree with me that international SEO is more than just translating texts. It involves understanding different cultures and trying to figure out how to localize your site to appeal to your target audience.
When done right, international SEO goes beyond the main SEO metrics we monitor, as it can help your brand establish a global brand. Remember that new markets equate to new opportunities, but only the best strategies will prevail.
In my next articles I will delve into some of the elements mentioned to help you better understand the concept of international SEO.