International SEO Guide: A Complete Checklist
If you are planning to expand your business internationally, there are multiple things that you need to consider. For those who don’t know the international SEO practices are drastically different from the local and standard SEO. To ensure that your business thrives on multiple international destinations and generates more sales, you need to perform certain optimizations.
In this article, we will have a look at what are the instrumental things that you need to keep in mind while doing international SEO. Once you optimize your site with these guidelines, it will become easier for your brand to compete with foreign local companies and grow your sales.
Potential market research
It happens with a lot of business owners that they jump into international SEO tips and start working on their website without researching the potential market. This is an important step that everyone should follow to get the maximum value out of their SEO services effort.
If you want to know which countries are bringing you the maximum number of users and traffic apart from your native company, Google Analytics can help. Go to your Analytics dashboard and then go to the location tab under the Geo section.
In the location tab, you will see the list of top countries that are generating the highest traffic for your site. Here you will get a pretty good idea about where you need to focus more and which countries are not worthy of your time. If you have set up some goals in Google Analytics then it’s a smart decision to check which countries have fulfilled the maximum number of goals.
This will help you with the interest level of the audience of that country. For example, if you are having traffic of 30% from Canada with zero goals achieved and you have the traffic of 25% from the US with 12 goal conversions, then focusing on the US makes more sense.
International NAP helps your SEO
While optimizing your site for any other country apart from your native one, it’s important to have accurate details across all the touchpoints. This small thing not only helps you in improving SEO but also build trust faster among a new audience.
Especially, if you are an eCommerce business, then it becomes more pivotal for your brand to check if the new version of the site is showing local addresses. Make sure the NAP details which include, the brand name, address, and phone number are accurate.
It’s highly recommended that you should have a local phone number and address of the target country as it will help you in performing well in local SEO as well. There are several services that let you rent a postal address, phone numbers, and warehouses so that you can operate seamlessly.
Some countries have GDPR compliances and some may not countries don’t require that. So, you also need to check what are the mandatory compliances that you need to follow. If you are not aware of the compliances thing, then it’s always a better option to hire a good digital marketing company and get these things sorted.
Type of website targeting
When it comes to international SEO, there are multiple types of website architecture that you need to know. Majorly, there are three types of audience targeting website architecture that are specially designed to help you with getting maximum local traction. Check out the types of website targeting and pick the right one for your brand:
These are the sites that are made to target multiple regions of different countries that speak the same language. For example, a website is promoting different content in the US, Canada, and the UK but the language English is the same.
You must have heard about this type of website before and it’s the most popular format that people prefer when they go for international SEO guide. In this type of sites, you target the audiences of the different countries which speak different languages. For example, the content of the site will be the same but it will be transported to target countries’ languages like France, Germany, Italy.
Multiregional & Multilingual sites:
This type of website architecture is the combination of the above categories in which you target users in different countries but the content is not the same. For example, you are targeting the audience in France, and the content is written in different languages like German, English for your French customers.
Website’s domain structure
Another most important thing that you can’t skip is the domain structure of your site. There are multiple ways to host a new website for a new audience but picking the right one is important. Many people make the mistake of choosing the wrong domain structure and then they can’t leverage the full SEO benefits. Below are some preferred domain structures that you can pick from:
ccTLD: Country code top-level domain name
ccTLD among the most preferred choices of most of the business owners because this type of domain structure is fairly easy for both the business owners and customers. Amazon would be a perfect example of this architecture. As Amazon serves in multiple countries and it has millions of users, the company is using country-level domains to manage everything. If you have a closer look at Amazon domains, below are some of the structures that you will notice apart from the main site amazon.com:
This type of domain structure brings huge SEO benefits in the long term as it helps you improve both domain authority and credibility among the users.
Another popular way to organize multiple domains by hosting the additional website in the sub-directory of the main domain. Subdomains are highly convenient that is the reason why most companies opt for this. They are easier to manage and quick to build as the setup time is very low as compared to creating a new website.
But there are a few cons that you keep in mind while hosting a new website on a subdomain. The first thing is that the subdomain sites are treated as a separate entity by the search engines and hence if you have done internal linking, it might not benefit you much.
As compared to a separate domain, subdomains are considered less trustworthy by people when the brand is relatively new. A subdomain looks like ‘example.abc.com’. In this, ‘example’ is the subdomain, and abc is the main domain.
The third widely used domain structure is the directory one but it’s less used than the TLDs and subdomains. In this domain type, the website is hosted by simply creating an additional folder into the root of the main site. These are the simplest to create and manage as compared to the subdomains as just like any other page, these sites are located in the main file.
This type of domain structure is easy to maintain and the biggest advantage is that you get full advantage of your domain authority for your new site. Companies like Adobe uses this site structure and their domains look like this:
You can pick any of the above domain structures that suits your requirements. Make sure you do more research on the domain structure before finalizing one for your international audience.
Utilize your HTML structure to the fullest
To make the most of your international SEO, pay special attention to the HTML structure of your site and other important components like Hreflang, URL structure, x-default tag, content tags, and more. Let’s have a look at each entity in a brief to understand them better:
Hreflang tags help Google and other crawlers to understand that your site has some pages or sections that are in a foreign language and they are targeting a specific set of audience. It’s also an important thing to implement when it comes to international SEO. In case if you have various versions of the same language which generally happens with English, you need to use the rel=alternate tag to avoid such issues.
Managing URLs often come with certain challenges as there are multiple domains and you need to make sure every important URL is indexed in the search engine’s database. Make sure you follow all-important optimization practices to ensure URLs are readable by users and search engine bots. If you are using CMS like WordPress, you will find a lot of plugins to manage URLs.
This is also an important tag which most people miss while performing international SEO. For those who don’t know, this X-default tag serves the audience which doesn’t match with your language or location tag. This website will be a default version which the audience will see. It could be your original website that most of the native people are interacting with.
However, most of the search engines don’t need these content-language tags on your site as location and language tags are enough for indexing. But if you are optimizing your site for Bing, then you need to use this site for optimizing your content. Bing search engine recommends using the ‘content-language’ meta tag on every page of the site.
The schema markup for your site
Google and search engines pay great attention to the site’s structure as it helps in various aspects. No matter if you are doing a standard SEO or an international SEO, having a schema markup structure on your site is important to get good SEO performance. There are several free tools available in the market that offer the creation of schema markup of your site which you can verify from Google’s free tool and use on your site.
Just like we perform keyword research for our regional websites, the process remains the same but you need to keep a few things in mind. In foreign languages, there are many words that have multiple meanings. And while having keyword research, you need to ensure that you are picking up the right keywords to gain higher traffic. We recommend using multiple SEO tools to gather your keywords just to ensure their accuracy.
Don’t translate the English keywords into other languages as you won’t get higher accuracy with them. The best way to do research is in the native language through SEO tools to make it easier and time-saving. If you can hire a foreign language writer, then it would be very much useful for you as it will save you a lot of time and effort.
Regardless of what SEO we perform, Google’s E-A-T concept is here to stay with us and we need to keep the guidelines while optimizing the content. E-A-T is a broad concept and every industry has a different impact on their site.
You can also hire a good SEO company that can help you optimize and organize the content as per the E-A-T guidelines as it will help you in better SEO results.
Website’s content localization
Every country has different dialects of the same language and while creating content, you need to consider this point. You can find the popular local phrases that the locals are using to search for a particular product or service. Along with your main target keywords, you can also add these local keywords to make the content more understandable for the readers.
It’s better to hire a dedicated writer and get the content ready for your site. This will not only improve your site’s SEO but also boost your brand’s credibility. If you get some local graphics also for your international site, that would be even better. Higher detailing while creating content will for sure bring out the best SEO results.
These were the important international SEO tips that you can follow to thrive in the new market and generate more sales for your company. Just like regular SEO, international optimization will also take time and you have to keep a track of the progress your site is making in the new geography.