Do you know that you’re missing out on an audience of 6 billion people if you’re only targeting English speakers?
Indeed, only 20% of the world’s population speaks English.
So, what does this mean for your business?
Let’s put it this way: if you have a product or service that’s available around the world, implementing international SEO can expose you to a substantial audience (the SaaS industry is one such candidate as their service is available all-around-the-world).
In fact, it has been found that nearly 60% of global consumers will not make a purchase online if the website is only in English. Although they may speak English, they prefer to make their purchases on sites that are in their primary language.
Need more evidence that international SEO may be worth further consideration? Neil Patel increased his traffic by 47% when he translated his website into a couple of different languages.
Of course, if a lot of your website visitors come from a different country than where you’re located than international SEO may not just be a good idea – it be may be a necessity.
When it comes to international SEO, many people think that it’s about targeting any non-English speaking country or any country outside of the US. However, this is not the case. International SEO is about targeting any country or language outside of your own.
Simply put, international SEO is about optimizing your website for different countries and languages.
With all of this in mind, here are some of the best international SEO tips to help you target overseas traffic.
1. Research: Developing Your International SEO Strategy
Although this may not be the most exciting step, it is nevertheless an important one.
Before you can even begin implementing any sort of international SEO techniques on your website, you have to do the necessary research to determine whether international SEO even makes sense for your business (because it doesn’t make sense for everyone).
- Evaluate Where Your Traffic is Coming From
The first question to ask yourself is ‘where is your traffic coming from? If you have one particularly large international audience, you should start with that country first. You can find this information in your under ‘Audience’ > ‘Geo’ in Google Analytics.
Interestingly enough, you may find that relatively small countries have more conversions than bigger ones.
Now, if you’re a smaller site, chances are that you do not need international SEO due to the sheer amount of resources needed to maintain multiple sites in different languages, so keep this in mind.
- See Who Your Competitors Are Targeting
Another great tip is to take a look at your competitors and see what languages/countries they’re targeting. You can do in one of two ways, both of which are easy to do: you can check their hreflang tags in the source code of their website or you can SEMrush.
To investigate using SEMrush, simply insert their website name into the search bar and then look for the highlighted countries. The highlighted section indicates that they are ranking in those countries.
So, in summary: take time to consider the potential traffic and conversions coming from different countries and whether or not it is worth investing in international SEO. Will it be profitable? If so, then you are on the right track by reading this blog post.
- What are you Targeting? Countries, Languages or Both?
Once you have decided to move ahead, and you have determined that targeting an international audience could be profitable, you need to figure out if you want to target different countries, languages or both.
If your services are the same around the world, then you can simply target languages. Facebook, for example, just targets languages.
Another tip for determining whether you should focus on languages is if you don’t need to let your users switch between content.
In other words, if your audience can read the same content regardless of their country, then targeting languages is the better option in that it’s simply easier to execute.
3. Check That Your Website is Ready
Before you begin making any changes to your current website for the purposes of international SEO, it is important to make sure your website is optimized for search in the first place, otherwise you will find yourself duplicating various errors.
4. The Fundamentals of International SEO
International SEO looks different depending upon whether you’re targeting languages or countries. Moz summaries this process in their internatonal SEO checklist, which you can find here.
However, there are three broad steps that you must implement if you want to rank in another country/language. Think of them as the best practices for international SEO.
As you will see, they include using an international-friendly URL structure, using language tags and then writing content in the particular language you’re targeting.
- International-Friendly Domain and URL Structure
When it comes to international SEO, the first and most important step is choosing an international-friendly domain and URL structure.
If you are familiar with international SEO, you will likely know that there are several different structures you can use, all of which have their own positives and negatives.
You can use a combination of top-level domains (.ca or co.uk), subdirectories (/es/ or /de/) or subdomains (es.example.com us.example.com).
The infographic from Moz summaries each of the URL structures below:
As you will see, ccTLDs, which use the two-letter code (example.us) to indicate what country the website is registered in, offers the best signal to search engines. On top of that, it’s the easiest way to rank.
The downside of this URL structure, however, is that it is expensive to maintain. If you are targeting a specific country, and are a larger site, ccTLD is a good choice.
Neil Patel breaks all of your options in great detail on his site, which you can find here.
However, again, this URL structure is designed for those targeting a specific geographic area. In other words, if you are only targeting a language (and not a country), ccTLD is not the best choice.
That means that you also need to take into consideration whether you’re country or language targeting as you will see in the infographic from Neil Patel:
The experts out there tend to recommend using subdirectories on your main site with generic TLD. This is great whether you want to target countries, languages or both. For those who don’t have a global brand, this is what the experts like Patel himself recommend.
Using subdomains with generic TLDs, for example, tends to be complicated. Further, it doesn’t offer a great user-friendly experience, either.
Above all, keep in mind that regardless of your choice, Google recommends that you organize your hierarchy in the same way. This makes your website more easily crawlable.
- Language Tags
In addition to URL structure, language tags are another critical aspect of international SEO. As you likely know, these language tags are code that tell search engines what language your content is currently available in.
As for language tags, you have two options: hreflang or language meta tags. The hreflang helps to avoid duplicate content on your site as it tells Google that the page is an alternate version of the page. The difference is that it’s simply in another language.
If you’re country targeting (and not language targeting), duplicate content is not an issue, assuming, of course, that you are creating different content.
However, you will still want to change HTML content based on location, including title, meta description, navigation and headings. The point is that it provides specific value that the default page doesn’t. Again, this is for those targeting countries.
This should also include changing any prices to the local currency – this is particularly true for ecommerce stores. Also ensure that you include any requirements as far as shipping fees and export duties.
Here are some of the best practices for language tags:
- Everything must be in the primary language you’re targeting (this includes your site navigation, content and help desk).
- Do not use online translators as they are not strong enough. Hire someone who knows the local language instead.
- Some search engines, like Bing, prefer their own meta language content. Therefore, adding this data can allow Bing users to locate the content they are looking for on your site.
- Do not redirect someone to a particular language based on their location. After all, there could be a variety of reasons why they are using that country’s Internet; for example, they could still be an English-speaker but are simply travelling. Redirecting based on location results in a poor user experience. The only exception to the automatic redirect are sites that are very locally-focused. Craigslist is a good example of this.
- Instead of redirecting someone, you should do two things: use the default language settings already set up in the browser. In addition, you should also ask the user what their preferences are via a language menu.
- When it comes to your language menu, ensure that the languages are displayed in the actual language itself instead of using flag symbols, which can be inaccurate.
- Localized Content
The last critical step of a solid international SEO strategy is all about writing content that is written in the language that you’re targeting (of course). This includes your products, services and any information about your business.
You should also include a local phone and a local address.
You must also target the content to the culture as well. Above all, you want to make it clear to them that the page was designed for them.
Here are some tips:
- Have your content professionally translated – do not use any sort of translating tool as they are not yet where they need to be. These tools won’t translate well and you won’t make nearly as many sales (if any). Using a translator just makes your site look unprofessional as well. Find translators on sites like Upwork instead.
- Not enough resources to translate your entire website? SearchEngineLand recommends that you create one landing page (with all of the relevant information) that you then replicate across all the languages you’re targeting.
- Consider date formats and units of measurement – in the United States, for example, the date begins with the month. In China, it begins with the year. Address formats are also different around the world as are currencies and many other units of measurement.
- Be mindful of country legalities surrounding various Internet practices; in the UK, for example, every website must notify users that cookies are being used.
- Consider the country when making design decisions – one’s culture influences the way they look at colour, layout, style of humour and so on. In India, for example, the call-to-action ‘Add to Cart’ is not well understood. Jaydip Parikh saw a 6% increase in sales when he changed their CTA from ‘Add to Cart’ to ‘Buy Now.’
5. Keyword Tips
Keywords are an important part of any SEO strategy and international SEO is no different. However, just like above, do not make the mistake of using a tool like Google Translate to translate keywords into a different language.
Here are a couple of tips:
- Different search engines are based on different algorithms, which means that they have different ranking factors as well. Some still use meta keywords and others have social signals as ranking factors.
- Again, when targeting keywords in a different language, it is necessary to hire someone who both speaks the actual language and also has experience with keyword research and SEO in general.
Again, keyword research must be done on the right platform. If you want to target an audience in Russia, for example, you would need to make sure that use Yandex Wordstat instead of Google Keyword Planner.
6. Link Building Tips
Simply put, Google is unclear with link building as far as international SEO goes. Despite this uncertainty, however, most experts will advise you to follow the best practices for standard link building.
The key difference when it comes to international SEO, however, is the fact that you should aim to have links from local websites, especially from local language sites.
7. Optimize For Mobile
No discussion of international SEO is complete without mentioning the importance of mobile.
There are many other countries out there that likewise use their mobile phone far more than a desktop computer. So, your website needs to account for this.
If your target country primarily uses mobile, ensure that your pages are lightweight and that your value proposition is easily found.
8. Other International SEO Tips
- Develop an International Lead Generation Strategy
Developing an international lead generation strategy can help to drive traffic to your site.
You could go about this in many different ways, but one way is to develop relationships with local influencers. Having a local influencer write a piece of content for your website, for example, has the potential to drive a lot of traffic.
- International Support
International SEO will drive a lot of new customers to your website who doesn’t necessarily speak your own language.
Support is always an important consideration; when it comes to offering support in a different language, you have a couple of options. Apps like Zendesk offer technology-based translations. Gengo is another option.
If you offer telephone support, you will either need to hire people who speak the language or make it clear on your website that you only offer telephone support in English.
- Last Steps: Check for Potential Problems
The last step in implementing international SEO should be a review of any potential problems. Google Search Console will able to provide you with an overview of any potential issues.
Wrapping It Up
International SEO offers many businesses potential to reach a much greater audience. However, before you attempt to implement any of these strategies on your site, it’s important to determine whether the potential for profit is there first.
Do you have any international SEO tips to target overseas traffic? We’d love for you to share your tips and insights below.
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