When it comes to international SEO, it’s often hard to know where to start; plus, it doesn’t help that everyone does SEO a little bit differently! Although each company’s SEO strategy needs to be tailored to its personal goals, we’ll walk you through several international SEO best practices everyone should follow.
Linguistic/Culture-related international SEO best practices
Use the right language
Before you start, you must ensure that you speak to people in the correct language. It’s not enough to assume everyone speaks English, as that’s the case for just a mere 25.9% of internet users! So imagine missing out on nearly ¾ of internet users because you decided against different languages.
If you’re expanding into Germany, for example, you need to invest in German SEO. Additionally, you need to ensure that you’re aware of regional differences. German spoken in Austria varies from German spoken in Germany, and there are multilingual countries like Switzerland. If you’re targeting Bern, use Swiss German, but if you’re targeting the whole country, make sure you’re using French, German, and Italian.
If you’re targeting different English-speaking markets, perform separate keyword research for each country. Using a couple of examples from the UK and Ireland, here you can see that while both countries speak English, there are different words to describe certain things:
|English UK||English Ireland|
|Airing cupboard||Hot press|
|Pencil sharpener||Pencil pairer|
Explore the culture
Next, you need to understand the local culture. While it may sound like we’re stating the obvious, it’s vital to help you know what’s likely to work in a particular market. Speak to the people in-market and research what will and what won’t work. After all, there’s no point in spending excess money creating foreign language content only for it not to be culturally sensitive (e.g., Orange’s “the future’s bright, the future’s orange” slogan in Northern Ireland).
Here are some examples of insights that can help your international SEO campaigns:
- PPC is a top-rated channel in Denmark, but in neighboring Germany, consumers don’t trust it and prefer companies that invest in SEO
- Consumers in the Czech Republic are price-focused, so they need to feel like they’re getting a special deal.
- Chinese consumers are used to high-speed customer service, so you’ll be expected to deliver the same, even as a foreign brand.
- Irish consumers don’t appreciate calling a UK support number as it makes them feel like the Irish market doesn’t matter.
- Make sure you check for cultural sensitivities because what may think is just a color, for example, could be offensive to others and land your brand in hot water.
Know local channels
Not everyone uses Google, so you must be SEOing for the right search engine. A rule of thumb is:
- China – Baidu
- Korea – Naver/Google
- Ukraine – Google (as of writing, Yandex has been banned there)
- Russia and other ex-CIS countries – Yandex
Each search engine has different ranking factors, so you must keep these in mind when creating a new website or optimizing your current website.
Have a strategy for each market
One of the most overlooked international SEO best practices is having a strategy for each market. This is important because if you’re only using your English/local strategy, you will miss out on many different opportunities tailored to your international markets. This also helps to reduce costs because you won’t spend money writing/translating content that people don’t search for abroad.
You also need to ensure that you’re creating content original for each market. There will be different keyword opportunities in each market, and what consumers want to read will vary, too. So, when you’re putting together your content strategy, don’t just translate your English/local content, but content from scratch that’s truly designed with your international markets in mind.
Technical & Off-Page international SEO best practices
Domain set up
When setting yourself up for international success, you must set your website up correctly.
- Separate domains. You could set up separate domains, e.g., argosmultilngual.com/argosmultilingual.fr, and keep your websites separate. However, unless you’re a massive brand, we suggest either a subdomain or subdirectory because separate domains require a lot of work and can lead to losing domain authority from your English/local site. In the end, that means it’ll take much longer to rank internationally.
- With this option, you could host your foreign websites on a subdomain of your current site, e.g., fr.argosmultilingual.com.
- Again, you could also host your foreign language websites using a subdirectory, e.g., argosmultilingual.com/fr/, which is the most common type of domain setup we see.
Local link building
As SEOs, we all know how vital building quality links is locally, but what about internationally? It’s not enough to hope that your English links will work internationally. You need to make sure that you’re building quality links from foreign language domains, too. The aim of backlinks should be to drive people from a third-party site to your own. It would be best if you were using German websites to link to your German website, for example, since it’d be pretty off-putting for an English speaker to be taken to your German website as they wouldn’t be able to find what they’re looking for easily at all.
When you think of international SEO best practices, one of the first things that come to mind is hreflangtags. But did you know many companies are missing out on a little trick?
If you’re targeting a particular market, ensure your hreflang tags show that. For English sites, it’s common to just have an en hreflang tag, but you can break that down further, for example:
- En-gb - UK
- En-ie - Ireland
- Pt-br – Brazil
- Pt-pt - Portugal
- De-de – Germany
- De-at – Austria
These small changes will help Google to understand which country you want to target.
Following international SEO best practices can help you improve your global presence. And if you need a hand along the way, get in touch with Argos Multilingual and see how our SEO services can help.