International trade is flourishing, so it is obvious that businesses are exploring overseas markets for expansion. To sell your products and services globally, you must implement robust International SEO strategies.
Agencies are receiving a surge in demand for international SEO Services. Native English speakers make up 17% of the world’s population, but English is a dominant language on the Internet. So, most of the keywords come from the English language. However, it also means that you must catch up on the remaining 83% of the global market.
Your choice of keywords should depend on the country you are targeting. In the US alone, people speak more than 350 languages, Spanish being the second most popular language after English. So, if you want to target diverse demographics, you must consider including other languages as well in your SEO game plan.
This article will discuss all aspects of international SEO, so you become familiar with the best practices, global SEO considerations, and steps necessary to formulate an international SEO strategy.
What Is International SEO?
When your target audience is scattered across different countries and continents, you need to go beyond your regular SEO strategy to encompass all of your prospects. It involves fine-tuning your content to specific countries and audiences with the help of technical SEO. Sometimes, it can be too complex, depending on your target country.
Let’s discuss why international SEO is so crucial in the present times.
Why Is International SEO Important?
Any digital marketer will tell you that SEO depends on many things, which is why mastering it is crucial for your online success. The diversity in the real world makes it even more complex. Leveraging this diversity can make you the undisputed leader in the online space.
Image Source: Moz
Traditional SEO aims to improve the overall website performance, but if you want to target untapped global markets, you should also be aware of international SEO best practices. Luckily, you can quickly and easily rank on SERPs by implementing international SEO because the competition isn’t that fierce.
Fundamentals of an International SEO Strategy
While formulating an International SEO strategy, you should consider the following elements.
A. Target Audience
Like any digital marketing strategy, you need to focus on data first because most successful strategies are data-driven. Google Analytics will help you tremendously in this endeavor.
Begin by identifying your target audience — where they are located and which language(s) they speak.
Image Source: I Que Lab
However, you should ensure that your business operations and target audience are compatible. For example, your strategy can backfire if you are targeting French-speaking people in France and other countries but don’t have French-speaking staff to offer customer support or handle sales queries. Similarly, if you target Chinese audiences but can’t set up an office there because of diplomatic hassles, it will not work.
B. Market Research
A quick Google search can give you a good idea about your target audience, but you cannot use it for professional purposes. If you are serious, you should conduct thorough market research to understand your audience deeper. Learn about their habits, preferences, financial condition, family values, culture, lifestyle, social orientations, legal obligations, and specific needs, if any. Together, these attributes will help you craft better marketing messages and formulate winning strategies.
Marketers should refrain from trying to simplify language issues, especially when they are dealing with international audiences. Your SEO heavily depends on it. You should also not go by the official languages of any particular country. For example, the official languages of Canada and India are French, English, and Hindi, respectively, but people speak dozens of languages in both the countries. In some Southern and Eastern states of India, the natives don’t even understand the official language. It would help if you kept that in mind while formulating an international SEO strategy.
Keywords are highly affected by language conflicts and variations. Never commit the mistake of trying word-to-word translation of the keywords into a different language. People don’t always use the linguistic equivalent of a particular search query in their language. Also, remember that there can be many cultural and local variations to a single language. Hence, you should perform due diligence and devote some time to dedicated keyword research before finalizing your target keywords.
International SEO Best Practices To Follow
Here are some of the international SEO best practices you should follow to get the best results:-
1. Website Structure
The biggest consideration while performing international SEO is having dedicated URLs, especially if you target multiple languages and diverse communities. A well-oriented website structure helps audiences and search engines identify specific web pages’ language.
This is more of a necessity than a result-driven luxury, as search engines can impose a duplicate content penalty if you don’t comply. Google may flag your localized content as duplicates of your original content if the site structure is not taken care of.
Image Source: Moz
Here are the three options you can choose from:-
i. Top-level domain (e.g., www.example.ae)
ii. Subdomain (e.g., www.ae.example.com)
iii. Subdirectory (e.g. www.example.com/ae/)
You can choose your site structure according to your client’s website and business. For example, the top-level domain, such as www.example.ae, can quickly rank on top because of its peculiar structure. But it can be a bit pricey and difficult to manage.
Image Source: Search Ministry
You can also try subdirectories and subdomains according to the strategic priorities of your client. The rules are flexible for international SEO, so you can choose according to your needs and your client’s preferences.
2. Href-lang Tags
Website developers use these tags to inform search engines about the language and the country your website is created for. Relevancy of content is an important factor for a search engine to index and rank a website, and these tags are designed to help search engines determine it.
Image Source: Moz
If you want to reach the right audience according to their language, you can use Hreflang Tags while performing international SEO.
Here is how you can implement these tags:-
- For the English language: <link rel=”alternate” href=”https://www.example.com/” hreflang=”en” />
- For American English: <link rel=”alternate” href=”https://www.example.com/en-us/” hreflang=”en-us” />
- For New Zealand English: <link rel=”alternate” href=”https://www.example.com/en-nz/” hreflang=”en-nz” />
You need a separate link ‘rel’ and alternate variant to connect to each variation. These lengthy variations can slow down your website. So, implement them only when you have the necessary skill set. The better alternative is to use a website translation tool that automatically fixes these tags.
3. More Content Creation
When doing international SEO, be ready to embrace increased competition and boost your content volume. Since you will penetrate a different market, you need quality content from scratch. Shortcuts would not work here as your website is the only source of information for a foreign audience.
4. Language Consistency
Don’t skip or leave things out when translating your content from the source website. If you do that, it may look inconsistent and incomplete and not cast a good impression on the visitors reading your content in a different language.
Also, avoid using multiple languages on a single page. It does not bode well for your user experience. Ensure to include the navigation menu, footer, user-generated content, image alt tags, etc.
5. Translating Metadata
Since metadata is an integral aspect of SEO and international SEO, you should also translate it along with the rest of the website. These elements are just as important for search engines as visible content on your landing pages. However, you should avoid literal translation in metadata and use extensive keyword research to make it sound natural and native.
Image Source: Aleyda Solis
It is also an important factor that determines the success of a website. It includes the design, language, and cultural elements directly affecting user experience.
It should include removing culturally offensive content and creating additional content that matches the target audience’s interest. You should also pay attention to navigation, media components, and website design.
The ultimate objective of this practice should be to achieve better engagement and add relevant and optimized content for search engines. It will help boost traffic from the intended global audiences.
Google is consistently trying to eliminate language barriers across the globe, and digital agencies would do better to implement international SEO. It would help if you had the right tools and expertise to develop your website in different languages to reach a broader audience for your clients. International SEO offers a great upsell opportunity for agencies, and they should grab it at any cost.