International SEO: How to Target Multiple Countries on Google
Posted on 20.01.2022 / a 12 min. read
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Our website is accessible from anywhere globally; why do we need International SEO.
We are serving 37 countries, have physical offices in 12 of them & our target audience speaks 7 languages. How should we structure our websites? We have 7 websites targeting 6 different countries & one corporate site. Our blog is at a corporate site- should we post blogs on all 7 websites?
These are some of the questions we have faced while serving our clients. And there’s no short answer. It comes down to your business and your website(s). Suppose a large chunk of visitors come from a different country or speak another language. In that case, it is advisable to cater to their country specific SEO needs and foray into the spectrum of international/multilocation SEO.
What is international SEO?
International SEO is a common term that refers to the technical aspects, including the decision-making process of making a website international. In simple terms, International SEO means optimizing websites for the search engines to identify countries you want to target and the languages you use for business. When you want to target international locations, you need to have your website optimized, so search engines like Google automatically pick your website for search queries coming from that location.
Do you need International SEO?
For a first-timer, international SEO may seem like an alien concept, but in reality, you may already be more familiar with it than you know. Consider international SEO as geotargeting, but instead of optimizing the website to attract traffic from a specific city/state, you’re optimizing it for different countries and languages. International SEO helps you yield results for an international Google search.
Suppose you’re looking to create a wholly internationalized site (i.e., one that specifically targets a different country and a different language). In that case, your high-level to-dos for accomplishing this “international geotargeting” are threefold:
Specify your target country and region with an international-friendly URL structure (country targeting), so that country-specific Google search results in your website show in the search rankings.
Establish which language your pages are targeting using language tags.
It is essential to create and maintain content in your target users’ language(s). These are the building blocks of international SEO and the foundation which will help you rank.
There may be scenarios when you may only need to target a specific language or country. Then, you may only want to work towards one or two of those three goals in these cases. For example, you have an online bookstore specializing in Spanish literature. Since Mexico is just as relevant to your business as Spain, you’d want to target the Spanish language, but not any specific country.
International SEO best practices
The question you may ask yourself is How to do SEO for multiple countries, the following best practices will help you get the answer that is best suited to your needs.
- Using the best-practice URL structure for international sites: In order to target a particular country webmasters can use predefined URL structures. These include
- ccTLD: Country code top-level domains ccTLD use two-letter codes to indicate to users and search engines the country or sovereign state where the website is registered. For example, website.us (.us being the ccTLD)
- Subdomains: Internationalized content is placed on a separate third-level domain that may or may not pass or receive link equity from the root domain. For example, us.website.com
- Subdirectory: When internationalized content is placed in a specific subdirectory, or subfolder, of a root domain it is called a subdirectory. For example, website.com/us
- gTLD with language parameters: It is a top-level domain, like dot com, dot net, or dot org which is targeted to speakers of a specific language by appending a URL parameter. For example website.com/?lang=uk-en
- Different domain: The websites which use a different domain for URL structure level targeting place their Internationalized content on an entirely different root domain than the non-internationalized site. For example webisteuksite.com
- Language targeting: Use language meta tags to indicate in which language your content is available. It allows search engines to figure out the languages you’re set up to handle. Language meta tags are essentially a bit of code that the search engines can easily read and interpret to understand the focussed languages for a website. For example, the following bit of code lets Google know that the website is also available in the English language.
Succeeding in International SEO
A clear marketing strategy for international content is absolutely essential in order to succeed and reap the benefits of international SEO.
- Define your potential client:
Create your buyer/customer persona for the new countries you are targeting, you can do this even before having your first customer. To do so, use Analytics and see the Public – Geo – Local or Languages section. It allows you to view the trend of your audience along with the potential themes and content you need to explore in the new regions. SEMRush or similar tools can also assist you to define your content strategy for these regions.
- Competition Analysis:
You should already know your competition in the new region you plan to enter and capture, but the tools like SEMRush can also help you confirm your search exercise. To create and maintain an excellent online presence in the targetted regions, you should thoroughly analyze your competition. It will make you aware of the challenges you will face and help you prepare better.
(International Keyword Search is the most critical factor which can decide the success of International SEO initiatives.)
- International Keyword Search:
Keyword search and analysis are all SEO activities’ fundamental principles, including international SEO. Use the Google predictive text or carry out industrial espionage using a competitor analysis tool. You can also enter directly into your competitor’s website or blog to identify and analyze which topics they address the keywords they target, and then make sure to create better content.
Obstacles In International SEO
International SEO is not difficult, but it does have its own set of challenges and obstacles.
- Language Obstacles:
Wondering which language is best to create a website? Well, there’s no fixed answer. The first step to taking your website global is to localize and translate the website’s content. And no, don’t open the Google translator tab just yet! Because a translator might get the grammatical construction and cultural dictates of the international location wrong. This in turn would create more problems when you try to target international locations. It is best to hire native speakers of your target geographical location and then take it forward from there.
- Geo-targeting Obstacles:
If your website has a popular domain such as .uk or .in or .au, Google in different countries can pick up the country-specific objective. Similarly, if your website has the .com domain, the search engine understands that it is a global website. Having a .com domain, however, leads to more work for you. You now need to tell search engines to geotarget your website so that you can target international locations. If you use Google Search Console, you can geotarget easily under the International Targeting feature.
Just remember, before you take it live, check how your website looks in different countries.
Content Marketing Strategies For Multilocation SEO:
- Know Your Potential In Your Target Countries
Start by estimating your international SEO potential. This can easily be done by knowing how your website ranks in your target countries – see where and how it appears on Google in different countries. Go to Analytics and see the Public – Geo – Local or Languages section. Here, you will see the number of sessions from your selected country. This data lets you see not only the trend of your target audience but also what content is being liked by them.
Selecting your destination country and going through its analytics will also shed light on the keywords that are having a better ranking. You can design your tailored content accordingly.
- Know Your Audience
Once you know your target audience, you need to get to know them better.
- Knowing their local holidays and which festivals they celebrate
- Knowing their political landscape and trending newsworthy events
- Their language nuances – like soccer and football, chips, crisps, wafers, biscuits and cookies, customize and customise, favourite and favorite, etc.
- Analyse The Competition
Analysing your competition is important; after all, you need to be aware of the challenges and roadblocks you might face in the international market. We are sure you already know the market players with regards to their product lines, target demographics, etc. With the help of experts such as SEMRush, you can also get to know your competitors as far as multi-country SEO is concerned.
Conduct An International Keyword Search:
You already know this one. You’ve identified your potential, understood your audience, studied your primary competitors, now it’s time to figure out which keywords in your target countries will work their magic and help you out with stellar international Google search results. The benefits of international SEO keywords can only be reaped if you focus on the transcreation of your content instead of just translating it.
Understand Cultural Differences
The success of an international SEO strategy lies in the fact that your content is resonating with people. Different cultures bring in different behaviours, values, beliefs, ethnic backgrounds, and outlooks on life. These may be different from what you are accustomed to within your own geographical region and culture. Catering to that audience and tailoring the content to match their sensibilities is important. Remember, cultural sensitivity is vital and the key to any successful business relationship.
Technical Aspects Of International SEO
How to do SEO for multiple countries also depends a lot on how you localize your website for the target geographical region. During this process, you will come across several technical hurdles such as:
· Localization engineering
· Website structure
· UI content extraction
· Server location
· Hreflang implementation
· Source validation
· Project Management
· Linguistic correctness and functionality checks, and a lot more.
This might seem overwhelming and if you are not acquainted with this technical side of international targeting SEO, we recommend you hire a localization company that specializes in it.