International SEO has turned into a significant investment where even small businesses make big gains when done correctly. The good news is that by doing a little research on Google, you can access hundreds of sources written on the subject. The bad news is that most of these resources are out of date and can easily lead you to wrong practices. We wanted to share the most current international SEO practices with those interested in the subject.

We can say that there are several tests you can take to understand the potential of your website in terms of a particular geographic area or a foreign language. It will not be successful to publish your same site in a different language, and then leave it on its own without making any improvements. You should set your goals clearly and perform various analyzes. In this respect, you can review the International SEO checklist we have created for you below.

What is the Difference Between International SEO and Other Applications?

If there is no international targeting within an SEO project, it can be considered as standard SEO. However, if International SEO is involved, this project should be evaluated under a separate title. The functionality of a website planned to serve different languages ​​or languages ​​may vary depending on how effective planning is done for International SEO. As you can imagine, good planning will bring good results.

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To do good planning, you can review the checklist below:

1- Try to Understand Whether You Have International SEO Potential

  • Compare organic traffic from foreign language keywords on your website with pages in your local language. If the organic traffic rate is too low, your site may not have International SEO potential.
  • Try to compare the visibility rates of your queries and pages based on different countries. For example, you can measure the click-through rates of foreign questions in the Search Analytics section of Search Console. You can also measure conversion and visibility rates using tools like SEMRush, Ahrefs, SEO Monitor, Hreflang Tags Testing Tool, or SearchMetrics. You can set a unique International SEO Strategy using the SEMrush Hreflang Report and Traffic Analysis Geo-Targeting feature.
  • Filter the keyword analysis resulting from local searches based on the language and countries you set. A language can be spoken in more than one state, so filtering on a language and country basis can give more insight to see the potential. You can have an idea using tools such as Google Keyword Tools, Yandex Keyword Statistics, Baidu Index, and tools like Google Trends and Ubersuggest.
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Try analysis and comparisons. When you compare the conversion and traffic analysis, do you think you can pay back for your work? Note that you may have to devote valuable time and budget for this job. If your answer is yes, we can say that you are ready to do international SEO. If your answer is no, it may be a little early for you. In this case, try checking the following:

  • If you can apply for ccTLD for your target language and region, take action immediately.
  • By setting up a particular alarm in your Google Analytics account, you can start working when you begin receiving enough traffic for your target language and country.
  • We recommend you to take a look at the article and infographic of Aleyda Solis titled Internatıonal SEO Checklist :
international seo checklist

2- How Can You Target International Web Users?

  • Set your international Web target.
    • Does the geographic region factor affect your goals in terms of your services and products?
    • If your answer is yes, if each country you target has the potential for sufficient traffic and conversions alone, you can target them all.
    • If your answer is no, you can target specific to the language if each language you target has the potential for sufficient traffic and conversions on its own.

Try not to forget: Targeting every country you plan to serve may not always be possible due to budget, technology and resource constraints, but it is an ideal situation from the target audience’s perspective.

  • Try to understand the behavior and characteristics of your International Users.
    • The standard persona analysis you did in your country may not work, but if you can do this type of analysis, you know where to start.
  • Try to understand your International Competitors and the features of the Industry in which they are located.
    • The characteristics of your competitors in the international arena and the industries they are involved in may differ slightly. We recommend that you review all the data you can obtain in order to understand these features. In addition, you can use resources such as Semrush Traffic Analytics, Alexa and SimilarWeb

3- How Do You Improve International Targeting?

  • We recommend that you choose an international site structure that suits your targeting and characteristic.
    • If you are targeting a specific country; It may be appropriate to use ccTLD. This method can be a bit costly, so that you can move on to the next item. For example, if you target France, https://example.com.fr, if you target Italy, https://example.com.it and if you target Spain, https://example.com.es would be ok.
    • The worst method to use for country targeting would be to use a sub-domain. In other words, sub-domains such as https://fr.example.com/, https://it.example.com/, https://es.example.com/ are likely to harm site authority.
    • If you target a specific language and a particular country, it is best to manage the language folders by keeping them under your site’s root directory. Create https://example.com/fr/ folders for French, https://example.com/it/ folders for Italian, and https://example.com/es/ folders for Spanish. Managing these folders may be the most efficient method. It may also be possible to use ccTLD for languages, but it should be used with caution, as you will need to make adjustments for multiple countries where the same language is spoken.
  • Try localizing the content and structure to be specific to that country and language.
  • If you made a language and country distinction in your site’s content, you should now start making arrangements specific to that language. When we look at the source code of the pages that begin in the Turkish language and serve in different languages, you can tell your users that you cannot have a full user experience when you see Turkish expressions still forgotten.
    • Page URL, page title, page description, link texts, title tags, visual alt text texts, navigation, written content, currency, address, phone number, e-mail address, if necessary, time-date, weather, etc.
  • We do not need to emphasize that every site that addresses different languages ​​and regions should be used individually. It is the healthiest method to leave the transitions between the areas with different language/country versions to the user and prevent automatic switching. When the user makes a language change, it is reflected as a positive user experience. The page in the previous language can go to the version of his chosen language.
    • For example, if the user is on the page: https://example.com/fr/catégorie-de-produit/type-de-produit-123456 when the user chooses the language, see the page in a foreign language, the page URL can be expected to be: https: //example.com/en/product-category/product-type-123456 . If the same page in your language is equivalent in a foreign language, it may be beneficial to make this referral.
  • For different languages, you can try using rel = “alternate” hreflang =”x” tag.
    • With the spoken language being notified to the search engines, your correct pages can be seen in the search results. With this simple code that you will put in the HTTP header of the page, search engines can understand that the content is customized regardless of the country.
    • For detailed information, you can browse the help page using Hreflang for language and regional URLs.
  • If you’re targeting Regional, that is, Country,
    • You can try using geo-targeting features. You can inform the search engine about your international SEO target, especially by selecting the country you are targeting through Search Console. If you have targeted more than one state, we recommend not to make any changes here.
    • If you can use a CDN, you can get a CDN server in the country you are targeting. Your connection will be faster in that country, and search engines will perceive your regional target better. In this case, you do not need to use the targeted country option in the Search Console.

4- How Can You Measure the International SEO Process?

  • Try watching the language and country versions of your website separately. With Google Analytics and Google Search Console, you can separate your tracking by country and language. You can open a separate profile for each language or country option. Thus, it will be possible to make a performance comparison between the version of your site in your country and the versions in foreign countries.
  • As we mentioned earlier, you can track your sites’ visibility with different versions using tools like SEMRush, Ahrefs, SEO Monitor or SearchMetrics, and so on. In particular, you may be able to take timely measures by comparing your targeted keywords and the version-independent login pages’ performance.
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Known Exceptions

If RussiaChina and South Korea are among the countries you target, it will not be enough to consider the Google search engine. While Google is the most popular search engine worldwide, its market share in those countries is not high. Therefore, we recommend using the tools that would be useful to use in these three countries: Yandex (Russia)Baidu (China) and Naver (South Korea).

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Our Recommendations Before International SEO Practice:

There is a quick guide to get started in international SEO above. While there are many resources drawn for international SEO, the most critical detail can be overlooked. Let’s first consider what kind of problems it can cause; all the time, financial resources, and workforce you can devote to doing this work can be wasted. To avoid such troubles, you should ask yourself the question: “Do I need this? Will it benefit? Will it be worth the effort I spend and will I get the return on my investment? ”

If you are giving positive answers to these questions, you ask yourself; we recommend that you start planning immediately. International markets can provide higher traffic, conversions and earnings compared to local needs. When appropriately implemented, International SEO can help you reach a significant number of potential customers worldwide.

We recommend that you take a look at Google’s Multi-region and multilingual sites help page before you take action on this and build your international SEO infrastructure by taking into account the Google guidelines.

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Emre Ercan on LinkedinEmre Ercan on Twitter
Emre Ercan
Expert at Stradiji
He was born in 1983 in Eskişehir, Turkey.
After graduating from the Hacettepe University School of Mining Engineering, For six years, he has work with various positions at Vodafone Turkey. After that he moved to the Media / Advertising sector and undertook reporting and planning duties within the People Initiative. He has been working as an SEO and Digital Marketing specialist at Stradiji since 2013. He also works as a photography and musician independently.