What is international SEO?

If your business sells products and services across the world, you need to make sure your brand appears across all the relevant search engines.

Your site may be on the first page of google.co.uk, but far down the ranks of google.com, google.fr or even google.es.

Here’s how you can make sure your business is visible in organic search, no matter where your customers are in the world.

Why is international SEO so important?

International SEO ensures your website is optimised for organic search in different countries. This improves visibility and makes it easy for as many people as possible to buy your products.

Customers in different countries may speak different languages, use different currencies and even use different search engine providers. Therefore, it’s essential to ensure your website provides all shoppers with the same high-quality experience.

How you can find out if you need to work on your international SEO

An easy way to see if your website provides a valuable experience for your global customers is to check out the Geo report in Google Analytics. This report will show you not only the countries your customers are coming from, but the language they use online.

If you see that many users come from a specific country, but your bounce rate is high and your dwell time is low, you may need to make some changes.

How you can improve your international SEO

If you’ve identified that you need to make your international SEO better, here are some ways you can make improvements.

  1. Create country-specific content

Country-specific content, like blogs and product pages, will help international customers feel more at home on your site. As visits and session time are positive ranking signals, this gives your international SEO a boost.

One tip when it comes to translating content – get a professional to do it, rather than running it through Google Translate. This will make sure your content is accurate, taking local slang words and nuances into account.

For example, if you translate ‘car insurance’ into Spanish using Google Translate, you may get ‘seguro de auto’. However, ‘seguro de carros’ is typically used by Spanish speakers.

Similarly, we recommend using a native speaker to pull together keyword research, rather than just translating your existing keywords.

  1. Use a relevant domain or sub-directory

When you are looking at where to host your international content, you have two choices. You can either host it on a country-specific domain (e.g. www.awesomecompany.co.uk or www.awesomecompany.es), or a localised sub-directory on your own site (e.g. www.awesomecompany.com/uk or www.awesomecompany.com/es)

While a country-specific domain looks more impressive, it means an extra website to look after, and you will have to build up separate domain authority. In addition, some countries (for example, China and Australia) only let you have a domain name if you have a registered address in that country.

A localised sub-directory is easier to maintain and means you don’t have to start again when it comes to domain authority. This can help your SEO and show the search engines that you are trustworthy and reliable.

  1. Use the right markup

How do search engines like Google work out which version of your website to show a customer? They can try and identify signals on a page like currency, phone numbers and addresses, but this isn’t an exact science.

The best thing to do is include markup to specify which version of a site to show your target audience. For example, the hreflang tag can be used in the head section of different versions of your pages, to advise which language and country the content is for.

You can use hreflang if you have small regional variations too. People in the US, UK and Canada all understand English, but with some differences. You can create separate versions of the same page and use hreflang to guide customers to the content that is right for them.

  1. Consider different search engines

Google is the most popular search engine in the UK by far, with 86% of the market share. However, the balance is different in other countries.

For example, Baidu is the most popular search engine in China, with 76% of the market. This is because Google is banned in the country. However, Baidu would still be popular even if it weren’t, as its algorithm is built around Chinese characters rather than the Latin alphabet.

Yandex is the second largest search engine in Russia behind Google, with 45% of the market share. Similar to Baidu, it is popular because it is designed for the Cyrillic language.

While Yahoo isn’t a popular search engine choice in the UK, it’s frequently used in Japan, with one in four searches on mobile. One of the reasons why Yahoo is so well-received in Japan is because it is localised to the country in a way that Google isn’t, providing detailed weather and sports reporting.

This means that if you operate in these countries, you should focus your SEO efforts on non-Google search engines. Yandex, Yahoo Japan and Baidu have their own webmaster tools to help you improve your search presence and see what search terms people are using.

We hope this guide has given you some valuable insight into international SEO and how you can use it on your website.

There is no hard and fast rule to international SEO, but if you need to use it, we recommend integrating it into your marketing strategy for the best results.

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