Digital Marketing, SEO

International SEO – Guide On How To Increase Your Customer Base

International SEO

Visits, Leads, Conversions, and Revenue!

When it comes to business, all we want to see is growth.

Your brand might be expanding and growing day by day locally but there comes a time, when you need to take your business to a global level.

For going on a global level means, you have to focus on a new set of customers in another trends, markets, countries, and demographics.

Seems like an easy expansion? Same language, same content, and all you need is to set up a website to target them, right?


International expansion is way more complicated than that.

It all depends on your niche, business, resources, and customers. How you approach the expansion? How you evaluate the SEO opportunities? And, how you can scale it over time?

Not only this, there are many other additional elements that you need to consider for successful international SEO process. Different regions have a different expectation from the brands within in the same industry before they make a purchase decision.

So, before you take any steps towards building an international search strategy, here is a guide on how you can effectively increase your customer base, globally.

What Is International SEO?


International Search Engine Optimization is the process of optimizing your website so that search engines can identify the countries you want to target. It involves coming up with the content that is relevant for users in targeted zones who are using different currencies and languages.

International SEO gives you the power to get a healthy amount of traffic from other countries to give your conversions a boost. Also, it ranks your site for a specific demographic through the preferred keywords in different languages. Depending on your resources and brand, you can tailor your content and keywords separately for the preferred region.

Who Needs International SEO?

Any business or brand that plans on targeting multiple countries and is looking to expand globally should make use of the International SEO.

You can make use of the International SEO if-

  • You are trying to extend your reach to the international markets.
  • You want to operate your business in different locations across the world.
  • You have a strong worldwide customer base.

How To Perform International SEO For The Business?

Whenever you plan to complete a global search for the business, you will find that even with the Google- SERP’s and content type’s layout vary from country to country.

For instances- A particular keyword might get a quick answer in one country but in another, it will not. For each region, Google models down its SERP’s based upon the interests to offer the best user experience. Not just the SERP’s but it will also modify the traffic rates and keywords as well.

So, to execute your SEO strategy as to be the successful one here is how to perform it for your business.

Research – Estimate The Potential Of Your Brand In Target Countries

It is important that you begin your International SEO process with Research as it helps you identify your brand’s potential in the targeted regions.

Start with estimating your potential by finding out how your website is ranked in the international countries. Go to your Google Analytics account, click on Audience → Geo → Location.

By going through language or location, you will see the number of sessions from that particular country.

Once you know the sessions, dig a bit deeper to check which keywords your website is ranking for. Make use of SEMrush to generate report for your niche.


Type in your domain, select your database, and click Search.


Now, take a look at organic search report that shows the number of keywords you are ranking for in top 100 results. In case, if you find that your domain is not ranked in your target countries; you can type the domain of your local competitor and check the analysis.

Go to the doughnut chart in the left corner of report and click on the country you want to analyze for. By selecting the country, you will get the keywords.

Evaluate the keywords and check if they are relevant to your industry or not. With this step, you have the information that you require to identify the search potential for each region.

Targeting – Analyze The Competitive Regions

Next, you have to target the countries where the keywords have sufficient organic volume. If the search volumes are not enough to target the country, start by targeting the language instead.


For Country Targeting –

Country Targeting

ccTLD’S – Country Code Top Level Domain

ccTLD’S are the ideal structures to geo-locate due to the specific country extensions. They are assigned by ICANN and are automatically targeted in Google Search Console. But, with this, you will need to make an extra effort to grow their popularity from scratch as new and independent domains.

Sub Directories

Sub directories or folders provide you with a structure that is easier to build and develop as your business grow and changes. You might not want to target some countries as of now so setting up a sub directory structure will allow you to use same ccTLD’S for future.

Sub Domain

This is the best option when you have a gTLD and you also want to avoid adding depth to your website structure. During the country targeting, you will index a lot of content, and it will be better to isolate them in the domain than in the sub-directories.

However, this might need an additional effort because they are mostly used as independent identities.

For Language Target –

Language Target

Sub Domains

If you use sub-domain for language targeting; you lose the URL’s if you change plans to target countries in future.

Sub Directories

Sub directories serve as the best alternative when you don’t have high volume of resources and content. It becomes easier to consolidate the popularity as single entity under the domain.

Regardless of the parameter you choose for targeting, make sure you are consistent with it. Avoid mixing different types of structures as it will increase the competition and will generate management complexity.

Also, don’t use parameters in URL’s as identifiers as it makes international Web version complex to optimize.


After you have determined the ideal international target, your last step is to optimize the website to make it relevant, index able, and crawl able.


It is important to localize- if country targeted and translate- if language targeted the different elements of the pages of the international version. The elements include-

  • Meta tags
  • Menu and navigation elements
  • URL’s
  • Images and ALT tags
  • Main information
  • Reviews
  • Prices and address along with the contact no

Also, beyond any type of literal translations, you should optimize them to target the queries used by the users.

Crawling And Indexability

As each of your versions needs to be indexed and crawlable, they need to be featured in their own URL’s under their relevant web structures. So, it is important to have cross-linking between different international versions.

You need to make sure that your website has ideal targeting signals so as to avoid misalignment of results. It is important that you deal with duplicate content and the URL issue for various countries.

Last but not the least; you also need to manage the technical side of International SEO. The main aspects that you need to include are-

  1. Choosing the structure of your website
  2. Deciding the server location
  3. Ensuring the appropriate hreflang implementation

Choosing The Structure Of Your Website

Before you decide the structure of your website, make sure you decide what to target- country or language.

Next, choose the structure of site based on targeting. The site structure includes-

  • ccTLD’S

It has the clear geo-location signal as it gives you increased click through rates and overrides the irrevelant server location. But, there are strict ccTLD requirement for some countries.


  • It is a reliable method for search engine and users quickly identify the origin of a site.
  • Ensures high ranks in search engine results.
  • Is not affected by Algorithm updates


  • Needs separate strategy.
  • News links are required for ranking
  • Separates crawling.
  • Subdirectories are low maintenance and can geo-target with Google webmaster tools. But, they have weaker signals than ccTLD’S and also cannot set up local servers.


  • Only one technical support domain is required
  • Simple execution
  • Domain authority is consolidated
  • Minimal expenditure is required


  • Provides weak-localization signals.
  • Harder to maintain the country directory for different versions
  • IP addresses are not specific
  • Google penalties affect whole directory.
  • Sub-domains are easy to set up, allow different server locations, and can geo-target with Google webmaster tools. But, this website structure requires high-end IT sources to set and maintain the system.


  • Ease of management and maintenance
  • Easily tracks results and conversions
  • Able to have local IP address


  • Optimization process is more complicated.
  • Needs separate Search Engine Optimization strategy
  • Users tend to browse locally.

Server Locations

The server location has a very significant influence on your rankings. Distant the server, slower the site speed, and worse the user experience.

Find out what website hosting solution works for you and optimize your International SEO accordingly.

Hreflang Implementation

Hreflang is a tag used by Google that allows the website owners to indicate that a page has a copy in another language. These tags indicate all other translated versions of that page along with the language. They are known to reside in XML sitemaps or on the on-page.

According to Google, hreflang can be featured as:

  • An HTML element in page header
  • The HTTP header that is useful for non-HTML files
  • In XML sitemaps, it comes handy when there are many international web versions to include.

Hreflang plays an important role as they are meant to cross-reference the pages that have the same content but target different audiences. And, incorrect implementation of these tags can harm your overall user experience as well as rankings.

To generate hreflang tags easily and quickly, make use of Hreflang tag generator tool.

Myths Related To International SEO

There are lots of misconceptions and myths that surround the subject of International SEO. Due to the lack of clarity in this area of search engine optimization, the concept comes out to be a confusing one.

The other reasons are-

  • Guidelines vary among different search engines.
  • Guidelines change over time, so it is difficult to keep up with the changes.
  • The users don’t read the Webmaster guidelines and don’t have a clear understanding of adapting the strategies accordingly.
  • Also, there are many technical considerations that keep on conflicting with the competing with the changing business priorities.

Users are not aware of scope and process of International, and hence the myths have started building around it.

#Myth 1: You Need To Have Multiple Websites In Order To Rank Throughout The World

  • You don’t necessarily require multiple domains, sub-domains, and website to rank throughout the world. If fact, you just need to take a look at your analytics and check if you have traffic coming from various countries or not.

#Myth 2: Geo-Targeting Will Be Enough To Rank The Content

  • No matter what, Geo-targeting of your content is never enough. You should not neglect this element, but you should also make use of the ranking factors like Translated URL’s, Local links from ccTLD’S, and the Translated content of page.

#Myth 3: Using URL Parameters To Indicate The Language Is An Ideal Approach

#Myth 4: Adding Hreflang Tags Will Help The Multinational Content To Rank Better

  • There is no stepping back from the fact that hreflang tag is one of the most popular tools in SEO. Though they don’t help in ranking but they ensure that correct page is shown in the localized version of Google.

#Myth 5: Ip Sniffing And Auto-Direct Are Enough To Get Users To The Right Place

  • There are various websites that use the forms of auto-redirection, detect the user’s IP address to redirect them to other website that is localized for their region. But, these practices are inaccurate and can prevent search engines from indexing the website.

#Myth 6: You Need Local Servers To Host Your Global Content

  • Many website owners believe that they need local servers to rank the business internationally – as, Google and Bing that local servers were an essential international ranking factor in the past. However, now, it has been confirmed that—with the rise in CDN’s, local servers are not generally necessary.

#Myth 7: You Can’t Have A Multi-Country Targeted Content In The Same Language

This myth originates from the fear of duplicate content. According to Raven Tools study, 30% of the web contains spammy and dupe content.

But, to debunk this myth, you can have the multi-country targeted content in the same language but you just need to combine the localization with hreflang tags in order to get it right.  Also, if you want avoid dupe content- localize HTML sitemaps, obtain links from local ccTLD’S, Transcreate the content, and add in the local info such as address, my business profile, and contact details.

Besides the myths going to and fro through the concept of International SEO, this optimization technique will continue to be the growing interest. All you need is to understand the basic process and concept- and, you are good to go with it.

What Are The Major Issues In International SEO?

One of the major issues in International SEO is the duplicate content. The duplicate content spoils your ranking and also hinders the success of your SEO plan.

They compel the search engine to waste precious time in crawling, which ends up serving you with a manual action. And, the most effective way to sort this out is the hreflang tag.

Eg: <link rel=”alternate” href=”” hreflang=”en-us” />

You can make use of the hreflang tag on all the URL versions including sub domain, sub-directories, and ccTLD’S.  Canonical tags can also be used for avoiding the duplicate content, but you need to take in consideration the missing confirmation links and the incorrect language codes.

Checklist For International SEO

When you are developing an international SEO plan, here is the checklist you can refer to-

Does Your Business Have An International SEO Potential?

  • Check your website’s organic and total traffic from other countries and languages i.e., you need to identify the trends and volumes along the used keywords of visits per country with Google Analytics.
  • Check your site’s organic search visibilities from other countries i.e., identify the queries getting search results visibility in identified countries with SEMrush or Google Webmaster Tools.
  • Do a keyword research with already identified countries and languages. Make use of Baidu Index, Google keywords tool, and more, and identify the search volume of relevant keywords.

International SEO

Are You Targeting Your International Web Audience?

  • Make sure that you are acquainted with the international audience’s behavior and characteristics. You can use the tools like TNS digital life, Google CDN, and understand their linguistic, demographics, and cultural preferences.
  • Analyze and identify your international competitors and industry. Before you execute your international SEO plan – be familiar with the competitor’s behavior and characteristics in the international markets.

Are You Developing An Internationally Targeted Site?

  • Choose an international site structure based on your characteristics and targets. Regardless of what you choose- Country targeting or Linguistic targeting, they should be featured through their own web structure so that they can be indexed, ranked, and crawled. Also, do not use cookies to show your language versions in same URL.
  • Localize your content site and structure by properly defined texts, Meta tags, headings, address, phone number, and other details.
  • Link between different country/language versions and make your international web structure easy to navigate.
  • Specify the language of your content by adding the hreflang annotations in your HTML and HTTP header.
  • Identify and connect with international communities, e., build trust and popularity and identify competitors with most popular content.
  • Use the meta content language.
  • If you are country targeting then Make use of the local IP address or host your site with the same.
  • Use the Geo-targeting option of the search engines and specify the target country.

Are You Measuring Your International SEO Process?

  • To measure your international process regularly-create individual profiles in Google webmaster tools and Google analytics. You can also configure them to track internal activity between different international versions.
  • Follow up with your International search visibility. There are various tools like Moz, Authority labs, and Web rankings that come with rank tracking functionalities and allow you to do in International search engines. You can also make use of the keywords to track other International Search Results.

Along with these points, you also need to make sure that-

  • You follow the best targeting approach.
  • The translation process goes smooth as planned.
  • And, you use the hreflang tags to avoid the duplicate content.


Well, after this process, there is no denying the fact that digital revolution is becoming a global phenomenon day by day.

International SEO is a full SEO process that needs proper analysis and research to select the best way to target your international audience.

You need to implement the targets correctly, take your business, content, and technical elements and then make the plan. Once you have evaluated your SEO potential in target countries; analyzed the targeting landscape, and pulled the keywords for your international SEO- make the most of your International SEO plan and take your business to pinnacles of success.

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