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5 tips for launching an international SEO strategy.

The author

Lizzie Brighton

SEO Strategy Manager

International SEO provides huge opportunities to gain business on a global scale, particularly in booming markets like China and Russia. However, if your website is not able to reach those markets because it isn't optimised efficiently enough to rank in your target countries, or it doesn’t speak in the right tone to match your audience, then it’s time to rethink your strategy! Here we provide some key tips to consider for international SEO:

    1. Know your search engines!

Google holds the major market share in most countries. However, there are some countries where this status quo does not apply. Knowing which search engines to optimise for in each target country is imperative if you're looking to gain organic visibility success. The below list outlines the most important search engines to be aware of:

  • Yandex - the leading search engine in Russia, holding around 60% market share.
  • Baidu – China’s leading search engine, with around 70% market share.
  • Yahoo! – this may come as a surprise, but in Japan, Yahoo! has the leading market share at just over 50%.
  • Naver – the search engine with the leading market share in South Korea, at around 60%.

    2. Understand your target audience

The cultural nuances from country to country can be subtle but important, even when the same language is used. Always ensure the tone of the site is tailored towards the target market of each individual country. This is not limited to text either – consider all kinds of multimedia. For example, if you're targeting Japan, don’t use images primarily showing Westerners, or you will risk alienating your target market.

    3. Make use of local trust anchors

Ensure local trust anchors are used frequently throughout the site to build consumer confidence in your brand. This means using local telephone numbers, having a local address and using local currencies on the site. Always ensure the correct language is used consistently.

It’s surprising how many sites out there have English language hard-coded into the CMS, so snippets of English language text appear on their international sites. Imagine coming across a /en-gb/ targeted site that had snippets of Chinese language running through it. Would you buy from it?

    4. Decide on your domain strategy

There are different options available when it comes to domain strategy. There isn’t a one size fits all approach – it really depends on the business needs and requirements. However, in general, domain strategies are listed below in order of preference:

         I.    Country code top-level domains (ccTLD’s) – this approach is favoured by many international sites.

  • A ccTLD is automatically geo-targeted and gives the strongest indicator to search engines as to what the target country is.
  • A crawlable country selector can be used which connects and passes link power throughout all country variations of the site.
  • More trusted by searchers and potentially gain a higher click-through rate.

However, in some countries a physical presence in the country is needed to get a ccTLD, so it’s important to understand what the requirements are before deciding on your strategy.

       II.    Sub-folders – the use of sub-folders is also common place for international sites, but think carefully before using this approach:

  • A country sub-folder benefits from the domain power of the main site. This will help with rankings when the site is initially launched.
  • A sub-folder is not automatically geo-targeted and you will need to set the target country in Google Search Console. However, this is still not as strong an indicator as a ccTLD.
  • Hreflang – it is not uncommon to see Google ranking the wrong version of the site in the wrong country, even with the geo-target set. Often times Google will rank the /en-gb/ version in Australia, the US or vice-versa. In these cases, hreflang needs to be implemented to give an extra signal to Google what the target country is

     III.    Sub-domains – a sub-domain is not automatically geo-targeted, and neither does it benefit from the strength of the main domain. For these reasons, it is the least preferred option and wouldn’t be recommended.

    5. Linguistics – get translation right!

This may sound obvious but it’s surprising how many people get it wrong! Never, ever use a translation tool like Google Translate for your website translation. Ever. They are not capable of producing the kind of accuracy needed for professional websites and translations of this kind are more likely to make people laugh than they are to breathe an air of professionalism. Always use a professional, native translator.

Source: Buzzfeed

It’s so important to get this right. If a visitor doesn’t trust your site because of poor use of language, sales are unlikely to follow.

International SEO is a vast topic and can literally be discussed for days, but hopefully these pointers will help to set you in the right direction! If you'd like to have a chat about your international strategy please get in touch