Look, I’m not going to beat around the bush.
The other day one of my friends asked me if his website has to position in other countries, to have a better chance of success.
Has it crossed your mind too?
No man no.
Don’t make that mistake.
Read this guide on international SEO first because I am going to teach you when you have to direct your efforts to position internationally, how you have to do it and what frequent mistakes you should avoid.
3, 2, 1, ready?
What is an international SEO
I am not going to stop much in this section because I think we have it clear.
Doing international SEO is positioning a website in more than one country.
Thus, if you have a website receiving traffic from Google India and other search engines in another version then you can create different versions of your website directed to different countries to a position outside of India (or your country) as well.
For example, if you want to position in Google Mexico, you will have to create a version of your page geolocated for Mexico that helps you position in Mexican search engines.
There’s no more.
When to do international SEO
Here is the question kit.
Not knowing how to do it and launching it is a common mistake, but launching a website to rank in other countries without having signs of any kind is even more so.
👉🏽 Let’s see, are you receiving traffic from Mexico to dedicate your efforts to creating specific content for all Mexicans and positioning there?
That is the question you should ask yourself.
We are going to forget about the big brands with many resources and we are going to think about a small English e-commerce.
Why would you allocate investment to enter the Mexican market without knowing if your products are of interest in that market?
Not everyone has to do international SEO and it is important that you understand this.
🔎 Open your Google Analytics and check your international organic search visibility, traffic and conversions. Do so by reviewing the countries and languages section.
With this data in hand, do you think your product/service can satisfy the needs of users outside the national border?
If so, go ahead, allocate resources to do international SEO because it will be the best way to reach them.
Of course, do it well because your brand reputation is at stake and if you are already doing well in one market, you can lose in both: the new one and the one you had already worked on.
Having clarified this, let’s get to the heart of the matter: how to implement international SEO?
4 Common mistakes when doing SEO in various countries
Before telling you which are the good practices that you should follow when positioning yourself in various countries, I think it is important to point out the errors that I have been seeing since I started in this.
#Error1. Thinking only of Google
Yes, it represents a high percentage of use.
Well of course! It is the most used search engine in the world.
But there are others.
Baidu already represented 10.11% last year, followed by Bing (5.09%), Yahoo!, Yandex, Ask or DuckDuckGo.
I am telling you in a worldwide, but depending on the country, some search engines are used more or less within national borders.
Do you understand where I’m going?
I am sure that these global figures will rise in 2020 and will continue to rise more and more, but focus on the search engine that is most used in the country where you want to position and, if it is worth it, check the documentation because you will have to learn about the classification algorithms used by each.
Take them into account in your online visibility strategy, both within India and abroad.
#Error2. Choice of international structure for SEO
There is no better way than another that we can standardize to say, “the best way to do international SEO is this.”
Each project, depending on its current domain authority and financial resources, will have to select the best possible international URL structure for its website.
There are three types of international URLs you can choose from, and all have their advantages and disadvantages:
Rank with a ccTLD for each country or language
If you are already working with a ccTLD domain for a specific country, it would be a good idea to choose a ccTLD for each country in which you want to position.
Note: there are two types of domains. GTLD domains are generic and valid for positioning in any country, while ccTLD domains are geolocated for a specific country.
Examples of international SEO positioning with ccTLDs:
- site.uk (for the UK)
- site.mx (for Mexico)
Obviously, you can’t make subdomains or subfolders if you currently have an authoritative ccTLD and want to keep it. It is already geolocated for one country and it would not make much sense to use it for others.
Use a subfolder for each country
Or subdirectories. Call it whatever you want.
It would be something like this:
They have an essential disadvantage that has to do with “geotargeting” or geolocation. Also, since they only allow a single location on the server, things get a bit tricky.
It is not that it cannot be done, but you have to see it very clearly if you opt for this option.
And of course, it’s only done if you have a gTLD domain.
Use a subdomain for each country
They are usually used when your main domain is a gTLD.
In this way, the authority of the main domain is used, but good geolocation must be carried out through Google Search Console and even use different locations optimized for each country on the server.
If you do it well, it can be the best structure to succeed with your international positioning.
To do this, go to Google Search Console and click on “Legacy Tools and Reports.”
Then click on “international targeting”, as shown in the image:
If you have the hreflang tag correctly configured, you will see the languages in the first tab:
If you don’t know what the hreflang tag is and how to use it, calm down because I’ll explain it later.
In the second tab, you must select the country for each subdomain from the drop-down.
The worst drawback of doing international SEO with subdomains is that it creates a lot of confusion for users because not everyone knows that “.de” is the geolocation of domains in Germany. Come on, that seeing “de.site.com” as they do not understand.
#Error3. The country without law
Reviewing the commercial legislation of the country where you want to position to sell your product or service is essential to avoid getting into a good deal of trouble.
And believe me, when I talk about a mess, it’s MISC.
For example, you have to be very careful in certain countries when positioning your product as “the best.”
In addition, you can also be influenced by all the legislation related to privacy and data protection, as well as laws related to the location of your servers.
And those are just examples.
#Error4. Translate to rank now!
I could say that it is the most common mistake and I would not be wrong, so I confirm it: it is the most frequent mistake when doing international SEO.
The automatic translation is the fastest way to fail to make international SEO positioning.
Moreover, the translation itself even carried out by professionals in the area, does not guarantee success when it comes to positioning your content in another country.
You know why?
Because each country has “its own”. Even within the country itself, each geographic area has its customs, its origins, its jargon or its “idea of life.”
That is why it is so important to tailor your content to the marketing and advertising preferences of the geographic area you are targeting.
Perhaps a phrase in your current language strategically placed before a call to action (CTA) determines that the user clicks and the conversion occurs, but that same phrase translated into another language does not contribute anything to the reader.
Not going too long, the idea I want to convey to you is that: perhaps you need to create totally new content for that other country and it has nothing to do with the content you are using now.
Simply adjust it to your SEO strategy for keywords and search intentions.
And nothing happens!
How to do international SEO (well done)
Now that we know what are the mistakes that are usually made in SEO when doing an international expansion, we can see clearly what are the good practices to rank website in different countries.
Obviously, it will depend on the URL structure you have chosen and the authority of your initial domain, among other things.
However, I have compiled the “basics” that you should know and take into account, yes because Google itself includes them in its Help Center for webmasters.
We see it below.
Multilingual vs Multi-regional
We speak of a multilingual website when there is content in more than one language.
Okay, Lasya, and how do I handle this?
Well, what we mentioned before: if you have identical content in several languages on the same website, you will have to make it clear to users and Google which one is correct and you will do so through different URLs for each language; the corresponding hreflang tag, which I will talk about below; or the sitemaps.
Google highlights in its guide the idea that I mentioned above. If you have a single content translated into different languages and it shows up in search results with multiple languages, the user experience can be dire.
For these pages with automatic translations, and in order to avoid bad UX, the solution proposed by Google is to block crawling through the robots.txt file.
Come on, let the user change the language of the page and add hyperlinks to the versions in other languages to facilitate the task.
☠️ Google does not recommend automatic redirects based on the language perceived by the user.
It is for the simple fact that it could prevent the visibility of these URLs to search engines and the user.
Finally, just add that we call a multi-regional website that is aimed at users from different countries. For example, an Indian store that ships to Italy and France. So Google will find the page for the correct region.
Hreflang: Geolocate your website
If you have a generic ccTLD such as a .com, .net, or .eu domain, specify the destination location from the international targeting report from Google Search Console, as explained at the beginning of this guide.
Be careful, if you have a URL that goes to several countries, it doesn’t make sense to use Search Console’s segmentation.
Be especially careful because this international SEO and geolocation is a sensitive issue. That is why it is so important to include links so that the user can go to the version of the country they want and that you build a well-thought-out URL structure according to your current domain.
That said, you will need the hreflang tag to tell Google which pages apply to different locations or languages.
What is the hreflang tag
Hreflang is an HTML tag that tells search engines the relationship between pages in different languages on a website.
To be understood: Using hreflang or sitemaps for a specific language or region pages is for Google to direct users to the appropriate version of your page based on language or region/country.
Anyone who wants to optimize an international website must know it and know how to use the hreflang tag correctly. It is essential.
It is important to say at this point that Google only considers duplicate content in the main text of the page if it remains untranslated in the different URLs.
That said, I leave you a couple of examples of hreflang tags:
<link rel = »alternate» hreflang = »en-gb» href = »http://www.site.com/uk/» />
<link rel = »alternate» hreflang = »en-de» href = »http://www.site.com/de/» />
Where and how to place it?
Google itself tells us how to do it and they give us up to three possible ways to insert the hreflang tag:
1. HTML in the <head> of the page
I have said <head> and not <header>.
The attribute is inserted with three variables:
- rel = »alternate». It acts similar to a canonical one and is essential because it is the part that tells the search engine that there is another version of the page.
- href = »(URL)». Is the location of the specified page.
- hreflang = »(language code and country code). In this case, the governing codes are those of the ISO 639-1 standard and must be in this order. Example: «mx» for Mexico.
2. In the HTTP header when there is no HTML (for example, in PDFs)
To make it clear to search engines the language and country in content without HTML we will use HTTP, although this slows down the browsing experience a lot.
For you to see in an example, if you have a PDF in English and French version, the link in the HTTP header will be like this:
- http://en.site.com/document.pdf>; rel = »alternate»; hreflang = »en»
- http://fr.site.com/document.pdf; rel = »alternate»; hreflang = »fr»
3. In the sitemap of the website
The hreflang tag can also be implemented through the sitemap.xml file.
To do this, add an <loc> element that specifies a single URL, with the child (xhtml: link> in the alternate entries for each language/region on the page, including itself.
To understand this: if you have three versions, you will have a sitemap with 3 entries, each with 3 equal child entries.
Look, it is difficult to explain in simple words, so let us see with an example for a more clear picture:
- We have a website with the page for the Spanish language
- Another page for German.
- Another daughter page for the Germans in Switzerland.
The sitemap for the three pages would look like this:
<span class=“has-inline-color has-vivid-green-cyan-color”><?xml version=“1.0” encoding=“UTF-8”?>
Be careful with the language, country or region codes.
In any case, if you have doubts when creating the code, you can try the hreflang tag generator.
Finally, be careful also when placing the hreflang tags because the two pages must point to each other or the tag will be ignored.
This is done with the idea that no one can put a hreflang tag on their page as an alternative to yours without your consent (if you don’t return the link with the tag, it doesn’t work).
Final International SEO Tips by Country
To summarize all this incredible mini-guide that I just marked:
- Check your website traffic originating from other countries and languages. You can do it through Google Analytics and you should look at the volume, the trend, the keywords for which they are landing and on which pages they do it most.
- Identify your online visibility in other countries for different keywords. Do it through tools like Google Webmaster Tools, Semrush or similar.
- Make keyword research with the countries and languages that you identified in the previous point.
- Study the behaviour and characteristics of your audience from other countries.
- Analyze the market in that other country, as well as the laws and the type of marketing that works there.
- Select the appropriate URL structure to internationalize your project. We saw it at the beginning: you can do it through subdirectories, subdomains or ccTLDs for each country.
- Make sure the user can find the version for their language easily. And also make sure to confirm the language of your content with a “content-language” meta tag in the HTML of the head section of each page.
- Geolocate your content using the option provided by Google Search Console (old version).
- Use an IP from the country in which you want to position, preferably.
- When doing SEO, for example, creating links for your link building strategy, make sure that the links originate from websites in the country where you want to position.
And up to here everything I had to tell you about international SEO. As you will see, it is a little different from the SEO we know. The important thing is to have a strategy and do a good analysis of the audience and the market you want to attack and then follow Google’s guidelines regarding geolocation.
Do you still have any queries regarding International SEO? Comment below and let us get it clarified.