The Ultimate Checklist for International SEO

The year 2020 would go down in history as the year where the world paused and changed directions. People were further pushed to take their life online. This opened up new avenues for businesses. Many websites saw visitors from a different country than where they were located, spoke different languages etc. Hence there arose an increased need for optimizing the website for an international experience. If you are a company that seek to expand your online presence here is a checklist for an effective international SEO strategy

What Is International SEO and How Is It Different From Regular SEO?

International SEO is not a new concept, on the other hand, you may have known it for a long. It is more or less similar to geotargeting but instead of focusing on a city or a local area, you are focusing on countries you want to target and languages you use for business.

Often global sites of businesses are ‘copy and paste’ version of their home country websites. Agreed that translations and localization of content are the first steps of building a global website. But you need to optimize the websites for each country’s home audiences from the choice of words to the overall user experience. Optimizing content to work well in different countries requires an effective strategy, but ultimately it all depends on the execution.

Go through this check list to ensure your campaign and content are effective.

# 1 Hreflang – the International Setup

The hreflang attribute is an HTML attribute that indicates the language the content is displayed in and also the geolocation of the reader. The hreflang attribute cues the search engines that a user querying in language “x” will want the resultant page in language “x” instead of a page with the same content in language “y”.

For instance, if you create a Spanish version of your English-language homepage, you would tag it as “Español” by using hreflang=”es” so that searchers with an IP address from a Spanish speaking country be served the page displayed in Spanish and not in English. This can bring down your bounce rate and increase conversions by ensuring your target audience gets to see the version of your page most suited for them.

It can look like this:

<link rel=”alternate” href=”” hreflang=”en-es”>

This is important if you want to enter a certain geographic location and language.

But hreflang doesn’t work with Baidu or Bing.

Before going deeper into the technical optimization of your site, determine the search engine you want to focus on.

# 2 Choose an International Friendly URL Structure

To target your content to a particular country or audience, you need to consider URLs based on country code top-level domain (ccTLDs), subdomains, a subdirectories or subfolder, a gTLD with language parameters, or a different domain name entirely.

The method of determining the URL structure is resource dependent. In an ideal scenario, the best approach would be TLDs- if you can manage multiple domains simultaneously.

Or else, subdomains are the next alternative. If neither options are available, you might choose a subdirectory.

# 3 Prepare for Page Experience

While examining Google updates and recently with core web vitals becoming a ranking factor it is quite evident that there is more focus on improving an on-page experience. This becomes especially important if you handle international SEO.

In the course of improving page experience, probably the most important thing to be prepared for is the mobile– first (or mobile-only index). Mobile- first is a global issue and it is essential to be prepared for in every country that you open shop. 

# 4 Avoid Machine Translation

Although machine translation can reduce a lot of hassle and make translation quicker, it may not exactly convey your intent. Each language and dialect has nuances that machines might not understand and sending out a wrong message might bring down rankings. Hence it would be advisable to use local translators who also understand the significance of context. This will ensure that your reputation is safe with local users from their first interaction with your brand while they search.

# 5 Understand that Keywords & SERPs Vary from Country to Country

You would have noticed that results you get while searching for a product in India would be widely different from the results that you receive in US while searching for the same product.

This is because SERP’s vary widely on a local level based on different factors, even though Google algorithms are universal. So if you want to target a specific keyword in several countries start by analyzing the SERPs. Be conscious of the changes in search volumes and the context and meaning of the target keyword in the local language, as well, and take these into account while devising your country-level strategy. Look for keywords with strong search volume and intent for each country.

# 6 Don’t forget to E-A-T

E-A-T refers to “Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness”. Widely endorsed by Google in its Search Quality Raters Guidelines, these three attributes in content help in building trust.

Here are some factors that you should pay attention to:

  • Author names and short bios in the editorial content
  • Remove low E-A-T content
  • Strengthen your personal brand
  • Enhance technical security
  • Moderate user generated content which is highly significant for YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) websites. YMYL sites are businesses that offer services such as e-commerce, financial service, healthcare, and legal.

# 7 Don’t Just Build Links; Build Relationships

Yes, link building is still relevant at 2021. As they are based on the principle of recommendations, there is little chance of them leaving ranking factors. Although, Google has maintained its position that it doesn’t advocate link building, there are still many tactical ways to gain this stamp of trust.

Emphasize more on quality over quantity.

A link from a relevant site with domain rating of 50 and few outbound links will secure better rankings than links from irrelevant sites with domain rating less than 10.

Also, instead of buying into temptation from unsolicited LinkedIn connections to buy links from them, invest in building relationship with people from the industry that you work in.

Another thing to bear in mind is that for
international SEO too, links are given different values based on the origin of
the backlink.

For example your website receive backlinks from URLs ending with “.it” it sends the impression to the search engine that your site is relevant to audiences in Italy and it can therefore rank your site accordingly on local search results.

The idea behind international SEO is not about trying every trick in the bag but it is about finding what works best in each country and using that on a large scale. 

# 8 Keep track of International and Local Search Trends

In 2020 we saw a dramatic change in search volume and user behaviour due COVID apart from the general shift in our preferences and trends which vary from country to country.

For instance the keyword “working remotely” saw a whopping 82% increase in search volume from October 2019 to 2020 in US whereas UK saw an increased 175% for the same keyword in monthly search volumes. Analysing these results companies like Zoom facilitating remote work would know where to put in their next investment.

To know more about trends and volume search you can use Google Trends. Also, Google has released its Year in Search, which can provide a key understanding of the markets that you work in.

# 9. Create a Plan & Execute

In the world you might have all the analysis in the world but it is of no use if it is not implemented. With the above check list in hand, it would be easier for you to create an execution plan.

Break down your list into technical SEO, content and link building. Thereafter you can create your very own optimization calendar which would be great place to start.

Think Local to be Global

To simply put, thinking more locally is the key to take your business global. Each country is a market on its own. You have to bear this in mind to succeed. Your purpose with SEO services are often a larger brand voice, increased revenue and rise in quality leads. Hence it is essential to have a sound strategy in place. The above checklist based on the best practices in international SEO will help you make your business a global one.

Verbat Technologies is one of the largest SEO specialists in the industry. For your SEO and digital marketing, queries contact us. . Take advantage of our spectrum of digital marketing services to dominate the competition.

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