International SEO Resource

International SEO Strategy


International SEO: Online Website Expansion

Online Website Expansion


International Search is one of the most misunderstood aspects of SEO. International SEO is more than HREFLANG, ccTLDs (country-targeted top level domains), and geo-targeting. Your business needs to plan out the expansion and understand your users in the current market, as well as those in the markets into which you want to expand.

If you are embarking on the journey to expand your business internationally, there are a few things you will need to explore before your site changes. You need to know:

  • the countries into which you're expanding,
  • those countries' main languages, and
  • how your business offerings might change in the new markets

We have a tool that will walk you through the questions for developing the correct international technical SEO roadmap.

Does your
business
change in different
countries?
Would it make sense
to an international
visitor to see
different site content?
Do you have
the resources
to differentiate
the content?
Are you targeting
countries that have
different languages than
your native language?
Are there multiple
official languages
for any of these
countries?
Do you plan on
offering the site
content in all
official languages?

Focus on the Languages


Your answers indicate that your business offerings are the same for users across the web, but they speak different languages. Translating your content and indicating those translations to the search engines is the best route for you to take.

Action Items:

  1. Translate your content. Don't machine translate; while manual translation is costly, it's the best for your brand and user experience.
  2. Put your HREFLANG in XML sitemaps. This is not your only option, but it keeps code off your page, which will increase page speed.
  3. Use the Language Meta tag for Bing translation targeting.
  4. Don't use a ccTLD. That is for Geo-targeting only.

Keep in Mind:

You don't need to mess with ccTLDs or geotargeting; all you need to worry about is producing good translations of your content and correct site markup.

Focus on the Country


Based on your answers, it sounds like you don't need to worry about translating your content! This is great news; translation can be a very time-consuming process. Since you noted your business offerings change depending on the country, you will need to develop either site sections or whole new websites dedicated to those countries.

Action Items:

  1. Pick the URL structure for your international growth and stick with it.
  2. Set up Google Webmaster Tools Geo-Targeting.
  3. Set up Bing Webmaster Tools Geo-Targeting.

Tips:

  • Don't use HREFLANG; you are not translating inside a country, so it's not necessary.
  • Don't use IP detection for country targeting, but ask your customers to set a cookie.
  • The content and marketing in each targeted country has to be different.
  • Only use people native to the country for outreach in order to minimize cultural differences.
Pros
  • Most direct signal that the content is targeted at that country
  • Automatically set up in Webmaster Tools as geo-targted

Cons
  • Must purchase domains and hosting
  • Must maintain separate sites
  • Sometimes tough to get at ccTLD if the business is not formally setup inside the country
Pros
  • Easy to setup
  • Server can be located elsewhere (very small signal to search engines)
  • No purchasing necessary

Cons
  • Not as strong from a domain authority perspective
  • Must follow the steps to claim and geo-target each subdomain
Pros
  • Easy to setup
  • No purchasing necessary
  • Low maintenance

Cons
  • Must follow the steps to claim and geo-target each subdomain

Take the Integrated Approach


Your answers indicate that you are going to need an integrated approach to international expansion. Not only does your audience in each country need to see different things, they also need translated content. This is the most complicated of the options, but we are here to help you through this.

Keep in Mind:

  1. The site content in each country must be different.
  2. Don't use IP detection for country targeting, but ask your customers to set a cookie.
  3. Only use people native to the country for outreach in order to minimize cultural differences.

Action Items:

  1. Pick the URL structure for your international growth and stick with it. Keep in mind that the structure needs to include both translations and geo-targeting. We recommend one of the following options:
    • ccTLD and subfolder:
      www.domain.co.uk/de/product
    • ccTLD and parameter:
      www.domain.co.uk/product?lang=fr
    • Subdomain and parameter:
      ca.domain.com/product?lang=fr
    • Subdomain and subfolder:
      ca.domain.com/fr/product
    • Subfolder and parameter:
      www.domain.com/ca/product?lang=fr
  2. Translate your content. Don't machine translate; while manual translation is costly, it's the best for your brand and user experience.
  3. Put your HREFLANG in XML sitemaps.
  4. Use the Language Meta tag for Bing translation targeting.
  5. Set up Google Webmaster Tools Geo-Targeting.
  6. Set up Bing Webmaster Tools Geo-Targeting.

Thank you Kate Morris for sharing the original International SEO Strategy quiz and bringing this to the Outspoken Media team for a facelift!