Four international SEO tips to effectively optimise your website

Nicola Winters

Head of International

International SEO

When it comes to global expansion, there is a more than one-size-fits-all approach. Each international market comes with its own unique set of opportunities and challenges. So, adapting and localising your website in line with these is crucial to achieving global SEO success.

So you begin thinking globally and acting locally, we’ve asked our mother-tongue marketers, who have local experience in their native markets, to come together and share four of their top international SEO tips, hints, and tricks, to help you effectively optimise your website for users in a new territory.

1. Localise your website and its content


One of the most common mistakes many companies make is building a website solely in English instead of the local language. That’s why it is best international SEO practice to localise content in the country’s respective language. If not, you might be missing out on a sizable bulk of potential customers. It’s more than just language you need to consider. Cultural nuances need to be considered in a new market, too.

A practical international SEO tip when localising your website is to put two or three existing keywords in the page title. This lets you perform international keyword research and expose those target key phrases to the localisation process. Then, when it comes to localising the entire webpage, you can research the local equivalents in the target language and choose the correct version for SEO based on search volume, competitiveness, and strategic importance.


2. Have a go at A/B testing


Even with extensive market research, it’s unlikely that you will get everything right first time. Understanding a new global audience takes time, but you can get a better picture by implementing A/B testing. Switching up page layouts and content to understand the highest engagement levels is best practice when approaching international SEO.

3. Get hreflang tags set up correctly


When we are often asked, ‘How do you do effective SEO in multiple countries?’ there is one technical SEO method that can work very well, and that is hreflang.

A hreflang tag is a code used to tell search engine robots which pages have been duplicated from a parent website into another language and belong together. A hreflang tag allows you to maintain your local domain and creates a localised version of a webpage that is targetable in different regions. It is useful for two scenarios:

  1. When a site has multiple pages offering the same information in the same language, but the content itself is regional.
  2. When a website has the same content in different languages, designed for users searching in different locations, g., Portuguese for Portugal and Portuguese for Brazil.

So, all duplicate or translated content on your website, needed in different languages or countries, should be marked up with hreflang code. If you implement hreflang incorrectly, it can affect search engine rankings, visibility, your original website, and all other connected sites, too.

That is why it is best international SEO practice when using hreflang to place the code as close to the <head> of the page as possible. This enables search engine bots to read and crawl the link so they understand how the pages correlate with each other straight away.

If putting the tags as close to the head of the page isn’t possible, avoid placing them under complex scripts that take time to load. These scripts can affect the crawlability of a site and mean hreflang alternate pages can’t be discovered.



4. Choose the best domain structure


If you don’t want to use hreflang, our last international SEO tip is to select an appropriate domain structure for your new website. There are three options to choose from:

  • ccTLD (an example would be for France)
  • sub-folder (
  • sub-domain (

We’ve found that many clients need help with this decision, as understanding the subtle differences and each domain’s impact can be confusing. That’s why we’ve outlined certain considerations to help you select the right domain structure for your website.




With a ccTLD, the domain authority for each site would be self-contained and not shared across the sites. If using a sub-folder, each subfolder would benefit from the link authority possessed by the top-level domain, mainly if internal links were effectively used. However, with a sub-domain, the site will need help to benefit from the authority held by the main site.




A native user in each market is likely to place the highest trust in a ccTLD specific to their country or region. A localised subfolder or sub-domain would be looked upon favourably, but the native users may place less trust in these than a ccTLD.




With a ccTLD, the additional cost of buying, setting up, and maintaining each domain could be costly, depending on the website’s size. At the same time, there would be a lower cost to set up each sub-folder or sub-domain and maintain them through the parent domain.


Location signals


The strength of the signal passed to search engines as to which region your content is targeting. Top-level segmentation (such as sub-folder or sub-domain) is recommended over no segmentation. A ccTLD is a strong location signal to Google, which increases ranking potential. Google would favourably view the region-specific sub-folder or sub-domain, but only if hosted on a generic top-level domain such as .com or .org.

Short-term impact


It would take a while to build link authority for a brand-new domain (ccTLD), and therefore, your website may rank slower than a sub-folder, where more immediate authority would be passed through to the site. It can also take time to build link authority for a brand-new sub-domain; therefore, your site may take longer to rank than a sub-folder. A sub-folder holds inbound link authority due to being hosted on the top-level domain.


Long-term impact


Ultimately, it’s down to each website and the business’s unique needs. If a company wants its various country sites to rank as quickly as possible, implementing a localised sub-folder structure can hold a lot of link authority and be an immediate benefit. However, if long-term consumer trust is more important to a business, then an authoritative domain on a unique ccTLD may be the most appealing choice, due to it having stronger long-term ranking potential.


No matter the market, the processes that make up international SEO best practices are the same: our experts identify the technical issues, test engagement in new markets, and localise your content to attract your target audience.

Are you keen to grow international SEO on your company website?Contact us to learn how we can help you


Four considerations to help determine which international market is right for your organisation

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