4 International SEO Tips to Effectively Optimize Your Website

Nicola Winters

Head of International

International SEO

When it comes to global expansion, there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Each international market comes with its own unique set of opportunities and challenges. Adapting and localizing your website in preparation for these difficulties is crucial to achieving SEO success in a different regional market.

To help you think globally while acting locally, we’ve asked our native-speaking marketers to come together and share four top international SEO tips and tricks to help you effectively optimize your website for users in a new territory.

1. Localize your website and its content


One of the most common mistakes organizations make is building a website solely in English rather than localizing the website in the correct regional language. Without that change, you risk alienating potential customers and missing many opportunities to increase revenue. And it’s not just elements of translation you must consider – cultural nuances can also make or break your success with a new demographic.

A practical international SEO tip when localizing a website is to put two or three existing keywords in a page title. By performing international keyword research prior, your team can identify and target those valuable phrases that will assist in the localization process. Then, when translating the entire webpage, you can research local equivalents in the target language and choose the correct translation for SEO based on search volume, competitiveness, and strategic importance.


2. Try A/B testing


Even with extensive market research before the website launch, it’s unlikely that your team will get everything right the first time.

Understanding a new global audience takes time, and you can get a better picture by implementing A/B testing and other forms of experimentation to identify the right strategies that engage your new audience. Switching up page layouts and content to understand what leads to the most engagement is the best practice when approaching any element of SEO, international or not.

3. Set up hreflang correctly


How do you effectively structure SEO in multiple countries? The answer is simple, though the pronunciation may be hard. Meet hreflang.

hreflang tag is a code that tells search engine bots which pages are duplicates from a parent website, with one translated into another language but still communicating the same content. You want to ensure that these bots tie these two pages together so you aren’t penalized for duplicate content.

Hreflang allows you to maintain your local domain while creating a localized version of a webpage that you can use in different regions. 

The code is helpful in two scenarios:

  1. When a website 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 from different locations.

All duplicate content translated into a different language or targeting a specific country should marked with a hreflang code on your website. Failure to implement the hreflang code correctly will affect search engine visibility for the page and your original website network.

With that in mind, we recommend placing the hreflang code as close to the <head> of the page as possible. Adding the hreflang code here enables search engine bots to read and crawl the link straightaway to understand how the pages relate.

If this isn’t possible, avoid placing the code under complex scripts that take time to load. These scripts can affect the bot’s ability to crawl a site, and the search bot will have issues discovering the alternative pages with hreflang.






4. Choose the best domain structure


If you want to avoid 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 sitename.fr for France)
  • sub-folder (sitename.com/fr)
  • sub-domain (fr.sitename.com).

As a digital marketing agency dedicated to building strategic partnerships, we’ve found that many clients need more information when considering these options. This decision is undoubtedly getting into incredibly technical territory. 

Here, we’ve outlined six considerations to help you select the most suitable domain structure for your website.


A) Authority


With a ccTLD, the domain authority for each site is self-contained and not shared across the sites. By creating subfolders, each would benefit from the link authority of the top-level domain, especially if your team has integrated internal linking effectively. However, with a sub-domain, the site will need help to benefit from the authority held by the leading site.


B) Trust


A native user in each market will likely place the highest trust in a ccTLD specific to their country or region. A localized subfolder or sub-domain is preferred, but native users may put less trust in these than a ccTLD.


C) Cost


With a ccTLD, the additional expense of buying, setting up, and maintaining each domain could drain your budget, depending on the size of your website. Alternatively, setting up and maintaining each subfolder or sub-domain through the parent domain may cost fewer resources.


D) Location signals


To ensure a strong signal to search engines, clearly identifying your target market, we recommend top-level segmentation (such as subfolder or sub-domain) over no segmentation. A ccTLD is a solid location signal to Google, which increases ranking potential. Google would favorably view the region-specific subfolder or sub-domain, but only if hosted on a generic top-level domain such as .com or .org.

E) 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.


F) Long-term impact


Ultimately, it’s down to each website and the business’s unique needs.

If a company wants regional versions of its site to rank as quickly as possible, implementing a localized subfolder structure can lead to solid link authority and an immediate benefit. However, if long-term consumer trust is more important to a business, an authoritative domain on a unique ccTLD may be the most appealing choice due to its more substantial long-term ranking potential.


No matter the market, the processes that make up the best international SEO practices are the same.

As a digital marketing agency focused on international brand awareness initiatives, our experts identify the technical issues, test engagement in new markets, and localize your content to attract your target audience.

Looking for experts to audit your international SEO?Contact us today