by Jayson DeMers
Most business owners who practice search engine optimization (SEO) only focus on their country of origin. They write content for their home audience, and only pay attention to their rankings in the domestic version of Google (or whichever search engine is most popular there). And for the most part, this seems to work out fine–but if you want to see the best possible results, should you be worried about international SEO?
Why Consider International SEO?
Not all business owners will need to pursue international SEO, and not all sites will benefit from it. But if you have any of the following goals, international SEO may be able to help you achieve them:
- Targeting an audience in another country. The most common reason for practicing international SEO is a sophisticated form of geotargeting. Just like you might use local SEO to reach a population in your native city, you can use international SEO to target a population in a foreign country. For some businesses, this may mean capitalizing on a trend that’s currently popular elsewhere in the world. For others, it may mean expanding your potential audience to people all around the world.
- Taking advantage of demographic differences. You can also use international SEO if you plan on capitalizing on key differences between demographics. For example, according to Melbourne Media Consulting, Google is far and away the dominant search engine in Australia, with more than 90 percent of the search share. Different countries may have different search patterns, and learning to harness them could greatly improve your ranking potential.
- Building your brand image. You may also want to establish international rankings and visibility if you want to build your brand’s image and reputation. After all, a company with clients in countries all over the world will appear to be more established and more successful than one that only operates locally.
Let’s say you’re interested in pursuing international SEO, or at least learning more about it. What steps can you take to optimize your site for another country?
The first step is to create a domain structure that works for your international audience. This isn’t strictly necessary to be visible in other countries, but it will help your site be categorized appropriately for other audiences, and ensure that your international-focused content is accepted by international audiences.
You have three main options here:
- A subdirectory. The easiest thing to do is to add an extension or subdirectory to your existing domain, such as domain.com/uk/ to target visitors from the UK. You don’t need to make any major architectural changes to your site, and could feasibly include dozens of pages with relative ease. This is ideal if international SEO is a secondary priority, and you want to save yourself some effort.
- A subdomain. You could also create a subdomain, to apply before your top-level domain (TLD). The example here would be uk.domain.com. This is a little more expensive and time-consuming to adopt, but provides a cleaner, more intuitive layout. It’s ideal if you have an entire site of content to translate, but you don’t want to purchase a new domain.
- A top-level domain (TLD). The most intensive option is to create a country-coded top-level domain (TLD or ccTLD). Here, the example would be domain.uk. This is the most official version, and the most comprehensive, but it’s also the most expensive and takes the most time to manage. While some countries’ domains are inexpensive and easy to procure, others can cost $1,000 or more, and require you to have a physical presence in that country. Still, this is ideal if you’re serious about plans for international expansion.
The next step is writing or translating content so that your international audience can read it. If you’re from the United States and optimizing for countries like Australia or the UK, you may not have to change much. But if you’re writing in a completely different language, you’ll need to use a different language meta tag on your site. Be sure to use an actual translator, too–Google Translate may be getting better, but it’s not foolproof, and you’ll want your international readers to see you as competent in their native language.
From there, you can boost your international standings by earning links from major domains in the country you’re optimizing for. For example, if you’re trying to get your site ranked in Australia, try to get links from major newspapers and publishing authorities related to your industry in Australia. It can boost your domain authority as well as your international relevance.
International SEO isn’t especially difficult, but it’s not worth the effort for every site. Consider your goals carefully, and decide whether it’s really worth the extra hours to reach a population in another country more effectively.
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