International SEO: Expanding Your Reach to Global Markets

International SEO: Expanding Your Reach to Global Markets

The internet’s accessibility makes connecting with audiences in different countries much easier for businesses. Thereby, offering tons of potential for increasing your website’s traffic and revenue. To start to make the most of this, you can optimize your website to maximize your chances of appearing in international search engine results pages (SERPs). Thus, growing your global reach. When you implement international SEO, correctly, it can be a highly powerful tool.

What is International SEO?

International SEO involves optimizing your website in a way that enables search engines to accurately determine the specific countries you aim to target and the languages you use for business.

It isn’t too different from the ‘typical’ SEO that you might be familiar with and currently using for your website. However, instead of optimizing your site for driving traffic from your current city or country, you’re optimizing it for different countries and languages.

International SEO can be easier to understand if you think of it as a form of geo-targeting.

The main three elements you need to have in place to get started optimizing your site for international SEO are:

  1. Country targeting: Specify which country you want to target with an international-friendly URL structure.
  2. Language targeting: State what language your website is targeting by using language tags.
  3. Create content in your target user’s language.

Does Your Website Need International SEO?

Have a look at your Google Analytics. Does a good portion of your website traffic come from either a different country than where your headquarter is? Or, do they speak different languages? If so, it might be time to make some adjustments to your site. This can improve the user experience for international visitors.

However, you don’t have to implement all three of the main elements above if you only need to target a specific country or language. For example, making your website target the English language rather than a specific country means that you target any other English-speaking countries such as the USA or Australia.

Benefits of International SEO

There are several benefits to using international SEO techniques on your website. However, one of the main benefits is that it allows search engines to identify which countries your business wants to target.

Another key benefit of international SEO is accommodating your website’s content to a user’s native language, which should improve the user experience for them. Thus, by creating relevant content for these users, international SEO can help improve rankings in these areas and bring more traffic to your website.

URL Structure

There are many domain types and URL structures that can target a specific country:

  • Country Code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD)
  • Subdomain
  • Subdirectory
  • Sub-Folder
  • Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) with Language Parameters
  • Different Domain

Country Code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD)

A ccTLD uses a two-letter code that appears at the end of a website’s address. It tells both users and search engines which country a website is registered in, for example, or, or


A subdomain is a piece of additional code that is added to the start of a website’s domain name. It allows a website to separate content or a version of the site, for example, A subdomain can be used for international SEO by creating a ‘different’ version of the website. This can be specific to a language or country, such as which would be a version of the site targeting Spain.


A subdirectory, also known as a subfolder, is a component of a website's hierarchical structure within a root domain. It employs folders to arrange and manage the content within a website. However, the terms "subdirectory" and "subfolder" are interchangeable and refer to the same concept. A benefit of using subdirectories is that the domain authority is consolidated.

An example of a subdirectory or subfolder being used for international SEO is:

gTLD with Language Parameters

A gTLD (General Top-Level Domain) is a top-level domain such as .com or .net, which can then be combined with language parameters in the URL to make the site target a specific language. This works in conjunction with a hreflang HTML tag to make sure the correct language and version are served to the user.

An example of a language parameter being used within a URL is:

Different Domains

An alternative solution for serving your webpage content to target a certain language is to create an entirely different domain. Furthermore, the content on this site should match the target language.

An example of a different domain could be:

Using Hreflang Tags

The ‘hreflang’ is an HTML attribute in your website’s code. It informs search engines about what language a website is written in, and the content it needs to serve to a user. Hreflang is commonly used in conjunction with subdirectories/subfolders for websites that have multiple versions using different languages.

Tailor Your Content to Your Target User

A large part of SEO is making the content on your website relevant to the target user. Search engines like Google work by trying to find the most relevant content based on a user’s search query. International SEO works the same way.

Even with the correct URL structure and usage of hreflang, you’ll need to make sure that your content is relevant to the user. This could be through matching their language or adapting the content. After all, you should take into account the country’s culture, while still providing valuable information.

The more relevant your content can be to the user, in both the value it provides and the language it’s in, the better. From the point of view of Tomedes, a leading translation company, they have stated that their clients have seen drastic improvements in the engagement of their websites once they have translated and created multilingual content based on the target users' cultural and linguistic preferences. In an article they published, they reiterated how international SEO requires a nuanced understanding of their target audience through keyword research and studying statistics and market demands.


Utilizing international SEO techniques can help to inform both your users and search engines of what language and country your website is targeting. This gives you the opportunity to create alternate language versions of pages. Thus, helping to increase the relevance your page’s content has to the target user. International SEO can help to drive traffic to your website and improve the engagement rate to be more relevant. Additionally, this increases the chance of a visitor converting to the next step in your customer journey.

If your goal is to target a particular country, consider utilizing a country code top-level domain (ccTLD). However, if your focus is solely on language targeting, using a ccTLD might not be the most suitable option. ccTLDs are primarily designed for geographically targeted audiences rather than language-specific ones. In such scenarios, it is advisable to employ alternative international SEO techniques like hreflang, subfolders, or subdomains with or as alternatives to ccTLDs.


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