International SEO: Optimize Your Website to Capture a Global Audience

International SEO: Optimize Your Website to Capture a Global Audience

When running a business that shows local success, the next logical step would be to expand into new markets. And we are talking about supplying products to other countries, but not only. In the age of globalization, it is expected that we have different cultures and people speaking different languages within the borders of one country.

Representatives of nationalities other than your own can become your loyal customers. All you need is to optimize your website to attract the attention of this global community! You're about to learn what international SEO is and why you should go global at all. Also, you'll learn best practices for international SEO. So let's get to work!

What Is International SEO?

You may come across the name 'international SEO,’ 'global SEO,’ or 'multilingual SEO,’ and it all means the same. So we have the terminology covered. What about the definition?

International SEO is one of the most prominent digital marketing services. It is a process based on optimizing your website to rank in regional search engines. This way, you get organic traffic to your page from the different countries you are trying to reach with your offer. Apart from the countries, also the languages spoken by the given internet users are taken into consideration when developing an international SEO strategy, as, for example, the number of Spanish speakers is much higher than the population of Spain.

Why Should You Go International at All?

Let's say you run a business where your main product is well-designed sunglasses. If they're selling well, you've definitely thought about expanding your presence to other countries. This is why international SEO can be used for. It will help you increase your website traffic, reach more customers and raise your brand recognition. And thus - you will simply sell more.

If there's one thing that can be said, the world is getting smaller and smaller. People from different countries are more and more connected through the internet. This allows them to share their experience with others, learn about new products and services, and even communicate with each other, which leads to an increased need for services and products.

Step-By-Step International SEO Optimization Checklist

Good intentions and even a great product are not enough to target the international community successfully. Be prepared to realistically assess your website’s international SEO potential and apply new technical solutions. When you tick off all the points from the checklist we have prepared, developing an international site will prove to be much easier. Let’s begin!

1. Identify Your International SEO Potential

First, you should do thorough research and see what your international SEO potential looks like. Start by measuring your current traffic from other languages and countries. Use Google Analytics and see the volume along with the used keywords of the conversions and visits per particular country and language.

Also, check the organic search visibility that you may get from other countries. You can use, for example, SEMRush and identify the pages that get search results from users coming from the countries you would like to focus your future activities on.

Don’t forget to do relevant keyword research too. Tools like Google Keyword Tool or Ubersuggest may come in handy.

What To Do if You Don’t Yet Have SEO Potential

Sometimes, it may be too early for you to implement International SEO efforts. The traffic simply may not compensate for a new web presence. However, that doesn't mean you should rest on your laurels. In the meantime, get busy:

  • First, reserve the country domains (ccTLDs). Of course, the domains of the countries whose citizens you want to target with your business.
  • Then use Google Analytics and set up an alert when specific countries and languages start bringing you enough traffic.

international business analytics

2. Target Your New Web Audience

Get to know your new cross-country audience in order to target them effectively!

Understand their demographic, cultural, and linguistic profile. Don't overlook their specific online behaviors, either.

Additionally, decide on one of two options: country targeting or language targeting. Choose the first one when location is important for selling your products or services (if you run a local beauty salon, people from other countries are unlikely to be interested). On the other hand, language targeting can be used when you want to reach customers who speak other languages and if you are able to send your product to them wherever they are in the world.

3. Develop an Internationally Targeted Website

Select your international site structure based on your chosen targeting method (country or language targeting). The most appropriate will be:

  • For Country Targeting - ccTLDs (e.g.
  • For Language Targeting - SubDirectories (e.g.

No one will prevent you from using SubDirectories or even SubDomains ( for country targeting. However, if you have a choice, these solutions will undoubtedly be inferior to the ones suggested above.

Build local popularity and trust. This is how you will be able to connect with your international community - by looking for local touchpoints. According to this France consumer market insight, for example, holding a .fr domain for your French pages helps maximize conversions due to the trust factor.  Also, get to know your competitors (those with whom you share an audience) and find out what type of content works best.

If it’s possible and if you’re country targeting, host your website with a local IP address. Specify the language of your content by including hreflang annotations in your HTML’s <head>, Sitemap, or HTTP. The purpose of the hreflang annotation is to indicate to Google that there are multiple versions of a URL for users speaking different languages or being from different countries.

Measure Your International SEO Process

Measuring your progress is essential when planning your next steps. It's pretty obvious, just how do you accomplish this and what is actually most important?

Set up tracking of your new sites. But most importantly, track the versions of your international sites individually. This means one thing. Create independent profiles in Google Analytics (properties for ccTLDs and profiles for subdomains and subdirectories).

The Bottom Line

As we established in the beginning, international SEO is something that you need to undertake in order to reach new customers with your growing business.

It is a secure way to get more traffic and more conversions. So, there is no doubt that using international SEO as a strategy to get new customers from different countries is a great idea. Use this quick guide to reach your cross-country audience and the languages they speak easily. Good luck!

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