As a business leader running an international brand or online portal, one of your tasks is to ensure that your brand and online presence reaches the eyes and ears of an international audience. You need to reach as many online markets as you can in order to position your brand as the leader in your industry, and attract a global customer base to your website. This is where international SEO comes in as the best and only real way to improve your ranking in the local SERPs around the world.
Simply put, international SEO is a branch of SEO that deals in optimizing your site in such a way that search engines get clear signals on when, where, and how to showcase your site, based on the exact language and country you’re targeting. Needless to say, optimizing your site for international SEO should be your no.1 priority if you want to build a global brand, so let’s take a look at the most effective tips to integrate this solution and boost your ranking.
Creating a multilingual website
First things first, it’s important that you translate your site into multiple languages, not just so that Google can rank you in specific countries and showcase the right version of your site for the local audience, but also to allow for a more seamless browsing experience and a higher overall UX – which are also important ranking factors. That said, it’s also important to note that you shouldn’t just invest in translating your site into every possible language, rather, you should invest time in methodical research and only then decide on the best markets to invest in.
After all, there’s not much use in translating your site to Swedish if you have zero Swedish customers. What’s more, keep in mind that Google emphasizes search personalization, so it’s important that you consider the native languages some minorities speak in your own country as well, so that your site ranks better on the national market.
Leverage hreflang tags to boost ranking
To put it simply, hreflang tags are those small snippets of code your developers should put on your website if you have numerous languages. Hreflang tags help Google boost your ranking by effectively matching the language on your site with the individual and their search preferences and habits, which ultimately makes for a seamless browsing experience and improves overall UX. Search engines will use various data to determine the user’s language preferences, such as device and user settings, search history, location, Google domain, and more.
This is why it’s important to use hreflang tags in your code. You can integrate the mandatory hreflang tag – the language code – and the optional hreflang tag – which is a country code. You can mix and match these tags to target different demographics in different markets, such as using the “en-US” tag to target English speakers in the US, or perhaps the “en-DE” tag to target English speakers in Germany, and so on and so forth. Keep in mind that you use your hreflang tags in only one specific location on your site (the source code of the header on each page, the HTTP header on every page, or the sitemap), so choose the one that’s easier for you to maintain.
Stay up to date on international search engines
In order to win at international SEO, you need to think outside of the “Google box” and consider all of the local search engines that different markets around the world use. For example, everyone knows that Baidu dominates the Chinese marketplace, but according to the news portal Week in China there is another search engine on the rise in the market with new perks that threatens to dethrone the two-decade-old search engine.
This is the type of information you absolutely need to know if you are to optimize your site accordingly, predict industry trends, and act proactively to develop your competitive edge in such a massive marketplace. With that in mind, always keep a watchful eye on the latest news about local search engines in the countries where you have a presence.
Choosing and optimizing your domain structure
Another important ranking factor for international SEO is the structure of your site’s domain. The way you structure your domain will make it easier or harder for Google to rank you, but it will also make it easier or harder for you to manage, so there’s no cookie-cutter solution.
You can choose a separate domain for every country (.com, .co.uk, .au, etc.), you can choose multiple subdomains under a global one (en.yoursite.com, de.yoursite.com, etc.), or you can choose subcategories on a global domain (yoursite.com/de, and the like).
Improve international SEO with other search engine signals
And lastly, be sure to use other nuanced signals to help search engines rank your site higher in the relevant SERPs. These signals include search engine preferences (Baidu vs Google, etc.), device preferences (tablet, desktop, mobile), local currencies on your site, location data for your local offices, and links to local social media profiles. Don’t forget to include these ranking signals in your international strategy to maximize your site’s ranking potential.
International SEO is a big part of success when it comes to global online expansion. If you have dreams of entering and conquering international markets, then you have to ensure that your site will rank high in the local marketplace, so be sure to use these tips to improve your site’s standing and establish yourself as an authority brand across the globe.