Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- What is International SEO?
- Do not translate your keywords
- Do not use machine translation or AI-generated content on its own
- Do not use IP address detection to redirect website visitors
- Do not overcomplicate your semantics
- Do not ignore cultural nuances or make assumptions about your target audience.
- Do not assume the same terminology can be used across countries sharing the same language.
- Do not overlook local link-building
- Do not ignore other search engines
- Do not fail to research and comply with local laws
- Don’t Neglect Mobile Responsiveness:
When it comes to expanding your business globally, implementing international SEO best practices can make all the difference to success. However, implementing a successful global SEO strategy is not as easy as it seems, and it’s not as simple as just translating your website.
It requires a deep understanding of different cultures, languages, and search behaviors.
Let’s dive into the “international SEO do and don’ts” of mastering international SEO that will help you avoid common pitfalls and succeed in your global expansion efforts.
What is International SEO?
International SEO is all about search engine optimization for different countries and languages, which involves optimizing your website to show up in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Given the impressive annual growth rate of 18.7% in the global e-commerce market, optimizing your website for international search engines has never been more critical.
International SEO is all about optimizing a website for audiences and search engines from different countries and languages. It requires extensive research on the target market, including language preference, cultural differences, and search engine behavior.
Without proper planning and execution, your multilingual SEO campaign may not deliver the desired results. Therefore, it’s crucial to prepare thoroughly before launch.
Now let’s dive into do’s and don’ts of international SEO:
International SEO Don’ts
While proficiency in the do’s of international SEO is vital, recognizing and avoiding common pitfalls in global SEO campaigns is equally significant.
Do not translate your keywords
The No. 1 rule is the ‘Don’t talk about FightClub’ for International SEO: Do not translate your target keywords.
This is a widespread mistake that global companies make when deploying their search marketing strategies in translating keywords into different languages. This is a terrible practice. Every language needs to be treated separately, and location-based specific keyword research needs to be carried out.
Do not use machine translation or AI-generated content on its own
Machine translations can be way off the mark and result in a lousy user experience, negatively affecting your website’s SEO performance. Investing in professional translation or transcreation services is smarter than relying on machine translations, as it ensures accurate translations tailored to the target audience.
The bottom line is that machine translations via things like Google Translate APIs are a no-no for international SEO, as they can harm user experience and search engine rankings.
Likewise, AI copywriting tools are great to help build content at scale, and it has got tremendously sophisticated in 2023, but it is still not infallible and can often mislead the user if you don’t keep an aye on quality and manually check all the copy ai-generated/translated.
Investing in professional translation or transcreation services ensures that your content is accurate and engaging, leading to better results in global markets.
Or, if you are definitely focused on machine translation, do it with an element of human review if you are responsible for enterprise-level content production.
Do not use IP address detection to redirect website visitors
Don’t use IP address country detection methods to redirect users to specific language versions of your site. Your website could mistakenly take a search engine crawler onto the wrong language version, with your other versions of your site never getting crawled.
There are countless reasons why this can be a bad idea.
Do not overcomplicate your semantics
Don’t get tangled up with accented or plural versions of a term; treat them as separate keywords. Except for some exceptions, that’s now history.
Google has moved on semantics, and since the Google Hummingbird algo update, it is now a sophisticated enough search engine to understand an article’s central topic and tie it to a search intent.
Do not ignore cultural nuances or make assumptions about your target audience.
Avoid making assumptions about your international target audience. Cultural nuances in SEO are all about understanding how culture affects search behavior and tailoring SEO strategies to fit.
A good grasp of the culture is critical for successful multilingual SEO and local digital marketing, as it helps businesses craft content and design tailored to the local culture and preferences, enhancing user experience and brand perception.
To tailor SEO strategies to specific cultures, businesses must consider linguistic differences, common sayings, and local preferences when creating content and marketing strategies. Recognizing and respecting cultural nuances can result in improved search engine rankings, increased traffic, and a favorable brand image in target markets that speak the same language.
So, for example, you need to research Dutch culture and society properly if you plan to bring your product to the Netherlands. Doing keyword research would just not be enough.
Do not assume the same terminology can be used across countries sharing the same language.
Even countries with the same language may refer to the same products or services with different terms. You would fail if you assumed the same keyword could refer to a specific product and target audience across Spanish-speaking America. The same applies to French in France vs. Canada or other French-speaking countries.
Depending on the context, traditional Spanish spoken in Spain differs from that spoken in Latin America, so many of your target keywords will vary.
Every country in the Iberoamerica boasts its specific terminology in many aspects of life. Eg: ‘Rent a car’ is ‘renta autos’ in Mexico vs. ‘alquiler autos’ in Argentina. Car is ‘coche‘ in Spain, but ‘carro‘ in Mexico, ‘auto‘ in Argentina and Chile, and ‘maquina‘ in Cuba.
Do not overlook local link-building
Regional links originating within the targeted country contribute to the excellent evolvement of a global SEO strategy, signaling to search engines the website’s value to users. Establishing a robust link-building system is essential for acquiring worthwhile local links and boosting your website’s presence in search results.
However, gaining local backlinks can be challenging, as searching, contacting, and acquiring incoming links requires manual work and knowledge of the local culture, especially for a new website.
Without enough links from the target country, it might be difficult for a new site, whether a ccTLD or using a subdirectory to target country users, to rank well in search results.
Do not ignore other search engines
In certain countries, Google is not the dominant search engine.
If you are targeting Japan or Taiwan, Yahoo is still a large player together with Google, and if you plan to enter China, Baidu is still the dominant search engine player. Similarly, in Korea the main one is Naver and in Russia, they have Yandex as the predominant search engine with a 53% market share.
None of those search engines may be of concern if your business of the organization where you work has no intentions to do business in those countries. That is becoming a reality, given the geopolitical situation in 2023.
But even so, a good argument exists to keep an eye on the emergent search engines in Europe and the West. Browsers focused on privacy like ‘Brave’, or ‘Duck-duck-go’ do boast their own search engines, and they are growing slowly bu steadily.
Do not fail to research and comply with local laws
Don’t Neglect Mobile Responsiveness:
Mobile responsiveness is crucial for search rankings and user experience in international SEO. To ensure your website works well on all devices, optimize it for mobile, tablet, and desktop by using a responsive design, which automatically adjusts the website to the device’s size.
Neglecting mobile responsiveness can cause subpar search rankings and a compromised user experience, harming your international SEO efforts.
International SEO Do’s
Having realized the significance of international SEO and localization, let’s look at some essential practices that can propel your success in global SEO campaigns.
Market research is fundamental in identifying potential buyer personas and understanding their needs, laying the foundation for a successful international SEO strategy.
Your URL structure significantly influences your global SEO rankings, making it paramount to select the optimal structure for your website.
However, it’s not just about choosing the proper URL structure and conducting market research. Other key practices in international SEO include:
Keyword research is indispensable for international SEO as it aids in determining the ideal keywords for each market.
To conduct keyword research effectively, various factors affecting keyword rankings in different countries, such as traffic, relevance, and how users search, must be considered. Adapting keywords for each target market, a process known as transcreation, is crucial, rather than just translating them.
Use language declaration via html tags using the ISO 639-1 language codes, eg: for German or for English from the United Kingdom
Correctly implementing Hreflang
Make sure your hreflang is correctly implemented across your multilingual websites if your content is available in various languages targeting different geographies.
This is particularly important when your website serves different geographical areas with the same language, eg: English for the US, English for the UK or English for Malaysia.
Competition and market research
Gain an insight into your competitor’s backlink portfolio using specialised software such as SEranking, Ahrefs or Majestic. These can be good sources to grab new link opportunities.
Use neutral Spanish to target Latam countries if you only have the resources to have a single websites
Resource allocation and budgeting
Ensure you have the marketing budget to promote your content in different regions, specifically link-building budget because acquiring country/language-specific backlinks will help you localize and rank your content more effectively.
Digital PR is key to international SEO
Digital PR is critical to success
Build centrally managed resources to digital PR and localize it adequately before you distribute it via different channels in each region. If done correctly, this can be a tremendous source of local links.
In conclusion, proficiency in international SEO best practices and pitfalls is critical for businesses aiming to broaden their online footprint in global markets.
From understanding international SEO and localization to implementing technical optimizations and avoiding common pitfalls, this list of do’s and don’ts has covered the essential practices and mistakes to watch out for in global SEO campaigns.
For more comprehensive information, check out my International SEO guide.