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Businesses that serve customers from many countries usually have specific sites for each international audience group. Optimising each local site to get more traffic through higher organic ranking in search engine results requires a considerable degree of technical SEO expertise. While the basic tenets of search engine optimisation don’t change, the process for international websites includes significantly more planning, strategy, and implementation.

Definition: International SEO

International SEO is the sum of all activities aimed at improving a website’s organic search presence in more than one country or language. This includes, but is not limited to technical SEO changes that indicate language and country targeting preferences, content localisation, and multilingual link building.

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International Website Optimisation

Multilingual websites can be set up on separate country-specific domains, or on sub-domains or directories within one international domain, typically a .com, .net, or .org. Most international businesses face challenges with duplicate content, and country-specific site delivery to appropriate audiences. Google and Bing use language and country preference indicators from web page headers. The hreflang tag, “content-language” meta tag, and even the language-location declaration in the html tag on a web page serve this purpose.

Strategy and Planning

Growing an international presence is not an overnight process. Businesses of any size need to consider a number of  important factors, most of which will have significant long term effects. While Google offers solutions for all standard implementations, the multilingual / multi-national structure adopted has ramifications on future SEO strategy. Planning beyond just technical implementation is crucial for international SEO success.

Link Building for SEO

Most SEO experts know that inbound links from authoritative external website are a very important ranking factor. This is true when optimising multilingual websites too. An additional consideration for international marketers to keep in mind is the location and language of the link source is also important. In other words, the majority of links pointing to a site are expected to come from other sites from the same country and in the same language.

Advice for Brands

When considering an international SEO strategy, brands should consider the implications of the multilingual site structure and plan for at least 3 years of activity, which should include:

  • Content optimisation in all languages
  • Regular addition of fresh content on each local site
  • Link bait creation for all localised sites
  • Outreach for link building in each target market
  • Social media marketing and advertising campaigns to complement international SEO efforts in all languages.