Your website is accessible to global markets. But that doesn't mean it's configured to speak to your international target markets (if you have them).

To showcase your products or services to your international audience, you should have country and language versions of your website.

This is why international search engine optimisation is so important when talking to different visitors in different countries.

International SEO or geotargeting is the process of optimising your website for search engines. It helps the crawlers identify the correct country and language, and so present the right version relevant to the country they're located in.

If you have a lot of traffic from international markets, you should consider an international SEO strategy. This will improve the user experience and potentially increase conversions.

Getting started with international SEO

To kick off your international SEO strategy you need to determine which countries and languages you want to target.

After all, your content marketing will need to be internationally relevant and professionally translated to ensure it is grammatically and culturally correct. Any slip-ups in this area will severely dent your business's reputation and credibility, which would in turn drastically affect conversions.

Determining the URL structure is a vital component to international SEO. There are various domain strategies, each with varying resourcing implications and pros and cons:

  1. ccTLD
  2. Sub-directory or sub-folder
  3. Sub-domain
  4. New domain
  5. Generic Top Level Domain extensions (gTLD) with language parameters

1. ccTLD

This is identified by a two-letter Country Code Top-Level Domain extension or ccTLD. Search engines use these two-letter codes to identify the country a website is registered. For example: yourwebsite.uk.

  • Pros: (1) Better geotargeting as domains are associated with their countries. For example: fr is for France (2) International visitors know the website is meant for them 
  • Cons: (1) Higher domain registration costs if you have many ccTLDs  (2) Sends a weaker signal to search engines (3) May initially influence domain authority as there is no domain history (4) SEO efforts are localised for each ccTLD

2. Sub-directory or sub-folder

This is where a sub-directory or sub-folder of your root domain is created. International content is placed there and is identified by a country identifier. For example: yourwebsite.com/uk.

  • Pros: (1) Easy to implement (2) Domain authority is inherited (3) No additional domain costs 
  • Cons: (1) Sends a weaker signal to search engines as (2) Risk of international cannibalisation 
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3. Sub-domain

A sub domain is a popular approach for international websites. The country code is prefixed to the domain name. For example: uk.yourwebsite.com.

  • Pros: (1) Easy to implement (2) Main domain authority is inherited (3) No additional domain costs 
  • Cons: (1) Risk of international cannibalisation (2) No country specific domain authority

4. New domain

Create a dedicated domain for your international audience. For example: yourwebsiteuk.com.

  • Pros: It may struggle to initially rank, but with an effective SEO strategy users may find it easier to locate your website (2) Can build domain authority for each country
  • Cons:(1) Increased SEO efforts (2) Can be expensive to maintain if you have multiple domains representing each country. A CMS like Sitecore can make this much easier

5. Generic Top Level Domain extensions (gTLD) with language parameters

This is when your top level domain is appended with a language URL parameter. For example: yourwebsite.com/?lang=en-uk .

  • Pros: (1) Clear signal to search engines (2) Improves local ranking (3) Easier to implement (4) Domain authority is maintained
  • Cons: (1) Can be expensive to maintain (2) Risk of duplication issues if canonicals are not well implemented (3) No country specific domain authority

Hreflang attributes

Whichever option is relevant for your international website, it's important to ensure your country/language version is found by search engines.

The 'hreflang' tag reinforces international SEO. It’s added to the header section of the page's HTML, the page source or in the sitemap. Based on the region users are searching from, it informs search engines which version of content to surface in search results.

The 'hreflang' tag also prevents duplicate content issues. This means the same content in English on different URLs aimed at the UK and USA markets won’t get penalised.

Keyword research

Taking into account different terms in different languages is essential to a successful international search engine optimisation strategy.

Carrying out effective keyword research for each country will influence ranking factors and SEO success. It's important to have a good team of international copywriters that understand the culture and user intent to produce your content.

At Codehouse, we’ll help you get started with your international SEO. We’ll perform three essential phases that will improve your website’s search engine performance:

If you want to find out more about how our SEO services can help affect your international website, get in touch.