How to Set Up Your International SEO Correctly

April 14, 2015

By April 14, 2015insights

Do you want to build your search presence on an international stage? Then you need to be able to set up the SEO attributes on your website. By doing this, you give Google the best chance of choosing your site no matter what country you sell your wares.
To help you do that, we came up with a guide to show you how to set up your international SEO for maximized results.

Understanding International SEO Terms
This article is not a conversation on the best practices of linking and website coding. However, international search engine optimization uses many of the same principles to help guide visitors to the correct country website for a business.
Keep in mind that traditional search engine provides a solid foundation for how to use international SEO. The multiple country tags help search engines understand who the best visitor would be for your information based upon their country they access your information.
That is why, if you have a website where you want visitors coming in from multiple countries, you need to explain that clearly to Google. That way they can direct visitors to the proper page and increase your conversion rate.
International SEO tells Google what Top-level Domain (TLD) you want the content to go to for each page (.com or .co.uk). Below we discuss in more detail how to do this.

Setting Up Your International Website SEO
First, set up the correct hreflang tags.
Imagine that you are selling a widget from your Australian company to customers in Australia, Canada, and Spain.
To sell to each country, you need an identical page set up for each country. Everything would be the same except for the language used.
Now, that might sound basic for you to set up the site with two different languages (English for Australia and Canada; Spanish for Spain). However, how does Google know when to send clients to your Spanish site or your Canadian.
Therefore, you need a hreflang tag. It guides Google to choose the correct country, based on your visitors’ IP address. The tag can be placed on the on-page markup, sitemap, or the header.
If you are not sure how to create specific hreflang tags for different countries, then use the Hreflang Tag Generator tool. This tool creates the correct tags for each country.
Note: When using hreflang tags, remember that these are only applicable to countries. Therefore, if countries have different languages, you cannot specify specific provinces (e.g. Quebec for French versus Vancouver for English).

Simultaneously, there are no ways to track an entire continent with the tag (e.g. no eu tag).
Second, you need a site with multiple languages included in the site. If you are going to take the time to set up a multi-lingual site then you should have pages with content in different languages.
Fortunately, WordPress makes it easier with some of their multilingual plugins.
Plugins like qTranslate and WPML can help you organize your site for international traffic as well as well as create translations of your core content on your site.
The more you can talk to people in their native language, the more you can drive search traffic to your own site.
Note: Whenever possible have a native speaker review the translation. Technology is great for creating the translation, but it is not 100% accurate. Small slips make a major difference in language. Just ask the marketers for the Chevrolet Nova. In Spanish Nova means no go.

Third, determine your linking structure to your site.
Many international brands choose different methods for linking out to other sites.
Even companies in the same industry might take completely different routes. Take global competitors Nike and Adidas. Both want more clients overseas.
In Nike’s case, they use a single domain as a portal website where all the country sites feed into the Nike.Com site. Therefore, traffic to their site gets redirected from each countries TLD.
The benefit of this is that the redirects from each site lead to one main site, which generates all the search traffic. All the backlinks to the main site help with search traffic.
The downside to this is that sometimes they can have major hiccups with the TLD’s they use for their business. For example, in the United Kingdom, nike.co.uk leads to a computer ecommerce site. While the ecommerce site benefits from the association with the shoe wear giant, it can be problematic for Nike’s corporate search strategy in the British isles.
To get around this issue, Adidas chose to focus on single domain websites for each country they do business. That can be very beneficial for local traffic in those countries, but also has its’ own problems.
Additionally, many companies choose to use sub folders for international SEO purposes. The reason they choose that over a sub-domain is that it can be more reliable for obtaining traffic from Google.
For example, a sub-domain like blog.mysite.com might not be found as readily by Google search spiders. However, sub-folders clearly mark the different folders as being part, but different pages on the website.
That is why you find major brands like asos.com or ikea.com use sub folders. As you can see in the example below, IKEA uses sub-folders to help users find their stores by location and language.
Visitors in Belgium can go to:
http://www.ikea.com/be/
While visitors to Australia go to:
http://www.ikea.com/au/en/preindex.html
Even better, on the Australia page they even mention that the page is in English. This way Google does not hit them with a duplicate content penalty, because of similar content on the United States and the United Kingdom page.
The sub-folders identify the best ways for users to find their information on their website.

What are the biggest challenges with International SEO

International search engine optimization is all about ensuring that consumers find the right country site for their needs. When they do that, it improves the conversion rate because the content is relevant to more website visitors.
That means you need to add multiple pages with appropriate languages and site structure for each country you do business in as well as the appropriate hreflang tags.
While the process can be a bit cumbersome, it also be very helpful for improving traffic and conversions. That is why so many websites are optimizing their site to beat the curve. Let us know if you have any questions about how to optimize your site for international search traffic.

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