What is international SEO?

Global SEO what is

Any search engine optimization activity that must be viewed with an international perspective.

Why is global SEO important?

Global SEO important

Quite often webmasters only need to concern themselves with the search trends of a local region. For example, most markers in England may only be concerned with traffic that comes for English ip addresses. However a global brand may conduct business in multiple regions of the world with different search trends for the same core term. Varied keyword research would be required, along with a new batch of keyword phrases to drive the most powerful impact in each region.

It’s important to ensure that local SEO strategy does not negatively impact global performance.

The Cannibalization Problem

Global SEO cannibalization problem

Search cannibalization is when multiple pages compete in multiple regions for the same search terms. Multiple pages responding to a search term will dilute page authority earned through a s steady stream of traffic. Divert your stream of traffic, confuse search engines (they won’t know which pages to credit with higher results positions).

In Global SEO, we find ourselves in circumstances where the international version of a page shows up higher on SERPs than the local page. Could this be a problem? Absolutely. 

You don’t want user searching for key contact information in New York, only to find the email address of team members in Spain.

Or you wouldn’t want a shopper in Brazil to click on an Australian product page. 

3 Key international SEO considerations

1. Identify the most used search engine in your international target region.

2. Study the indexing process of dominating search engine.

3. Study the typical customer journey of your target region.

The six tools in your geo-targeting kit – Best practices

Global SEO targeting kit

Geo-targeting tells search engines in which region or country your website should be associated with. 

1. URL Structure

  • ccTLD Domain: site.it or site.co.uk

The first weapon in your arsenal is the URL structure, more specifically – ccTLDs (country code top-level domain).

E.g. Italian URLs, generally end in the ccTLD,  “.it” as opposed to the American “.com”

The local TLD is a massive indexing hint for search engines, helping them to quickly identify your target local country.


Offers clear geotargeting

Renders server location irrelevant

Easy separation of sites


Depending on region, ccTLDs may be expensive to obtain.

Depending on region, ccTLDs may require more infrastructure.

  • ccTLD subdomain: it.site.com or fr.site.com


Easy to set up

Can use Google webmaster geo-targeting tools

Allows different server location

Easy separation of sites by region


Users might not recognize geo-targeting from the URL alone

  • Subdirectory: site.com/fr or site.com/it


Easy to set up

Can use Google webmaster geo-targeting tools

Low maintenance, same host


Users might not recognize geo-targeting from the URL alone

Single server location

Separation of sites is harder

  • URL Parameters: site.com?loc=fr or site.com?country=italy


Avoid them 


Segmentation based on the URL is difficult

Users might not recognize geo-targeting from the URL alone

Not possible to monitor via Webmaster tools.

2. Hreflang annotation

You can think of these as your first opportunity reassure search engines of your site’s preferred region. 

By implementing rel-alternate-hreflang, you’ll be helping google to return the most relevant URL response to a user query, a URL with the correct language and target region.

3. Content localization

Create content specifically for your target region.

  • Be sure to assess the performance of your website across all regions.

Review your best performing terms in each region, record search volume and traffic figures. These terms will be crucial when planning local SEO strategy.

  • Mere word for word translation of content will not help your brand resonate in the global market. Be sure to localize content for your target region.

Localization takes into account, language, dialect, culture and local significance to more accurately convey the original meaning.

4. Local webmaster tools

Identify and utilize the dominant search engine in your target region. 

For Google Search Console, change the international targeting setting of your account.

The dominant search engines in the largest markets

    1. USA – Google
    2. China – Baidu
    3. Russia – Yandex
    4. Japan – Rakuten

5. Language tag

Use language HTML meta tags to help other search engines identify your target region.

  • Content-language: es

Content-type: text/html;charset=UTF-8

6. Local inbound links

Once again back links seem to be an influential factor as to the way search engines index your site. 

Sources of local links:

    • Niche related sites
    • Local publications
    • Domains ending with the local ccTLD
    • Local social media mention
    • Relevant local directories
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