What is International SEO?

what the hell is international SEO

Moz’s definition is:

International SEO is the process of setting up your website so that search engines can easily identify which countries you want to reach and what languages you use for business.

In my view, this definition is incomplete mainly because:

  1. International SEO is not just about “setting up a website”. It involves a lot more tasks such as geo-targeting, standard SEO, and marketing localization.
  2. “…so that search engines can easily identify which countries you want to reach and what languages you use for business”: it’s a definition of geo-targeting, really. Not international SEO.

In my view, the proper definition of International SEO is:

International SEO is the process of setting up your website and promoting it in the international environment (typically several markets at once) in order to gain visibility in different search engines or different country versions of the same search engine.

What is International SEO? This is a proper definition.

Geo-Targeting

Geo-targeting is the process of setting up a website in order to tell search engines which part of the website targets users in which countries or of which languages. Geo-targeting isn’t a ranking signal or factor, but increases the relevancy of a website for locally-specific queries.

According to Wikipedia:

Geo targeting (…) is the method of determining the geolocation of a website visitor and delivering different content to that visitor based on his or her location, such as country, region/state, city, metro code/zip code, organization, IP address, ISP or other criteria.

Wordstream says:

Geo-targeting or geotargeting refers to the practice of delivering different content to a website user based on his or her geographic location.

Kissmetrics:

Geo Targeting is active response to Geo-Location: Having identified the visitor’s location according to the IP, and/or WiFi / GPS data (=”geolocation”), content specific to that location is served (=”geotargeting”). This location can be a country, state, city and more.

Example:

A US company wants to reach out to the users in the UK, Australia and Canada. They want to create separate country versions in English, but there is one problem: the content will contain locally-specific data, but in a majority, it will be pretty much the same (duplicate). They must set up their geo-targeting signals such as Webmaster Tools and local factors, so that search engines know which version targets which customers and will not consider the versions as duplicate.

Standard SEO in International Environment

The principles of SEO are the same for both domestic and international websites. The only difference is that you do not use the same content in the same language for multiple markets, but adapt the content’s language and scope to the particular market. In other words, the process is slightly different, as it involves localization tasks, as opposed to standard SEO.

Marketing Localization

SEO for international markets involves localization of marketing communication such as website content, social media and community work. You can either outsource some of the tasks to native speakers and local marketing specialist or you can internationalize/localize the content you already have.

Internationalize the content if you want to retain a strong global brand:

internationalization workflow

Internationalization Workflow: Translate > Review by local natives > Gather suggestions > Create global tone of voice > Finalize source content > Translate with the TOV > Proofread

Localize the content if you want to approach local markets effectively:

localization workflow

Localization Workflow: Research keywords > Write a brief > Transcreate > Proofread > Check keyword implementation > A/B Test

Difference between International SEO and Global SEO

International SEO focuses on particular markets, while global SEO targets global consumers. In other words, in International SEO, you measure the success within a certain market or group of users speaking a particular language, while in Global SEO, you just make sure your content is accessible worldwide and focus on creating a global outreach.

A typical approach in global SEO is internationalization.

Example:

A software company developed an app for local users in their domestic market. The results are great, so they decide to expand abroad. They have two approaches to choose from: 1. they will either identify core markets, localize their website into local languages and set up local customer care programs and re-seller channels. Or, they’ll just work on their global brand, will identify a global customer regardless of their location and offer support in English.

In case of the first approach, they will go with international SEO, while in the other case, global SEO.

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Martin Kůra

Martin a.k.a. @HermanTinkura helps international and local companies enter new markets by creating a vast multi-cultural SEO strategy. Martin writes for SEMrush and likes to explore different cultures of the world, which is his favorite part of his work.

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