International SEO: 56 Point Checklist

10/07/2021by Martin Kura0
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International SEO is not just about choosing ccTLDs versus subfolders. It’s a complex process requiring some serious thinking and above all, planning.

Your international SEO activities may break into pieces in any phase. I’ve gathered my best practices and created this 56 point checklist that will help you prepare your website for international visitors.

Contents

What is International SEO?

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.

Benefits of International SEO

iSEO offers a plethora of advantages that go beyond the boundaries of traditional SEO. Here are some compelling reasons to consider adopting an international SEO strategy:

  • Expanded Brand Reach: Going global with SEO enables you to tap into new markets and languages. For instance, there are over 1.5 billion English speakers and 460 million Spanish speakers worldwide, presenting enormous opportunities.
  • Low Competition Environment: By targeting less competitive international markets, you can often achieve quicker and more sustainable ranking improvements.
  • International Mindset: Adopting an international SEO strategy requires the entire organization to think beyond local strategies and consider cultural differences, local customs, and buying behaviors.
  • Frequent Traveling: One of the less obvious benefits of international SEO is the opportunity it offers for frequent travel to different markets for research and relationship-building.
  • Language Learning: Understanding the nuances of different languages can provide unique insights into keyword selection and content creation.
  • Market Insights: Naturally gained insights from different markets can help you adapt and evolve your strategies for better performance.
  • High ROI: Compared to paid campaigns, SEO often delivers a higher ROI, and this is especially true for international SEO where the competition may be less fierce.

Decision-Making Phase

✓ Why Do We Want to Go International?

This is about your business strategy. If you don’t have one, international SEO or marketing won’t help you. You should know why you want to enter new markets.


🌐 Examples of poorly defined business objectives:
 “We want to approach users in the UK because they are generally willing to spend more money.” or “We chose to approach Spanish speakers because we have a Spanish translator on board.”


🌐 Examples of clear business objectives: 
“We’ve had a growing number of enquiries from Mexico” or “Web designers in Brazil lack proper educational materials in Brazilian Portuguese.”

✓ Is There Potential to Sell Internationally?

This point verifies your presumptions. Check your Google Analytics geo-traffic, look at your current customer base, check the trends in particular markets and check the situation on those markets: geo-political, economical, tax and legal.

✓ Language or Country Targeting?

Language targeting is useful when you want to approach users speaking the same language in different countries. For example, same-language countries, users who travel a lot or field specialists who are used to reading in foreign languages. On the contrary, targeting users in a particular country is usually more precise and efficient than targeting users by their language.


🌐 Example:
You decide to approach users in South America with a Drupal template you have developed. Spanish-speaking users in different countries will use the template the same way and it will give them a solution to the same needs, so language targeting will be the best option.


🌐 Example 2:
You sell German wines. You decided to enter new markets like Norway and Switzerland, but you are also dealing with local distribution channels and specific tastes of local consumers. Country targeting will definitely be the option here.

✓ Pre-select Your Target Markets

Before making any decision regarding which markets you will focus on, go through your historical sales data, competitive data, search data and market data to identify which markets to focus on. You may be surprised that the best markets for you don’t have to be the ones you originally thought about.

✓ Are We Able to Build an International / Multilingual Team, or Would it Be Better to Outsource That?

Once you start your multilingual SEO campaign, you should ensure the smooth running of it. Sudden cut down of the campaign is a bad sign for users and search engines. Make sure you have capacities available before launching your international SEO activities.

✓ Are We Able to Manage International Projects Ourselves, or or Would it Be Better to Outsource Them?

International project management’s specifics include:

  • Dealing with different cultures and different working habits
  • Frequent miscommunications and misunderstandings
  • Time zone differences
  • Software inconsistencies (character sets, text direction)
  • Different delegation strategies: Be aware that you will not be able to apply the same delegation strategies (e.g. hiring a local SEO provider) in every country and expect the same results
  • Different costs: the costs of a local SEO company in India and in Germany can differ substantially.

✓ Which Languages Are We Able to Cover in Help Desk?

The languages in which you provide customer support may have a direct impact on customer retention or even acquisition.

✓ Will We Have a Budget if the Work Is Outsourced?

Plan your budget in advance to ensure the outsourced work will be continuous under any circumstances.

✓ Do Keyword Research

Before using any tools, get insights from a local native about how your product / service is perceived and searched for by local users. You may realize that local users are used to a certain way of using it and search data may reflect that. Once you have a true idea of the behaviour, collect search data using both native speakers and automated tools like Google Adwords, Yandex.Direct or Bing AdCenter. Find more about multi-cultural keyword research in my SEMrush blog post: 7 Tips for Cross-Cultural Keyword Research

✓ Do Competitive Keyword Research

Direct or indirect competitors may give you a lot of additional data. However, never copy your competitors: they’ve probably earned their rankings for a reason. Get inspired and extend your content by the keywords found to make it more valuable for your audience. Research topics that are not covered by the competitors and fill the gap.

✓ Monitor Social Media Buzz

Use the insights provided by the native speaker to search for social media buzz. What social media platforms are used? You can find out using eMarketer or find your favorite tool here: 20 Free Buzz Monitoring Tools.

✓ Is There Clear Demand for Our Product? If Not, Can We Wait for It to Grow?

Based on the keyword research, you should find out in which phase your audience is: See – Think – Do – Care. Are they clueless about your product and how to use it? See phase. Are they aware of it (social media buzz) but not searching for it yet? Think phase. Are there product-related keywords? Do phase. Do the keywords mirror their difficulties in using the product? Care phase. The earlier the phase, the lower the competition but the more time required to get the audience used to it. The later the phase, the greater the competition, but the faster the response.

✓ Define Your Key Markets

Now when you have all the necessary data available, clearly define your key markets you want to target. After the release of Google’s Pigeon update, country targeting is often more efficient than language targeting. If you have a purely global product, define your buying personas for each market separately.

✓ Ecommerce Integration

Decide if you want to implement e-commerce into your website. This will affect the subsequent analytics implementation, as well as the strategy.

Preparation Phase

✓ Conduct an International SEO Audit and Opportunity Report

An International SEO Audit and Opportunity Report is a vital step in understanding your website’s global performance and identifying areas for improvement. Key areas to focus on during this audit include:

  • Website structure and navigation
  • Hreflang implementation
  • Backlink profile analysis
  • Content quality and relevance
  • Mobile-friendliness

In addition to the audit, an Opportunity Report can offer insights into untapped markets, potential keyword targets, and strategies for global expansion.

Learn more about Martin’s Micro Analysis for a detailed evaluation.

✓ Study specific regions: SEO in Eastern Europe example

When expanding your SEO efforts, consider the unique characteristics of specific regions like SEO in Eastern Europe. For instance, the digital landscape in countries like Czechia and Slovakia may offer unique opportunities and challenges.

Interested in exploring SEO strategies tailored for Eastern Europe? Read more in this detailed article on New Digital Marketing Strategy for Czech Republic and Slovakia.

✓ Choose Your Communication Languages

Choose the official communication language(s) to avoid future misunderstandings. This language should be fluently spoken by key team members.

✓ Research Local Payment Methods

Payment methods vary substantially from country to country. PayPal is rather common in the US and Western Europe, while Eastern Europe prefers cash on delivery (Russia, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine). In some countries like Germany, users prefer invoices and deferred payments: they only pay in advance when they get a discount from the overall price. In China, the most frequently used payment gate is AliPay, while in the Middle East, Payfort is preferred. eMarketer provides comprehensive data regarding the most frequent payment methods by country.

✓ Local Helpdesk

Does your product/service require customer support? Don’t assume your customers will be willing to speak your language, especially when targeted in their local language. An upset customer may ruin your reputation on local discussion forums pretty easily and you may not get a chance to respond. Decide who on your team will be given this responsibility or consider hiring a local help desk provider. You can find pros and cons of an outsourced helpdesk here: Stop Outsourcing Help Desks.

✓ Set-Up Local Alerts

Local alerts allow you to monitor new mentions about your brand or desired keywords. Use Google Alerts or Mention.com.

✓ Choose a TLD Structure

Your TLD structure should reflect whether or how much your business tends to be local:

1. You are a purely global business with a centralized approach

Your product is perceived by global users very similarly: e.g. you are targeting a specific group of users (Drupal developers, golf players or brain surgeons).

Best TLD solution: Use a single TLD and communicate in one language that prevails within your audience. You can later add subfolders e.g. /de/, /ru/ to provide multilingual content.


🌐 Examples:
apple.com, drupal.org, nasa.gov

2. You are a global business with local aspirations

This means you want to target local users individually, as you may be providing local support or simply want to cover their individual, locally specific needs. You realize that country-specific traffic dominantes on the language versions of your website (e.g. users landing on your German website are mostly from Germany or generally convert better).

Best TLD solution: ccTLDs or gTLDs that work particularly in the target market.

*DE domain for Germany
*PL domain for Poland
*COM domain for the USA
*COM.AU domain for Australia

etc.

Check what TLDs appear in local SERPs for the keywords you are targeting.


🌐 Examples:
amazon.com, skoda-auto.com, ikea.com

3. You are a local business with global aspirations

You may be a local attraction, a hotel, restaurant, university or a local ticket reseller.

Best TLD solution: Keep a single ccTLD. You can add multilingual content in subfolders. If your business is located in France, keep a *FR domain. If you are in India, keep an *IN domain. You will appear for local specific queries more likely. For more information on local SEO for global businesses, read my SEMrush blog post: Think Globally, Act Locally: 5 Local SEO Strategies for Global Businesses

✓ Purchase TLDs

This one is obvious. Learn from the skoda.com example: Skoda.com Case: Can We Get Our Domain Name Back?

✓ Choose Your Web Hosting Provider

Some search engines, like Baidu and Naver prefer locally hosted websites. The higher the distance from the server to the user, the higher the loading speed, and it can extend by even seconds. If you are targeting distant users, you should definitely consider setting-up local web hosting or go with one of the global web hosting solutions.

✓ Choose Your CMS Provider

When it comes to selecting your Content Management System (CMS) today, you have various options to consider. Let’s explore two primary choices:

1. Open-Source CMS: Popular open-source CMS platforms like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and WooCommerce are widely used for their cost-effectiveness and ease of setup. They offer a plethora of modern themes, plugins, and extensions that can transform your website into a powerful, multilingual, and multi-regional online presence. These platforms also provide robust e-commerce integration options, making it easier than ever to set up an online store.

2. Tailor-Made CMS: In today’s digital landscape, tailor-made CMS solutions have gained traction, especially for businesses with unique needs and aspirations. These custom-built systems are designed to match your specific requirements precisely. While they might involve a higher initial investment and longer development timelines, they offer unparalleled flexibility and scalability. Tailor-made CMS solutions empower you to create a website that aligns perfectly with your brand and business objectives.

The choice between open-source and tailor-made CMS depends on various factors, including your project’s scope, budget, and long-term vision. Take the time to assess your needs and goals to make an informed decision that supports your international SEO strategy in today’s dynamic online environment.

✓ Define Your Global Website Structure

Once you have agreed on your TLD structure, it’s time to think about the URL structure. Your URL structure should reflect the following:

  • Your actual product / services structure: If you are running an ecommerce website, make sure to put the right products into the right categories.
  • The market priorities: Put the things people are looking for higher in the website structure.
  • Your brand priorities: Key content should also be put higher in the structure.
  • Search engine priorities: Some search engines like Baidu favour simple structures without deep pages. It is advised to keep within 3~4 levels even for big sites.

Also, don’t forget about website search results pages, pagination pages (page 1, page 2, page 3), filtering etc. Find more about how to build a website structure here: How to Create an SEO Friendly URL Structure. If you are using subfolders, you must retain those subfolders for any URL within the same website language version.

E.g.:

mysite url

could be the Spanish version of your website that you decided on.

mysite url pagina

is an example of a page, while /es/ must remain for any Spanish content.

✓ Localize Your URLs

The language of each and every URL should correspond to the content under this URL. Localize your URLs first to nest the new URLs in your global website structure at this stage. The best practice is to match the title and leave out the so-called “stop words”.

If you have a page title in Italian “Beni di consumo,” then the URL should be:

beni di consumo

while “di” was dropped from the URL as a stop word (conjunction).

Here’s how to localize URLs with non-ASCII characters:

1. Cyrillic alphabet

Cyrillic alphabet is used in Russian, Ukrainian or Mongolian and can be transcribed quite easily:

o klube

2. Umlauts and accents

Umlauts, e.g. in German, are transcribed differently because the umlaut usually gives a word a totally different meaning:

matratzenbezuege

On the other hand, other non-semantic accents are simply removed, like in this example in Czech:

patraci ceta

3. Chinese and Japanese alphabet

Chinese symbols are typically transcribed to pyinin and Japanese to romaji and then tonal punctuation is removed. Like this:

bai-yang-zuo

You can find the most common ways of transcription/transliteration in this Wikipedia article.

✓ Define Your Key Landing Pages

Each of your products or services should be represented by a landing page. If you are running an ecommerce website, category pages will probably be your key landing pages. Create separate LPs’ equivalents in every language/country version of your website.

✓ Create a Global Website Map

Draw the website structure in a simple chart and identify equivalent pages across the multilingual/multiregional website. This roadmap will give you a clear idea how to plan for localization or where to implement hreflang tags.

✓ Localization Strategy

As part of your Website Localization Checklist, now it’s time to create your tailored localization strategy. Divide your content into these groups:

  1. Branding
  2. Marketing
  3. Technical
  4. Legal
  5. Back-end
  6. Contact
Branding content

This is the content that defines your global brand: About us pages, partner pages, Mission & Vision etc. Anything that describes your brand on a global scale.

To-do: Internationalize

Make sure your content speaks a neutral language without any regional connotations or metaphors.

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

Marketing content

Your marketing content should clearly speak the language of your audience: Landing pages, product pages, home page.

To-do: Localize

Make sure your marketing content speaks the language of your target audience (which doesn’t have to be the official one at all).

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

Technical content

All manuals, product descriptions, documentation, FAQs, user guides etc. should be translated accurately to avoid any incorrect use of your products or services.

To-do: Translate

Workflow: Prepare for translation > Create a glossary > Translate > Review > Proofread

Legal content

Your terms of use, impressum, disclaimers and conditions should comply to laws of a certain state.

To-do: Translate

Workflow: Translate > Review by field specialist > Update > Final review

Back-end / System

System texts often involve different locales: time and date formats and timezones, metric units, form items (address, ZIP), phone extensions, etc. That’s why regular translation gives you barely applicable nonsense-content that requires a lot of correction.

To-do: Localize

Workflow: Create glossary > Select tools (below) > Export > Translate > Import > Test > Review > Update > Final Import

Contact

Your contact information should be created from scratch and include relevant contact details for your users.

✓ L8N Tools Selection

Select the best localization tool to achieve the best quality and consistency of the texts.

Factors you should take into account:
  • Export file format / extension
  • The extent of content to be localized
  • The number of translators

This Wikipedia article will help you pick the best one.

✓ Write Website Content

Based on your website structure, write the content for every page within. “Write for translation”. Focus on the features every page should have according to your localization strategy above. Make the content neutral and easy to read.

✓ Run the Website Localization Project

Create multilingual content of your website according to the localization strategy. Prepare a brief and run the localization project with the workflows above.

✓ Perform Q&A Check of the Content

Using the localization tools, check the following:

  • Terminology (keywords) usage
  • Segments length
  • Trademark usage
  • Spelling

✓ Implement Multilingual Content into the Website

Once you have completed the localization project, export the files and implement the content into your website.

✓ Icons, Graphics

Semiotics is the cultural theory of signs and symbols. The perception of signs, symbols, i.e. icons and graphics, differs from culture to culture. Internationalize your visual content: make sure all images and icons on your website are culturally neutral:

  • When depicting people, think of ethnical diversity
  • Balance male and female element in the pictures
  • Think of different clothing styles
  • Pick internationally understandable icons: envelope, books, cameras, clocks, eye glasses, microphones, planes, trains, scissors, rainbow etc.
  • Colors

For further inspiration on this topic, see this research performed by Tampere University of Technology. Use further tips from my Pinterest board Intercultural Signs and Symbols.

✓ Usability

Especially if you are dealing with users in different parts of the world, individual language or country versions of your website should correspond to the local user experience rules. Eastern countries like China, South Korea or Japan prefer deep website structures that are rich in written content. They generally like to scroll and discover information they need themselves. Whereas in the Western part of the world, the design is rather straightforward and visual. Consult the usability elements of your local versions with a local UX specialist. You can find very good local usability examples in the article: Why Japanese Web Design Is So Different.

✓ Website Geo-Targeting

Make sure your multilingual website is properly geo-targeted.

URLs

If you use regional ccTLDs (domains), your basic geo-targeting is sorted. Otherwise, make sure to properly name your subfolders using the ISO codes for language or country, or both separated by a hyphen (“language-country”).

Hreflang tags

Hreflang tags are NOT a ranking signal nor an ultimate solution for a international websites. If your global website does not use ccTLDs, you’ll need to mark up equivalent pages with hreflang annotations. Find more in The Ultimate Hreflang Guide for Dummies.

Setting a geographic target in WT (no longer in use)

You can now set a different target country for either domains, subdomains ore subfolders in Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Central and Yandex Webmaster Tools. Do it if you want to target by country (outdated).

NAP

Make sure to use your NAP information (name, address, phone) consistently across your web and all business listings. Tools like Yext should help you with the consistency. Mark-up your NAP information with schema.org.

Off-page factors

Remember that website IP is a key factor when determining the source of your backlinks. Use tools like Majestic SEO or Ahrefs to find out from which countries you have the most backlinks. Your backlink geo-portfolio should match your geo-targeting intentions.

✓ Talk the Search Engines’ Language

Image credit: torsionmobile.com

It is no longer true that Google dominates globally. For example, Chinese search engine Baidu held 17% of the global market for desktop. Each search engine has different preferences. For Baidu, meta tags and server location still matter. Bing uses similar criteria as Google, but differently balanced. The nuances are described in many articles, but the essential part is described in Webmaster Guidelines: Bing, Google, Yandex, Baidu, Naver.

✓ On-page SEO

When it comes to Technical International SEO, it’s crucial to ensure your multilingual website is properly SEO-ed. Run the basic on-page SEO checklist (including the SEO Implementation Checklist) to make sure your website is search-engine friendly for all of the search engines you are targeting. This list may help. Check Webmaster Guidelines (above) to meet individual requirements of different search engines.

✓ Decide on Your Analytics Methodology

The question whether to have a single tracking code or multiple tracking codes for each subfolder/subdomain depends on a lot of factors. In general, if other subfolders/subfolders are mutually equivalent, it may be worth implementing a single tracking code and define traffic differences using segments/filters in Google Analytics. This will give you the idea of how users are moving through the whole website. If you are running different TLDs at the same time or the content on the separate subfolders/subdomains is rather different, you can go with multiple tracking codes.

✓ Google Tag Manager

Now it’s time to implement a tracking code on your website. Today’s standard is generating a Google Tag Manager code and placing it across all pages on your website. By using Google Tag Manager, you won’t have to implement the tracking code from scratch every time you re-design your website.

✓ Define Goals and KPIs

Modern SEO KPIs:
  • Conversion Rate: Measure the percentage of visitors who complete desired actions on your website, such as filling out forms or making purchases.
  • Goal Completions: Track the number of users who achieve specific goals, such as form submissions, downloads, or newsletter sign-ups.
  • Average Session Duration: Understand how long visitors spend on your site, indicating engagement and content relevance.
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): Analyze the rate at which users click on your search engine results or ads.
  • Page Views: Assess the total number of pages viewed by visitors to understand content consumption.
  • Bounce Rate: Measure the percentage of users who leave your site after viewing only one page, indicating a lack of engagement.
  • Exit Rate: Determine the percentage of users who exit your site from a particular page.
  • Organic Search Traffic: Track the number of users who find your website through organic (non-paid) search results.
  • Referral Traffic: Monitor the volume of traffic coming from external websites and sources.
  • Direct Traffic: Measure the number of users who access your site directly by typing your URL into their browser.
  • Keyword Ranking: Keep tabs on how well your website ranks for specific keywords on search engine results pages (SERPs).
  • Mobile Traffic: Understand the percentage of users accessing your site via mobile devices, crucial for mobile optimization.
  • User Engagement: Analyze user interactions with your site, such as clicks, scrolls, and video views.
  • Local Search Visibility: Assess how well your website performs in local search engine results and maps.
  • Visitor Demographics: Explore user demographics like age, gender, and location for targeted marketing.
Content promotion KPIs:
  • Community size
  • Reach
  • Engagement
  • Brand mentions
  • Tone (positive, neutral, negative)
Translation Q&A checklist:
  • Terminology
  • Segment length
  • Spelling
  • Consistency
  • Trademark check
Local SEO KPIs:
  • Local keywords rankings
  • Traffic from local directories
  • Branded keywords by locality
  • Brand mentions by locality
  • Backlinks from local directories
  • Locality anchor texts
  • Local reviews
  • Local landing pages traffic
  • Local landing pages rankings

Create reports in Google Analytics and Search Console so you can regularly check the KPI values.

✓ Segment Your Global Audiences

The worst thing you can do is to make a single strategy and try to communicate with different target groups with different desires the same way. Instead, segment them by common behaviours. This spreadsheet will help you research channels and behaviours of your different language groups so you can later decide on which tactics to use.

✓ What Is the Market Maturity

Low maturity

Users search for particular brands they trust, and use general keywords to search for products and services. Often searches occur in different languages where there are more resources. The strategy you should go with is building brand awareness through relationship linkbuilding and media / influencers relations.

High maturity

There are high volumes of long tail keywords in every shopping phase (See, Think, Do, Care). The strategy here should be a long-tail content strategy plus brand awareness based on content and online PR.

When defining the maturity of your users/market, always consider when the Internet penetration growth started. If it started a year ago, you should be dealing with a low-maturity market. Take into account the future growth also and choose your strategy accordingly.

✓ What is Your Local Competition Doing

Local competition may be a good marker of what works in the market, but also may give you an insight of where opportunities lie when you find a gap in your competitors’ activities. Use SEMrush to gain competitive data and look at your competitors’ websites and get inspiration from their content and keywords.

✓ Choose International SEO Tactics

Now, when you see where and how your target groups are talking about topics related to your products or business, you can easily select tactics and channels:

  1. Which channels should we be on?
  2. What languages should we use to communicate?
  3. What frequency of communication should be best?
  4. What tone of voice and topics should we use?


🌐 Example:
Let’s say you sell licences to your software for users with depression. You found out that users in Brazil use blogs and discussion forums to seek information about how to fight depression (phase “Think”). They communicate in Portuguese. At the same time, users in Portugal and using slightly the same channels. You have a colleague on board who speaks Portuguese fluently. She’s comes in twice a week. That’s a good frequency to respond to comments, at least at the beginning. So, the task you set will be as follows: communicate with Brazilian and Portuguese users about how to fight depression on blogs and forums, 2-3 times a week.

✓ Consider Setting up a Virtual Office & Phone Number

With the rising importance of local SEO, local NAP information (name, address, phone) can make your local website version more competitive in the local context. You can use one of the virtual address services e.g. www.yourcityoffice.com for setting up a virtual local branch. The importance rises when your business has some local aspirations: e.g. you run a local showroom or you deliver products locally.

✓ Trust Signals

Websites that are earning their presence in a remote market always struggle because of low trust at the very beginning . Work on your trust signals that will help you build trust among local users more quickly.

1. Local content and local contacts

Write about what’s happening locally and try to engage locally. Create visual content, e.g. photos of a team member and local people. Your local presence would then get a lot more believable.

2. Locally-recognized certificates

E-commerce certificates is a must in some markets e.g. Germany, where there is a strong legal pressure on local businesses. Use TrustedShops for German-speaking countries or TrustPilot for most European countries. Research what certification authority is trusted among local users.

3. Registration with a local chamber of commerce

If you want to sell locally to end-customers, some markets require registration with a local commercial chamber or register. Find a local commercial authority and research information there.

4. Social proof

Testimonials or references from real local customers or even better, influencers, may give your website a significant trust signal. Approach local influencers and offer them a free subscription or product for testing in exchange for using their statement on your website.

5. Legal content

Make sure that legal stuff is present on your website and in accordance with respective local legal regulations. Bear in mind that the statement “These Terms and Conditions are governed by the laws of the State of /your home market/” may be perfectly legitimate, but does not always work as a positive trust signal.

6. Guarantees

Money-back or satisfaction guarantees work well as a trust signal.

7. Local rating

Good local rating is one of the strongest trust signals. Facebook or Vkontakte offer local reviews plugins if you run a local business page there. Also consider field-specific services like TripAdvisor for accommodation services etc.

✓ Country or Language Redirects

redirects international seo

Find more tips on redirects in this blog post: International SEO & Geo IP Redirects.

International Team Basics

You can’t do international SEO without a strong team behind it. It’s virtually impossible to handle all tasks in one person. Think carefully of who to hire. Think of any new member as a key member. Ask yourself: What would this person do if my international business struggles? Is s/he committed?

✓ International Project Management Basics

International SEO can’t be without project management. The tasks involved are so complex that you will soon get lost in email. Learn basic skills of international project management:

  • Time management (consider different timezones)
  • Delegation (consider different work habits and understanding of “in time” and “on time”)
  • Effective planning (see Editorial calendar)
  • Evaluation (see Analytics)

✓ Learn about Cultural Differences

As mentioned in the previous point, some cultures have different understanding of the importance of completing tasks in time. For instance, in Indonesian, the exact meaning of the word “tomorrow” means “any time after today.” In German or Spanish, it has also stands for “morning.” Always use clear and simple language and specific assignments with clearly defined deadlines to avoid misunderstandings. Also, some cultures need their time off for daily rituals. Learn about cultural specifics in The World Factbook.

✓ Choose a Project Management System

Your project management system should meet the following requirements:

  • Group tasks into projects
  • Set recurring tasks and projects
  • Assign tasks to teams
  • Assign tasks to contractors
  • Set time zones with deadlines
  • Allow non-ASCII characters in task description, if applicable
  • Login for contractors
  • Alerts for overdue tasks and projects
  • Time tracking for distant team members

You should also set basic rules such as:

  • No special characters in file names
  • Upload a PDF version along with the source document
  • Use one communication language

I use Asana because it allows me to create projects and batch add tasks. I have also heard a lot of praise for Trello, so I guess it could be the right option, too.

✓ Appoint Key Team Members

  • Project Manager: A person responsible for running multilingual / international projects.
  • Deputy Project Manager: A backup project manager if the head PM is not available.
  • Content Officer: A person solely responsible for the quality of your multilingual content.
  • Communications Officer: A person responsible for external communication: consistency, quality, community building, helpdesk.

It should be crystal clear who oversees an important part of the project, even when one team member handles multiple roles.

✓ Create an Editorial Calendar

Create a shared document that will involve dates, topics, languages, team members, completion status. Hand over the Calendar to the person responsible for your website’s content. Some teams prefer a separate and detailed Media Plan or Link Building Plan that involves important steps in communication with local online and offline media and local link building activities, esp. when dealing with local SEO. Simply outline the steps that should be done regularly, and assign the tasks to individual team members. Read more in the article: Make Editorial Calendar in Google Docs

✓ Run a Test Project

Create a test project in the first month. Troubleshoot issues that arise and note them down. Use them to fine tune the project template. Collect feedback from both users and team members. Don’t forget to upload the KPIs above into your project management system so you are able to oversee the core quality indicators.

Evaluation Phase

✓ Analyze Engagement Rate

The engagement rate is a crucial metric to monitor in Google Analytics 4 (GA4). It provides insights into how effectively your website is capturing and retaining user interest. By default, GA4 measures engagement based on a threshold of 10 seconds, considering any interaction that lasts longer as positive engagement.

A higher engagement rate is generally a positive sign, indicating that users are spending more time on your website and interacting with your content. However, it’s important to understand that engagement can be customized in GA4 to better suit your specific goals and user behaviors. By adjusting the engagement time threshold, you can fine-tune this metric to align with your website’s objectives and audience behavior.

Analyzing engagement patterns can help you identify areas of your website that are performing well and areas that may need improvement. It’s a valuable metric to track when assessing user satisfaction and content effectiveness.

✓ Check Conversion Rate

Another quality indicator is conversion rate. If it’s very low even after a few months, you should think of the reasons why users abandon your website without performing an action: check the Conversion funnel to find out when they are leaving and where they go instead of converting. What sort of information do they miss along the conversion path?

✓ Identify KPI Trends

Check if there is an increase or decrease in KPI values (see above). If the numbers aren’t steadily increasing, don’t panic. Focus on the long-term trend and evaluate the cause of the ups and downs. Follow all KPIs, not just traffic or rankings.

iSEO tips and tricks

Essential tools

In the realm of international SEO, having the right tools can make a significant difference. This includes not only tracking tools and keyword research platforms but also specialized Global SEO Software designed for managing international campaigns at scale.

Keyword Research

  • SEMrush: Offers features like international keyword tracking.
  • Ahrefs: Provides country-specific ranking reports.
  • Moz Keyword Explorer: An all-in-one SEO tool that includes rank tracking and site audits.

Backlink Analysis

Technical SEO

  • Screaming Frog: Ideal for crawling website URLs and fetching key SEO elements.
  • Sitebulb: Provides website auditing and offers actionable insights.
  • DeepCrawl: An enterprise-level website crawler that provides SEO audits and insights.

Content Optimization

  • Clearscope: Helps in content optimization by analyzing top-performing content.
  • MarketMuse: Uses AI to offer content strategies and optimization recommendations.

Rankings

  • Google Search Console: Use filters to segment performance data by country.
  • SEMrush: Offers international keyword tracking features.
  • Looker Studio: Allows for comprehensive reporting templates that can filter data by country.

Tracking tips

  • Don’t Translate Keywords: Simply translating keywords won’t suffice; you need to perform local keyword research.
  • Use SEMrush and Google Search Console Geo-Filter: These tools offer country-specific data that can aid in optimizing your international SEO strategy.
  • Create a Looker Studio Reporting Template: This template can aggregate data from various sources and allows further filtering by country.
  • Compare Data from Various Tools: Use multiple tools to gather data, but make sure to compare them over the same time period to get an accurate picture.
  • Use Google Trends for Individual Keywords: This can help you compare impression trends for specific keywords in different countries.

Why Use Multiple Tools?

Different tools offer different insights and capabilities. For a comprehensive international SEO strategy, it’s often beneficial to use a mix of tools. For instance, while SEMrush is excellent for keyword research, you might need a tool like Screaming Frog for in-depth technical SEO audits.

Special thanks to my friend, SEO Analyst Zbynek Hyrak (@OptimalizovanyW) who provided valuable information on international SEO analytics.

International website SEO Support

For personalized international website SEO support and guidance, feel free to get in touch with me. I’m here to assist you in optimizing your online presence across various regions, ensuring that your website reaches its full global potential.

Martin Kura

A multi-cultural nerd, digital marketer and SEO/content enthusiast. Likes good beer, dry wine, loves to cook and sing (sometimes all at once).


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