How to prepare for international expansion with SEO

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By Billie Geena

In an ever-growing online world, your business has more opportunities than ever to expand at an incredible rate. Expanding your online reach across borders and languages is no longer a luxury but a necessity for many businesses. Businesses must adapt their strategies to engage with global audiences.

This whitepaper delves into the realm of International SEO, shedding light on strategies that can help prepare your website for international audiences. From the implementation of hreflang tags and geo-targeting to the creation of multilingual content. We explore the tools and techniques that can elevate your global presence.

Understanding the Global SEO Landscape

The internet knows no bounds when it comes to connectivity. There is an ever-increasing scope for businesses to reach audiences far beyond their home countries. Entering an International market isn’t as easy as you might think. New markets are so varied and are only made more complicated by language and cultural diversity.

These nuances and diversities also influence search behaviour and user preferences.

Is Your Business Ready to Operate Internationally?

If your business has been growing rapidly and you are starting to consider operating internationally? This is not something that can be implemented on a whim, and you should not enter too many new markets at once. You will need to ask yourself:

  • What markets are we moving into?
  • Where would be the most profitable?
  • Is there demand from those markets?
  • Who are my customers there?
  • What restrictions does my business have?
  • What resources does my business have?
  • What resources will I need?
  • Can we do this internally or will we need external support?
  • What does success look like?

We recommend engaging all relevant stakeholders as early as possible. Your SEO team will need to work alongside developers, project managers, marketing and customer service. SEO should be considered throughout the entire process.

“International SEO can be is a minefield”

Key Concepts in International SEO

Before delving into strategies, it’s crucial to understand the core principles of international SEO such as geo-targeting, hreflang tags, and multilingual content.

Keyword Research and Localization

Global audiences demand a different approach to keyword research. The keyword research that was previously completed cannot just be translated and applied to a new market.

You will need to complete new research that factors in your competitors and how your audience searches. You should consider local nuances and relevant terms to ensure that your content aligns with your new audiences.

Hreflang Tags

Hreflang tags are like clear directions on a map for search engines.

When properly implemented, these tags serve as vital signposts that help search engines accurately determine which version of your content to display based on user language and location preferences.

Significance of Hreflang Tags:

Imagine a user in Spain who speaks Spanish. Without hreflang tags, search engines might serve them content in Latin American Spanish or even English, leading to a suboptimal user experience.

Hreflang tags should prevent confusion by specifying the language and geographic targeting of a page, ensuring users get content that aligns with their preferences.

Accuracy through Proper Implementation:

Correct implementation involves inserting the hreflang attribute in the HTML header of your pages, signalling to search engines the relationship between different language and regional versions of your content.

Each hreflang tag consists of a language code (such as “es” for Spanish) and a region code (such as “es-ES” for Spanish in Spain). This precision minimizes the chances of content mix-ups.

Variations in Language and Region:

For instance, if you have pages in English targeting both the US and the UK, you would use hreflang tags like “en-US” and “en-GB” to differentiate between these variations.

In the case of a page available in French for both Canada and France, you’d utilize “fr-CA” and “fr-FR” tags to prevent content confusion.

Implementing Hreflang Tags Across Different Page Versions:

If you offer multiple language and regional variations of a page, each version’s hreflang tags should point to the corresponding versions of the same content across different languages.

This interconnectedness between variations ensures that search engines understand the relationships and can deliver the most appropriate version based on user queries.

Geo-targeting and Country-Specific Domains

Geo-targeting and Country-Specific SEO

Like hreflang Country-Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs) and Subdirectories are strong options to differentiate between countries and languages. It allows you to tailor your digital strategy to reach the right users.

ccTLDs Example:

Imagine you’re a shoe retailer looking to expand into the German market. By adopting a domain like “,” you signal to users and search engines alike that your content is tailored to Germany. This localized domain can boost trust and visibility among German users.

Subdirectories Example

Or, if you want to serve users in many countries under one global brand umbrella, subdirectories can be used. For instance, “” could house your German content, while “” serves your French-speaking audience.

By employing the right techniques, such as leveraging ccTLDs and subdirectories, you can seamlessly operate in different countries and regions. There is no one correct way to implement international SEO. You will need to pick an option and stick with it.

Multilingual Content Creation and Optimization

Creating content that resonates with international audiences is complicated. It goes far beyond simply translating your content. To truly connect with multiple cultures, you will need to the art of content localization while maintaining consistent brand messaging. Structuring URLs and website architecture also play a pivotal role in creating a good user experience across all markets.

Geo-targeting extends beyond translation.

Tailor your content to address the unique needs and interests of your target country’s audience.

I.e. An electronics retailer may focus on air conditioners and fans for the hot climate of Australia during their summer season. Whilst at the same time prioritising heating supplies for countries like the United Kingdom.

Local Relevance

When optimizing for a specific country, you will need to consider currency and units of measurement in content. An American user expects prices in USD, while a user in the UK anticipates prices in GBP.

Technical Considerations for International SEO

Mobile-friendliness and Responsive Design:

With most users now exploring the internet on mobile devices, you must ensure your website is mobile-friendly.

Responsive designs adapt your website’s layout and content to fit whatever device is being used. This will improve user experience and accessibility.

Server Location and Hosting Impact on SEO

The geographical location of your website’s servers and hosting can affect your SEO efforts. As they directly impact loading speed and user experience.

The physical distance between your server and the user affects how quickly your website’s content can be delivered. Longer distances can lead to increased latency and slower loading times.

A server located in the same region as your target audience can significantly improve loading speed and user satisfaction.

User Experience and Engagement:

Fast-loading websites contribute to a positive user experience. Slow-loading pages frustrate users and may lead to users leaving before the page loads, and can negatively affect your website’s SEO performance.

Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) for Global Content Delivery:

CDNs are networks of servers distributed worldwide, designed to deliver web content to users from the nearest server location.

By using CDNs, you reduce the physical distance between your website’s content and users, resulting in faster loading times and improved user experience.

Research your CDN options, however, Cloudflare tends to be the most popular choice.

By recognizing the impact of server location page speed and user experience, you can make informed decisions that optimize your international SEO efforts. Carefully leveraging CDNs for efficient content delivery is integral an step in achieving SEO success.

Template Usage

If you are using the same templates across all ccTLDs, subdomains or translated pages ensure that all the elements are translated to the selected language or region.

Accordions and tabs are common design elements used to organize content and improve user experience by presenting information in a structured manner. However often the hidden content is forgotten when during international expansion.

These factors can be off-putting to users from different markets and can decrease conversion rates.

Measuring Success and Overcoming Challenges

Performance Metrics and Analytics

Effectively measuring the success of your international SEO campaigns requires a tailored approach that aligns with the preferences and behaviours of diverse global audiences. Identifying the right key performance indicators (KPIs) is essential for gaining insights into the impact of your efforts and making informed decisions for continuous improvement.

Global Organic Traffic:

  • Monitor organic traffic from various regions and languages to gauge the success of your international strategies.
  • Compare traffic trends before and after implementing international SEO techniques to identify growth areas.

Localized Keyword Rankings:

  • Track keyword rankings across different regions and languages to understand your visibility and performance on a local level.
  • Compare how your website ranks for specific keywords in each target market, identifying opportunities for optimization.
  • You can find comparisons much easier whilst using tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs, however, you can view country data in Google Search Console but the data isn’t as easy to visualize or report on.

Conversion Rate by Region:

  • Conversion rates can vary significantly across regions due to differences in user preferences, buying habits, and cultural influences.
  • Monitor conversion rates for each target region to identify high-performing markets and potential areas for improvement.

Common Challenges in International SEO

Navigating the complexities of international SEO is a journey that involves not only optimizing for global reach but also overcoming specific challenges that arise when targeting diverse audiences. These challenges can impact everything from search rankings to user experience, and addressing them is essential for a successful international SEO strategy.

Managing Duplicate Content across Languages:

  • Duplicate content is a concern when dealing with multilingual websites. Search engines may struggle to determine which version of the content to display, affecting search visibility.
  • Implementing hreflang tags correctly is crucial to signal to search engines that the various language versions are intentional, preventing penalties for duplicate content. i.e. Without hreflang tags, similar content in English and French might be seen as duplicate content, leading to one version being omitted from search results.

Tackling Local Competition:

  • Each market has its own set of competitors vying for the attention of the same audience. Local competition can impact your overall visibility, conversions and reputation.
  • Conduct a thorough competitive analysis in each target region to understand the landscape and identify opportunities to differentiate your offerings. i.e. In a competitive market like technology in Japan, understanding local players and tailoring your content to address unique customer needs can give you an edge.

Effectively Handling Language Variations:

  • Language variations within a single country or region can pose challenges in terms of content creation and targeting.
  • Tailor your content and keywords to resonate with specific language variations, avoiding generic approaches that might not align with user preferences. Spanish spoken in Spain differs from Spanish spoken in Latin America. Using distinct terms or phrases can help you connect with the right audience.

User-Generated Content Challenges:

  • User-generated content, such as reviews and comments, can introduce language and cultural variations that impact search engine visibility.
  • Monitor user-generated content for inappropriate language or content that might not align with your brand’s values i.e. negative reviews can impact user perception and conversion rates. Addressing them in a timely and constructive manner is essential.

Future Trends in International SEO

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, so will international SEO. We speculate on the impact of artificial intelligence, voice search, and other emerging trends on the field. Staying ahead of these trends can give businesses a competitive edge in the global marketplace.


By understanding the diverse components of international SEO, from hreflang tags to multilingual content, you can create a holistic strategy that resonates with audiences across languages and borders.

This whitepaper equips you with the knowledge and insights needed to expand your reach and engage with a world of opportunities. It’s time to unlock the full potential of international SEO and embrace a global audience.

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