Optimizing your global online visibility is your best leverage in the new normal.
Getting the top rank on Google’s Search Engine Result Page (SERP) with a high potential of global reach is one primary goal for local businesses. As always, both local and international searches are getting tough on the brink of the SERP while organizations are trying to cope or excel in today’s market condition. The international SEO (global search engine optimization) environment sets a growing role in an intensifying competition as numerous digital content platforms and businesses seek to thrive amid the new normal. Both international search platforms and numerous local customers are integrating into a highly competitive field to run small. But, they think big in targeting their products and services for local and global reach. Eventually, bouncing back to its market position as it usually held before the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, whether we like it or not, the “new normal” digital customers are getting started to search engines in finding ‘near me’ products. This customer search behavior vis-a-vis the policies and actions of the government and corporations are all changing and shifting their organizational policy, digital content privacy, information security, and digital content exchange under a new normal environment.
In recent Google and other search engines’ search, the majority are new product or service search queries and comprise local searches. Hence, to benchmark the best practices to conquer the world through digital presence over the world wide web, such as this checklist that provides general SEO tips, we have prepared to guide you for 2020 and onwards. You can use these international SEO tips and best practices to integrate and tailor to the SEO needs of your organization, business, and customers on an international scale. Feel free to add other SEO practices not listed here that can fit your needs. Further, when you use these best SEO practices, it will ease the access of search engine crawlers to your or your client website’s target countries and the languages you use – eventually ranking you high on international online searches.
Please take your tour now!
1. Linking to local content
When linking to local content, you need to consider a few things so that search engines like Google and Bing can return the best local results to your website. Consider that your website is geographically available as a community resource and that it is mobile friendly. Your website, capable of encouraging ratings and reviews, regularly publish a quality and long-form SEO blog and update your web page with high-quality content reflecting the local trends to suit Google’s local pack searches. This local pack is one of Google’s search results listings that show ads and local content to streamline searches and simplify organic listings.
Check whether your website links to local content for an identified region. Local results on search engines mainly anchor on relevance, proximity, and popularity. Search engine algorithms such as Google or Bing might decide to index a search query, for instance, a business located farther from your location may have what you’re looking for than a company that is closer to you. Hence, search engines will rank that distant business higher in local results instead.
2. Geo-targeting in Bing Webmaster Tools
The Bing Webmaster Tools is a free service that allows indexing of websites to its search engine crawler to see website performance such as clicks, impressions, and a lot more. Configure Bing to geo-target your website or a portion of it for additional flexibility such as defining a country audience for your entire website or section of it from within a single view, site level, and on multiple levels. The geo-targeting feature of your site allows it to provide Bing with hints about your website’s intended audience by connecting it to a target country. Other webmaster tools can let you do it on a site level only. You can configure your website in Bing by following a set of simple steps, get it started from here. Please take note that you need to use the geo-target feature for your sites or sections of your website that you dedicate to a specific country, and that you are not hosting them on a local country-code TLD that matches the country. When you are targeting a particular country with your domain that already uses a local TLD, you need not geo-target the pages on your site.
Generally, you need not geo-target sites or site sections that are set to target global audiences, or it applies to multiple countries at once. When you have a multilingual website that has a Dutch section, for instance, you should not target it to Netherland if you are targeting other Dutch-speaking audiences in other countries with the same content.
3. Business has a significant worldwide customer base
Does the website have a significant worldwide base that might justify a global appropriate TLD and website? If the answer is yes, maintain your customer base as it serves as one of your website’s key drivers or company’s value, that is your customer value at the same time. Analyze your worldwide customer base to determine your customer profitability and maximize a customer’s long-term value. You need to retain and increase your customer base, so it is imperative to stay in consistent communication and offer your business value with your existing customers as well as with the potential ones for both customer acquisition and retention. The frequent you do this, the more likely they will remain loyal to your business value proposition. To continue a lifetime customer value with them, offer them with free newsletters to update and keep them at a pace to your business and provide them with fresh and useful website page content, ask your customer opinions to measure their experience and satisfaction level, keep up to maintain excellent customer support, and promote your website or business on social media to create an interactive community of loyal customers and influencers.
4. Country Targeting, Language Targeting, or both?
Identify if a business needs country targeting, language targeting, or both. Tailor your website content to make it clear and create your pages that provide the impression that those pages are customized. Making such customs targeting will likely increase your chances of allowing them to feel and gain a positive experience. Customize your country targeting, in case you intend for the language, culture, or both for a specific country, think about using a ccTLD. When you want to If you are focusing on language targeting only, a ccTLD might not be your best bet. A ccTLD targets a specific geographic area, not specifically the language spoken in that same place. Instead, use a different international SEO technique such as hreflang, subfolders, or subdomains in combination with or instead of using a ccTLD. You can also explore other targeting options aside from ccTLD for your internationally targeted site.
5. Product availability in foreign markets
To check product availability in foreign markets and understand how locals are shopping for these products, you can start in determining global traffic where international orders are originating. You can consider cultural and language variables, as well as you, need to understand the distinct economic and political policy of the country or region you are targeting to check and ensure product availability. Dive into finding whether that foreign market has tariffs restrictions and trade barriers for the availability of the intended product. Once you have the information, you can determine your next step for entry to foreign markets. This is especially important when you commence exporting or importing, licensing, acquiring, and other indent product procurement modes via e-commerce, online shopping sites, and drop shipping platforms.
Most essentially vital to ensure foreign product availability is the need to translate your target country’s culture and not the language alone. Thus creating your business website as an international web resource site and may or not be multilingual to adapt to how locals are shopping or exchanging their products or services. Developing a marketing strategy in the home country of the product you are targeting or introducing is another proven strategy. You can hire a product entry ambassador or company to do this or create such an international product entry plan. An excellent international website can have great content to make it smoothly build a globally successful website when all the local and global information of the product and originating country are available. Google Search Console, Google My Business, Bing Geo-Targeting tool, and Baidu SEO are your international optimization allies.
6. Track International Websites separately in Google Analytics
When you track International websites separately in Google Analytics, you can obtain insights on how users find and use other sites as well as your homepage. These insights are vital for your international targeting, and you can use the data for comparative analytics and even extend further your global reach. Using Google Analytics (GA) enables you to track the return of investment or ROI of your international marketing. To do this, you have to register one property for the website you want to check on GA and generate a single tracking code for use across all subdirectories of that site. Also, you can have separate data for each subdirectory using its “Views” feature. You have to list all of the URLs for all the country subdirectories of that account to push enough information for analytics. Although you cannot get direct data from other sites, it can provide you the user data of that other site.
7. Currency issues
The currency-related issues significantly affect global or international markets, so is a website’s traffic. It’s better to check if there are currency issues between foreign markets on the website as these greatly influence its site performance to users as well as to search engine result pages or SERP. The foreign exchange plays one essential aspect of the global e-commerce sites, and doing currency checks will enable the website’s financial integrity to earn a trustworthy reputation over the foreign online markets and secure product exchange. Do not miss this as part of your best international SEO tips list. Like the value of goods or services, the demand level of a product determines the value of money. It affects supply and demand relationship to factor in foreign exchange vis-a-vis the future expectations for the foreign currency. Take a look at foreign currency issues such as inflation & interest rates, country currency strength, financial account, debts and balance of payment, trade terms & duties, political performance, and economic recession, among others.
8. Speak their Language
Ensure that when you define your target audience to reach them effectively, you must also define their language. You can create your content more appealing, useful, and relevant to your target audience when you (your website) speak their language. It will serve as your leverage to your influencers and will help you define international language outreach options. Also, you can make outreach research and campaigns through social media and use trending tags (hashtags, for instance) for your content. Double-check that all bits and pieces of your website, from your site navigation to the content and your query handling or help desk, use your target region or country’s primary language. Do good on your SEO keywords and links when you communicate your content.
Understand the type of audience that you want to target for you to effectively customize the pitch, tone, and other details of how to communicate with them your content. Prevent making generalized content as it will just be pointless, expensive, and dangerous. Make a precision targeting Country Targeting, Language Targeting, or both?
Identify if a business needs country targeting, language targeting, or both. Tailor your website content to make it clear and create your pages that provide the impression that those pages are customized for them. Making such customs targeting will likely result in increasing your chances of allowing them to feel and gain a positive experience. Customize your country targeting, if it’s for language, culture, or both for a specific country. You can use a ccTLD for this, but if you want to focus your targeting on language only, a ccTLD may not be the best fit. A ccTLD targets a specific geographic area, not specifically the language spoken in the same place. Instead, use a different international SEO technique such as hreflang, subfolders, or subdomains in combination with or instead of using a ccTLD. You can also explore other targeting options aside from ccTLD for your internationally targeted site.
9. Using language annotations
Before you proceed in using language annotations, check whether you need such on your website to optimize your web SEO. Better map out the language and country versions of your website as well as double-check its structure and content optimization strategy for SEO best practices. By then, you can assign hreflang value to each language and country version on your website’s coding and content like reflecting it in the HTML link element in your website’s header.
The hreflang is an HTML <link> or <link> tag attribute, indicating that the search engine crawls the relations of your pages in different languages on your website. Google uses this attribute to provide the correct regional or country language URLs in each search engine result pages based on the searcher’s country and language preferences.
In the HTML section of https://www.example.com/, add a link element pointing to your target audience’s language, i.e., a Spanish version of that webpage at , like this:
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es” href=”https://es.example.com/” />
Please note the HTTPS header as sighted above, when you publish non-HTML files (like PDFs). Also, you can use an HTTPS header to show another language version of any URL:
For instance, this link: <https://es.example.com/>; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”es”
To specify multiple hreflang values in any link HTTPS header, separate the values with commas:
link: <https://es.example.com/>; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”es”,<https://en.example.com/>; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”en”
To list your language annotations, use a sitemap instead of using markup, and you can submit a language version information in your Sitemap to Google Webmasters.
10. Geo-targeting in Google Search Console
Check and properly configure your website’s geo-targeting in the new version of the Google Search Console (GSC). On GSC, check on the international target report, click the country tab, tick the Geographic target checkbox, and choose your country target. Select “unlisted” in the drop-down list to ensure that your site is not associated with any country or region. When you do this, you can send a signal to Google to index a country that you want to be prioritized for search engine results. So better use the GSC’s International Targeting Report to monitor the usage and errors of your hreflang tags on your website, and you may set as you desire a site-wide country target for your entire site.
11. Using language subdomains?
Make the use of language subdomains as part of your website to make it simple. So, check if the website is using subdomains for language versions. Please take note that a subdomain is considered a separate entity by the search engines. One good thing about subdomains is that it can be used for organizational improvements or SEO optimization. To set-up your language subdomains, establish the DNS records of your website. For example, west.example.com and east.example.com are subdomains of the example.com domain, which is a subdomain of the com top-level domain (TLD). You can configure this to Google Webmaster Tools or Google Search Console (GSC). You have to edit your DNS records to create a subdomain for your website’s language.
12. Consider Site Structure
Use URL structures for your website that can target a particular country. Include the use of a country-code Top-Level Domain or ccTLD to do this. Take “example.us” as a case in point. You can use a subdomain “us.example.com,” a subdirectory “example.com/us,” gTLD with language parameter “example.com/?lang=en-us,” or different domain “exampleussite.com” as you choose. Note that Google recommends that you similarly organize your hierarchy in each section so that it’s intuitive and easily crawlable. Use distinct two-letter codes (i.e., “us” for the United States, “UK” for the United Kingdom, “ny” for New York) to indicate both users and search engines of the site structure and match this to the target country, sovereign state, or dependent territory that the website is registered. Make sure that the structure is unique and not commonly used for other purposes that Google treats them generically.
13. Acquire ccTLDs for countries
Acquire the ccTLD, or also known as Country Code Top Level Domain. It’s a two-letter domain, such as UK (United Kingdom), .de (Germany), and jp (Japan) (for example), are called country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) and correspond to a country, territory, or other geographic location. When you do your business internationally, ensure that you properly identify what is and what is not a country when you target an international market. You can refer to neutral standards set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to create a new country-code top-level domains that you have desired to acquire.
14. Ignoring nuances in local languages
Going international can be difficult, especially when localizing and optimizing your website to reach foreign markets. Such a global approach requires keen consideration in local languages to effectively launch your international SEO strategy. Thus you need to check your website for indicators of ignoring nuances in local languages and for possible lack of cultural sensitivity so you can evaluate regional differences around the world. When your website goes global, you pay attention to the nuances in local languages and local differences to prevent any harm than good. There is a lack of planning to adequately define international engagement approaches of your website. Henceforth, check your website content to account for language and cultural nuances in the local languages and enhance sensitivity to language and cultural differences. Most often, this ignorance of regional language variations mainly originates from the website’s localized content that is in line with the language difference of local customers.
Translation tools come in to provide many people the ability to translate content or keywords as well as the role of native-speaking human translators to carry out an effective and successful captivation of the lead generation phrasing to succeed in its campaigns. Also, consider the slight variations between regions or territories that speak the same languages – for instance, the differences in German spoken in Germany and Austrian German. So, in this scenario, your content writing or content creation should ensure that nuances, colloquialisms, and tone. To do this, you have to consider that it should be done by a native writer or resource person to engage visitors to your international website.
15. Check for Geo-IP switching.
Check for Automatic redirects based on IP address. Open the Command application by clicking the “Start” button, typing “cmd” in the search field and pressing “Enter.” Type “ping” (omit the quotation marks here and throughout), press the spacebar and type in the URL of the website to which you want to redirect, but without the “https” part. To check for redirects based on IP address, you need to implement a third-party Geo-IP tool to redirect your page based on the IP address correctly. Here’s a quick guide to know and to understand the behind the scene logic. You might need a developer’s help to implement it.
16. Content Translation
Connect and find a professional language translator on websites like Upwork, oDesk, TranslateByHumans, OnlineJobsPh, ehlion.com, Guru, Translator, etc. Businesses of all sizes connect to independent professionals, agencies, and other online linguists for all their language translation and support needs, but quality and price can vary greatly. So, better engage a translator to translate a sentence from one language to another. You hire a human translator despite advances in automation and natural language processing so that your website is now competitive to adapt to cultural sensitivity and local language differences upon entry to the foreign market or international countries. Rarely, a translated document, web page, or even social media post ends as a mirror image of its source. That’s because more goes into translating than trading out one word for another. These skilled linguists creatively adapt concepts, phrases, and tone, and can make recommendations about layouts, design choices, related keywords, or edits for clarity and relevance. Scale your website language support dynamically to fit for your global website.
17. Check international competitors.
You can check or ask with your client, search Google using top keywords using search operator “Related:” or via business insights platforms and online SEO tools such as SEMRush, for your international competitors. You can follow their blogs and social media profiles to start a thorough web search. Find out what features and technologies they are using that makes them stand-out over other competitors. Check for their popularity, SEO, digital ads, and backlinks when you check out for international competitors, tap business insights platforms, and SEO analytic tools to obtain their website user data. You need to catalog these competitors within each global market.
18. Missing confirmation links
Missing confirmation links are URLs with missing return links or called “return tags” to these URLs from their alternate pages in Google Search Console (GSC). These are hreflang annotations that reciprocate to enable all alternate versions to confirm the linking relationship. When page A links to page B, page B must return a link to page A. If this does not happen for all pages, the use of hreflang annotations did not work, making those annotations may be ignored or not interpreted correctly by search engine crawlers or spiders. Using SEMrush, for instance, the URLs of the missing confirmation links can be browsed in the lower window ‘URL Info’ pane with a ‘missing’ confirmation status. You can export these in bulk via the ‘Reports > Hreflang > Missing Confirmation Links’ export. You can use Ahrefs.com, SEMrush.com, Screaming Frog, and other online SEO tools or SEO spiders to verify and analyze the hreflang implementation on your website efficiently. And configure it to either prevent or resolve if there are any missing confirmation links.
19. Duplicate content issues
Check for duplicate content issues that could be solved by Hreflang tags. Ensure consistency of your content, canonicalization of your URL to redirect a duplicate content if there is any, and implement the noindex meta tags. Add a canonical link element to the duplicate page content, and an HTML link from the duplicate page to the canonical page. Use the hreflang tag to handle your localized website. Use the hashtag instead of the question mark operator when using UTM parameters, and be careful with your content syndication to prevent duplicate content and broken links. You can check it using here to indicate to Google the use of hreflang for region-specific language or of the localized version of your pages.
20. Supported language values
There are sites that are both multi-regional and multilingual but may not have supported language values or do not use any code-level language information such as lang attributes when geotargeting a specific country – most of them but not all anyhow. So. do not specify a country code by itself. Defining a language code by itself only if you want a simplified labeling. Please take note that Google does not automatically derive the language from the country code. Check Google Search Console for details on supported language/ region or the language values you can use for custom (country-specific or regional-specific) searches.
21. Regional search engines
You can further tweak your international website capability by tapping regional search engines in addition to Google. Though Google is considered the best search engine worldwide, recent statistics (i.e., Wikipedia, Netmarketshare, Alexa, statista, among others) are Google, Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, and Yandex are the top search engines in terms of market share globally. Other search engines that are widely used over the internet include AOL, Ask.com, Excite, DuckDuckGo, Wolfram Alpha, Lycos, and Chacha.com. You can customize your search results through various search engines by country or region. These search results may still reflect with a lower ranking. Still, at least you can customize it to exclusively return or restrict search results from the target or specified country or region, and filter out the other relevant results from those who may have no further relevance to your targeting.
22. Using language subdirectories?
You can use language subdirectories to structure your multilingual site. This way will organize it using the subdirectories for the language versions. Check and configure your website language subdirectories to optimize it for search engines so that crawlers can adequately index the translated versions of your website. If your site offers different content to users in different languages, countries, or regions, you can optimize your website’s Google Search results. To manage your website’s multilingual versions using subdirectories, check it here for related tips.
23. Demographics and seasonality issues?
You need to determine several ways to understand your website’s organic seasonality. Usually, you can start a client for a demographic direction. Still, you may not work most times in scoping the demographics and seasonality issues, such as the climate type (i.e., winter or summer?). Seasonality issues can vary as you attract different audiences. Better get ahead of them and anticipate to look at what are seasonal spikes. You can maximize the use of the search queries section of the Google Webmaster Tools and other SEO tools, such as Ahrefs or SEMrush, to find out which keywords and pages you are ranking. Knowing your keywords basically enables you to understand and analyze seasonality issues. Use the results in the Google Keyword Planner to search for targeted terms and other related search queries, including the monthly search behavior of those queries.
24. Don’t recycle keyword research.
Make sure the business is not using the same keyword research for multiple markets as you need to customize each Keyword (KW) research for each target audience or the international market. Though the steps in making the keyword research may remain the same, at some point, you may have the need to do more detailed filtering and generating content ideas based on search intent scenarios. Make a checklist to guide your keyword customs keyword research to include but do not limit to creating a niche market list, seeding keywords through external resources, gathering keywords using Google Keyword Planner, generating long-tail keywords, filtering irrelevant and duplicate keywords, creating keyword clusters and buckets, classifying keywords based on search intent, and generating content or topic ideas. You can maintain a repository of your keyword research results for future comparative or trend analysis purposes. Remember that content can become your leverage for greater website resources. You can republish blogs or e-newsletters through press releases or content syndication.
25. Local link development
Research what link building or development resources are available within each global region. Local link development leads to user experience, and having optimized content and links ensures that search engines can crawl your site. Local links are links from local sources, typically, websites that are specific to a particular city. But Google would rank a highly relevant webpage with localized link and content to a search query without links than one that contains hundreds of links but is only likely to be relevant. Simply put it this way, when your site is getting other websites or international sites to link back to your website, the link building process is in effect on your website. It drives referral traffic and increases their site’s authority. Thus, sites with more backlinks tend to earn higher rankings.
26. Research local competition
Research the local competition within each international region to collect and review information about your rival firms within each international market. Look for relevant information on what your local competitors are doing, have been thriving, the capability and resources, including technology. And what kind of threat they may challenge your business or website’s success. You can better classify your competitors as direct, indirect, perceived (replacement), and SERP so that you can define your prioritization tactics well. Identify real-world competition and use keyword research and social listening to obtain online competition. Evaluate the relative strength of your competitors so you can position your strategies well. When you position your International SEO strategy, based on comprehensive local competition research, it will help not only promote brands to local potential and existing customers. You would know that your research on the local competition behavior is working when the search engines send optimization signals to Google that your website has relevant and useful local content, social profile pages, links, and citations—thus providing the most relevant local search results to users.
27. Extend into new markets
Extending or expanding to new markets brings a whole new set of considerations for shareholders to consider, including economic feasibility, market trends in the target country, customer buying habits or change of behavior, local competitors, and payment arrangements. Should your business try to grow into a new international marketplace, you need to be sure first of your growth strategy and your expansion operations and environment. Appropriate planning your investment, and selecting your team that will spearhead the expansion operations, can make international market entry easy. Entering the global markets can generate more revenue, compete for new sales, investment opportunities, diversification, intensification, cost reductions, talent acquisition, and decision making in crisis management. It is an effective way to grow your business.
28. First languages
Does the business have customers speaking first languages other than English? Do you want a considerable increase in website traffic? If the answer is yes for either or both of these questions, then you need to optimize a list of your international SEO tips and set this up with different languages and countries. Remember that most of the world doesn’t speak English. Plan out your international SEO strategy, and best prepare it in the first languages of your target international readers. Then decide the level of your international SEO, the extent of your content (i.e., multinational, multilingual), use of ccTLD for your first languages, human translation for these working languages, among other language attributes & tools. The United Nations assembly, for instance, uses English, French, and Spanish as the working languages. There are six international languages used worldwide; these are English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, and Chinese.
29. Incorrect language codes
When you initially implement your international website, always confirm all language and country or region codes so that you are sure you have the correct version. To do this, double-check that all language codes you use identify the language based on ISO proper format, specifically ISO 639-1, and optionally the region (in ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 format) of an alternate URL. Specifying the region alone is not valid. The ISO 639-1 is a standardized and globally accepted language nomenclature. If there are incorrect language codes as well as the country or language indicated doesn’t follow the ISO format, the search engines will not recognize and appropriately rank your international website. Check here for more tips on incorrect language codes.
30. Cookie-based language selectors
There are a few ways to set-up cookie-based language selectors to detect currently selected website language. Visit a page that’s written in another language that you cannot understand. Search Google for foreign websites, or if you already have one in mind, open it on Google Chrome to Translate a page. Just right-click anywhere on the page. Select “Translate” from the context menu to detect the current website’s language. Language selectors recognize global brands that frequently require content or sites designed for users in specific countries or those who speak different languages. A Language selector appears on your homepage when those who need alternative content are likely to get it automatically. Every page with a (physical country) selector must have internal links to each country available on each page. Google will check the pages looking for two elements where a selector is involved – ease of site navigation from one language version to another for a user, and the selector is consistent and available on every page to get the most visibility. You can also use other online translation tools and plugins such as Translate WordPress with GTranslate to recognize and translate a website language. Use Google Translate API with a business plan and Google Apps Script for free to create your own Google Language Translation API.
31. Research local laws
International laws affect, in general terms, almost all of the global websites, but there are variations as local laws would restrict or regulate data privacy. The European Union has tighter regulations on what companies can say and do online than that of the United States. Substantial practical considerations are at play here, of course. Such as where you station your servers while you operate online at the other edge of the internet overseas. This different scenario can significantly impact privacy laws and data sharing in international territories, region-specific, and international-country data privacy laws. Yes, International laws affect foreign and domestic e-commerce in almost all aspects and eventually in this new age of information technology. Even if your business is wholly local, still international law may affect your ability to protect your unique brand. Enforcing intellectual property across national boundaries is complex and is governed by numerous treaties between participating countries. You can do legal research using free options like Google Scholar, or paid platforms (for added benefits).
32. Building links from local resources
Is the website building links from regional sources? A resource page also called a pillar page is a web page that provides valuable information for a specific topic. A resource page lists helpful and optimized links and resources for several keywords related to a particular topic. Resource pages offer more of a macro view of the subject. For example, a food blog about Paleo might have a resource page dedicated to Paleo recipes. Resource page link building is simply the process of getting your site included on the page as one of the resources. The website owner or developer might not be aware that your resource link exists, so it’s your job to let them know!
33. Localize Content
Ensure that you provide the information that is suitable for your target international audience or global audiences. When you use the local language, currency, and time zone together with the contact information like addresses and phone numbers, you are sending strong signals to users and search engines that they are in the right place on the globe. When you are creating your design and content for international readers, you have to think about the culture or tradition of a country or region that you are targeting to localize your content sphere. Select a page on your site that you want to build backlinks to. Find a competing page and analyze