International SEO – A Detailed Guide on How to Grow Your Customer Base

Well, everyone knows about SEO but have you heard of International SEO? Have you been planning to extend your work using International SEO? Well, you can find answers and information in this article.

What is International SEO?

International SEO is the process where you optimize your website so that search engines can identify the countries you wish to reach. You can also rankyour site for a specific country using preferred keywords in different languages.

Do I Need International SEO?

Any business that is planning to expand globally and wish to reach out people in their own language must opt for International SEO. International SEO will be beneficial for you if:

  • You have a notable customer base across the globe.
  • You’re trying to reach out to new international markets.
  • You have offices in different countries to operate your business.
  • Your customers do not speak English as their first language.

Going About International SEO

To make a successful SEO strategy to be successful, it is important to come up with an effective plan. Here are some points to help you:

  1. Research

Research is obviously the first step of process in order to figure out your potential reach in the targeted region. With proper data it’ll be easier for you to set priorities and goals of your business. To begin with, have a good idea of your international organic traffic status, and then identify top Countries, languages and behaviour trends of these international visitors. Next step is to assess the search engine potential in these countries. You can use Google Keyword Planner for strengthening your SEO and attracting international organic traffic.

  1. Targeting

After you’ve got the relevant and competitive keywords, next step is to find countries where these words have sufficient organic search volume. If you can’t find enough volume, you can also start with language-based targeting process as it enables you to earn the ideal traffic and conversion traction.

  1. Optimizing

The final step of the process is to optimize your site, after you have determined the right International web. Correct optimizing refers that your content is relevant, indexable and crawlable. To avoid any search result misalignment make sure that your site provides proper targeting signals. Use Google Webmaster to get proper visibility and to deal with the duplicate contents and URL issues across the globe.

Best Practices in International SEO

To make successful international SEO plan, you’ll have to create a right URL structure, which targets your audience. The three different structures available are:

Country Code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD)

It gives you country specific extensions and hence is ideal for geolocation. However, to gain popularity with this domain, you’ll have to put in extra efforts as it requires you to start afresh as an independent domain.


It is a great option for those with a Generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD). It requires a lot of content indexing and is recommended when you have a unique identity or products. For example, is a subdomain while will add more depth to the structure.


It’s the best choice with business that has limited resource or content as it helps you carry forward the reputation of your current domain.

ccTLD, Sub-Domain, and Sub-Directory

Now that you know about the domain structures that you can use to optimize your International SEO content, here are the pros and cons that’ll help you decide.


Country Code Top-Level Domain is designed for a specific region or country. Two letter ISO- country codes are identified by search engines to understand the target countries, website is targeting.Eg:

Pros of ccTLD:

  • Helps Search Engines (SE) and users to identify the region.
  • Makes your page rank higher for target users to find you
  • Gives a geolocalization signal.
  • Easily marketable
  • Isun-affected by Google Panda or Penguin update if otherccTLD is penalized

Cons of ccTLD

  • Requires a separate SEO strategy
  • subject to censorship measures
  • Separate crawling
  • Requires new links to gain a ranking


A sub-domain is a separate site that’s affiliated to your main URL. Eg: and

Pros of Sub-Domain:

  • Easy to manage and maintain
  • Have local IP address
  • Easily track conversions and results using Google Analytics
  • Possible to have a separate local host
  • Best for new products or businesses

Cons of Sub-Domain:

  • Requires a separate SEO strategy
  • Local Optimization process is complicated
  • Hard to create country wise sub-domain for different versions
  • Users prefer browsing locally
  • Value of main domain can’t be passed on to sub-domain


A sub-directory is basically a directory within another directory. This allows you to create separate folder for different languages.

Pros of Sub-Directory:

  • Need just one technical support domain
  • Cost effective as compared to other options
  • Stronger domain authority
  • Simple to execute

Cons of Sub-Directory:

  • Sub- directories don’t have specific IP address
  • Weak signalled geo-localization
  • Users prefer local browsing
  • Difficult to maintain country directory for different versions.
  • Whole directory is affected by Google penalties

Major Problem in International SEO

Duplicate content is one of the biggest problems in International SEO, which affects your SEO ranking. You can use a hreflang to sort this issue of duplicate content. This enables Google to sort out the version of your page that should be reaching the regional audience. This SEO practice is virtually mandatory and you can use this tag on all URL versions of your site.
Canonical tags can also help in preventing duplication of your content.

Essential Checklist for International SEO

While option for International SEO, ask yourself these questions

  • Do I know my International SEO potential?
  • What should I do to target desired audience?
  • Shall I go with country-targeted approach or language- targeted approach?
  • What is the best international targeted site structure?
  • How will I go with translations?
  • Have I used the hreflang tag?

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