International SEO strategy: steps to success

Working on your SEO is essential to create greater visibility on the web, but above all to reach an audience outside its usual boundaries. An essential solution for developing your brand in new markets, implementing a solid, relevant and effective SEO strategy opens a door to the whole world. In this article, we provide you with 6 keys to internationalize your business and be able to reference yourself in different countries.

Why is it important to optimize your international SEO strategy?

Optimizing your international SEO strategy is essential in a globalized world where the digital market transcends borders. A strong search engine presence is key to reaching a diverse audience and ensuring continued growth of your business globally. SEO is not just about keywords: it’s about understanding the cultural, linguistic and technical particularities of each target region.

Each country, or even region, may have distinct nuances regarding search behavior and user preferences. Misinterpreting these nuances can lead to lost opportunities or worse, costly reputational errors. This is where the interest of using an international SEO agency comes into play. He has the experience and tools to adapt a company’s strategy to various international markets, ensuring that the brand is not only visible, but also relevant and compelling to audiences around the world.

Analyze target foreign markets and identify relevant ones

If you are considering expanding your business internationally, the first step is to research your target markets. In fact, your goal is to identify, on the one hand, the behavior of your current visitors, and on the other, the most interesting foreign countries to search for qualified traffic. To do this, take into consideration the habits of each country, in terms of navigation, media used, language, colors, etc.

Also, ask yourself about the following: the country leading your current traffic, the traffic volume for each country, the pages on your site that have the most international exposure, and the conversion rate relative to your international visitors. To help you in your research, consider using Google Analytics. This tool will allow you to carry out a detailed analysis of your audience thanks to its geographical data.

Choosing the right hosting and domain for your site

The choice of web hosting is essential for a website, especially if you want to internationalize it. It is undeniable that the loading speed and performance of a site influence the positioning in search results, but also the bounce rate. So, for international SEO, opt for hosting that offers good loading speeds, reliable uptime, and servers in the regions you want to target. The technical plan also has an important role to play in international SEO. It is therefore appropriate to start an in-depth reflection not only on hosting, but also on the domain name.

Define your targeting

Good international SEO targeting relies on a good understanding of your target market, including your audience’s language, culture, preferences, and search behaviors. This is actually only possible through thorough research on the latter. To tailor your site to the needs of these markets, you can opt for country targeting or language targeting.

Country targeting or geographic targeting is a highly recommended technique if you are targeting a specific country with a different catalog than your country of origin. As for language targeting, it consists of optimizing your site for audiences in a specific language when you offer exactly the same catalog in all your markets.

Organize the URL structure of your pages

There are several ways to structure a site for an international audience. These three options are the most recommended:

Structure Usage
Top Level Domain or Country Top Level Domain (ccTDL) domain* The country code top-level domain is associated with geo-targeting. It is therefore relevant if your strategy differs from country to country with different offers.
Subdomain en.domain The subdomain can be used to target a language and country. This is recommended in case you have a generic domain and want to add more depth to your site structure. It is therefore independent of the authority of other domains and allows you to manage the site in full autonomy.
Subfolder domain The subdirectory is associated with the root domain authority. Can be used for language or country targeting. It is recommended if you have a generic, branded or community domain.

*.fr here refers to France. This extension therefore changes according to the country indicated.

Implement an hreflang attribute

Located in the tag of your page, hreflang attributes are an essential tool in international SEO, because they allow you to show Internet users the different language versions of your site. This is because they tell search engines which language and geographic region a specific page is targeting. Used wisely, they help avoid duplicate content in your content, ensure the right content is presented in the right language, but most importantly they reduce your bounce rate. Therefore, they must be correctly implemented on each page, for each language version. To do this, you can embed the hreflang tag in the HTML part of your site, XML or HTML sitemap, or HTTPS or HTTP header. However, you can set a default language with the x-default hreflang tag.

Adapt its content to the destination country

It is obvious that to best reach geographically defined targets, it is more than essential to set up a content strategy adapted to the target market. The fact remains that conversion rates differ from one country to another, so adapt your content to your target audience and above all make sure it meets their expectations.

Then build an editorial plan adapted to each strategy, for each market. The same goes for defining keywords and translating content. In this regard, make sure that the translation of your website is complete and of high quality, from the URLs, to the useful information, not forgetting the meta titles, meta description, menus and navigation elements and much more.

All of these are good practices to adopt for international SEO. However, to support your action plan, check your internal network and implement a proper netlinking strategy. Also consider adopting an ROI- and data-centric approach. Indeed, the ROI calculation allows you to evaluate the profitability of your content strategy.

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