A Comprehensive Guide to International SEO

by Ivan L.

International SEO is a valuable strategy for increasing website traffic by optimizing your website for audiences in different countries. This article will provide a step-by-step process to help you get started with international SEO. Throughout this guide, we will use the example of an ecommerce brand called MyLamp, which sells LED desk lamps in the US and plans to expand to European markets.

Step 1: Decide on Your URL Structure

The first step in international SEO is to decide on your URL structure. There are three common options to consider:

  1. ccTLDs (country-coded top-level domains): This involves using a country-specific domain for each targeted country. For example, mylamp.es for Spain and mylamp.fr for France. This option is ideal if you only plan to target a few countries, as it provides clear geotargeting. However, it can be expensive and challenging to maintain multiple domains.
  2. Subdomains: Subdomains allow you to create specific sub-sections of your website for each country, such as es.mylamp.com for Spain and fr.mylamp.com for France. While subdomains are easier to scale and maintain, the geotargeting may not be as clear to users, and you may need to build separate link authority for each subdomain.
  3. Subdirectories: This option involves using subdirectories, such as mylamp.com/es for Spain and mylamp.com/fr for France. Subdirectories are often the preferred choice for targeting a large group of countries, as everything remains under the same domain. This approach offers customization, affordability, and ease of tracking, while also keeping all of the domain’s link authority intact.

Considering MyLamp’s goal of targeting multiple European countries, the subdirectory structure seems to be the most suitable option.

Step 2: Conduct Keyword Research for Your Target Country

A Comprehensive Guide to International SEO

The next step is to perform keyword research for the target country. It is recommended to have a native speaker translate your existing keywords to ensure accuracy. If you don’t have access to a native speaker, you can use tools like Google Translate or ChatGPT, although the results may not always be completely accurate. Cross-reference the translated keywords with a tool like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer to assess the search demand in the target country.

For example, when translating the main keyword “LED desk lamp” to Spanish, we get “lamparas de mesa led.” By inputting this translated keyword into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, we can determine the search volume in Spain. Repeat this process for other relevant keywords to gain insights into the search demand in each target country.

Step 3: Localize Your Content

After identifying the target keywords, it’s crucial to localize your content to adapt it specifically to the language and culture of the new market. Localization goes beyond translation and involves modifying various elements of your content:

  • Translate the content into the local language.
  • Adapt price, dimensions, and other specifications to match local standards.
  • Use terminology, spelling, and sentence structures that resonate with the local audience.

To ensure a great user experience in the target country, it’s essential to work with local writers during the localization process.

Step 4: Implement Hreflang Tags

Once your content has been localized, you need to ensure that search engines display the correct version of your content to the right audience. This is where hreflang tags come in. Hreflang tags are small pieces of code that inform search engines about language and region targeting.

When implementing hreflang tags, consider the following:

  • Hreflang tags work in pairs, indicating the alternative versions in different languages or regions.
  • Include self-referential hreflang tags for each page to confirm ownership and control.
  • The technical aspects of implementing hreflang tags can be complex. Refer to a detailed guide or tutorial for assistance.

By correctly implementing hreflang tags, you can improve the targeting of your content and avoid serving the wrong versions to users in different countries.

A Comprehensive Guide to International SEO

Finally, to compete effectively in your target countries, it’s essential to build backlinks from local websites. While you may already have a strong backlink profile in your home country, local backlinks from the new markets will help you establish authority and relevance.

Consider the following strategies for building local backlinks:

  • Follow a comprehensive tutorial on local link building.
  • Seek opportunities for collaborations or partnerships with local businesses or influencers.
  • Leverage content marketing to create valuable resources that attract local websites to link to your pages.

By actively building backlinks in each target country, you can enhance your international SEO efforts and improve your website’s visibility and rankings.


International SEO is a powerful strategy for expanding your online presence and increasing website traffic from different countries. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can optimize your website for international audiences, select an appropriate URL structure, conduct effective keyword research, localize your content, implement hreflang tags, and build backlinks to boost your international SEO success.

A Comprehensive Guide to International SEO


How does GDPR compliance affect international SEO in European markets?

GDPR compliance is crucial for businesses targeting European markets, impacting how you collect, store, and use customer data. Ensuring your website complies with GDPR can influence customer trust and your site’s SEO, as search engines prioritize secure and user-friendly websites.
To delve deeper into GDPR compliance and its impact on SEO, consider reading “GDPR for Marketing: The Definitive Guide for 2023” by Suzanne Dibble and exploring resources on the official GDPR website.

What are the challenges in managing multiple international websites, and how to overcome them?

Managing multiple international websites can be challenging due to the need to coordinate various languages, content, SEO strategies, and compliance with local regulations. Challenges may include maintaining consistency, managing resources, and ensuring local relevance.

For practical insights into managing international websites, consider reading “Global Content Marketing: How to Create Great Content, Reach More Customers, and Build a Worldwide Marketing Strategy that Works” by Pam Didner. The Content Marketing Institute also provides various resources on managing global content effectively.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment