Mastering International SEO: Best Strategies for Your Website in 2023

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For your SEO strategy to shine, search engines need to identify which countries your website wants to target. And if you operate in or want to expand into other markets, those same search engines should understand which languages to communicate with your customers in.

This is all known as international SEO, and it plays a pivotal role in your overall marketing output. Given that international SEO is so important, you probably want to know the best strategies to implement on your website.

That’s the purpose of this guide, which has everything you need to know about mastering international SEO.

Understanding International SEO

International SEO isn’t just another buzzword or piece of jargon in a neverending SEO glossary of fancy terminology. It involves optimizing your website to successfully reach and communicate with audiences in various countries and languages. It involves implementing strategies that help search engines understand the following:

  • Which countries you’re targeting
  • The languages you’re using
  • Ensuring your content is relevant and accessible to those locations

The key difference between domestic and international SEO lies in the scope and complexity. While the domestic SEO checklist primarily focuses on optimizing your website for search engines in your local market, international SEO requires a broader approach. Understanding cultural nuances, language variations, and regional search engine preferences are all requirements.

Optimizing your website for international SEO has several benefits: it enhances your website’s visibility across different search engines worldwide, broadening reach to potential customers outside your domestic region. It also helps in delivering a better user experience by providing content that’s tailored to the user’s language and culture, increasing engagement and conversions as a result.

Conducting International Keyword Research

Homepage for Google keyword planner
Tools like the Keyword planner on Google Ads can help you refine your SEO strategy.

Just as each market has a unique language and cultural nuances, they also have distinct search behaviors. Localized keyword research helps you understand these behaviors and means you can tailor content to resonate with different audiences worldwide.

Make Use of Tools

Using SEO tools like SEMRush, Ahrefs, and Google Ads means you can take advantage of geographical filters and find popular keywords in different regions. They also provide insights into helpful metrics like search volume, competition, and trending keywords.

Consider Local Nuances

After identifying potential keywords, analyze search trends and competition in your target markets. Look for seasonal trends, local events, or cultural factors that could influence search behaviors. Additionally, assess the competition for your chosen keywords to understand the level of effort needed to rank well and help create content that is genuinely valuable and relevant to your global audience.

Implementing hreflang Tags

Hreflang tags are HTML tags used to tell search engines the language and geographical targeting of a webpage. They help with international SEO by aiding search engines recognize which version of your content it should show to users based on their language and location.

To correctly implement hreflang tags, you need to add them to the HTML head of each page version. Each tag should specify the language using a language code (like ‘en’ for English) and, optionally, the country code (like ‘us’ for the United States).

Despite their importance, hreflang tags are often misused. Common mistakes include mixing up language and country codes or forgetting to include a tag for the default language. Many users also don’t reciprocate tags across all page versions. Avoiding these mistakes can significantly improve the effectiveness of your international SEO efforts.

Top Tip: A hreflang tag for English language content targeted at the US would look like this: <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-us” href=”” />.

Creating Multilingual and Multiregional Content

Translation tool by easytranslate
Using a translation tool is a budget-saving method of generating simple content for different markets.

Creating high-quality multilingual and multiregional content can really help your SEO pop as you target other countries. It involves tailoring your content to resonate with different language speakers and regional cultures, ensuring that it is both accessible and engaging.

When it comes to content creation or translation for different target markets, there are a couple of strategies to consider.

Native Speakers

Hiring native speakers or professional translators can help with the linguistic accuracy and cultural appropriateness of your content. You have someone who knows the language and the nuances, meaning they can tailor content so it hits the right notes.

Translation Tools

Alternatively, using translation tools can be a cost-effective option if the budget is tight. Translation tools can be helpful for simplified content, but anything more complex will likely need additional editing for nuances and idioms.

Maintaining consistency across language and regional variations is equally important.

Creating a website that’s consistent in branding, messaging, and design across all versions and languages creates a cohesive brand image.

However, don’t mistake consistency for uniformity. Localizing content—modifying it to align with local customs, cultural nuances, and consumer behavior—is important. Striking a balance between global consistency and local relevance helps to create successful multilingual and multiregional content.

Localizing On-Page SEO Elements

Localization of on-page SEO elements helps optimize your website for international audiences. It includes customizing meta tags, headings, and alt attributes to reflect the language and cultural context of your target market.

Including localized keywords and cultural nuances in your on-page elements can significantly improve visibility in local search results. Moreover, optimizing local business information, like address, contact details, and business hours for local search visibility directly impacts how effectively your website attracts and engages with audiences from different regions and cultures.

Incorporating this information in a structured format helps search engines better understand your business and improve visibility in local search results. Remember, localization goes beyond translation—it’s about resonating with your audience in a culturally relevant way.

Optimizing Website Structure for International SEO

Display of a URL structure and what it should look like
Ensure you use an appropriate URL structure to support your International SEO efforts

A well-structured website starts with your URL structure, where you should clearly indicate the language or country variation of each page. This can be done using country or language-specific domains, subdomains, or directories.

Handling language and country variations in your website architecture is equally important. Each language or country version should have its own clearly defined section of the site. When it comes to duplicate content issues, using hreflang tags and canonical tags can help signal to search engines which version of the content to prioritize in different regions.

Good to Know: Canonical tags are HTML elements used to indicate the preferred version of a webpage when there are duplicate content issues.

More Information

  • Are you looking to build your website using a website builder? Check out our Best Website Builders for SEO to see which one might be the right option for you.

International Link Building Strategies

When done right, international link building improves your website’s authority and visibility in different regions. By acquiring backlinks from high-quality websites that are relevant to your target markets, you can enhance your international SEO efforts.

Identifying international backlink opportunities involves researching popular websites, blogs, or news outlets in your target regions. It’s also worth considering approaching local influencers or industry professionals who might be willing to link to your site.

When conducting outreach for link building, consider cultural differences. Tailor your outreach emails or messages to fit the communication style and etiquette of the region. Remember, building relationships is key to successful link-building, and understanding cultural norms can help strengthen these relationships.

Top Tip: Reach out to potential link builders via email or on social media with personalized requests that highlight mutual benefits and align with their audience’s interests.

Mastering International SEO: Summary

Mastering international SEO is no small feat, but with the best practices outlined in this guide, you’re well-equipped to make the right strides. Keep these strategies in mind and start implementing them today so your website reaches new heights in the global digital landscape.


International SEO allows you to tap into new markets and audiences outside your home countries while increasing brand awareness. Making your website visible in foreign language searches essentially means you can build your brand, enjoy expansion, and earn more revenue.
Yes, anyone can set up international SEO. However, it requires an understanding of SEO principles, as well as cultural nuances, technical aspects like hreflang tags, and localized keyword research.
Without international SEO, your website may struggle to reach or engage global audiences. This could limit your growth potential and reduce the user experience for non-domestic visitors.
Written by:

I joined the Website Builder Expert writing team in 2023. With a decade of writing experience, I really love helping brands and small businesses, with a talent for making seemingly dull topics fun and engaging. My aim is to get you feeling confident about marketing your business so it can achieve success.

Having a background in advertising has given me a unique lens through which to view topics. I love turning tricky subjects – like website security certificates and crafting a customer journey map – into easy-to-understand pieces of content that capture attention whether you're reading at home or browsing while out and about.

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