SEO Web Design 101: Optimizing for International Search Engines

1 July 2020

SEO isn't only keywords and phrases, especially when it comes to the globe. Learn about web design's important relationship with international search engines.

Kompass International

By Kompass International

1 July 2020

Now’s a good time to start selling internationally.

Indeed, the market value of global cross-border e-commerce is predicted to reach $1 trillion by next year. According to the same source, that figure is up from $213 billion in 2014.

Clearly, there’s a sizeable financial incentive to expanding your business to foreign shores.

However, it’s far easier said than done. A lot goes into the process of such major business development. One component of making it a success is mastering international search engine optimization on your website.

Get it wrong, and companies risk falling short. Get it right, and the world’s their oyster. Are you looking to ensure your international SEO is up to scratch as you expand across borders?

Read on for 8 essential tips on optimizing your website in line with international search engines.

1. Translate the Language

The language on your website should be translated to match the market you’re expanding into.

This is an essential part of the success of your website.

It’s no good having a webpage in English for a French marketplace. It doesn’t matter how relevant the content may be, or how good the offer is. If a visitor can’t understand the language, they’ll never make a purchase.

2. Reflect the Countries in Content

The language is one thing.

The actual content is another.

Site content must be entirely accessible to all new markets. Terms of phrase, idioms, references, units of measurement, data formats, and so on should all make sense to the people visiting your site.

It’s no good making a reference to the latest TV show in the United States when it isn’t shown in France. It simply won’t make sense to the people viewing the content.

3. Keyword Research for New Territories

Keyword research is vital to SEO success.

The same holds for international SEO.

However, it’s important to consider differences in search terms. The popularity of keywords will vary between countries. You might find a great keyword for an American audience. But people in Spain may never search for it.

As a result, businesses must do their research in line with the audience their targeting. It’s worth remembering that many words can’t translate exactly too.

There may be a totally different meaning involved. Consequently, for the sake of international trade, it can pay to have a native speaker help out in determining the keywords you target.

4. Decide the Best Website Structure

You need the URLs of your website to match the international market you’re targeting.

Why? Because your .com domain may not perform as effectively in the local market.

There are different domain structures available.

A country-coded top-level domain (ccTLD) is one that’s specific to the target country. For example, if you want to sell in France, then you’d purchase a ‘.fr’ domain (i.e.

The upside of that is the strong geo-targeting signals that are sent to search engines. The main downside is the logistical problems of managing multiple domains. You need a new one for each country you’re targeting.

This tack may suit businesses extending into a small number of new markets. But for larger expansions, an arguably better approach is to use subdirectories.

AKA taking a generic top-level domain with a subdirectory related to a certain country or language (e.g.

This approach offers numerous logistical advantages. For example, you only need to build links to one top level domain.

5. Use HrefLang Tags

The technical side of your SEO is essential to success internationally.

Get it right and you maximize the signals sent to search engines regarding the country and language you’re targeting.

HrefLang tags are fundamental to this process.

Implement them in the <head>, on-page markup or the sitemap of your website. Doing so shows website visitors a version of the page in their local language. It looks at their IP address and converts the language accordingly.

It informs the search engine exactly where a page should be indexed and served, in relation to the language they speak in that country.

6. Get Backlinks From Target Countries

Backlinks are another essential part of effective SEO.

And, again, the same is true when you’re extending into foreign markets.

However, link juice works best when it’s derived from local sources.

Let’s imagine that you’re trying to rank in France. To succeed, you’ll need to accrue backlinks from French URLs. The same goes for all other countries in which you’re trying to rank. Sure, a link from your own country is better than nothing. But having links from the specific countries of interest will give your business more power in local search engines.

7. Keep the Actual Search Engines in Mind

It’s easy to take Google for granted.

It’s just assumed that it’s the primary search engine that’s used around the world. And, by and large, that isn’t a bad assumption. After all, there are over 75,000 google searches every single second.

However, that’s not the case in many countries. China is a prime example. Here, Google is a drop in the ocean. It’s Baidu that makes up the vast majority of the search engine market share. And in Russia, it’s Yandex.

That means your business must potential optimize according to a new set of standards. After all, there’s no point being fully optimized for Google if people aren’t using it.

A good place to start is by looking in Google Analytics at where your audience currently resides. It will be far easier to extend into a country if your site already has an audience there.

8. Sign Up to B2B Portals

The sole purpose of SEO is to increase your visibility online.

There are few better ways of doing that than signing up to B2B portals. These online advertising solutions do exactly that. They’re ideal when taking your business international.

These portals provide a means of representing your company in an engaged, international business community.

Booster, by Kompass, is a prime example.

This global B2B portal gets 17 million views every month from all over the world. It ranks in search engines too, pulling in additional traffic straight to your business. Setting up a profile ensures your business ranks first for targeted queries.

Ultimately, this leads to increased leads and revenue from global B2B buyers.

Time to Optimize for International Search Engines

There you have it: 8 top SEO tips for optimizing websites in line with international search engines.

The market value of cross border e-commerce is set to explode. This is a clear sign that now is as good a time as any to consider extending business to an international market. However, that doesn’t mean it will be an easy road ahead.

If you’re getting ready to make the move, then international SEO is one vital step to master. Hopefully, this article has provided all the information required to do just that.

Like this piece? Looking for help with your digital marketing? Contact us today to see how we can be of assistance.


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