Global Acquisition with International SEO

There will come a time when the appeal of looking outside an enterprise's geographic area in order to grow and generate more revenue is simply too great to ignore. Developing a strategy to help achieve this objective, however, is often much easier said than done.

Not only is it critical that businesses understand the opportunities of being a global enterprise, but also the challenges and complexities of operating (even in a virtual sense) internationally. Much like competing in any market, businesses (and the marketers and technologists they employ) must engage in thorough evaluations of the landscape and make all the necessary considerations for how the digital presence should be developed.

International SEO is not any more complicated than SEO initiatives focused on any other specific geographic market, but it does often require more planning and organization. In this brief overview of international SEO, readers will discover how to plan for a broader digital globalization effort.

Before jumping in, it is first important to evaluate the company's content, technical infrastructure, business model, customer service operations and pricing/currency factors in the context of how culture and language could impact success. Failure to explore and validate these characteristics from an international perspective is often the biggest failure companies make; don't let this happen to your enterprise - invest the time and resources.

and the Competitive Landscape

One of the most significant missteps made by those businesses looking to enter foreign markets is overestimating the potential traffic (and revenue) they could receive from the countries they are targeting. Is there a sufficient amount of search-based interest in that geographic area to warrant an investment of time and resources?

To determine this, SEOs can explore the search volume of the industry and country as well as how the website being optimized is currently ranked in those countries being targeted. Analytics solutions often provide location and language insights through that marketers and analysts will be able to determine the potential.

Forecasting traffic increases alone, however, is not enough. Understanding how competitors are currently performing also provides some much needed insight that should not be ignored. Using solutions, such as SEMrush, provide an opportunity to understand not only who a company's competitors are in a particular location or language, but also what volume of traffic they are receiving as well as what keywords they are using to acquire new visitors (and new business).

While it is certainly possible to skip the industry and competitive research phase, engaging in this practice provides a stronger foundation for long-term SEO as the insights gathered and provided by the tools in use will eliminate any doubt about where time and resources should be focused.


Most enterprises looking to capitalize on the potential traffic/users in countries outside of their own often begin with localization efforts (although as previously discussed, a better use of time and resources is to begin with a thorough keyword and competitive research phase).

Localization, despite opinions otherwise, is not just about translating a website into the local language being targeted; the savviest enterprises are those that understand the cultural nuances of the geographic areas they are competing within. Often the safest advice is to concentrate on the development of neutral language (that which uses a global tone of voice that is devoid of regional connotations or metaphors).

While effort toward localizing content is often concentrated on marketing related materials, other content including technical, legal, and even infrastructure (like navigational elements) also must be translated with the same focus on clarity and purpose.

Translating all the different forms of content on a website is a challenging undertaking. While machine-translation offerings have been used with regularity in the past, the best course of action is to make the investment in professional human translation (or a combination of the two) in order to generate the best possible experience for users in the country being targeted.


The technical aspects of a website are just as important as thorough research and content localization in an SEO globalization effort. The challenge? It is equally complicated.

There are numerous considerations that must be made by those looking to undertake an SEO initiative, from choosing the right structure (country or language targeting), the location of the server, and the correct implementation of "hreflang." Let's take a closer look at each of these technical aspects in closer detail.

Website Structure: The structure of a website engaging in an international SEO initiative will differ based on whether the site is being optimized for a specific country or a specific language (which may be spoken in multiple countries). The general rule of thumb is that if a country is being targeted, use a CCtld (country-code top-level domain), otherwise, subdomains and subfolders will work should language targeting be the aim.

Local Hosting: Server location does have an impact on search result rankings; the idea being that the greater the distance away from the user, the slower the speed, the worse the user experience. The rise of cloud hosting has minimized much of these concern, but it does still exist and should be addressed in international SEO efforts. 

Hreflang Implementation: One of the final steps in global search optimization is to ensure that users are arriving at the right experience - one that is targeted based on their country and preferred language. The best way to accomplish that is through the use of hreflang annotations as they enable SEO professionals to cross-reference pages that have similar content but target different audiences. Incorrect hreflang use can have disastrous consequences, but do it right the first time and brands will be on your way to higher rankings and more traffic in no time.

Businesses need to be prepared to go international, and no amount of research, localization or technical modification will matter if the business itself is not ready to server its audiences. When it comes to International SEO, being prepared makes a word of difference.


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