On the Global Stage: How to Prepare Your Website for International SEO

SEO tips
On the Global Stage: How to Prepare Your Website for International SEO

When I was still growing up and have no money of my own to speak of, I’m regularly told to not buy things from overseas. Unsurprisingly, this thinking has stayed with me even after I hit my twenties and it wasn’t until the last couple of years that I’ve begun ordering things from overseas, mainly vinyl records I can’t find locally and a few cute things I found on Etsy. It was a bit daunting the first few times but other than the long shipping times, I no longer consider international trade to be as daunting as I thought it was.

It hasn’t been completely smooth sailing of course, I found some boots maker over from Indonesia that I found interesting only to hit a bit of a roadblock because of the language barrier but it does show just how much of a globalized world we’re living in right now. It’s not enough for your business’ website to be discovered only by a local audience, SEO services and marketers know that international SEO holds a definite value in the 21st century. Broaden your horizon and you might find there’s a willing audience for your product that you haven’t previously thought of.

International SEO and local SEO

It might sound tempting to consider your global website as simply your main website but translated into different languages but really, translation is just step one into adapting your website to a completely different locale. Just as an example, do you realize that the internet you know might not be the same internet that people from across the world are familiar with? China’s internet is pretty much different from the rest of the world and if you were a bit confused about the entire hubbub around GDPR, that’s because that’s a set of regulations that came from Europe.

As one example of the consequence of this divided internet, the harmless and wholesome character Winnie the Pooh is banned in China, as can be seen in the recently released Kingdom Hearts III and the film Christopher Robin that was never released in China. All this is a way for me to say that preparing your website for the purpose of international SEO means having to adapt to different rules, social norms and culture. A simple copy, paste and translate job simply wouldn’t be enough.

Since each country and population would have their own set of rules, trying to compile all of those into a single list would be nigh impossible. That being said, there’s a general rule that every company could follow to prepare their website before making their global debut. Assuming you’ve done all of your market research and have previously established that going global is indeed the right move for your company, here are the basic steps you could take in order to prepare your website for international SEO.

Use different URLs for each of your localized website

This step is important for the basic purpose of indexing and crawling by search engine bots. Technically, you could simply host all versions of your websites under that same URL and to simply have your website adapts based on where your visitor is coming or what language they’re using but in the long run, using separate URLs is more convenient, especially if you’re planning to further specialize each version of your site to further accommodate the demands of each locale, which is something you should definitely do.

Google actually recommends this as well and since Google commands a monopoly in the field of search engine, you should definitely pay attention to their recommendations. As a side note though, you also want to give users the option of going directly to your main site instead of the localized one. For example, if I head on over to Apple’s website without any regional identifier (just .com instead of .com/au), I’m directed to Apple’s international website with an option to jump straight to the Australian version of the website.

Localize the contents of your website to suit each country

Just as an example, the word football could have different meanings depending on which part of Australia you’re standing on. It could mean Australian football, the rugby league or it could also refer to soccer and this is just for a single country. Toilet, water closet and bathroom are technically three different things but in a casual setting, those three words can be used interchangeably depending on where you currently are, with other terms like loo or restroom also being used.

Language quirks are just one of the things you have to watch out for when creating content for a localized website. Other examples would be if you’re planning a themed promotion to coincide with a national holiday. Christmas and Thanksgiving are the same dates all across the world but they’re not as culturally relevant in some parts compared to others. On the other hand, Independence Day is different for each country and if you want to truly make an effort with a specific population, these little details should never escape you.

Find out what keywords are being used

If you’ve done your homework and have identified who your competitors are going to be in your targeted country, the next step is figuring out what kind of keywords they’re optimizing for. Even if the official language of said country is also English, there might be some small language differences that you have to watch out for. Any tool you’ve used previously as part of your keyword research should also work just as well for this step.