International SEO: Best Practices and Site Architecture to Follow in 2021

international SEO in 2021, best practices to follow

Ever thought about taking your business global? If you’ve been thinking or planning to go global with your business, then international SEO can be a great starting point.

Considering the current world scenario where a business is just a Google search away from the customer, international SEO can offer a scalable and cost-effective solution to expand your business’s web presence.

But it takes a proper plan and resources with time to effectively stir the international SEO process into action. You need to make sure that you’re creating a great customer experience around the world and the search engines.

More and more companies are reaching out and expanding their customer base globally. Although it might seem surprising given the global pandemic situation, international expansion isn’t going away.

During a recent survey conducted by Argyle Advisory and Globalization Partners, 166 CFOs and VPs of Finance at the large companies were asked questions about their plans for global expansion, and how the pandemic has affected them. Surprisingly, each of them agreed to the statement that their long-term business strategy includes international expansion.

So, if you are to begin with the expansion of your online business, where would you start with?

What follows will help you learn the fundamentals for reaching a global search audience and address your queries. Let’s jump into it from the basics.

What is International SEO?

International SEO is the process of optimizing the on-page tags, website content, and site architecture that is recommended for search engines to understand which regions you want to target for business, internationally. This also includes country-based language targeting as per visibility and traffic of the keywords that are already providing organic search value.

Now, how do you begin with ranking your website internationally? There are many elements and practices included in the process of International SEO that needs to be followed altogether for the successful execution of your organic campaign.

The key idea behind this is that your website needs to be highly relevant and authoritative for the particular regions you want to rank for. And for that, it is important to expend resources to build localized campaigns for each and every international version of the website.

A full-fledged international SEO strategy will help you compete in the new market and reward you with the step towards digital globalization.

Best Practices for International SEO:

Before you jump right into the process, you need to estimate your business potential in your target countries. That is, finding out how your website is currently ranked in those countries by digging deeper to see for which exact keywords your website is ranking for, and how your competitors are performing.

We do this to analyze where you initially stand in the market (your current status), how much effort is required to compete, and set realistic expectations in terms of results.

1. Technical Aspects and Site Architecture:

When optimizing your website for International SEO, technical aspects include the best practices that ensure your website is easily crawlable and indexable around the globe.

This includes configuring on-page tags, optimizing loading speed, monitoring the site’s behavior, as well as evaluating and implementing proper site architecture (also called URL structure) in relevance to your targeted region.

The top technical elements that impact International SEO are:

  • International site architecture:

The site owners and webmasters can employ specific URL structures on their websites to target a particular region/country. This includes using ccTLDs or subdomains/subdirectories that complies best with the local search engines guidelines.

Using the same website to market in different regions can be struggling and may not give you the results you want. Thus, it is best to adhere to local relevancy with the URL structures.

site architecture for international SEO

  • Redirects and canonical tags:

Using redirects and canonical URLs are really important for any website, but they should be dealt with carefully. A 301 redirect literally directs you to another page, while a canonical tag only hints at the search engines.

While implementing these for international SEO, make sure the redirect rules and canonicalization are not contradicting with the hreflang. For example, the .us page of the website should not be canonicalizing or redirecting to the .com version, which will result in an invalid hreflang tag.

international targeting using hreflang

  • Sitemaps:

Using XML sitemaps is important to inform search engines about the crawlable URLs on a website. However, for better indexation and more traffic, it’s a good idea to add a multiple sitemap structure. This is not just for the large websites; it can be used by sites with any size number for better clarity and simplified future diagnostics.

Using sitemap indices and splitting sitemaps by regions give the search engines a clear path to your content and site structure. This helps in providing search engines with more than just data, allowing it to parse in a better way.

  • Local relevance:

For the sites that are not using a country code top-level domain (ccTLDs), it is crucial to log into the Search Console (webmaster tool) and adjust the settings according to the targeted country.

It is important to show search engines which languages your website is set up to handle using hreflang or language meta tags. For example, the following code will let search engines know that an alternate version of the content in the French language is available at the provided link.

<link rel=”alternate” href=”” hreflang=”fr-fr”/>

Here’s a diagram to help you create the country level designation for sending users to the better versions of your site.

hreflang for local relevance

To measure the success of your SEO campaigns in Google, you must install Google Analytics and Google Search Console for each of your web properties to gain insights about potential technical issues.

Apart from this, your content needs to be locally tailored. We will learn more about this in the following segment for our blog.

2. Content Aspects:

For your web pages to flourish in the local search results of your targeted region, the best practice is to make sure you are providing information tailored to their language and culture. This is called localization.

Here are some of the best practices to make sure your website is suited to your target audience along with search engines:

  • Transcreation or localization:

Transcreation is the process of translating your website copy and keywords into the local languages and as per the culture of your targeted regions/countries. For this, you need someone who actually understands the subject matter or have sufficient research before you can effectively communicate with the local audience.

People from different regions look at things like layout, tone, humor style in different ways. By using local signs and symbols, you are sending signals to the users and the search engines that they are at the right place.

While targeting a new region, it is crucial to approach it with a completely fresh mindset and be open-minded about the competitive landscape of the search engines.

This helps in gaining deep insights and tailor our content strategy to what thrives in that region.

  • Don’t rely on Google Translate:

Surprisingly, many global companies are still relying on the faulty automatic Google translation, not knowing that Google’s own multilingual translation solution falls short in SEO. Machine translated content is also bound to the risk of getting penalized by Google itself as they are robotic, inaccurate, and often do not resonate with the user experience.

Search engines reward the content that are relevant and trusted by the visitors, which comes into effect by how they interact with that content and how much time they spend.

By investing in carefully crafted quality content, you can effectively address the queries of your customers and provide them solutions personalized to their specific needs; thus, getting higher rankings in the SERPs.

3. User Experience and Design Aspects:

One of the common misconceptions around SEO is that it only revolves around link building and producing relevant content. No doubt these two are important strategies, but as the search engine’s algorithms evolved, they are also considering user experience to determine how well a website should rank.

UX is critical to international SEO and requires its own level of expertise. The key here to is to make the entire website and its alternate versions easily accessible to both users and search engines. Some of the important elements that influence user experience are as follows.

  • Ensure that the users land on the best local version of the website if it exists.
  • Static site navigation that displays which version of the site the user is currently using, along with easy access to all the other versions of the website.
  • Host site on local IP to provide faster loading and get better visitor engagement.
  • Understand what colors and designs the local users find appealing and perceive the same.
  • Ensure that the site is properly formatted in terms of currencies, addresses, phone numbers, date and time zone.

Final Thoughts:

Investing in International SEO is the best possible way to engage with leads from different countries/regions. Although all the efforts that make an international SEO campaign successful are the same as any effective SEO campaign. However, the major difference is the way the overall campaign is tailored to the local audience.

Decide on your exact strategy and go with the localized versions of your website for different locations. For better results, make sure to use human translations and include all the necessary information for the search engines. If you want to learn more about creating localized versions of your webpage, here’s a quick guide by Google for you to follow.

Want to expand your digital presence and reach a global search audience? Get in touch with the team of digital marketing experts at Dignitas Digital and learn more about the potential of your business!

We are a full-service digital marketing agency that provides customized and scalable solutions to its clients globally. With over 8 years of digital experience, we are helping businesses cultivate a solid online presence that increases their profitability using strategies that ensure growth to their best potential.

If you’re ready, reach out to us on +1-267-546-4123 (US), +91-9910664269 (India), or contact us online to get a customized SEO plan for your business.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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