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SEO 03 Feb 2021

International SEO: Best Practices for Multiple Countries Ranking

Author Nevil Bhatt

Writen by Nevil Bhatt

Viewed 11 min read

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Have you ever wondered how to make your website rank in different countries along with targeted language?

If your head is filled with the questions like “how to rank your website for different countries” or “how to target country-specific website traffic,” or “how to do SEO for multiple countries,” then this blog post is certainly of you as you will learn all the things that are needed for international SEO.

What Is International SEO?

International SEO is the process of optimizing a website in a way that the search engines can figure out which language and what country you are targeting for your website.

International SEO is quite helpful when a business has an international website and many web versions available to that while targeting a wide range of audiences with country and language variation.

Performing an international SEO for your website supports your business to expand and enrich your web presence in a scalable and cost-effective way while targeting your desired foreign market.

There are some elements and steps that one needs to keep in mind while doing an international SEO effectively.

1) Research –

Be it any process, the most important and foremost part should always be thorough research about the process. So the same wise international SEO process should begin with research in order to plan and prioritize your goals with the right strategy.

The first step in the research process is to look at the current International organic search data and report, which includes things like international search visibility, traffic, and conversions along with its rate.

To gain an insight into the current scenario of your website for an international SEO, go to Google Analytics – Click on the “Geo” reports under the “Audience” section

Your International Organic Search Potential

The next step is to identify the potential of each of the top countries and languages you want to target.

Conducting detailed keyword research supports in collecting reliable data of –

→ Relevant Keywords and phrases to target for

→ Organic search volume for those keywords for a particular country

→  The competition level in each country for those keywords

You can use Google Analytics or any other reliable tool to get this data.

2) Targeting –

Once you have analyzed the keywords that have enough organic traffic, now is the time to target them and add them to your keyword list.

If you think that targeting a particular country is not possible due to insufficient numbers of organic search results, then you can target a particular language of that country to rank your website.

However, one needs to ensure that targeting a language should not affect the web business operations negatively as there will be many countries that will be using the same language and similar query, and that can lead to rank on some other location than the desired one.

Targeting a language allows to drive the desired traffic and conversion traction at the start and afterward migrating to the ideal country-targeted approach to maximize the site’s chances to connect with its target audience successfully.

So, in short, if the location is an important factor for your website and each country you want to target has enough traffic, you can directly target that, but if that is not the case, you can first target language and later on migrate to the targeted location.

If we look from a web architecture perspective, a specific country or language-based international web can be deployed in various ways according to its characteristics and limitations of it.

➢ Multiple Options For Country Targeting Are Available As Below – 

Here’s how to help Google understand your site if it contains content in multiple languages or has different content for different locations.

→ ccTLD – Country Code Top-Level Domain

Country Code Top-Level Domain is the ideal structure for geolocation as it has country-specific extensions – however, it requires a lot of effort to drive more organic traffic and gain popularity as an independent domain.

Some of the ccTLDs are treated as gTLDs (Generic Top Level Domain) by Google and are not associated with a particular country or region like .co and .me.

→  Sub-Directories –

Sub-Directories are the best structure to start with as it is quite popular. The one downside of sub-directories is the complexity that they will add to the web structure.

→  Sub-Domains –

If you already have gTLD and want to avoid an additional level of complexity to your web structure, then sub-domains are the most suitable alternative. It needs a lot of indexing, and a lot of content will better isolate your different Web versions than with sub-directories.

However, sub-domains need extra effort to gain popularity since they’re usually seen more as independent entities.

➢  For Language Targeting-

→  Sub-Directories

If one doesn’t have access to a high volume of content and resources, then sub-directories are the most suitable option out there as it is easier to merge the popular content as a single entity under the domain.

→  Sub-Domains

Sub-Domains is the best alternative if one needs to index more content without adding more complexity to the web structure with the sub-directories and have more resources to grow their popularity.

The one most important thing that one should keep in mind while implementing these targeting techniques is that they don’t change it frequently and give appropriate amounts of time for a particular technique to work and show its results fully. Mixing up various targeting techniques can ruin the potential fruitful results and reach.

Moreover, it is not recommended to use parameters in the URLs as language or country identifiers because it will make each international web version more complex and thus difficult to optimize and track.

3) Optimization –

The next step that comes your way is optimization. After setting your target, you need to make sure that your site is crawlable, indexable, and relevant to users so that it provides the desired targeting signals to avoid search results misalignment issues.

General International Web Optimization –

Regardless of the country and language, you are targeting; one need to follow these practices to optimize International Website –

Crawlability And Indexability

Each version of your international web needs to be crawlable and indexable while featuring in its own URLs with the relevant web structure. Plus, ensure that your website is not using any script and cookies that interrupt search engines from correct index the content.

Cross-linking between various international web versions is also one of the most important things but don’t overdo it, however. If you have multiple and really too many web versions, it is advisable to link only those of main pages to the most popular versions and feature them all in one page of “international Web versions”- this makes it easier to be crawled by search engines, and users can find it easily.


Relevance is another important factor in optimizing your international website. If you are language-targeting, it becomes super important to translate web pages in the targeted languages and different elements of the pages with the keywords and phrases that you have shortlisted in the initial research –

These Elements Are Inclusive Of –

→ URLs

→ The title and meta description

→ Menu and navigation elements

→ Headings

→ Images and ALT descriptions

→ Main body information

→ Reviews

→ Prices, phones, addresses, etc., should be as targeted as possible, too.

It is quite common to see that a website has titles and descriptions of URLs in the English language on all the International web versions. This sometimes happens because of technical issues – so it is not only confusing for search engines but also for users.

Along with the literal translation of these elements, it also should be optimized to answer queries in the targeted language so that you can provide valuable information and gain trust and authority in return.

Language Or Country Detection

The other thing you need to optimize is the IP and language of web page visitors through the browser settings. It helps in suggesting to users that they have access to the most relevant international web version for them, in case they are using another one.

However, do not execute this with interstitials or pop-ups as users might feel it as intrusive, and it also impacts negatively on the site crawlability too.

Another way to redirect the visitors to the most relevant version depending on their IP address and browser language setting is using a 302 redirect.

Redirecting users to another web version when they haven’t even asked for it might feel like skepticism to some users, and sometimes guessing preferences based on the IP and browser language might not be accurate all the time.

What else one needs to ensure that all the international web versions are crawled and indexed correctly by the search engines, and it is not only redirected to limited web versions.

Language Specification –

It is quite important that appropriate character encoding of a page is declared correctly to ensure that they are displayed well and particularly when you are handling non-ASCII characters.

Additionally, one can specify the languages of each of the pages by using HTML Lang, Content-Language Meta Tags, and HTTP Headers.

Search Engines like Bing use meta tags or HTML attributes to identify the language of pages, so include it and ensure that annotation is correctly set along with the right language code for each case.

Hreflang Language Specification –

Google and Yandex use Hreflang annotations to identify the languages and country targeting of a page to ensure that it always shows the right version to the user.

Hreflang Can Be Featured As:

One easiest way to implement hreflang is to use it as an HTML link element in every page header.

→  As the HTTP header, especially useful for non-HTML files

→  As a part of XML sitemaps as it is really helpful when there are too many international web versions to include

→  As long as the canonicals are used to fix content duplication within the same international web version, the hreflang annotation also can be used along with the rel=canonical.


Besides targeting specific languages, it is also important to geo-target each one of the international web versions.

To geo-target, one should use –

Hreflang Country Specification –

Along with indicating a language of a page, Hreflang annotation can be used to target the country.

Using Hreflang for the country specification is very useful as it avoids search results misalignment in cases where there are many pages in the same language but targeting different countries.

Webmaster Tools Geolocation –

If you are accessing subdirectories or subdomains instead of ccTLDs, you can go to the search console and geolocate each international web version of your website and independently target them to a specific country.

Hosting Location

Though it is appreciated that the IP of your website is the same as the country you want to target, it is not necessary to have that.

There are many other signals that search engines take as more significant geolocation signals like ccTLD and webmaster Tools Geolocation.

Other than the above-mentioned methods, there are also some other ways that support targeting multiple countries at the same time –

3) Google My Business –

Register your business on Google My Business by filling in the basic information like name, location, working hours, services, and contact details.

Creating a Google My Business account will support users to find your business near their location, and furthermore, based on the searcher’s geolocation, your business will be able to rank high on the Search Engine Results Pages(SERPs).

4) Online Directories –

Other than Google My Business, one can also fill up details in other online directories like Yelp, Yellow Pages, and many other available directories online.

Remember to fill up the same details in all the directories and boost your efforts in ranking higher in your targeted location SERPs.

Other than these two things, one also needs to shortlist the relevant keywords and use them in Meta Description and Meta Tags which are the most crucial part of on-page optimization.

Conclusion –

International SEO is a lot more than translating the web content into various other targeted languages.

It is a wholesome process of starting from in-depth research, analytics to select the most appropriate SEO Keywords, targeting international audiences, and considering other restrictions.

Following all of the above-mentioned steps will make the fundamentals of your website strong for international SEO.

Once you are done with these basic fundamentals, you need to update your website versions with continuous content, technical, and marketing support to refresh and grow its structure, content, and popularity.

NFlow SEO Experts is a startup digital marketing agency that specializes in international SEO. We have helped dozens of startups achieve their international SEO goals, and we can help you too.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you with your international SEO campaign. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have and help you get started on the right foot.

Author Nevil Bhatt
Nevil Bhatt

Nevil is the owner of one of the fastest-growing digital marketing agency in India. Having a great knowledge of the IT field and business management, he decided to bring a revolution in the digital world by providing valuable and customised solutions across the globe. Whether it's real or digital, he knows how to handle sustainable relationships and meaningful interactions.

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