Foreign or international SEO refers to the method of optimizing your website and search presence for a global audience. It helps display your website to searchers from different countries, even if they speak other languages.
While international SEO might seem like an alien idea, it’s not as different from traditional SEO as you may think. Essentially, you use geo-targeting and other localization signals to show your content to users from around the globe. Everything else is the same as it is in traditional SEO as your site attracts organic traffic from the countries you’re targeting.
The great thing is that oftentimes performing SEO outside the United States can be easier for several reasons:
Google accounts for nearly 70% of all global search traffic.
If you want your website to be discoverable by an international audience, you must optimize it according to Google’s guidelines.
For starters, use Google Analytics and other search engine tools to check where your website’s traffic is coming from. If you notice that a bulk of them are located in a different country from you or speak a different language than the one your content is in, it’s best to optimize your website to create a better user experience for them.
This will enable you to maximize profit by marketing and selling your products in a previously untapped market.
Foreign SEO offers different challenges from local SEO. Your most significant consideration is whether the money you’re investing in building the site and its systems will be worth the potential returns.
That’s why, before optimizing your website for foreign traffic, there are some factors you’ll need to consider. We’ve outlined these for you below.
60% of marketers divulged that inbound SEO brings them the highest quality leads. That’s why it’s a good idea to explore your audiences so you can be sure that they share your business’s goals.
Google Analytics allows you to check your current foreign organic visibility, conversions, and traffic using the following metrics:
Use these metrics to explore your audience’s content needs and determine whether they can be turned into qualified leads.
You may be well-equipped to provide your existing local audience with the products or services you offer, but can you scale it up for international customers? If you don’t offer international clients an equally smooth customer experience, it could cause severe damage to your reputation.
For international SEO, it’s imperative that you have the necessary resources to create a dedicated page on your website for the country or language you’re targeting. You’ll also need to ensure that you can provide your audience customer support in their language.
If you want to offer foreign customers a smooth experience, your content should be easy for them to understand. Auto-translated content will stand in the way of your success—instead, you need professional translations of your copy.
Here’s how you can do this:
You’ll need to start by looking into a foreign affiliate program. Filter your search by category and country to find a program in your target location that matches your needs.
Say you already have a niche and an English-language affiliate website that’s performing well. In that case, it’s best to begin with the same niche for your foreign site so you can use your experience and research—thereby saving you money and time.
Optimizing your website for the right keywords is crucial in foreign SEO—just like traditional SEO. You can only do this once you know which keywords to optimize for.
Research shows that the CTA for long-tail keywords is 3% to 5% higher than other searches. Similarly, “Where to buy” + “near me” search queries have increased by 200%, and “Best” + “right now” global searches have grown by over 125% over two years.
However, the keyword selection phase is tricky for foreign SEO despite these insights. You have to consider language and cultural differences that may be lost in translation. Even small changes in phrases could cause you to miss out on a substantial amount of foreign traffic.
To ensure that you’re using the right keywords, you can use Google Translate. Once you’ve translated the parent keyword into the language you’re targeting, you can use Ahrefs to check how it ranks. You can also check different variations of the same key phrases by using a language extension that allows you to switch back and forth between English and the target language.
Look at the top-performing sites for your niche. Which keywords do they rank high for? You can use these keywords to check which services and products you should be offering to your foreign audience and optimize your website for them.
Your niche research should include whether you’ll require a local domain extension to rank better. You can check this by looking at the SERPs for the keywords you’re targeting. Do the websites on the page mainly use country-specific domains, or are the results a mixture?
In some regions, you’re likely to face restrictions in the process of obtaining a country code top-level domain (ccTLD). If you’re targeting a country in the EU, for example, you may need to be an EU citizen to use the relevant ccTLD.
Even generic TLDs (gTLDs) can be restricted. For instance, the .edu extension is only valid for educational institutes and research organizations.
It’s imperative that you research the domains you’re allowed to use in your target country. The only way you can use a restricted ccTLD is to register it under the name of someone who is willing and meets the requirements. You’ll likely have to draw up an agreement that states you’ll be accountable for anything that goes wrong, legally or otherwise.
A more straightforward and effective method is using aged domains. These domain addresses have been used by another website that’s not around anymore. Try finding an aged domain from a website that used to draw substantial organic traffic for more success in your foreign SEO efforts. Aged domains are available to buy through brokers or at domain auctions.
If you’re not proficient at your target language, your writer will be responsible for most SEO tasks. It’s crucial that you provide them with detailed guidelines and SOPs for your SEO process.
Foreign on-site SEO mostly follows the same rules as local SEO. Here’s everything you should include in your guidelines:
High-quality content and link building (more on this later) are the two most important ranking signals for Google. The search engine giant decides how high to rank your website in search results, depending on how good your website is at these.
That’s why it is vital to ensure that your goals are clear and that your writers understand your intended objective for what they are writing. It will help if you create detailed briefs for the content your writer has to make. Your briefs should include:
Your success at Foreign SEO depends on how amazing your content is and how much value it provides to your global audiences.
You’ll want to hire writers that furnish your website with relevant, high-quality content. It’s essential that you pre-screen the candidates to judge how well they write in the target language. The writer you hire should also be proficient in English so that you can explain your needs to them easily.
You can assess a writer’s skills by asking them to write a sample—for example, the copy for one product page on your website. Check whether they’re fulfilling your basic requirements by using a translation tool. However, this won’t let you check their grammar and syntax.
A better method is to hire a native language speaker to proofread the content. You can find proofreaders online on freelancing websites. If you’re working with a reputable foreign SEO agency, they’ll provide you with experienced writers themselves.
Now that you and your writers understand the kind of content they need to create, it’s time to ensure that your international audiences can also appreciate it.
If you want your website to go truly global, and have proof that you have audiences in several countries, make sure that you duplicate and translate your content for all of them.
Don’t worry. Google won’t penalize your site for this duplication since it will be in different languages.
Just remember to make adjustments for the cultural context of your content. Again a local writer can help because some phrases and terminologies may not make sense in the target language.
Your content only works if it makes sense to your international website visitors. This ensures the success of your Foreign SEO.
Meta tags are small code segments that provide search engines with essential information about your webpage and how it should be displayed in search results. They also indicate how the page should be shown in a web browser to visitors.
Your writer will need to know how to use meta and title tags. However, this is a relatively simple part of SEO. List your keywords by priority and ensure that your writer uses them in the meta description and tags.
Your writers should refer to Ahrefs’ guide for best meta and title tag practices.
If you’re planning on uploading your website’s content yourself, you can use a translator to check the page’s layout and add media. If your writer is uploading the content, they’ll add media and structure the content.
Your guidelines should include instructions on linking, selecting images and alt tags, choosing anchor text for high-authority links, and CTA optimization.
One of the most significant advantages of using an aged domain is that you’ll likely have a collection of backlinks you can use for your website. You won’t need to acquire or buy as many links as you would have with other domains.
It’s no secret that link building is one of SEO’s biggest challenges—and even more so when you don’t speak the language. You can sidestep all the work by hiring a professional SEO agency to build your foreign backlink profile for you, leaving you free to focus on running your business.
It’s vital for you to automate your website’s processes since you don’t want to be responsible for its overall operation long-term. Automating processes is also necessary if you’re going to scale your website.
Project management software such as Trello will enable you to create well-structured systems through a dedicated team that creates and manages your website with lesser involvement.
After your website begins to rank high in foreign SERPs and brings in commissions regularly, you can consider scaling. It’s prudent to hire a native language-speaking SEO professional who will manage your on-site content and carry out in-depth market analysis and competitor research.
Foreign SEO may sound intimidating, but our SEO professionals can do it all for you. From link building to on-site SEO, our services at SEO.co enable our clients to broaden their international audience and maximize their foreign revenue.
We provide quality services that push your rank higher on SERPs, bring your website more organic traffic and more conversions from your foreign audience.