30.07.2020 r. Insightland

Expansion to Foreign Markets – International SEO

international SEO

More and more companies create offerings for foreign markets. Providing a second language version of the website is the first step towards selling abroad. But what to do to make it stand out in search results and reach users? What to consider when planning an expansion to a different country or countries?

When it comes to positioning abroad, the technical aspects of SEO, which are of course the foundation for further efforts, are not all. It is worth planning a change in the approach to the website, and sometimes even to the offering itself. You should remember that apart from the language, the attitude and way how certain products or services are used may differ around the world. That affects the steps that need to be taken in order to be visible online. So it needs special preparations.

Every country has its own customs. If you plan the expansion of a website or eCommerce store, that’s the key. The fact that in Germany users look for a product or service in a certain way does not mean that in Spain they will look for it likewise. Therefore, before you start working on the website (e.g. the content), do thorough research on the country or area where you want to post your offering.

What to check during such research?

  • Features and differences of the market. Check how the market in which you want to place your offering differs from your local one. How people buy your product / service, how they talk about it.
  • User traits that influence purchasing decisions. Find out how customers use the product and how they approach it. Despite globalization, a country’s culture remains one of the key factors affecting their behaviour. By stepping into the customer’s shoes, you will be able to better match the content on the site to his or her real needs, and thus gain a better position in the search engine.
  • The number and popularity of search engines. Google is the most popular search engine in the world, but in some countries it is beaten by local ones. As a curiosity, in China, it is Baidu, in Russia – Yandex and in the Czech Republic – Seznam. Check which ones your audience is using. You may have to consider a few.
  • Cultural and geographical context. Remember that the cultural context determines not only how you create content, but also the content itself. A perfect example are the different measurement systems in different countries. So if you position an eCommerce store with clothes and shoes on both the American and European markets, the descriptions must be matched to it.

Additionally, it may turn out that the way how the products or services are used can be completely different, and you may have to choose a completely different language of benefits. 

Analysis of Competition and Keywords

Check what your closest competitors abroad are and how they position themselves, analyze the content, page and subpage titles, ways in which they attract the user’s attention – and draw conclusions. The point is not to copy but to evaluate their strategies. This will allow you to learn about the specifics of the industry in the local context and how to use it to position the website.

Remember that sites that have the same offering as you are not always the same sites that you wage a battle for users attention in the search engine. You may discover that the top positions refer to blogs, guidelines and ebooks. So analyze it and get inspired.

At this stage, you should also check the popularity of key phrases, choose the appropriate ones and make sure that they will be properly embedded on the page later.

In the context of the selection of keywords, examine:
– Keywords and phrases your international visitors use as search queries to look for your products, services or businesses (may differ from your local ones)
– Organic searches for these keywords by country
– The level of keyword competition by a country
– Your current rankings for these keywords in your target markets.

On-page Content in International SEO

Also in the context of positioning for foreign markets, we are supporters of website content that is exhaustive on a given topic, and which provides the user with maximum information that can be searched for.

When optimizing the content in terms of key phrases for which we want to get high positions, we should think about the user first, and saturating the content with keywords should be a cosmetic procedure.

While embedding prepared keywords remember about popular, competitive, through the so-called long tail (“Best woman adidas shorts” instead of highly competitive “Sport shorts”), and conversational keywords (“What are the best woman shoes for running?”) that are more and more frequently used by users, so the search engine robots are also able to better interpret the content on a given page and thus correctly assign it to the user’s intention.

To Blog or Not to Blog?

Suggestive and inspiring blog articles additionally reinforced with key phrases may help you position the page on other markets. Yet, as the topics should be adjusted to the local context, it is more demanding. Our tip is to examine the needs of the target group in a country or countries you want to reach.  

The content builds credibility and is one of the most important factors that convince the user to stay on the site. It’s not about writing long texts that are simply not comfortable to read on a mobile, and also not attractive for people who want to get an answer quickly. It’s about giving them the answers they need – in the form and language that suits them.

That’s why it is worth devoting a lot of attention to analyzing seasonal trends and customs on local markets.

Technical Aspects of the Site

The basics of technical SEO stays the same as on the local market. You should take care of a website structure (e.g. when creating a category tree in your store, it is worth considering it in terms of popularity of key phrases), page loading speed, the correct implementation of an SSL certificate and website optimization for mobile devices. Yet, there are few additional aspects you need to consider.

Domain Selection

A domain is a signpost of your company and an important factor that helps rank higher in Google search results. In short, it is one of the first things that your clients notice in contact with your website.

In terms of international expansion, your domain should be easy to understand, write down, pronounce and remember to your target group. We don’t tell you to change the domain but it should be adjust it to local – or international – standards.

URL Structure

Google recommends using a different URL for each language version. You have three options for creating URLs for multilingual sites.

  • Country domain – e.g. https://name.ca

It has the highest credibility, but it also requires a separate SEO process for the new domain of the website so the costs of positioning may be higher.

  • Subdomain – e.g. https://ca.name.com

This structure is easy to configure, but again a separate SEO process is needed. Another challenge is that subdomains within a domain are linked, so if something bad happens to one of them, each one will be affected. 

  • Subdirectory – e.g. https: //name.com/ca

Creating a subdirectory is the cheapest solution, but it makes it harder to achieve high positions in foreign versions of Google search engine. It may also get less trust from users.


Another crucial element to implement in terms of technical aspects of a website. Hreflangs are the tags that define the language and location of the content. They will allow search engines to match the language version to the user. Hreflangs are also a signal to Google that the linked pages are not duplicated, which contributes to achieving higher search engine positions.

<link rel=”alternate” href=”https://name.com/article/ ” hreflang=”de” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”https://name.com/en/article/” hreflang=”en” />

International SEO, International attitude

To sum up, expansion to foreign countries demands not only adjusting your product and service to new audiences. You should plan the strategy of creating, optimizing your website and take care of the SEO process. And this may differ for each individual country – starting from technical SEO work, content creation and link building strategies. That’s why it is good to have a specialist that has experience in international SEO and understands the process.