Most search optimizers end up getting tunnel vision--understandably. Google still gets the vast majority of all search queries, so most optimizers focus exclusively on Google rankings, and if most of your customers are in the United States, you're also likely focusing on domestic results.

But have you ever thought about spending effort optimizing your website for another country?

Advantages of International SEO

The idea is simple: get your business listed in search engines beyond the ones in your home country. For example, you might optimize your site to show up in searches in Singapore, in addition to the United States. Why would you want to do this?

  • Broaden your demographics. If your product or service has a broad appeal, optimizing for search engines in other countries could instantly make it visible and available to thousands, or even millions of new people.
  • Leverage inexpensive opportunities. Prices in other countries--especially developing countries--are much lower than in the United States. Google AdWords ads in the United States have increased in price steadily over time; they're still not expensive, by most definitions, but prices for marketing efforts in other countries could be substantially lower.
  • Focus on a new target audience. You may also want to target another country as a way to target an entirely new demographic. Rather than simply casting a wider net, as you would if you were only interested in expanding your existing audience, you'll be creating entirely new products, services, and/or marketing materials for a new market segment.
Strategies to Make Your Site Internationally Friendly

As you might imagine, you won't have to radically overhaul your SEO strategy to rank high in other countries' search engines. As usual, your main points of development will include things like technical optimization, ongoing content creation, and backlink building.
 
Beyond that, you can optimize for other countries using the following strategies:

  • Revise your URL structures. First, you'll need to update the URL structures of your website. If you're going to have a United States version and various international versions (as you should), there are a few options available to you. You could host each version of your site on a different domain, or use a different domain extension (like .us) to distinguish between your versions. You could also use different subdomains (like us.examplesite.com) or offer different national versions as subdirectories, which come at the end of the URL. Going even further, you could use a generic top-level domain (gTLD) with extra language parameters to specify which language is displayed.
  • Update your language tags. If the country you're optimizing for has a language other than English, make sure to update the language tags of your site to reflect that new language. This will allow search engines to detect what language you're using in what sections of your site, and index your site accordingly.
  • Understand your new population. Remember, much of search engine optimization depends on how you write for the people reading your content, rather than the machines scanning it. When you adopt an international component to your SEO strategy, you'll need to perform some new market and background research to target your content appropriately. The better you know your readers, the more likely you'll be to succeed, so don't just blindly translate work you've already done.
  • Create regular content in the new language or culture. Again, just blindly translating the work you're doing for United States residents isn't going to cut it. If you want to see any measurable long-term results, you'll need to produce an ongoing stream of content that reflects the language and/or culture of your intended readers.
Overall, updating your site to be featured across multiple countries doesn't take a lot of effort. You'll need to maintain a new branch of your site, and potentially produce new or translated content to target your new demographics, but your domain authority and current content will still help you in your pursuit of high rankings.

International SEO isn't for everybody--just the people specifically trying to target international audiences--but it's still worth knowing the tactic exists, and how to pull it off if you need it.




Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.






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Search Engine Guide > Jayson DeMers > Can Your SEO Campaign Be Effective in Other Countries?