What is International SEO?

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International SEO: the right way to optimize a multilingual site and expand abroad

The international SEO is a very large branch of SEO, Search Engine Optimization, or the discipline of web marketing that deals with optimizing websites. The purpose of SEO is to increase the visibility of the sites in the eyes of the search engine.

International SEO differs from traditional SEO as it pushes boundaries, trying to compete in a global market. To do this, there are some elements to put into practice to avoid being penalized by search engines or simply not being able to position themselves in the first pages of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

This approach, therefore, is fundamental for all businesses that want to reach new potential customers abroad or for companies operating internationally.

With the evolution of the web, what was previously important offline, now must be also and above all online. For this reason, international SEO is essential both for those who want to expand their business and for brands present globally.

What are the main features of International SEO?

Building a correct international SEO strategy is not easy, in fact, the precautions to be taken into consideration are numerous and very complex. Among the main features of SEO International we find:

  • international search engines (not just Google);
  • tongue;
  • domain;
  • Hreflang tag.

Different markets, different search engines

Extending your company across the border means having to necessarily approach international search engines, other than those used in your own country. Google is the main search engine for the entire Western world, but its use is prohibited in some countries such as China, and is unused in many others, such as Russia. In these cases, Baidu for China and Yandex for Russia are used respectively. Therefore, it is not enough to be proficient only in SEO for Google if you want to expand into these markets as well.

Different nations, different languages

One of the most difficult factors to manage in international SEO is undoubtedly the language. In fact, if you want to expand your business abroad, you will need to create a multilingual site optimized both for different countries and for different target users.

To be clearer: it will not be enough for you to know how to translate a web page of your site into English, you will also have to optimize it according to the users of the different countries who speak the language. This is because the search keywords in English can be different based on the country of origin. Furthermore, it is important not to make the mistake of literally translating the search keywords from Italian: “shoes for wedding” does not necessarily mean that in English it becomes “shoes for wedding”.

First or third level domain?

The choice of the domain is also crucial in setting up a correct International SEO strategy. You have to decide whether to opt for a top level domain (example: mysite.it, mysite.en, mysite.fr, etc.) or for a third level domain (example: it.mysite.com, en.mysite.com fr.mysite.com, etc.).

How to understand which is the best choice? Generally, creating third-level domains is very useful if you have a non-profit site with high SEO values ​​and with good rankings in SERPs. In this case, we recommend exploiting the values ​​of the root domain and creating third-level domains for each different country.

If, on the other hand, it is a company site or, even more so, an e-commerce site, the best choice to make is to create top-level domains for each country and optimize them based on the country of reference , exploiting above all the hreflang tag.

Hreflang tag

To simplify the implementation of your International SEO strategy, the hreflang tag has been specially created. It is a tag for the HTML language that serves to communicate to the search engine that a particular page of the website is intended for users who speak a specific language. In this way, you avoid confusing the search engine which, otherwise, could present results in the SERP that are inconsistent with what the user is looking for. This type of mistake is made by numerous multilingual sites, even those that operate internationally and with high brand awareness.

Thanks to the hreflang tag, a page translated and optimized in a specific language and for a specific country will be correctly indexed by the search engine.

International SEO: conclusions

The features just presented are just some of the main ones to be put into practice for a good International SEO strategy, whose implementation requires further and more specific insights.

As you may have noticed, therefore, it is not a simple job, but a real discipline of digital marketing. So, if you intend to expand your company also abroad, you cannot avoid working on SEO International.


I have 15 Year experience in website development, blogging, Seo, Content writing, and Link building.

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