In order for a website to be able to reach an international audience and effectively rank in other countries, a proper international SEO strategy needs to be set up and implemented.

There are several elements to look at when starting an international SEO process, and this guide will go through the most important steps to follow.


1.      Identify keyword search volumes, organic traffic, and search visibility of your site from the other countries you are targeting.


Use Google Analytics to check your organic traffic from other countries, and the Keyword planner or Google Trends to check your main keywords search volumes in those countries. If you are confident that there is enough potential traffic abroad to justify going international, and that this traffic will convert, then you are ready to start some International SEO.

Google Trends: Regional Interests screenshot

Source: Google Trends


2.      Choose your best site and URL structure: ccTLDs, Subdirectories or Sub domains.


There are 3 ways of creating international site structures that both Search engines and users will easily identify:


Country-Code Top Level domain names (ccTLDs): The most efficient because directly linked to countries and easily recognised by Search Engines and users:,, .ca, .fr, .de, etc.

However, they are harder to get, they require more infrastructure, and are sometimes tied to strict requirements, like in Australia for instance where the domain name needs to be owned by an Australian company, with a valid ABN. It’s also best if your content is sufficiently unique on each version of your site, which will require more effort.


Subdomains: subdomains can be applied on generic top level domains like .net and result in having separate subdomains with country codes, like and Relatively easy to set up, this kind of approach is best when wanting to have a clear separation of sites, with two very different audiences (different language, different country).


Subdirectories: subdirectories allows to target multiple regions and users by language within the same site, thanks to a folder structure ( & ). Coupled with cookie based redirects and the proper geotargetting settings in Search Console, they work well and are the cheapest and easiest solution to set up.


See a live example of how region subdirectories work on


3.    Use hreflang HTML annotations to help Search engines identify which audience you are targeting.


To help search engines to understand which users are targeted on your pages, you should use link tags with the hreflang attribute in the <head> section of each page. Every annotation should be self-referential (linking to itself). If we use our subdirectories example, you will have:


<link rel="alternate" href="" hreflang="en-ca" />
<link rel="alternate" href="" hreflang="en-au" />



The value used for hfreflang will determine the language and the country targeted, and should respect the ISO 639-1 format for languages, and the ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 format for countries. For instance:


fr: French content, independent of region

fr-be : French content, for Belgium users

en-gb: English content, for Great Britain users


More info on that from Google.


4.    Make sure your content and site structure are adapted to a multi-region model


Your site structure need to be crawlable, and the navigation need to be clearly identifiable. In order for search engine bots to crawl the entire site, you need to link between your different versions thanks to a crawlable menu or links in the footer for instance. Users should also be able to switch between versions without being force redirected to their country/language version. If you decide to use a cookie/session based redirection on first entry, make sure that they can still decide to visit another version. Use 302 redirects, and don’t forget that bots are treated like users, with US IP addresses.


International SEO: How To Reach a Global Web Audience, 5.0 out of 5 based on 3 ratings

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  1. IH says:

    Good write up. It covers the important elements. Don’t forget to translate your content – you will notice a nice increase in organic traffic, if the domain has authority.

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