7 Best Practices to Implement International SEO

International search engine optimization

International SEO

What is international SEO?

International SEO is the process of optimizing your site for targeted international users based on country, region, language to provide a positive user experience.

International Search Engine Optimization helps search engines in identifying and serving the right page to users based on users browsing addresses and providing content in their preferred language.

Why International SEO?

 If most of the traffic of your site is from different countries that speak a different language then optimizing your site for that international visitors by making small changes to your site can provide a better experience to users and an opportunity to increase business reach.

International Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is useful for businesses who want to create a completely internationalized site to attract traffic from different countries and different languages.

How to do International SEO?

International SEO Best Practices
International SEO Best Practices

Strategy to implement international SEO for a site:

  1. International URL-friendly Structure for country targeting
  2. Use of Language Meta tags for Language Targeting
  3. Optimize your content to suit the target audience language and culture.

International URL-Friendly Structure:

The URL structure for international sites is different from normal sites. webmasters can specify their targeted country or audience to search engines and users through their websites by using a country code top-level domain(ccTLD), or subdomain, or subfolder, or a subdirectory, or a generic top-level domain(gTLD) or by the use of the complete different domain.

Below are ways to create an international site to target the audience of a specific country:

Country code Top-Level-Domain (ccTLDs): 

ccTLDs is a two-letter country-code top-level domain name extension assigned to countries based on their respective country code that signals search engines and users where your business is registered and your targeted country or region.

For example:

http://www.example.fr (France)
http://www.example.co.uk (United Kingdom)
http://example.com.eu (European Union)

Advantages of using ccTLDs:

It is useful to internationalize website content and to target the audience of a specific country.

Disadvantages of using ccTLDs:

Suppose there are two sites registered like www.example.fr(to target users from France), www.example.us(to target users from the USA) then search engines consider these two sites as different sites, and the link equity from one site is not passed on to another site.

This method requires businesses to build the authority for these two sites separately which requires a lot of resources, time, and money.


The subdomain is a third-level domain and a part of the root domain that allows website owners to distinguish, organize and serve different sections of a site to users.

For example:

blog.example.com(blog content)
news.example.com(daily published news content)
us.example.com(content for us visitors)

Advantages of setting up subdomain:

It is easy to set up and maintain a country-specific version of your main site.

Disadvantages of setting up subdomain

Use of subdomain may or may not pass link juice to root domain and it may not receive link juice from the root domain.

Subfolder or Subdirectory:

Content aimed at the target audience of a specific country are placed in a relevant subfolder, a subdirectory of a root domain.


www.example.com/us/ (To target users from US)
www.example.com/fr/ (To target users from France)

Advantages of using subfolder or subdirectory

  • It is easy to setup and maintain.
  • As it is placed on the same domain every link created will help in building the overall site authority and will improve rankings.


It may not provide clear signal to search engines in displaying the country-specific version of a site.

gTLD with language parameters :

A general top-level domain extension (.com, .org, .net) with appended language parameters to target specific language speaking users.


Different domain: 

Use of different domains to target users from different country.

www.exampleuk.com (to target users from UK Country)

Each URL structure is interpreted and treated slight differently and every structure has its advantages and disadvantages and the resources needed to create and maintain them is different. Before implementing a structure pick the structure that works for your business.

To Target users of different languages:


Use of hreflang or language meta tags signals search engines in which language your content is available to users.

The hreflang code tells search engines that an alternate version of a page is available to french speaking users.

<link rel="alternative" href="https://www.example.com/fr" lang="fr-fr" />

Best practices to adopt to target language-specific users.

  1. Avoid using machine translations
  2. Avoid using cookies and scripts to redirect users to specific language page.
  3. Initial content must be served to users in a primary language. don’t redirect users to different version of a page based on location. Provide an clear option to users to choose their preferred language type when they try to visit your site.

Optimize your content to suit the target audience language and culture.

Optimize and present your content that works for your target audience like price, currency, time-zone, address, phone numbers etc to send search engines and users strong signals that they are on the right place.

Know the target audience preferences, cultural distinctions while creating a layout, structure, design, in choosing the colors etc to create a positive experience.

Some other important SEO signals to help search engines find that your site contain or targets a specific country audience:

  • Hosting your website on a local IP.
  • optimize your site to rank on local giant search engines like Baidu in China and Yandex in Russia.
  • Linking to local content and getting backlinks from high quality local resources.