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Understanding how to effectively target different countries through SEO

Targeting international consumers in organic search requires a few extra steps. Here are seven tips for higher rankings in the countries of choice.

1. Set up separate sites or sections for each country

To ensure a site ranks in organic search results in more than one country, the options are:

  • Create a separate site for each country using country-specific top-level domains (e.g., .de, .uk, .in). Registering all local TLDNs might not be practical, given the cost, restrictions, and unavailability.
  • Use a subdomain for each country (e.g., de.yoursite.com). Setting up subdomains requires development and search-optimization resources, such as building links to each subdomain.
  • Set up a subdirectory for each country (e.g., yoursite.com/de). Creating directories for each country is often the best approach because the single domain receives all the authority.
Yoursite.deDe.yoursite.comYoursite.com/de
TargetingStrongest signal, but targets only one countryStrong signal, easier to separate sitesStrong signal in combination with hreflang
Different server locationsYesYesNo
MaintainenceDifficult to maintainMediumEasiest to maintain
Use caseHave a local office and marketing teamCan afford to build authority for each subdomainTarget many countries but cannot afford separate entities

2. Use hreflang

Google introduced hreflang in December 2011 to replace its geo-targeting settings inside Webmaster Tools (now Search Console). Hreflang is an HTML attribute — “lang” is language — that helps search engines recognize localized versions of web pages.

3. Translate content to local language

The language of your content is another key indicator to Google as to the country you’re targeting. Google auto-detects language easily. Beyond investing in quality (human) translation, there’s no further action required.

If you are targeting same-language countries, use a region-specific variation for each. A local translator can help.

4. Include location info on the website

Including in the website an address in the country you are targeting helps Google recognize the importance of that locale. This presumes your company has a local physical location or your content addresses one.

5. Attract inbound links from local sites

Google still relies on inbound links to determine the popularity of a website and where to rank it in results, especially when a query has local intent. When targeting another country, launch a local link-building program, perhaps focusing on local journalists.

6. Inform Google Business Profile

If you have a local office, point your Google Business Profile to the regional site.

7. Consider Local Hosting

The location of a web server is a low-level signal to Google, especially for generic top-level domains, such as .com or .net. The larger benefit of hosting near a target market is page speed to those consumers’ browsers.

Some countries, such as Australia, require a license or even a local business presence to host there, making it complicated and expensive. Check local hosting requirements when planning multi-country search optimization.


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