At our agency we work with companies who sell internationally, and we also deal regularly with queries from Irish and UK companies who want to rank in both Google.ie and Google.co.uk. In this post we are going to show you how you can rank internationally.
For a lot of companies, they believe that Google has one search engine and that everyone should get the same results in search engine positions.
This is not true, while general results appear for general queries like “how to do inbound marketing”, there are different search engines for countries to provide more specific result based on the needs of the searcher. For example, if you are searching in Google in Ireland you will be redirected to Google.ie. In the UK you will be redirected to Google.co.uk, in France you will get directed to Google.fr.
Google also have specific search engines like Google Scholar for scholarly articles and resources. Google Flights returns flight time and prices, Google Books provides better results for books. The country specific search engines act in the same way for local searches. If you type in “hairdresser Manchester” you will not receive a details of hairdressers in Ontario Canada. This allows Google to give you the best results for their customers.
The main elements to ranking a site internationally depends on the following criteria:
As a general rule of thumb, if you have a country code top level domain or (ccTLD) like a .ie, you will only rank in Google’s Irish search engine Google.ie.
For a lot of businesses in Ireland, they also sell into the UK while UK companies also sell into Ireland, but they don’t always get found for their keywords in both territories.
The main reasons they don’t rank for their keywords across territories is the fact that they have a country level domain. If this is the type of domain you will have a difficult time trying to rank in different locations for your products or your services.
A generic top level domain or (gTLD) like a .com or .net is the perfect solution to rank your site internationally. With a gTLD you can potentially get found worldwide. With a gTLD you can easily create a subdomain or create a sub folder site structure to better rank your site for better local SEO. We will go into more detail on subdomains and sub folders below.
URL Structures For International Sites
There are a number of options that webmasters can take to target countries internationally. The options are as follows:
- country code top-level domain (ccTLD)
- a subdomain
- subdirectory / subfolder
- a gTLD with language parameters
Country code top-level domain (ccTLD)
A country code top level domain or ccTLD, indicates to website users and search engines where the domain is registered.
For example, a ccTLD can include:
To rank locally in a particular country, a ccTLD is the best solution for a business.
A subdomain can be used to rank a different version of a site in another territory. This would work best using a gTLD domain like a .com or a .net. A subdomain can also be referred to as a third level domain and structure like the following examples:
Subdirectory / Subfolder
A subdirectory can be treated as an international part of a website belonging to a gTLD. The content is placed in a specific subfolder or subdirectory.
An example of a subdirectory or subfolder can be found below:
gTLD With Language Parameters
A gTLD like a .com can have language parameter after the domain to denote a language specific page on a website. An example would be the following:
There are lots of options for webmasters to set up different versions of websites to target people in international countries. All the options require resources such as time and capital to implement.
One of the main problems caused by implementing any of the above international SEO structures is creating duplicate content.
Your Location(s) & Contact Details
If you are trying to rank locally in various cities across the world and you only have one address, it is going to be difficult for you to get found. Just think of it from a trust perspective.
If your based in London and you want to sell in the UK and Ireland, consider investing in a virtual office in Dublin or another major city to boost your local SEO result.
Are you trying to rank your London business in Hong Kong using a London phone number? Google looks at the country code and locality of the phone numbers on your website. If you are trying to rank a service in a local country or city other than your base you need to provide international phone numbers to better improve the trust factors of your website.
Want to sell into France and get ranked on Google.fr? As the 85% of the French population of France have the French language as their mother tongue, the Google.fr results are generally made up of French language content.
Therefore, if you want to rank in this country you will need your pages translated to generate traffic to your site.
For best results, you should have a professional translator or someone who is fluent in the language of the country you are targeting to properly translate the content on your site for your readers. By having someone proficient in generating content in a different language, it is important that the correct dialects are used. Using a free tool like Google Translate will translate your content but it may not be 100% grammatically correct.
Use Language HTML Code
It is important that you use the correct HTML code to tell search engine crawlers what language the content is on that page it intends to crawl. This code is also known as the Hreflang link attribute. The Hreflang attribute specifies the language and geographic restrictions for a web page or document. Hreflang is placed in the the HTTP header
This link attribute will help with SEO in terms of reducing the level of duplicate content that can happen with targeting users in different territories.
Hreflang covers 3 scenarios
- Same country, different languages
- Different countries, different languages
- Different countries, same language
Language & Country Codes
Hreflang accepts values that define languages ISO 639-1 and countries ISO 3166-1.
Language examples include those below:
Language and region examples include:
A big part of ranking across borders online is your online Authority. If your brand is very well known internationally you will rank better online. If you have lots of high-quality online resources linking to your website, you will rank better in international searches.
Remember to try and dominate your local searches first before thinking globally. To test the success of selling into other countries you could first test the markets using a pay per click campaign.