International SEO: How to Optimize Your Website for Other Countries

If your website is focused on a global audience, you’ve probably spent some time thinking about the best ways to organize and optimize your site for different countries.
There are several important decisions you need to make when bringing your content to an international audience. Determining which domain structure you need is key, but there are a few best practices to keep in mind when using one — especially if your content is published in a different language.
Below, we’ll dive into your domain structure options, explain how Google interprets these structures, and cover some original research and tips on making the best use of international SEO.
hbspt.cta._relativeUrls=true;hbspt.cta.load(53, ‘f55ac8df-26f8-41f5-b63a-fa80e97d2fec’, {“region”:”na1″});
Types of Domain Structure
There are essentially three choices for setting up your international domain architecture:
1. A Country Subdirectory After the gTLD
If your domain is domain.com, you would add a folder called domain.com/german/ to target German language speakers or domain.com/uk/ to target U.K. users.
This is called the subdirectory, and it follows the “.com” (or “.org,” “.net,” etc.) generic top-level domain — also known as the gTLD. You can also use them for more than just country notation; as you can see, we have a subdirectory that indicates you’re on the “/marketing/” blog.
One thing to note on any targeting that you are doing in URLs: you must use each country’s vernacular in order for the search engines to understand the meaning of the string. For example, “the U.K.,” “uk,” “England,” and “G.B.” are all acceptable while “UnitedK” or “GrBr” would not be.
2. A Country Subdomain Before the gTLD
While a subdirectory implementation can be an easy and inexpensive option, however, it can be difficult for people to understand the location targeting from the URL alone.
This brings us to your section option: subdomains. For example, a U.K. targeted subdomain might be uk.domain.com while a Spanish language subdomain would be es.domain.com.
Subdomains are usually fairly easy to implement, but, like subdirectories, can make it difficult for people to understand what content will appear at that URL. They also can be more expensive to implement when compared to a folder structure.
3. A Country Code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD) to Replace the gTLD
In this option, Canadian site would be domain.ca and a Mexican site would be domain.mx — replacing the “.com” gTLD completely.
This architecture can be the most complex and expensive to implement, as you would need to have a domain for every focus country. In addition, while a .com domain can be purchased for around $10, there are some TLDs that can cost more than $1,000 and require that you have a local presence in the country.
We’ll elaborate on this trickier option in just a moment.
Using Them in Your International SEO Strategy
If you’re translating content that already exists in a different language and on a different subdirectory or subdomain, rest assured Google won’t flag your website for duplicate content. Google knows what you’re doing, and will let you do it!
Duplicate content is also not penalized by most search engines — rather, it’s filtered. This means if you’ve published an article in two different languages, both will rank in results for each international reader.
So, here’s what to keep in mind when pursuing one of the above three URL structures:
You’ll Need Multilingual SEO Meta Tags
Because subdirectories and subdomains don’t completely separate country-specific websites from one another — in the eyes of readers and Google — it’s important to use meta tags as well.
Meta tags are the lines in the HTML of a given web page that give Google the proper context when crawling that page. Headers, keywords, and other elements of article structure are some important ones. But language is one of your best multilingual SEO maneuvers.
In HTML, the language meta tag for English looks like this: . This tag surrounds all the text that is written in that language, helping Google understand what it’s reading and whom it’s for. Learn more about how to incorporate meta tags here.
Meta tags should resemble both the country and language abbreviation listed in your subdirectory or subdomain. For example, if your Mexican subdomain is mx.domain.com, the meta tags you add to each blog post belonging to this subdomain will be If your website is focused on a global audience, you’ve probably spent some time thinking about the best ways to organize and optimize your site for different countries.
There are several important decisions you need to make when bringing your content to an international audience. Determining which domain structure you need is key, but there are a few best practices to keep in mind when using one — especially if your content is published in a different language.
Below, we’ll dive into your domain structure options, explain how Google interprets these structures, and cover some original research and tips on making the best use of international SEO.
hbspt.cta._relativeUrls=true;hbspt.cta.load(53, ‘f55ac8df-26f8-41f5-b63a-fa80e97d2fec’, {“region”:”na1″});
Types of Domain Structure
There are essentially three choices for setting up your international domain architecture:
1. A Country Subdirectory After the gTLD
If your domain is domain.com, you would add a folder called domain.com/german/ to target German language speakers or domain.com/uk/ to target U.K. users.
This is called the subdirectory, and it follows the “.com” (or “.org,” “.net,” etc.) generic top-level domain — also known as the gTLD. You can also use them for more than just country notation; as you can see, we have a subdirectory that indicates you’re on the “/marketing/” blog.
One thing to note on any targeting that you are doing in URLs: you must use each country’s vernacular in order for the search engines to understand the meaning of the string. For example, “the U.K.,” “uk,” “England,” and “G.B.” are all acceptable while “UnitedK” or “GrBr” would not be.
2. A Country Subdomain Before the gTLD
While a subdirectory implementation can be an easy and inexpensive option, however, it can be difficult for people to understand the location targeting from the URL alone.
This brings us to your section option: subdomains. For example, a U.K. targeted subdomain might be uk.domain.com while a Spanish language subdomain would be es.domain.com.
Subdomains are usually fairly easy to implement, but, like subdirectories, can make it difficult for people to understand what content will appear at that URL. They also can be more expensive to implement when compared to a folder structure.
3. A Country Code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD) to Replace the gTLD
In this option, Canadian site would be domain.ca and a Mexican site would be domain.mx — replacing the “.com” gTLD completely.
This architecture can be the most complex and expensive to implement, as you would need to have a domain for every focus country. In addition, while a .com domain can be purchased for around $10, there are some TLDs that can cost more than $1,000 and require that you have a local presence in the country.
We’ll elaborate on this trickier option in just a moment.
Using Them in Your International SEO Strategy
If you’re translating content that already exists in a different language and on a different subdirectory or subdomain, rest assured Google won’t flag your website for duplicate content. Google knows what you’re doing, and will let you do it!
Duplicate content is also not penalized by most search engines — rather, it’s filtered. This means if you’ve published an article in two different languages, both will rank in results for each international reader.
So, here’s what to keep in mind when pursuing one of the above three URL structures:
You’ll Need Multilingual SEO Meta Tags
Because subdirectories and subdomains don’t completely separate country-specific websites from one another — in the eyes of readers and Google — it’s important to use meta tags as well.
Meta tags are the lines in the HTML of a given web page that give Google the proper context when crawling that page. Headers, keywords, and other elements of article structure are some important ones. But language is one of your best multilingual SEO maneuvers.
In HTML, the language meta tag for English looks like this: . This tag surrounds all the text that is written in that language, helping Google understand what it’s reading and whom it’s for. Learn more about how to incorporate meta tags here.
Meta tags should resemble both the country and language abbreviation listed in your subdirectory or subdomain. For example, if your Mexican subdomain is mx.domain.com, the meta tags you add to each blog post belonging to this subdomain will be

0 Comments

Leave a Reply

More great articles

Tips & Tricks for Searching Google Like a Pro [Infographic]

Sometimes, I wish Google would just read my mind. I usually have this thought after trying variation after variation of pretty…

Read Story

If You Had to Define SEO in Under 100 Words, What Would You Say?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of improving the ranking and visibility of your website's pages in search engines…

Read Story

The History of SEO, and a Glimpse Into Its Future [SlideShare]

It’s hard to imagine a world without search engines. Even though they are only two decades old, search engines have…

Read Story

Never miss a minute

Get great content to improve your business. We promise we won't send you spam.

    Only great content, we don’t share your email with third parties.
    Arrow-up