International SEO: Basic International SEO Issues

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International SEO: 5 Basic SEO Issues You Should be Considering

The number of businesses that now ship or trade in multiple countries is growing by the day. No longer is it just the large corporations that have the ability to ship their products at competitive rates and increase their returns.

Although many have increased their international revenue streams, the majority of brands large and small neglect to think of implementing basic SEO best practice for internatioanlisation.

Below I have provided 5 basic SEO issues that you should be considering when it comes to international SEO.

Choose the right URL Structure

Determining which URL structure to use is a big decision, and should be a business decision rather than solely an SEO decision.

There are three different options when it comes to choosing the URL structure and they all have different pros and cons.


With search engines treating sub-domains as new entities, any sub-domain will be treated as a separate website. This would mean that you need to build the authority across each new sub-domain.



Sub-folders is my preferred method, and one that is used widely throughout the world. Sub-folders allow you to use the power of the existing domain and filters through to the country specific versions. A great example of this being used is



If you have the right infrastructure and you have ALL the domains for the markets you are currently operating in, as well as the ones you want to move into, this can be a good fit. With the ccTLD route, you are providing the search engine with the biggest hint that it is local to the specific region, whilst the above doesn’t provide that. A great of example of this being used is Amazon.


Any of the above will work, which is why it becomes a business decision as much as an SEO one.

Localise the language

If you are marketing to multiple countries it is essential that you are either translating the content or at the very minimum you are using local language.

The more specific you are to your target audience, the better the search engines will understand who you appeal to; showing the correct sites to the correct audiences at all times.

A good example is the UK and the US where both countries speak English, however there are obvious spelling differences.

Examples (UK then US):

  • Colour & Color
  • Specialise & Specialize
  • Tyre & Tire

Alongside the obvious spelling differences, the search terms that are used also differ. One that we commonly come across is holiday (UK) vs vacation (US). These changes make a huge difference to both users and search engines, and should be a priority.

This can also be extended to the UX of the website with different countries being accustomed to different options, specifically throughout the payment gateway.

I was listening to a talk at UX Oxford recently where the presenter was telling us how credit cards are not commonly used in Germany. She proceeded to say that by split testing, they found that removal of the credit card option from the German payment gateway actually increased conversion. They were being specific to the audience.

When you are creating a website that targets multiple languages and regions, you need to ensure that it is as targeted to the audience as possible.

Use the Href Lang tag

When having the same content across multiple countries, you are more likely to have an issue with duplicate content and potentially having the incorrect region visible in the search engines.

To reduce the potential for this, search engines have adopted the Href Lang tag to allow webmasters to give them an indication of target audience.

You can implement the tag in three ways:

  • HTML link element in header
  • HTTP Header
  • Sitemap

More information about how to implement Href Lang can be found here[1].

Other resources for Href Lang include:

Separate Countries within the Search Console

I am assuming that you are already using Google’s Search Console, but have you created a profile for each country location?

Creating a new profile for each separate country will allow you to become more granular with your targeting and understanding of the performance.

To do this, you will need to create a new property and include the regional URL as shown below.


Split your XML Sitemaps by Country

XML Sitemaps are a basic SEO requirement for any website and should be seen as even more important for websites that have an international presence.

The big difference for international websites is that you need to split the XML sitemaps by country or region. This will allow you to then submit to the correct profile within Search Console.

For me, there are two ways that you can split the XML Sitemap. The first is to create a single sitemap index that contains the sitemaps for each of your countries. The second, and my preferred method is to create a sitemap index for each country. This way you can be granular with your sitemaps down to product, service or article level. This method will allow you to more accurately identify where any possible indexing gaps are.

That’s it! What basic SEO issues are you considering when you look into international SEO? I’d love to hear your comments either below or over on twitter @danielbianchini[2].

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