How To Develop Your International SEO Strategy

I’m sure you’ll agree that SEO is often very regionally dependent. And SEMrush users all over the world know exactly what we mean. Generally, website owners focus on a particular location when promoting their sites in search – usually it’s where they live. But today, both global companies with offices and employees around the world and local small businesses want to promote products and services across the globe. In this post, we provide a thorough international SEO strategy guide for those who want to know more about international SEO and learn how to rank their site in faraway locations.   Strictly speaking, international search engine optimization is the process of adjusting your website so that search engines can understand which countries you want to reach and which languages your site has been translated into. First, let’s ponder the general definition of the word “international.” The following words may come to mind: global, worldwide, foreign, multinational, cultural exchange, etc.  We typically use the word “international” when speaking about something that concerns or belongs to different nations. But what does international SEO mean? Let’s find out.

Different Countries Have Their Own Search Engines and Social Networks

Today, people all over the world use search engines and social networks to communicate with each other, meet new people and search for information they need. Even if Google is considered to be the leading search engine in most of the rest of the world, there are some local search engines that are widely used in specific countries. The same is true when it comes to social networks, as not all users are devoted to Facebook.

  • In China, Baidu is the most popular search engine and RenRen is the top social networking site (it’s the equivalent of our Facebook). You can see this in the beautiful infographic from Victor Lerat’s article about the Chinese search engine. 

Baidu Infographic SEO Baidu InfographicChinese Baidu InfographicInfographic by Victor Lerat and Search-Factory

  • In Japan, on the other hand, the most popular social networking service is Mixi with 27.1 million visits. Also, Yahoo! Japan has the biggest share of the search market in the country while Google has only slightly more than half of Yahoo’s share.
  • Yandex is the biggest search engine in Russia with 61.9 percent of the market share, and Russians use Vkontakte as their main social networking site of choice.

And these are just a few examples. In other words, working in international SEO will force you to optimize your site for new search engine requirements and understand a completely different search and social ecosystem. And it can be done. Here’s how.

Consider Your Website’s Structure

If you are targeting several regions, make sure that everything on your website (content, site navigation, etc.) is provided in every language spoken in the regions you are targeting. By no means should you a use machine translation, because it obviously won’t be accurate. Technical SEO Also, you can use the hreflang tags (or rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x”) to show search engines which languages you are set up to handle. While Google uses the hreflang tags, Bing only understands language meta tags.


Speaking of setting up your website, we recommend that you use a subfolder (e.g., “”) or subdomain (e.g., “”) instead of getting a separate domain for your site. On the other hand, you may not be targeting language groups, but a specific country. In order to do this, you would probably have to use either a ccTLD (e.g., “”) or a dedicated gTLD (e.g., “”) and build separate sites for each country. Location as factor in your web operations If you’re not yet sure which strategy is better for your business, you can use this algorithmprovided by Kissmetrics.

Keywords for an International SEO Strategy

You will also have to put a lot of effort into localizing keywords if you want to optimize for them. The best approach is to get help from someone who speaks the language you’re working with and understands the local market. If that’s impossible, at the very minimum, translate your keywords into that new language, check their search volume and try to find relevant and related phrases to optimize for. It’s also worth researching your competitors to find out what keywords they target and what sort of traffic they receive for them.Keywords for International SEO strategy We also recommend doing keyword research with a native speaker, even if only to avoid embarrassing yourself by picking words that could have double meanings. Also, bear in mind that not all keywords have to be translated. The idea here is not just to translate all your keywords into different languages, but to run a campaign for keywords that people actually use. For example, for our PPC campaign for Spain, we use the keywords “keyword research” and “palabras clave,” because searchers in this country use both of these queries. Forgetting one of these keywords would be an unfortunate omission.

Content Issues

Today more than ever, content should be focused on users. Creating content is about making a connection with your targeted audience. One of the best ways to distribute information to someone is to keep it simple, especially for those who aren’t industry experts. Produce simple and easy-to-read content; don’t overload it with superfluous information or overcomplicate it. Some content creators are predisposed to including irrelevant information in their texts and padding with unnecessary details simply to increase their word count. This mistake is quite serious. Content Issues It is important not only to translate your content correctly, but to also make it work from a marketing point of view. We recommend making the structure of your content clear and easy to follow. Ideally, it must provide readers with both functional and enjoyable information, as well as useful advice. As we have already mentioned, using a machine translation is not an option. If possible, hire a professional translator or at least get help from a local copywriter. Not everything can be translated well word for word, but a good translator or copywriter will help you avoid awkward mistakes.

Localize Your Brand

Another important thing to consider is localizing your brand. Even if you work with a global brand, it is most likely only optimized for certain regions (in many cases, the English-speaking world). But what if you have to position it for such markets as Russia or China? First of all, simply translating content won’t be enough. You’ll have to ensure that the site itself is optimized for the new country’s culture. As Harrison Jones mentioned in our roundup of international SEO tips for positioning your brand in China:

“The two absolute most important things for Chinese SEO: obtain an Internet Content Provider license from the Chinese government and do not have any words on the site that are blacklisted by China. Without an ICP license, it is very difficult to rank for anything.”

Also, when writing content, consider providing the following sort of information:

  • Local stories and case studies

Case studies and stories from local businesses and customers will make the website more relevant for a new audience and help build a rapport.

  • Localized images

Update website images, so you can better feature and relate to customers from the new country via these images.

  • Local problems

Delivering content solving problems for a specific region you’re targeting can be a support to your website. For example, you can provide readers with in-depth how-to guides and other educational content. The takeaway here is that customizing your content for each country, or even each market, makes it more relevant. Also, it encourages the increasing of local link building.

The Influence of Culture on Graphic Design

It may seem surprising, but national culture and traditions do influence web design and even interfaces. Different countries prefer different design aesthetics. What can be applied to one region might be inappropriate for another. As a result, unfortunately, translating your website into the appropriate local language may not be enough. But don’t give up! Review local sites and, if possible, discuss the problem with a professional web designer or someone who knows the targeted country well. Cultural Influence on Graphic Design Actually, the whole process of gaining new knowledge can be very interesting and exciting. Graphic design has its own standards of beauty. Influenced by a specific history, culture and lifestyle, it varies from country to country. For example, Chinese graphic design reflects its devotion to the country, so several motifs of traditional Chinese art and culture can be found in the work of native designers. Usually, web designs produced in Latin America are characterized by vibrant and vivid colors. Japanese websites are greatly influenced by traditional and contemporary art and demonstrate abundant neon colors, which are reminiscent of the neon lights that can be seen in many areas of Tokyo at night. Global-Design_650x362 So, we recommend considering your website’s design and interface before targeting a specific country.

Include XML Sitemap

Make sure your website uses XML sitemaps and register them with search engines. This type of sitemap is highly recommended not only by Google, but also by Yahoo and Bing, because it helps search bots know how many pages your website contains. For those who use subfolders, it’s better to create a separate sitemap for each country and submit it to Google Webmaster Tools as a different site. Google Webmaster Tools allow you to register subfolders separately and designate a different geographic target for each of them.

Metadata implementation and contact information

Don’t forget to localize your meta tags, URLs, image alt text, etc. The same goes for local information on your site:

  • Company address
  • Phone numbers
  • Opening hours in the local time zone
  • Prices in local currency

Even if the statement above is self-evident, we’ve seen many local sites with meta tags still left in English, purely because they were just cloned in the CMS and never updated.


SEO is indeed very regionally dependent. If you want your visitors, as well as search engines, to understand which country and language group you are looking to do business with, use the tips we provided in this post:

  • Consider your website’s structure
  • Localize your keywords
  • Consider your website’s content
  • Localize your brand
  • Localize your site’s design
  • Don’t forget about on-page optimization

SEO is constantly evolving, and you should evolve along with it. Think about your strategy in depth, and adapt to your business goals and targeted countries. Even though your site can be located via search engines in any country, most of the time you should focus on a particular location when optimizing it for search. Hopefully, this post has provided you with a good foundation for getting started. Original article published here: Semrush

Cats and Dogs Trigger Machine Translation Row in Canada

Cats and Dogs Trigger Machine Translation Row in Canada

How to explain the finer points of statistical machine translation to a national audience. This was the challenge facing Donna Achimov, CEO of Canada’s Translation Bureau, and Joel Martin, R&D director at the National Research Council, the developer of Canada’s homegrown statistical machine translation (MT) system Portage.

Both Achimov and Martin were put on the defensive by a public service worker union’s clever publicity stunt. The union tested Portage using a randomly selected idiomatic phrase involving cats and dogs and rain and (Surprise!), the system translated it literally.

But why the row? Canada’s Translation Bureau is poised to launch Portage, the result of a decade’s worth of investment and development, on April 1, 2016. The machine translation tool will be made available to Canada’s 350,000 civil servants, who work with the country’s two official languages, English and French.

The tool was pilot tested last summer with 300 public servants. Portage leverages on the Translation Bureau’s huge corpus of bilingual reference text to deploy a tailored MT experience.

Machine translation is nothing new to Canadian civil servants. According to Translation Bureau CEO Achimov, government employees log over a million uses of Google Translate each week.

So, Canada’s Translation Bureau noticed that government employees were heavy users of a free online machine translation tool. They also knew that their own government has invested significant resources into developing its own statistical machine translation engine. Finally, the Bureau sits on a huge data set of highly relevant reference texts.

Connecting these dots and making Portage accessible to all government employees seemed like the logical thing to do. Select politicians, federal translators, and the union would have none of it.

MP Greg Fergus of Canada’s House of Commons has vowed to stall the use of Portage. He was quoted in a CBC News article as saying there was no shortcut to proper training to make sure Canadians could speak both official languages effectively, and that using Portage with all its errors would be a detriment to bilingualism.

Then came a federal translator. In a CBC News Ottawa interview, an employee in the Translation Bureau said morale in the bureau is low. Asking that his voice be disguised for fear of losing his job, he said, “It is awful actually. People are leaving the bureau to try to find other jobs in civil service. If this tool is implemented…there might be many jobs that are going to be lost.”

Finally, the Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE), a federal public service union that represents government employees across Canada, weighed in. CAPE president Emmanuelle Tremblay, referring to the test, said using Portage could reflect poorly on the professional skills of the Translation Bureau and, thus, CAPE members.

In the same CBC News Ottawa interview, Tremblay said, “What I see as a real danger is the fact that, with a few hundred thousand users―the public servants―it’s very unlikely that a tool like this one can ever be better than Google Translate. My fear is that…public servants might think the Translation Bureau’s quality is no good. But it’s not the Translation Bureau’s or my members’ professional skills that are in question here.”

In addition, Tremblay cited recent job losses at the Translation Bureau, where according to CBC, nearly 700 jobs were cut in the last five years and an additional 140 jobs were on the line through attrition. Tremblay clarified, however, that the job losses were not due to technology but rather the previous government’s ideological drive to outsource to the private sector.

Asked point blank if she was more upset at the quality of Portage translations or that CAPE members could lose their jobs, Tremblay’s reply (“neither”) did not really clarify her position.

Translation Bureau CEO Achimov fought back. She stressed that Portage was never meant to replace Translation Bureau employees.

She said, “I have to be clear about this: This tool never is meant to replace professional translation. It’s not meant for any material that goes out to the Canadian public.”

She further explained the Bureau’s new MT-human hybrid model, saying that Portage helps improve official language by harnessing previous translations and that it actually links to a human translator. “When you’re typing something and you want to translate it officially, you actually get a direct link to a translator at the Translation Bureau.”

R&D director, Joel Martin, tried to explain the test mishap, pointing out how training is everything with statistical machine translation: “The idea behind these MT systems is to have many, many examples. If the (previous) examples that are fed into Portage don’t include ‘It’s raining cats and dogs,’ it won’t be able to translate that.”

He also stressed the security benefits of running a proprietary machine translation engine, saying that it was ideal for government use, something his corporate clients appreciate. “A lot of our customers, our licensees, one of the advantages they see is their translations do not leave their corporate walls. If you send it to Google Translate, it gets stored in California, forever.”

Original article published here:  Slator