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International SEO - Part 1

Are you starting up an international or multilingual website?

Before you setup any website in another country you need to consider many variables, today in the first of 2 parts I will give you some hints and tips about what to do before you setup the website and before you even start to SEO an international website.


Ideally you want to get a website that has a TLD from that country, a .com site does work well worldwide but we do recommend getting the local TLD.

The other issue with the domain is that if you can, make sure that it is hosted in the country where you want it to rank; so host your .fr in France and your .de in Germany (although this can get tough when you are running multiple language pages from the one TLD). Basically we try and do this because the search engines try and find relevant content for their users, so to them, a French hosted (and .fr) website is much preferable to a French internet user.


There are 3 different options you can use with your new international site; a brand new top level domain (, a subfolder for each of your new sites ( or a sub domain for each new site ( Here is a brief overview of the benefits and potential negatives of each option;

New TLD Pro: Search engines love TLD for that specific country
Con: You will have to start from the beginning; this can be frustrating when your .com has an awesome domain popularity
Conclusion: The best solution for any new language/country site, you will have to start link building from scratch but the long term benefits outweigh the short term negatives
Subfolder Pro: Unlike a new TLD, you will be making your site on that .com with the awesome domain popularity
Con: Your TLD is still a .com
Conclusion: If you cannot (or do not want to) get a new TLD then this is your next best option, although you will still have problems with search engines not wanting to place a .de in a .fr (for example) listing
Sub domain Pro: Harder to rank than a subfolder, even harder to get links to
Con: You’re still running it from that .com
Conclusion: If you don’t get a new TLD I don’t recommend using a sub domain, instead use a subfolder

The Hreflang Tag

If you are running all your language pages from the one TLD domain than you need to think about using the Hreflang tag, that is a tag that tells the search engines that you are running multiple language pages on the one site. With this tag you can run both different languages from the one site, as well as different dialects of the one language (eg. Germany and Switzerland) and the search engines will be aware that the content is simply translated similar content on the same site and not ‘dangerous’ duplicate content. Here is a short example of how the Hreflang tag works;

We will run 4 languages from the website; German, Swiss German, a generic English and British English.
You will need to add all this code with the equivalent URL’s of the different language pages between yourtags to all URL’s on your website, you can see how the tag differentiates between both the land and the local language;


You are also able to submit your hreflanf tags in your sitemap, read about that more here

The Canonical Tag

Another tool to try and get rid of the dreaded duplicate content demon

Find out more about the Canonical tag here.


The language is naturally one of the first things you must think about when running an international SEO campaign, and when I say language I mean to use the proper local language. It is vitally important to get a native speaker (or a very fluent speaker) to write the content for your international site; this is both for the search engines of that country as well as for the benefit of the users from that country that will come to your site. I think we have all been to a site that was clearly just a bad translation… and left within the first 20 seconds.

And please… please DO NOT use Google translate – Offerwise you find dat will rankings will not good very come in ur site! (and some direct translated text can be classified as spam).

Allow all users to access every language version of your website regardless of where they live, do this by adding a drop down menu somewhere on your site. This also makes it easier for the search engines bots (Googlebot etc) to crawl through your entire website regardless of language.

If you are going to run multiple languages from your website (either on the same domain or like us with multiple country domains) make sure the dropdown link that changes languages is in the language of that site; for example De or Deutsch not Ger or German.

Last but not least you have to make sure all the Meta tags and titles on the website are in the local language, this is a small but important detail that can be overlooked when making a new language site.

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Local Symbols/Customs

I really had no idea what heading I should use for this section, but what I mean when I say symbols and customs are things like; date format, time format, day format, currencies and the grammar of a number – these are more for the beneficial of the user than the search engines… but everything counts.

Here is a bit of an example of what can wrong with these ‘customs’ when translating an American website for the German market;

American Custom German Custom
Day Format 11/21/2012 21.11.2012 (They have 21 months in America?)
Time Format 9pm 21.00 (Yes, we go to bed at 20 – 1 hundred!)
Date Format Tuesday, November 27, 2012 Dienstag, 27. November 2012
Currency $ (That is obvious, but don’t forget it)
Numbers 999,999.99 999.999,99 (Did you spot the difference?)

Keep reading at Part two