International SEO: All you need to know

Businesses that sell products or services globally want their websites to work in all of their target markets. That’s where they’ll need international SEO to establish a name for themselves. International SEO is thought to be quite difficult, and here is where the majority of firms fall short.

Despite popular belief, international SEO can be beneficial to small businesses by expanding their market and generating a high return on investment. As a result, let’s learn more about international SEO and some of its best practises.

What is International SEO?

International SEO
International SEO

International SEO is more than just launching sites with new content and implementing hreflang. Geotargeting is the most important aspect of international SEO. This includes regionally structuring and optimizing your website. Allowing search engines to recognise the countries and languages spoken by each user in a specific place.

International SEO best practices:

The URL structure for international websites

The URL structure for international websites
The URL structure for international websites

The essential idea is that you need a precise domain for your international SEO needs. When choosing a domain name for international SEO, there are a few things to keep in mind. Country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) domains are appropriate for a certain location.

For instance, and

Country code top-level domains

Country / state / territoryCountry code top-level domain (ccTLD)
Abu Dhabi (not a country, but a state (an emirate) within the United Arab Emirates).abudhabi / .ae
Å (stands for الجزائر‎ or, in the Latin alphabet, al-Jazā’ir, pronounced as Al Dzayer)
American (stands for Antarctique)
Antigua and (stands for Aruba West Indies)
Basque (stands for Euskadi) (stands for Byelorussia) (not in use yet) / .an (stands for Netherlands Antilles) / .nl (stands for Netherlands)
Bosnia and
British Indian Ocean
British Virgin
Burma (officially: Myanmar).mm (stands for Khmer)
Cape Verde (in Portuguese: Cabo Verde).cv
Central African (stands for Tchad)
China, People’s Republic
Cocos (Keeling) (stands for Komori)
Congo, Democratic Republic of the (Congo-Kinshasa).cd
Congo, Republic of the (Congo-Brazzaville).cg
Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast).ci (stands for Hrvatska)
Cyprus, North (unrecognised, self-declared state) (stands for North Cyprus Turkey)
Czechia (Czech Republic).cz
Dubai (not a country, but a state (an emirate) within the United Arab Emirates).ae
East Timor (Timor-Leste).tl (stands for Timor-Leste) / .tp (the old country code that is still in use and which stands for Timor Português)
Equatorial (stands for Guinée équatoriale) (inactive code) (stands for Eesti)
Faeroe (stands for Føroyar)
French Guiana (French overseas department).gf (stands for Guyane française)
French Polynesia (French overseas collectivity).pf (stands for Polynésie française)
French Southern and Antarctic (stands for Terres australes et antarctiques françaises)
Gabon (officially: Gabonese Republic).ga
Gaza Strip (Gaza).ps (stands for Palestine) (stands for Deutschland)
Great Britain (GB).uk (.gb has fallen into disuse)
Guadeloupe (French overseas department).gp
Heard Island and McDonald
Holland (officially: the Netherlands).nl
Hong (stands for Ísland)
Isle of
Korea, (stands for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)
Kosovonot assigned yet (in the meantime the Albanian TLD .al is used) (stands for Macao)
Macedonia, (stands for Македонија or, in the Latin alphabet, Makedonija)
Martinique (French overseas department).mq
Mayotte (French overseas department).yt
Micronesia (officially: Federated States of Micronesia).fm (stands for Maroc)
New Caledonia (French overseas collectivity).nc
North Cyprus (unrecognised, self-declared state) (stands for North Cyprus Turkey)
North (stands for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)
North (stands for Македонија or, in the Latin alphabet, Makedonija)
Northern Mariana (stands for Pelew)
Papua New
Réunion (French overseas department).re (not in use yet) / .an (stands for Netherlands Antilles)
Saint Barthélemy (French overseas collectivity, informally also referred to as Saint Barth’s or Saint Barts).bl (not in use yet) / .gp (stands for Guadeloupe) / .fr (stands for France)
Saint Kitts and
Saint Martin (French overseas collectivity).mf (not in use yet) / .gp (stands for Guadeloupe) / .fr (stands for France)
Saint Vincent and the
Saint-Pierre and Miquelon (French overseas collectivity).pm (stands for Western Samoa, the former name of Samoa)
São Tomé and Prí
Saudi (stands for Република Србија or, in the Latin alphabet, Republika Srbija)
Sint (not in use yet) / .an (stands for Netherlands Antilles) / .nl (stands for Netherlands)
Sint / .an (stands for Netherlands Antilles)
Solomon (stands for British Solomon Islands)
Somaliland (unrecognised, self-declared state).so
South (stands for Zuid-Afrika)
South Georgia and the South Sandwich
South (stands for España)
Suriname (Surinam).sr
Svalbard and Jan Mayen
Tahiti (the largest island in French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France).pf (stands for Polynésie française)
Trinidad and
Turks and Caicos (stands for Україна, or, in the Latin alphabet, Ukraina)
United Arab Emirates (UAE).ae
United Kingdom (UK).uk
United States of America (USA).us
United States Virgin
Wallis and Futuna (French overseas collectivity).wf
West (stands for Palestine)
Western (not in use; instead .ma is used)

To geo-target certain nations, top-level domains (TLDs) are employed. Subdomains and subfolders of ccTLD domains can also be used to geo-target certain nations.

For example, is a subdomain. It employs a generic top-level domain (TLD) with a country-specific subdomain.

For example, and are subdirectories.

If you want to target areas where multiple languages are spoken, you’ll need a structure that includes both country and language subdirectories.

The most popular domain extensions 2021

.com52.0 %CommercialgTLD
.ru6.1 %RussiaccTLD
.org4.5 %OrganizationgTLD
.net3.3 %NetworkgTLD
.ir1.8 %IranccTLD
.in1.7 %IndiaccTLD
.uk1.6 %United KingdomccTLD
.au1.6 %AustraliaccTLD
.de1.2 %GermanyccTLD
.ua1.1 %UkraineccTLD

The most popular ccTLD domain extensions

ccTLDRegistered domains:Country/region:
.tk27.5 millionTokelau
.cn24.7 millionChina
.de16.6 millionGermany
.uk10.8 millionUnited Kingdom
.nl6.0 millionNetherlands

HrefLang Tags

HrefLang was created for multilingual website owners who wanted search engines to offer users relevant content in their own language. Sites with similar content in multiple languages profit from this. HrefLang Tags are applied to a website to allow cross-reference pages with comparable information for different audiences.

Eg – <link rel=”alternate” href=”” hreflang=”en-US” /> (I am the American version, please index me in the US)

 Eg – <link rel=”alternate” href=”” hreflang=”ar-AE” /> (I am the Arabic version and would like to be indexed and served in the UAE).

The hreflang attribute can be used in three different ways:

  1. HTML tags
  2. HTTP headers
  3. Sitemaps

The X Default Tag 

When the language or location tag does not match any of the available options and no other page is more appropriate, the default tag is a default version of the site that you can select to serve customers. There are two versions of the website: one for the United Kingdom and one for the United States. As a result, if someone from Australia searches for relevant phrases, you’d X Default them to the desired version.

Meta Content Language Tags

The language in which the HTML content is written is indicated by this tag, which can also include the country. This information informs search engines about the page’s intended audience.

Eg –  <meta http-equiv=”content-language” content=”en-us”>

International Keyword Research

Keyword Research
Keyword Research

It’s important to remember that literal translations aren’t always accurate or relevant. Examine the keywords used by your competitors in those countries. You can use the SEMRush tool, which is useful for estimating keyword search volume, competitor rankings, and AdWords advertising for the target country.


Install Google Analytics and Google Search Console for each property to track your SEO progress. Both tools can assist in identifying potential indexing or technical issues.

google search console

International Link Building

 Link Building
Link Building

Link building is especially important for websites with ccTLDs and subdomains, as you’ll need links for them.

  • Local citation
  • Look for websites that are relevant to your market and include a list of your competitors. Examine the types of content that people are writing for outreach to see if you can spot any potential placements. This will assist you in comprehending the cultural aspects of your target market.
  • Build your content based on the target user’s language and culture. Create attractive and optimised content for your audience about your products and services, long-tail search queries, industry-related topics that may be of interest to them, etc which will earn you links.

Difference between International SEO Services and regular SEO Services

Localization of website content is one of the first steps in International SEO. Your global page should not be a copied version of your home country website. Optimizing your site for an individual country’s local audience will enhance the overall user experience of the website. The overall performance matters or else versions of your website may compete against each other for rankings or may not be listed at all. For international SEO, each country should have a unique approach.

To give an example, if a separate site is designed for Mexico, a website developed for India should not rank in the Mexican SERP. Misusing canonical or hreflang tags, will lead to non-indexing of sites by the search engines or generate duplicate indexing.

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