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How Do I Rank Better Internationally In One Or Many Countries?

An SEO expert answers two reader questions about ranking a website internationally – one in several countries, the other in one location.

How Do I Rank Better Internationally In One Or Many Countries?

Today’s Ask an SEO column is a 2-for-1 special dealing with questions about ranking in multiple countries.

Parth in Ahmedabad asks:

“One of my clients want to rank in the U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand & South America with a .uk domain. Should I suggest that they stay with the .uk domain or launch a new website? They recruit teachers from international countries who are looking for a better opportunity in the U.K.”

And Dezsoe in Frankfurt, Germany asks a similar question:

“My website will not rank in the U.S., only in Germany. What can I do to rank worldwide?”

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While these questions aren’t exactly the same, they’re related in that they deal with the same factors and answers. Let’s dive in and talk international SEO.

What Do Search Engines Look At For International Ranking?

There are a ton of signals search engines take into account when determining which country is the right audience for a website, including:

  • Language.
  • Domain extension and/or URL structure.
  • Hreflang tagging.
  • Other tagging (HTML language, etc.).
  • Where the URL is hosted.
  • Country targeting in Google Search Console.
  • Links to the site.
  • Actual content on the site.
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When examining why a site isn’t showing up in a certain country, we need to look at combinations of all of the above factors.

We also need to look at the site from a user’s point of view.

A lot of U.S. searchers will not buy something from another country unless it’s the only place they can get that thing. Think of it from the user’s perspective.

Why wouldn’t you go for the faster shipping? Why wouldn’t you support “Made in [your country here]”?

There are some business models that just might not make sense to rank in all countries, no matter how badly you want to.

The first question to ask is: “As a user, is this the result I’d want?”

Often, the answer is no.

For this post though, let’s assume it is a result the user would want.

Once we know that it is a useful result to a user in that country, it’s our duty to make sure our website conveys that message.

That usually means creating specific content for that user’s language/country combination. This is where hreflang tags come in.

Let’s get specific to each of the above questions.

Ranking In Multiple Countries

Parth, your website could do fine with just a .uk domain.

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If I were setting this up, I’d have specific language/country pages geared at teachers in those regions. Each would be full of resources specific to visa and immigration issues, cost of living differences, and the pros and cons of teaching in their country versus teaching in the U.K.

I would carefully optimize those sections based on my keyword research and key terms, and ensure that I had all the proper hreflang tags set up where they fit.

See Dan Taylor’s Implementing Hreflang on Multilingual Websites to learn more.

Ranking In One Specific International Destination

Dezsoe, thank you for including your website. I took a look and the good news is that I do see you ranking in U.S. search for some of your key terms.

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I noticed that you’ve since made some changes and began optimizing your site. The changes seem to be working.

You have HTML lang attributes set up, which is a good first step.

Next, try adding some content about international shipping and maybe even some U.S.-based pricing on your products if you want to rank here.

Given that it’s a specific single product site, it may even be better (for customers, not just SEO) if you create a U.S.-based site with a non-country specific (or U.S.-specific) domain extension.

That way, you can update all of your contact information, pricing, shipping, etc. to be U.S.-specific. If you do that, you can set up hreflang tags.

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Looking at your information, pricing, etc. in German would make me a little hesitant to buy from the U.S.

If you really want to sell (and rank) in a different market, you need to create content geared toward that market.

Key Takeaways

Technically, any URL extension can rank in any country.

However, it sometimes makes sense to have a separate site, based on the country and your specific customer base.

There’s also a whole bunch of weird legal stuff when it comes to countries like China and Russia that is worth looking into, but that’s another post.

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No matter what URL solution you decide on, make sure your language targeting and hreflang tags are all properly set up and that you have useful content for the people in that country including pricing, contact information, and anything that is useful for their region/language.

Do this in a clear way and Google should figure it all out nicely.

More resources:

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Featured image: Shutterstock/svetlichniy_igor

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Ryan Jones

VP, SEO at Razorfish

Ryan is the SEO lead at Razorfish where he works from early in the morning until late in the evening. ... [Read full bio]

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