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International SEO

If you are into blogging or own a website then you know the process of optimizing your website to be found by search engines. While in the ongoing process if you want to target a specific audience then you will need to identify the region under demographics. Once you know which section to target for bringing in revenue and traffic, it is of much importance to cater to the needs of this specific audience. Of all the possible features that one could think of, user experience is of high priority. This could be made possible by reaching your audience in their local language. Does this sound familiar?

If yes, then you are into Internationalising your SEO process. There are specific steps one needs to follow, we will discuss them in brief. On a high level, the process can be divided into three sections Country Targeting, Language Targeting, and Verifying the setup.

Country Targeting can be achieved in one of the following three ways :

Country-Specific Domains (ccTLDs)

TLD stands for Top-Level Domain, while ccTLD stands for country code TLD. It is also referred to as CTLD or Country Top Level Domain. This means your website domain name includes the country code that you decide to target. For instance when the domain name of this website points to "" or "" then these domain names are region-specific. While this gives greater scope for indicating strong signals, to the crawlers that these sites are specifically designed for a given country, the downside of it would be the cost and content management which would increase with the increase of the number of country codes.


To overcome the costing concerns of having multiple websites targeting regional audiences, one can choose to have sub-domains under the same TLD. For instance, if you are planning to target the audience of France and Canada then and are sub-domains that can be considered. The crawlers consider these sub-domains as different instances, though the domain authority gets shared between sub-domains, so it is important to have unique content with different URLs and SEO optimization must be done for these separately. Usually, sub-domains are opted for when dealing with different content under the same domain name.


When you know the content is similar but needs to be handled differently under one domain name sub-directories are preferred over the rest. For instance, all digital marketing stuff related to the US region is clubbed under the directory name "united states" and the region is then treated as a category. It may look like or Now when you want to deal with similar content but want to categorize based on regions, it is preferable to use sub-directories. Crawlers treat them as the same domain but in different categories so the domain authority of the site gets reused while ranking.

Language targeting can be confirmed using hreflang tags in the head section of the page.


Once you have decided on your website structure, it is important to tell the crawlers which language and country combination the page is catering to. This instructs the engines to display region-specific content from the same website.

When you have opted for the ccTLD structure of the site, you may wonder if this tagging is needed, the answer to this is that the tag creates a marker for search engines to explicitly confirm that the page is designed for the given country code and language combination. Including this tag in the head section of the page confirms the internationalization of content.

The format looks like the following tags, the default tag points to all remaining countries and languages that are not being targeted meaning the search engines will have to show these pages in the results for the remaining non-targeted audience.

<link rel="alternate" href="" hreflang="x-default" />

The below tag signals the search engine that the page needs to be surfaced for India in the English language.

<link rel="alternate" href="" hreflang="en-in" />

Once you have targeted the country and language, it's time to check and verify your setup. Google provides a tool for checking and verifying the setup for internationalization under the link

The tool can be used with the authorization credentials of your search console setup. The tool provides tabs for country and hreflang setup.

These are the basic criteria for setting up international SEO. Once these parts are set up, it's the turn of setting up the appropriate content. It is advised not to use auto-translated content. This may reduce the quality of the sites and hence may not rank on search engine results. Local advertising and backlinks are suggested for improving the ranking of the page.

If these measures are taken care of, then the site will perform well with search engine optimization involving internationalized content.

For more on search engine optimization check my blog.

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