SEO Blog - Internet marketing news and views  

International SEO Made Easy

Written by David Harry   
Monday, 06 July 2009 09:51

9 Tips to Get You Jet setting in No Time

(the following is a guest post from Monica Wright)

I have been asked recently about some of the best practices for international SEO (aka geo-targeting). Being a modern day socialite, I did what came naturally... I reached out on Twitter and a number conversations including @seomenno in Utrecht, Netherlands and @grosenfriis in Copenhagen, Denmark, ( and even Lee Odden pitched in). Together we came up with some of the simplest aspects of getting your local SEO efforts in order.

Local SEO made easy

Here are some of the best practices:

1) Choose a Top Level Domain Structure for Sites in Multiple Countries

This has been a sticking point with me, and many others from what I can tell. The debate exists between which is the best choice:

  • Using a Generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) such as .com, .net .org .biz .tv


  • Using a Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) such as de .fr .es .se .uk .cn etc.

Some argue that it makes no difference, but the recommendation is that using a ccTLD will always be a safer bet. If there is any rank bias within a country, it is likely be in favor of the ccTLD from that same country. In addition, a ccTLD will logically be included in local results for the local language.

So if you were to prioritize which to use:

  1. If possible, use the ccTLDs,,,
  2. If not, use subdomains for each language, such as, etc. This allows you to set up multiple Webmaster Tools accounts.
  3. If all else fails, use subfolders such as,


2) Host Sites in Target Country

Another good practice is to host website in the target country. If web hosting is not an option, then at least have the DNS server in the target country.

Here's some advice from Google on that;


3) Obtain Backlinks from the Same Language Market (and Country)

Another possible variable (this is a subjective thought): backlinks from domains within the same country (and language) could offer more PageRank value than those sites hosted in another country with a different language.  If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense in terms of cross-linking content.

(Dave’s notes; actually this element is in some of the Google patents on geo-targeting)


4) Add language indication code in <head> section if necessary.

This is accomplished using the meta-data in the header of your page.
For example: German = <meta http-equiv="Content-Language" content="de" />

Although it should be noted Matt says it's not really a signal they look at;


5) Set up Country or Language Specific Accounts in Webmaster Tools

Create a Webmaster Tool account for each language website and set up target country/language for each website. It should be noted there is scepticism in the SEO community on efficacy of this one.

6) Avoid Mixing Languages

Avoid mixing languages on same website; for example don't have a German website in 35% German and 65% English. It would be preferable to create a directory/sub-domain for each language (more work, but well worth it).

(Dave's notes; it is advisable to look at primary and secondary languages in countries where applicable)

Local SEO isn't scary


7) Generate Language-Specific Sitemaps

Generate Google XML sitemap for each language (country) to improve geo-targeting. Or once again, with multi-language sites, you can use one for each directory/sub-domain that has been set up. Ultimately, I’d even advise this for HTML site maps as well (still effective)


8) Local Address

Place your local address on your template, it will only help your site rank locally. If not in the template, then certainly put it on your contact page (and even Google local/maps as well). If you have multiple locations (and are targeting them) be sure to also include them as well... this can be an important aspect to any local SEO campaign


9) Whois Address

I read that some IDN domain owners claim that in order to be indexed in certain markets that the address of a domain owner in may have an impact on rankings. So, if your whois address is not registered in France, you may have a harder time getting ranked well in French search. I'm not sure if this is true, and I would be more apt to optimize sites with good content and outreach then to determine where the domain owner resides.


A few other resources:

Lee Odden (@leeodden) also strongly recommended - Also check out Duncan Morris' presentation from Distilled on Eduard Blacquiere's site

Here on the Trail:

Local SEO Checklist
Geo-targeting for Klingons
Geo-targeting patents (in the Dojo)

More reading;

Getting to Know Local SEO – Search Engine Watch
Using Images For Local SEO – Search Engine Land
Making Geotargeted Content Findable For the Right Searchers - Nine by Blue
Guide to geotargeting - Blog storm
Building links for geo-targeting - Search Engine Journal
On-Site Geo-Targeting and Local Search Optimization - Search Engine Journal
Local SEO predictions - Local SEO guide
SEO tutorial on “geo targeting” and “language targeting” – SEO Guru


Monica Wright

Monica Wright is a kick ass SEO, honourary SOSG and friend of the FireHorse whom works as an in-house SEO - If you haven't already, be sure to get the feed on her SEO blog and hook up with her on Twitter for good times and search geek chit chat



0 # Jack Leblond 2009-07-06 10:08
Great tip on creating XML language specific sitemaps! Thanks!
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
0 # Monica Wright 2009-07-06 11:21
Mr. Leblond, was it you that gave me the tip on language specific sitemaps and I forgot to give you credit? It may be possible, and I would feel horrible if I forgot the mention!
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
0 # Grosen Friis 2009-07-07 04:32
Hi Monica and Dave

First I need to point out I live in Esbjerg, Denmark (not Copenhagen :P )

I think this is a great article about international SEO. I have a few extra comments on this topic I sould like to share.

Focus on countries, not language:
To me the most important thing is to remember to focus on countries, not just on languages. Language is one among many elements you need to consider when you deal with International SEO.

Yes you can get traffic from search in english if you have english content on your website, even though e.g. german is the main language on your website. But from which english speaking country? USA, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom? If you really want to get better rankings and more relevant traffic from each "local" search engine index e.g.,, and, you need to focus on each country, creating a website for each country and focusing on the cultural and language specific differences for each country. E.g. in USA you spell [color] and in United King you spell [colour]. In addition you need to consider how to avoid duplicate content across each country website based on e.g. english.

Language abbreviations:
At you can find a list of valid language abbreviations for each country.

These abbreviations should be used in combination with the language meta tag mentioned in '4) Add language indication code in [head] section if necessary.'

Beware that these abbreviations are different than the ccTLD's e.g. english is not 'uk', it's 'en'

In addition it is possible to be specific about variants within the same 'langugage' e.g. Australian/English 'en-au' or Canadian/English 'en-ca'

If you have e.g. an english quote inside a page that is primarily written in Norwegian, then you should wrap the english quote in e.g. a [p lang='en'] tag and include the 'lang' attribute with the correct language abbreviation. This way you tell search engines that the page is primarily written in Norwegian and the quote on the page is in english.

Interlinking between each country website:
If you plan to set up a country website using either ccTLD or subdomains you need to be carefull how much you interlink between each of your country websites. These links are not internal links, they are external both when you use ccTLDs or subdomains. If you add to many croos country website links on each of your country websites Google or another major search engine might consider that a spammy approach.

/Grosen Friis
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
0 # Esoos Bobnar 2009-07-07 08:57
Solid post. I've been researching international SEO/SEM a fair amount lately, and I've found the following blogs to be great resources:



South Korea:
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
0 # Wave Shoppe 2009-07-07 13:27
Good tips on geo-targeting but haven't we left out one of the most important aspects, that being the ability to convert them?

MFA sites are pretty straight forward but with a ecom site you also need to be able to accept and convert their currency.

Not every geo-location has Visa etc. so if you are really going to speak their language, you need to accept their currency.
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
0 # Jason Lancaster 2009-07-07 15:31
Having worked on a handful of projects in Central America and the Caribbean, I've come to believe that placement in Yahoo's directory is a significant factor in rankings for many international SEO projects. My theory is that there aren't as many quality indicators in some of these international markets, so Yahoo's directory enjoys an inordinately large link value.
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
0 # Andy Atkins-Krueger 2009-07-08 09:33
Monica - just to point out that mixing languages a page level item due to language detection. In other words, if you mix languages on the same page you screw up the language detection systems used by the search engines which prevents them being properly processed. :-)
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
0 # Noah 2009-07-09 13:41
Was there supposed to be something after this line on point number 2?

"Here's some advice from Google on that;"

It just kinda cuts off and moves onto your 3rd point. Just wondering if there was more info that you accidentally left out there. :-)
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
-1 # PlayStation cheats 2009-10-14 05:50
Hi.This way you tell search engines that the page is primarily written in Norwegian and the quote on the page is in English.
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote

Add comment

Security code

Search the Site

SEO Training

Tools of the Trade


On Twitter

Follow me on Twitter

Site Designed by Verve Developments.