Domestic SEO was much easier than expected. How does that impact international strategy?

I accomplished what I thought is impossible for five pages on my site. We achieved page 1 and 2 ranks after launching a few months ago without creating any external links or social signals. One page's keywords has medium competition, but that page is getting a little link juice forwarded from it's previous domain. That site was not as well focused or well built for SEO, and never made it to page 2. The other four pages have low to low-medium competition and do not benefit from any legacy link juice.

The keywords for each of the pages target a different but similar niche product made by well-kown major multi-national corporations. We sell a generic replacement for those niche products. Each of the products has true global consumer demand.

Since launch the site has been tweaked to improve internal SEO and to enhance the ability to market internationally in preparation for an external SEO campaign. I was about to hire an SEO firm for link building, but now before doing so, I am rethinking my stratgey and hope to get some advice especially since this is my first foray into international SEO.

For SEO on the default pages I still plan on a little link building, but substantially less. It seems like it will be relatively easy to achieve top 5 with each of the products. (Actually, one is already there.) Does that make sense? What about long-term SEO maintenance? Do you think it's worth much of an effort?

We're using hreflang tags with xml site maps for the international URLs. The site maps for the first four new countries were just submitted to Google yesterday. The XML looks something like this:

    <xhtml:link href="http://www.example.com/en-us/product1" hreflang="x-default" rel="alternate" />
    <xhtml:link href="http://www.example.com/en-in/product1" hreflang="en-in" rel="alternate" />
    <xhtml:link href="http://www.example.com/en-au/product1" hreflang="en-au" rel="alternate" />

For now, we are only targeting English speaking countries so the only substantive differences on the pages is the currency of the prices. We're using a CDN to ensure fast page loads from a close-by IP address. In each of these countries, the competition for the keywords is not as strong as the US.

Do you think that we're likely to achieve similar organic SEO results by doing nothing? Do you think link-building will accelerate the ranking?

  • Good job! Out of curiosity, what kind of details did you pay attention to that let you achieve such good SEO on your own so quickly, do you think?
    – HC_
    Jun 4, 2015 at 19:13
  • Sorry for the slow reply. I haven't been here for a long time. We paid careful attention to on-site optimization and we are lucky enough to have keywords that do not have much competition.
    – steveorg
    May 26, 2016 at 23:07

1 Answer 1


First of all, you should specify your international target. You should target countries if the location is important for your product. Otherwise, it is better to target a specific language. (You didn't say if it is digital or a physical product)

Assuming you are targeting countries:

  1. Use a local domain, subdirectory or subdomain
  2. Use a local address and phone number
  3. Use the geo-targeting option of the main search engines Webmaster Tools in your market and specify the target country. (Google Webmaster Tools, Bing Webmaster Tools, Yandex Webmaster, etc...)
  4. Use a local ip address
  5. Use the local currency and language
  6. Link between different country versions in a crawlable and very visible menu. Don't automatically redirect your users to a specific version. It's better to suggest.
  7. Specify the language and country in the header or sitemap using hreflang

Assuming you are targeting a language:

  1. Use a subdirectory or subdomain per language

  2. Localise the site content and structure. (currency/language/..)

  3. Link between different language versions in a crawlable and very visible menu.

  4. Specify the language in the header or sitemap using hreflang

Track each version of your website (country or language targeted) independently. Create for each version a separate Google Webmaster and Google Analytics profile.


International SEO Checklist

Getting hreflang Right

Considerations for international seo

  • Thanks for all of the good info. It mostly describes the strategies that I employ. The only one missing is the local address and phone. That's because I only have a US address and do not want to encourage phone calls. To answer your question, we sell and ship a physical product. I was hoping that you could offer an opinion on the question at the end. "Do you think that we're likely to achieve similar organic international SEO results by doing nothing? Do you think link-building will accelerate the ranking?"
    – steveorg
    May 7, 2015 at 17:34
  • You say: "Each of the products has true global consumer demand." so why do you want to focus on 2-3 countries? If their is truly a global demand, you should focus on a language. Link-building will accelerate your ranking, but link-building alone is not enough. Try to identify the popular keywords used in that region, take note of culture differences and write your text accordingly. Look at your current analytics and identify the countries from where you get the most visitors and focus on those first.
    – Toon
    May 7, 2015 at 21:56
  • Actually, eventually we want to target the 25 countries with the most active sales on ecommerce marketplaces. We do have a default site for English and will do so for all translations. However, default pages do not rank as well on foreign versions of Google. For example I have one set of keywords that are page 1 in the U.S., page 20 in India, page 15 in GB, page 28 in Australia and page 7 in Canada. For this product, keywords are the same and the product is so narrow that cultural differences do not exist. The only important difference is currency.
    – steveorg
    May 13, 2015 at 17:47

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