Post Tags

International SEO Checklist: Steps to Get You Started

International SEO & Multilingual Digital Marketing

You've finally decided to go global. You now have to think about how your digital presence across the web should be organized. There are a number of factors to consider if you're marketing your products via search engines in other countries. In this international SEO checklist, I will outline the first steps you should take when developing an SEO strategy to target multiple country and language combinations.

Multilingual SEO: by language or by country?

When it comes to making purchases online, users are placing more trust in websites written in their own native language. When you start building your international SEO strategy, you have to determine whether to target foreign markets by

language or by country. A lot of different websites take different approaches.

The first step to set up your website from an international SEO point of view is to see where users are coming from in Google Analytics. In 'Geo', you will see a breakdown of all the different countries that come through to your website and from which countries your visitors are coming from. You can then click on the tab that says 'Secondary Dimension' and set the secondary dimension to be 'Language'. You will have a breakdown of all the countries with their associate language code. 

Google operates on a country-level. We have for Spain, for Germany, for France and more. Choosing a country targeted approach assumes that you should get the right Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD). One thing to consider is that if you use to target new markets in United Kingdom, and you already own, you will start with zero domain authority and Google will consider them as two separate domains. But it is a reliable method for search engines and users to quickly identify the origin of a site.

With that said, you can structure your site on a language-level that covers, for example, a bunch of French-speaking countries, such as France, Belgium, Canada and more. You should go for a language-first when the location of your audience does not represent a factor that can influence your website goals.

For a language targeted approach, you can use one of the following methods:

Creating subdirectories e.g. 


Creating subdomains e.g. 

Subdomains vs Subdirectories?

In terms of different options for international architecture, there has been an ongoing debate in the SEO space: what is better for SEO, a website hosted on a subdirectory or a subdomain? Officially, according to this video from Google, is that they treat subdomains and subdirectories equally. You have the ability to get a subdomain ranked as you do to get a subdirectory ranked.

When to use subdomains? This strategy is effective for a large number of pages. Go for subdomains when you aren’t able (for tech reasons) to go with subdirectories, because it requires separate link building and SEO efforts.

When to use subdirectories? When you don’t have the resources to build and maintain individual sites, when you don’t have the resources for local link building, when your product service offering doesn’t differ much by region and you want to keep costs low.

Implementation checklist

Once you’ve decided whether you want to go country level or language level, decide on directories or subdomains, then it’s time to actually implement it. We'll cover some essential steps to help you get on your own way to ranking overseas.

  1. Using hreflang tags. It tells Google when there is a version of your webpage in a different language or country version. It needs to be set up no matter which architecture you opted for and don’t forget to always assign a version as the default.

The following sample code would highlight that the page contains content written in English but for an American audience.

<link rel="alternate"  href="" hreflang=« en-us » />

2. Set up geotargeting in Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster tool and any other relevant search engine.

3. Specify content language in HTTP header.

4. Localize URLs so that they’re written in their native language.

5. Ensure that you localize any title tags, metadata and social snippet code.

6. Set up an international sitemap menu to navigate between country and language versions.

7. Avoid setting up dynamic content, which displays on your website content based on visitor IP address. This may cause crawling issues with Google.

8. Set up an international link building process to drive links from websites in the language or country that you’re targeting.


Once you have implemented your desired targeting method, it’s time to optimize your website and make sure it is crawlable, indexable and relevant to your international audience. Make sure your international SEO strategy is part of your planning process from the moment you decide to expand globally. To discuss how we could amplify your business search engine visibility, contact us today.

HubSpot Website Design Impact Award Winner