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4 Key Areas Of International SEO Focus For Entering A New Market

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4 Key Areas Of International SEO Focus For Entering A New Market

It makes sense that businesses successful enough to grow to the enterprise level might one day go international.

For the business owner, it’s an exciting and intimidating prospect. You have the chance to bring your brand, and your offerings, to customers in different countries.

On the one hand, this effort will be about replicating the success you’ve had in your own country.

On the other, marketing yourself in the United States will be different from marketing yourself in France, Germany, or Australia.

Your website will play a huge role in serving your international customers, which means international SEO is required.

On the most basic level, practicing international SEO means targeting specific countries and languages on your website.

But it’s not enough to simply have those pages out there for international users to find. How will you optimize for better placement and greater visibility on Google and other search engines?

Make sure you’re focusing on these 4 foundational areas of international SEO to give your site its best possible chance in new markets.

1. Establish The Right URL Structure For International Pages

Enterprise and large-scale websites will have a ton of pages, likely hundreds or thousands. When you’re in the ecommerce market, those product and category pages add up fast.

One of the primary steps you need to take if you want users in another country to find what they want on your website is to build your international pages for the right audiences using the proper country-coded URL structure.

Take this example.

Say you’re a U.S.-based online consumer electronics retailer, and you’ve done the research to show that you stand to grow your profits if you expand into the U.K. market.

You’ve already done all the SEO for your U.S.-based pages, but now you need to create and optimize pages for a British audience, that is, pages that Google will turn up for users searching from the United Kingdom.

The first and perhaps, most important step is to create British-centric web pages built with URL structures that signify the content is meant for U.K. users.

There are a few ways you can do this. Many international websites choose to country-code their international URLs with a ccTLD, which in this example would be “.uk.”

Other options include creating:

  • A country-coded subdomain (uk.websitename.com).
  • A subfolder on your original website (websitename.com/uk).
  • Another domain entirely (newwebsitename.com, optimized only for British users).

You’ll have to decide for yourself which approach is best.

For instance, you might believe that establishing a separate domain for each new country you expand to is a bad idea. Your organic traffic data will be broken up among your websites, preventing you from seeing everything at a glance.

The subdomain and subfolder routes would allow you to view the international versions of your site separately while still allowing you to collect organic traffic data all in one place.

In any event, telling the search engines the version of your website meant for each country is necessary to rank for the right audiences. Devise a way forward with this before doing anything else.

2. Go All-In On Page Experience For International Users

Country-specific URL structures are good for getting your international pages ranking for the right audiences.

But let’s say you get the “.uk” subdomain version of your site to rank for British users. Those users then go to the site and notice you’re using American English rather than British English.

Maybe that isn’t a huge deal right now, but it’s still a little off-putting.

Then, upon checking out your prices, those British users can only see the costs in the American dollar.

They’ll need to convert dollars to British pounds and figure out what they’ll owe to make a purchase. But why put your potential customers through that?

Just as in traditional SEO, international SEO needs to consider user experience.

Whether you’re serving up web pages to British audiences who share the English language with the United States or to Italian users who speak a completely different language, be sure to translate all your website content for its intended users.

You can use any translation tool to do that but the story doesn’t end there.

You’ll want to lock in whether Google shows that version of your page to the right audience by adding hreflang attributes to your pages.

Hreflang tags are signals that tell Google the language used on the page. Why is that important?

Because then, Google will show that version of the page to users who come from IP addresses that speak that language.

Of course, keep in mind that languages are not necessarily confined within national borders.

If you create German-language versions of all your pages specifically for German-speaking people, remember that German is spoken in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Luxembourg.

You don’t want Google to leave those last three countries out in the cold with search results by showing German-language pages only to people in Germany.

To solve that problem, you can add hreflang tags for specific countries.

In this case, you’d have tags for the other countries using their letter abbreviations.

So, German itself would be “hreflang=de,” while you would use “hreflang=de-ch” for German speakers in Switzerland.

Regarding currencies, you should be sure to look into the currency options on Shopify, Woocommerce, or the platform you use to select the currencies you will accept.

Ideally, you’ll be able to accept whatever the national currency is of the target country.

You may also want country-specific resources on each translated page of your website to address user concerns about taxes, customs, and shipping.

3. Be Aware Of International Keyword Differences

When you’re a large enterprise website expanding into different countries, you also need to be acutely aware of the differences in keyword trends among countries.

There’s the issue of keywords appearing in completely different languages in other countries. Still, even in countries that speak the same language, the terms might differ (“elevator” in the United States, “lift” in the United Kingdom).

You can use tools such as Semrush and Ahrefs for keyword research according to search volumes in different countries.

This is where things can get a little tricky. Depending on local elements such as culture, weather, language, and history, your customers might have their own common words for things.

Take the example of U.S. English speakers saying “bike” in casual conversation much more often than they say “bicycle.”

You will need to put the time into researching the terms used in your target countries and translate them properly where necessary if you want your pages to rank for the most relevant terms.

With enterprise websites and other large-scale sites, this research can take substantial time. It’s good to know you can do this before committing to expanding internationally.

4. Pursue Backlinks From Country-Specific Domains

The last point to cover is that, as an enterprise website attracting users in many countries, you’ll want backlinks to assist in that effort.

If you have experience in SEO, you already know the benefits of high-quality backlinks.

The caveat to remember in international SEO is that your backlinks should be coming from websites with the same ccTLD as the website version you’re showing people.

So, if you have a version of your site for Japan, it makes sense that most of your backlinks should be from websites with a “.jp.”

This makes sense from a user-experience perspective.

Japanese users who follow those external links and find the Japanese version of your site won’t be jarred by suddenly finding an English page.

Your international link-building strategy will be based on the products you sell and the market sectors where you sell them. Only you will know the best strategy for acquiring links to your pages from the appropriate domains.

Just think: “What kinds of backlinks would Google most associate with trustworthiness for my site?”

International Enterprise SEO Needs All Your Attention

It takes a lot of time and effort to get your international SEO right, but if you’re an enterprise business expanding across national borders, be sure your website is working for you rather than against you.

Put the work into creating awesome experiences for your international customers, and this move could end up paying dividends for you for years to come.

More resources:


Featured Image: Pixels Hunter/Shutterstock




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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Olga Strel

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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