Top Ways to Implement an International SEO Strategy On a Local Level

As an international SEO company, it’s our job to educate potential customers on how to implement a global SEO strategy on a local level. Implementing a global digital marketing strategy on a local level enables companies to geotarget their customers and to communicate with them in a hyper-localized way. Implementing a regional SEO strategy for your globally operating business is usually way more advantageous than just focusing on a broad SEO strategy. A localized SEO strategy allows you to push messages such as sales, promotions, events, as well as country, region, and even city-specific content to your local customers. As a result, you can see consumer engagement increase as they feel more connected to your brand and become loyal supporters.

In this article, I’ll discuss five strategies that you need to be implemented to improve your local SEO on a global scale.

1. Perform Target Market Research and Potentially Tackle Global “Low-Hanging-Fruit” Markets First to Test the Waters

You don’t have to hire an expensive market research consultant to find out which languages, countries, and markets to potentially tackle first.

As you can see from the Google Analytics screenshot below, most of our site visitors are from the United States. However, we also get quite a few visitors from India, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Pakistan, Canada, Germany, France, Australia, and Italy. The “leads” that we get from India, the Philippines, and Pakistan are usually other digital marketing agencies asking us to use them in a white label capacity. We don’t outsource our work to other agencies. Therefore, these three countries and the languages that are spoken there are not good target markets for us. However, we frequently receive valid quote requests from Germany and France, so it definitely would be a reasonable option to translate and localize our website into German and French:

Perform International SEO Market Research

Instead of going all-in and investing a lot of time, money, and resources in translating and localizing the entire site into multiple languages, we usually recommend getting started with multilingual and global SEO by testing what we call a “low-hanging fruit market.” Why not just set up a separate language and country folder with some pages that specifically target English speakers in the UK? Some technical international SEO requirements need to get implemented, but it’s not rocket science, and it’s something we do day-in and day-out.

[May 13, 2020: Online via Livestream from London, UK] Complimentary 60-min Webinar: International SEO and Global Content Marketing: Top Ways to Succeed

Let’s assume that the source language of your website is English for the US. In this case, the content of the pages that will target English speakers in the UK would have to go through a linguist edit to address spelling differences such as defence (UK English) vs. defense (US English), appetiser (UK English) vs. appetizer (US English), and so on.

There are also vocabulary differences that you’ll have to address. For example:

  • Trousers (UK English) vs. pants (US English)
  • Flat (UK English) vs. apartment (US English)
  • Lorry (UK English) vs. truck (US English)

As an international SEO agency, we’re experts in helping companies around the world to identify the best international target markets and languages so that they get the most significant ROI from their “going-global” efforts.

2. Make Sure that Your Website is Localized and Not Just Translated

Over the years, I’ve spoken and advised many businesses that were in the process of taking their company global. I have worked in the translation and localization industry for nearly 12+ years before starting our international digital marketing agency, and I know this industry in and out. It still gives me chills when a potential customer tells me that they are planning on using machine translation tools such as Google Translate to translate their website. Another scenario we frequently encounter is that the CEO told the marketing director that his nephew, who studied Spanish in high school, will translate the site into Spanish.

Both of these scenarios ensure that your global SEO efforts will fail. Google will detect the poor quality of the translation, and you’ll dramatically decrease the chance of ranking on top of their search engine results pages (SERPs).

Think about it this way: The potentially poorly translated content on your website has to compete with content that was created by a native speaker in the target country!

So when you decide to translate your website, make sure to use a digital marketing agency that offers this service or a professional translation and localization company. I’m not going to dive too deep into what the entire localization process involves. However, we offer this service in-house, and we also work closely with some of the most experienced and professional language services and localization companies around the world. Tools such as multilingual glossaries and translation memories ensure consistency and high-quality translations across all of your new target languages. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about the localization process.

3. Optimize the Source Language Website First

Just a quick word here about the importance of optimizing the source language website first before starting the international SEO process.

Neglecting to properly optimize the source language website before diving into multilingual SEO is a recipe for disaster. If you want to avoid replicating the same mistake into multiple languages, you have to optimize the source language website first. Not doing so could prove to be a costly and time-consuming error to fix. In an article entitled How To Get Started With International And Multilingual Search Engine Optimization, I share additional information and tips on this topic.

4. Transcreate Your Target SEO Keywords

Enlisting the help of a professional language translation company ensures that the content of the source language website gets translated the right way. While localization companies are great at localizing and culturally adapting content, they are usually not in the business of optimizing multilingual content for the search engines.

If you want your global SEO strategy to succeed, it’s imperative that you not just translate your target SEO keywords, but rather transcreate them. Also, if you’re not sure if keyword research was done for your source language website, make sure to read article The Step-by-Step Guide to Keyword Research.

But let’s get back to the keyword transcreation process. Back in the late 90s when I moved from Switzerland to the United States, German-speaking people in Switzerland used the term Natel for what was generally known as a cell phone in the US. As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, the term cell phone has now been replaced with the term smartphone.

The image below shows how many people, every month, search for smartphone-related keywords in the German language in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria:

International SEO Keyword Transcreation Example

Even though German is the primary language in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, people use different terms to search for the same thing in Google. As you can see from the example above, the words handy and smartphone are searched for most often in Google. In Switzerland, people most often use the search terms mobiltelefon and smartphone. And in Austria, most people use the search term handy.

5. Implement an International Off-page Optimization Strategy to Create A High-Quality Backlink Profile for Your Multilingual Pages

Still, one of the most important ranking signals in Google’s algorithm, backlinks from high quality and relevant websites to your website are crucial for achieving top rankings in the SERPs around the globe.

Make sure to implement the following strategies to build a strong backlink profile for your multilingual pages on your site.

Create and Published Multilingual Content Frequently

Google hates static websites, so make sure to publish multilingual content frequently to your international sites. At the very least, you’ll want to translate your source language blog posts and optimize them for your transcreate target SEO keywords.

While I don’t recommend using a machine translation service, if you have to, I’d pick Deepl over Google Translate. Deepl currently only supports nine languages, but the quality of the machine-translated content is usually of much higher quality:

Deepl Machine Translation Tool

You may also want to translate and publish content such as press releases, case studies, etc. By doing so, other website owners in your international target markets will discover your content and potentially link back from their website to your global site.

Claim and Get the Most Out Of Your Global Google My Business Listings

If you have physical offices across the globe, I highly recommend setting up a Google My Business (GMB) listing for each target country. Setting up your international GMB listing is free, easy. It allows you to communicate information about your business to your global audiences directly, and you’ll also establish a direct connection with Google.

An excellent way for Google to pay more attention to your GMB listings is by earning reviews from real customers and by posting regular status updates. You can even highlight products, promote events, and share offers with your target audiences:

Global Digital Marketing Google My Business Listing

Add Your Website to Directory and Business Listings Around the World

Every industry has online directories and business listings in every imaginable language. Just do an online search for your transcreated target language keywords. Now check the first two SERPs. If there are relevant and high-quality directories showing up, you’ll want to add your business and website to these directories. With many of these directories, you’ll score a “do-follow” backlink, and it usually only takes minutes to create the listing.


The information shared in this article represents only the tip of the iceberg, as there’s so much more to ensure that you succeed with your global expansion efforts. I hope that you have learned a thing or two and invite you to reach out if I can answer any additional questions.

You’re also invited to use our free website audit tool to see if your site could benefit from SEO. In less than a minute, you’ll get an 8-page report, which also includes a list of action items that you can implement right away. My team and I would be happy to review and discuss the results of the audit in a complimentary screen share meeting or phone call:

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