5 Easy Steps to Get Started with International SEO

Personal & Professional Wisdom

How to champion international SEO at your company

(5 min read)

  1. Find an ally!
  2. Learn.
  3. Start creating SEO optimized localization workflows today.
  4. Track your success.
  5. Rinse and repeat!


Connecting with multilingual users 

In October 2020 59% of the global population, nearly 4.66 billion individuals, were actively using the internet. Cisco predicts the number of global internet users to reach 5.3 billion by 2023.The growth of the internet has had a transformative impact on buyer behavior as the majority of buyers are researching their needs before making a purchase decision. This doesn’t apply only to the B2C sector. According to Marketo, 61% of B2B buyers begin their purchase decision with an online search and 77% won’t speak to a salesperson before completing their own research. 

Moreover, as the internet reaches a higher  population around the world, the web is becoming increasingly multilingual. With 60.1% of Chinese, 53% of Arabic, 59% of Portuguese, and 35.2% of the French-speaking population online, the growth potential is tremendous (Internet World Stats) (and we haven’t even covered all of the developing markets yet!). Can these users find your business, and do they speak your language?

Localization is not just about translating words. The key is to translate the user experience into another cultural context, and in the world of SEO, these translations truly count. Let’s look at an arbitrary example created by using the SEO tool Ubersuggest.


KeywordLocalization serviceLocalization service
SEO DifficultyEasyEasy
Cost Per Click (CPC)$1.72$2.35


In this example, “localization service” is a moderately good keyword for the US market, but you won’t achieve a high search traffic in Canada. Something more precise, such as “translate a website” with monthly search volume of 6,600 would be a better target for the Canadian market. The wording is technically correct, but buyer behavior in Canada is different. Changing the wording in this small way could result in an increase of 6,460 in potential monthly search traffic, in addition to a better user experience. Advising on cultural SEO nuances like this is where your localization team can demonstrate real business value.


How to champion international SEO within your company

We’ve established that if you want to get noticed online and grow internationally, you’ll need to start optimizing your content for the markets you want to target. But, can we make an impact as translators and localizers? The answer is yes! International SEO and localization are intertwined. Localization teams need guidance from SEO teams but SEO teams also really need localization assistance. 

The first thing you need to do if you want to grow internationally is localize your website. However, translating your content is not enough. You need to make sure your content is optimized for search engines. How can you do that?

If you work on a localization team, you’ll want to reach out to the SEO team at your company and build a close collaboration with them. Let them know how you can support them from a localization perspective, but also, ask them questions! Find out if they’re open to training you and your team on keyword research or SEO basics. 

Chances are that your SEO team doesn’t speak multiple languages. Keyword research is challenging when you try to perform it in a language that’s not your own and translating English keywords may not give you the results you’re looking for. If you have the resources, training your linguistic team to perform keyword research can be a valuable investment since search and language patterns can vary between markets. Moreover, your linguists can easily spot grammar mistakes, flag any false positives, and possess the cultural knowledge that is key when conducting keyword research for your target regions. By partnering closely with localization teams, SEO teams can identify the right local keywords, and have local experts ensure the relevance of the content. By going above and beyond with localization and adaptation, you will enhance your reader’s experience, which contributes to the overall quality of your content. 

Lastly, creating high quality and high ranking content is another must when it comes to international SEO. In fact, it is as important as having the right keywords (if not more!). Algorithms keep getting smarter and keyword stuffing is simply not enough. You need to make sure your content is original, engaging, and relevant for your audience. Therefore, low translation quality, or content that is not culturally relevant for your target regions, can decrease your rankings significantly. 

The better your content is, the more you’ll generate  a rapport  and – as a result – more positive interactions with your users. That said, keep in mind that quality can be measured differently by different search engines, so it’s important that you first research what search engines are most widely used in your target markets. If, for example, you want to mainly optimize for Google, make sure you get familiar with Google’s Search Quality Guidelines and the E-A-T model.

To sum it all up, if you’re part of a localization team and want to get started on your SEO journey, here are 5 tips to get to the next level:

1 – Find an ally! 

If possible, partner with someone on your SEO team internally or find someone experienced externally that can guide you and mentor you. Encourage collaboration and communication between the localization and SEO teams at your company.

2 – Learn. 

Invest in learning the tools and the basics, then continue to build on this knowledge. Digital Marketing changes at a lightning-fast speed. What you know today, might no longer be true tomorrow. Luckily, there are tons of resources available online to stay up to date. Some of the tools and know-how might even be available internally, so go around your organization and ask!

3 – Start creating SEO optimized localization workflows today

SEO doesn’t yield results immediately and sometimes it can take months. The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll start seeing results. Rather than optimizing your content retroactively or seeing SEO as a one-off project, see how you can fit SEO in your current localization workflows so all your sites are continuously optimized upfront.

4 – Track your success. 

The success of localization can sometimes be challenging to measure. The good news is that SEO is easy to track. Partner with your SEO team to start measuring traffic, click through rates, and conversions. 

5 – Rinse and repeat! 

SEO guidelines are ever changing and evolving. Make sure you are continuously learning and staying up to date. Keep an eye on your SEO metrics and audit your SEO optimized localization workflows on an ongoing basis. 

There’s no doubt that International SEO can be daunting at first, but it is a learnable and very valuable skill set, which requires cross functional cooperation. Gearing your team and your organization up with International SEO can have a significant business impact, as well as generating significant excitement across your organization. 

Want to learn more? In the next chapter, we will dive deeper into the technicalities and methodology behind International SEO, and we will do it on video! Find the next chapter here. In the meantime, enjoy learning from these SEO resources published by some of our partners. Have fun learning and see you in the next episode!

Mastering SEO with Google’s E-A-T by RWS, 2020

Content Creation for Multilingual SEO in 2020 and Beyond by Lionbridge, 2020

Why International SEO is Key to Reaching New Markets by Acclaro, 2020

Case Study: SEO-Optimized Translation by Venga, 2020

Increase Visibility and Revenue with Multilingual SEO, by Welocalize, 2018