4 Common International SEO Mistakes

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By Boris Dzhingarov

Today’s businesses have easy access to a worldwide marketplace via the internet, but reaching a global audience requires a comprehensive marketing strategy. It’s easy to assume that a good search engine optimization (SEO) strategy will elevate your brand across all markets, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Instead, if you want to target different regions, it’s vital to implement an effective international SEO strategy.

Developing a large-scale SEO plan requires expertise and there are plenty of pitfalls you’ll need to avoid. To get started, take a look at these four common international SEO mistakes and make sure they’re not part of your strategy:

1. Automatic Language Redirection

When a user visits their site, your website is capably of recognizing their IP address and determining their location. To optimize the user experience (UX), many companies use automatic redirections to display content in the language that’s relevant to the user’s location. At first glance, this might seem like a great way to enhance the customer journey and deliver relevant content to users, but the strategy assumes that the user’s IP address reflects their genuine location.

In reality, an IP address can’t be relied upon to tell you where a user is located. Firstly, a significant number of people use virtual private networks (VPNs) to access the internet. A VPN effectively assigns them a random IP address and masks their true location. With no guarantee that a user’s IP address tells your site the user’s actual location, automatic redirects could display content in a language the user doesn’t understand and devalue their UX.

Furthermore, people travel regularly and often speak multiple languages, so there’s no guarantee that a user will want to access content in a language that appears to be relevant to their location, even if their IP address tells you their genuine location.

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To avoid unnecessary confusion and a poor UX, give users the option to select their preferred language when they visit your site, rather than using automatic language redirection to display your content.

2. Having Too Many Language Variations

There are around 6,500 languages used around the world, but you don’t have to create webpages in all of them! When you’re taking your business global, it’s generally advisable to take an incremental approach and begin by targeting regions that can be most profitable for your organization. If so, only add languages to your website if they are relevant to your growth plans and your target audience segments.

When content is duplicated in multiple languages it can potentially devalue the original content, particularly if you’re making unnecessary duplications to feature languages that aren’t really relevant to your business or your target market.

It’s estimated that around 42% of the global population share just 10 native languages, so you won’t need to have an extensive number of language options available on your site. Instead, choose the ones that are critical to your expansion plans and make these available to users.

3. Missing or Incorrect Hreflang Tags

When your site is available in multiple languages, it’s vital to let search engines know. This enables them to display relevant content to users, based on their search language. Hreflang tags are HTML attributes that tell search engines what language the content is in and, therefore, what geographical area you’re targeting. This enables you to achieve higher rankings for content in alternative languages, which should boost the volume of traffic to your website and reduce bounce rates.

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However, there are other benefits associated with using hrefleng tags. Some languages look similar in writing, which might lead search engines to conclude that a webpage is a duplicate, when it’s really another language. If Google categorizes one of the pages as a duplicate, it won’t be indexed and won’t, therefore, be shown on search engine results pages (SERPs). By using hreflang tags, you can alert search engines to the fact that the two pages aren’t duplicate content and ensure that both webpages are indexed.

Due to this, using hreflang tags (and using them correctly!) becomes an essential element of a successful international SEO strategy. After all, you don’t want to go to the trouble of converting your content and expanding your business, only to find that your webpages aren’t displayed when users search for relevant keywords and terms.

4. Not Localizing Content

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that translation and localization are the same thing. While it’s relatively easy to translate content from one language to another, you should make the effort to ensure content is localized and relevant to your new target markets too. This goes a step further than simply translation and shows that your brand can offer genuine value to customers in your new operating locations.

Additionally, webpages that offer an optimal UX can secure higher rankings on SERPs too. As Google’s algorithms become increasingly advanced, delivering genuine value and a positive user experience are important ways of achieving and maintaining high SEO rankings.

Remember – using local SEO can be a viable way to ensure you’re ranking highly in new target markets too. If you’re based in the U.S. but you want to expand into Europe, for example, creating original content that’s relevant to European customers will increase the value of your webpages to these users. By incorporating local SEO keywords into your strategy, your webpages will rank highly when users in your new target market search for this content and give you an opportunity to reach a motivated customer base.

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Launching a Successful International SEO Strategy

As you can see, launching a successful international SEO strategy is about more than simply scaling your current methodologies. A tailored approach is required if you want to optimize performance and achieve high rankings in your target markets. From targeting the right languages and updating code to localizing content and delivering increased value, you’ll need to create a bespoke international SEO strategy to compete on a global stage. Now you know which mistakes to avoid, however, you’ve got the basis you need to formulate a winning SEO strategy and achieve your international business goals.