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  • Writer's pictureLidia Infante

How to not fail at international SEO (a Semrush thread)

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

We can't deny that international SEO is bloody difficult and the issue is not technical at all.

If you've been following me for a bit you probably know by now that I have made it my mission to tell the world that international SEO is so much more than ccTLDs vs. subfolders and hreflang.

So I've teamed up with the wonderful team at Semrush to spread the word on a very special Twitter thread.

You can find the thread here ⬇️ or read the transcript coming up next.

The fastest way to fail at international SEO is getting your technical implementation right.

Forget about hreflang and ccTLDs and look at what really matters: a strategic approach to international SEO ⬇️

There are 3 main things you need to pay attention to:

  1. Google's level of natural of your target language

  2. How mature the SEO and media market are

  3. The unique user behaviours in each country

1. Google's level of natural of your target language

Google's work towards understanding language like humans do is what's been driving the main changes in the SEO industry for years. This has brought in the likes of BERT and MUM, but it's also a driving factor on featured snippets and Panda.

In territories where Google isn't as proficient in the natural language, some old SEO tactics still work.

Looking at how English-speaking markets have evolved will give you a clear roadmap of improvements and help future-proof your work.

2. How mature the SEO and media market are

Ranking is as simple (or as hard) as being better than your competitors. Understanding what are the strengths of SEOs in your target market is key.

For example, in Spain and Germany SEOs are very technical, but many companies are still buying links.

Launching a digital PR campaign in markets where media depends on selling links to advertisers to survive is going to be harder, but not impossible. Use this information to set realistic KPIs and expectations with your team/client.

3. The unique user behaviours in each country

Digitalisation and the rise of e-commerce have happened at different paces in each country, which has a huge impact in your SEO strategy.

Here are some examples of what that means for your international strategy ⬇️

  • In less mature markets, users start their search journeys with more generic queries before refining them. Keywords at the bottom of the funnel have lower volumes and are often not picked up by tools, which can be a great opportunity for strategic SEOs.

  • In markets where ecommerce is still in its early days, you'll want to feature trust signals more prominently and adapt your accepted payment methods. Cash on delivery used to be very common in Spain and Italy 5 years ago.

In conclusion

International SEO is all about strategy. Getting the technical implementation right is crucial, but it's absolutely not enough to actually succeed in your international expansion.

You can read more about international SEO strategy in my latest blog post

If you've enjoyed this thread, follow me on Twitter and if you have any questions, feel free to slide into my DMs!

Make sure to follow Semrush too, as they'll be partnering with other SEO experts to create other interesting threads!


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