International SEO Mistakes & A Practical Guide to Localization

In the ever-expanding global landscape of the internet, search engine optimization (SEO) has become a critical component of digital marketing. While optimizing your website for search engines is important, international SEO presents special challenges. International SEO is not just about translating your content; it requires taking into account language, culture, and search engine preferences in different regions. This blog post will explore common international SEO mistakes and provide a practical guide to localization for any website.

Photo from Search Engine Journal

International SEO Mistakes

When it comes to expanding your online presence globally, international SEO is a game-changer. However, diving into international markets without a well-thought-out strategy can lead to a slew of mistakes that may hinder your success. In this section, we will explore the most common blunders made in international SEO and offer insights into how to avoid them. From keyword research pitfalls to poorly translated content, we’ll delve into these missteps and demonstrate the importance of a meticulous approach to international SEO.

According to Rachel Costello from Lumar.io, here are the 4 biggest issues to watch out for in your international strategy, as explained by Aleyda Solis:

  1. Not having “enough resources” to properly optimise your target markets: If you can’t afford to create localised, relevant content for your website variations, this is a consequence of not having selected them well in the first place.
  2. Web structures that are not optimized for the target market: Not being able to use the relevant language of each market in the URLs, an excess of pages generated by the CMS which are targeted to other countries etc.
  3. Hreflang annotation issues: From not using the relevant country or language code, to using region values that are not yet supported by Google, to not following the tag specification, to not including it in the right locations, to not tagging all of the relevant URLs.
  4. Implementing automatic redirects based on the user’s IP or browser language: This is intrusive and might assume too much about your visitor. You can also end up always referring Googlebot to only a few of your website’s versions.

Below there are explanations of even more mistakes that are often made when looking at international SEO:

No Proper Keyword Research

One of the most common mistakes in international SEO is neglecting proper keyword research. Assuming that the same keywords that work in your country will be effective internationally is an expensive error to make. Different regions may use different terms and phrases to search for the same products or services. Not doing thorough keyword research can result in certain content not ranking well in international search engine results.

Poorly Translated Content

Machine translation can be helpful, but relying on it for translating international content leads to awkward and inaccurate translations. Poorly translated content can not only harm SEO efforts but also damage a brand’s reputation. To avoid this mistake, it’s important to invest in professional human translators who understand more of the language and culture in the international target markets.

Ignoring Cultural Differences

International SEO isn’t just about translating words; it’s about adapting to different cultures. Ignoring cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings, insensitivity, or even offense to target audiences. Understanding local customs and values is necessary when creating content for international markets.

Not Using Geotargeting

Geotargeting means directing website content to specific geographical regions. Not using geotargeting can result in international audiences being exposed to irrelevant content or products. Implementing geotargeting ensures that users from different regions see content that is relevant to them, improving their overall website experience.

Failing to Optimize for Mobile

Mobile usage is on the rise globally, especially in many developing countries. Not optimizing your website for mobile devices can easily ruin your international SEO efforts. Search engines consider mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor, so it’s important that a site is responsive and loads on various mobile devices.

Photo from Evolve Systems

A Practical Guide to Localization

After focusing on the importance of localization in international SEO and highlighting common international SEO mistakes, it’s time to get into the core of the discussion, a practical guide to localization. In this section there will be discussion on how to effectively target international markets by adapting content, websites, and strategies to the cultural and linguistic norms of a global audience. Localization isn’t just about language; it’s about building a genuine connection with users in various regions, improving their experience, and promoting successful international SEO campaigns. Most of these points were compiled from Great Content.

Photo from Search Engine Journal

Conduct Thorough Research

Before expanding into international markets, conduct thorough market research to identify the best opportunities. Factors like market size, competition, and consumer behavior are important to analyze. This research will help prioritize which markets to target and shape your localization strategy around.

Choose the Right TLD and Hosting Server

Top-Level Domains (TLDs) and hosting location can impact international SEO efforts. Using country code TLDs (e.g., .co.uk for the United Kingdom) for specific markets is crucial. Hosting a website on servers within the target country can improve load times and SEO rankings overall.

Adapt Content to Local Culture

Localization goes beyond language. Adapt your content to the local culture, customs, and preferences of the target audience. Consider cultural sensitivities, humor, and expressions when creating content.

Correct Hreflang Tags

Hreflang tags are for indicating language and regional targeting to search engines. Implement these tags on web pages to help search engines understand which version of the content to display to users in different regions.

Photo from Alexander Pereverzevs on Lokalise.

9. Monitor and Analyze Performance

Regularly monitor and analyze your international SEO performance using tools like Google Analytics and Search Console. These sites allow businesses to track key website metrics like organic traffic, rankings, and conversion rates, and helps the adjust their strategy accordingly.

10. Build Local Backlinks

Gaining backlinks from local websites can boost your international SEO efforts a ton. Partnering with local influencers, businesses, and organizations is a great way to build a network of high-quality backlinks.

11. Stay Updated with Local SEO Trends

SEO trends can vary from region to region, so it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest developments and changes in the search landscape of your target markets.

12. Provide Relevant Customer Support

Excellent customer support in the local language is important because it not only enhances user experience, but also builds trust and credibility in international markets.

In conclusion, avoiding common international SEO mistakes and following a practical guide to localization can help your website succeed in global markets. By understanding the specific needs and preferences of target audiences in different regions, you can expect to find success on an international scale. It’s always important to remember that SEO is an ongoing thing, and staying adaptable and responsive to its changing will lead to long-term international SEO success.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Hi Unique! I found your blog post this week to be really interesting as SEO is incredibly important to website design. I honestly did not know that it could go wrong or that there could be mistakes. The images you used are have a strong correlation with the content and with each other. The use of lists and differentiated headings and subheadings help to organize content effectively making this very easy to read and follow. The more work we have done on SEO, the more important is becomes. Especially when it comes to the website project we are working on right now, localization and adapting to country norms can be difficult but extremely vital. I found an article this week about SEO in Hungary that can be very beneficial for everyone in the class as we are working vigorously on our projects. I hope you and the rest of the class will find this helpful!

    https://delante.co/ecommerce-seo-hungary/

  2. Hello, Unique! Your post supplied informative ideas on the importance of SEO and localization, and the major mistakes a lot of web designers make. I appreciated your breakdown of errors made in international SEO and found your section on ignoring cultural differences extremely important. This is a major aspect that I feel might slip a lot of designers’ minds. An additional item I found valuable was your ability to make notice of problems and then proceed to offer solutions. One solution I found particularly informative was correcting hreflang tags. This was a new concept to me, so your explanation of it helped my understanding. Doing further research on your topic I found an article that explains the difference between international SEO, and regular SEO. It also offers great information on how to determine if you should go global, and where your market is. Understanding where to do international SEO, and making sure to implement your website in the correct markets is extremely important. I am very interested in your post’s topic, as well as the additional article I found, because as an advertising major understanding the marketplace, and its cultural values, plays a big role in being able to effectively advertise. Additionally, both of the posts are important in executing our Hungarian project! I would recommend checking out the linked post!

    Link: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/international-seo-start-guide/232129/#close

  3. Hey Unique! I enjoyed reading your blog post and I really learned a lot about localization for web design. You broke down your content really well using headings and subheadings. I like how you listed off all the different mistakes that are often made in regards to international localization and provided clear explanations of each. It’s also good that you didn’t just list the mistakes but also gave steps to improving the international localization of a website! It’s surprising that these steps often get missed or overlooked. Many websites just rely on translating the language for other countries and call that good. While reading the section about translating languages, I was reminded that in one of the competitor analysis sites for our website project, there was a button on the page that allows the user to change the language of the site. This led me to wonder more about the difference of using international localization with having separate web pages for different countries versus using a button to translate the page. I found this article that goes into the key differences of translation and localization.
    Here is the article: https://www.getblend.com/blog/localization-vs-translation/

  4. Hey Unique, this post really illuminated a lot of SEO issues I had never considered before. I had an idea that localizing websites was something that needed to be done on the front-end level, but I didn’t think about all the work that takes place on the back-end and SEO levels. It seems like a lot of the problems with international SEO mistakes comes down to not doing proper user analyses or even doing research on the countries and cultures the businesses are interacting with. While I do think standardization works in some cases, it seems like it would be foolish and ineffective to design all websites with standardization in mind–even simple things like the types of products and services certain cultures value are vastly different.
    Ingenuity Digital listed a few common international SEO mistakes that build upon what you’ve already listed, but one in particular was automatic redirects. You mentioned that some websites might assume users accessing websites in different areas will want languages specific to where they come from; Ingenuity Digital provides the example that a person who is from Japan and doing business in the UK could be purposefully clicking on a .co.uk link, but a poorly internationally-optimized site would redirect that person to the Japanese version of the site. Allowing users to choose whether they want to be redirected is a viable solution for this issue, since it doesn’t automatically redirect the user, but it also doesn’t assume that users are always intentional with their choices. I also found it interesting that Ingenuity Digital recommends not making completely new, complicated international sites, but when we looked at the various McDonald’s sites for different regions, they seemed vastly different from one another. It seems as though McDonald’s could stand to better optimize their sites!
    Link: https://www.ingenuitydigital.com/lost-in-translation-3-international-seo-mistakes/

  5. Hi, Unique. You wrote an extremely intensive blog article about SEO mistakes, and I love how you formatted it; it’s separated perfectly. There are so many factors I never would’ve considered like the issues that can arise when not incorporating geotagging or proper TLDs. One potential mistake stuck out (frankly, it’s because of how silly the word looks to me): hreflang tags. I decided to see if there was some sort of complete guide about them, and wow, did I find an article that really delved into the possibilities! Three ways hreflang tags can be implemented is through link elements in the , HTTP headers, or through an XML sitemap. I think I might refer to this page when the Hungarian website starts being built.

    Link: https://yoast.com/hreflang-ultimate-guide/

  6. Hi Unique,
    I like your blog article about SEO mistakes! Overall, I think that the use of headings as well as the list formats really help to keeep the article well organized. The information about either making translation errors or ignoring cultural differences are extremely important to keep in mind. The fact that there are so many different cultures in the world definitely would create possibility for errors in these aspects. I wouldn’t have considered some of the mistakes you pointed out, such as not using geotargeting. Overall, great blog post!

  7. Hi Unique, I liked your post! I think you really provided a comprehensive overview of the challenges and strategies associated with international SEO. Before reading I was not to familiar with the topic but your clear structure and breakdown of the information make it easy to understand. I liked how you laid out the problems first. Each mistake is explained concisely, and the emphasis on issues like keyword research, translation quality, cultural adaptation, geotargeting, and mobile optimization provides a well-rounded understanding of potential pitfalls. Also, your transition to the practical guide is smooth, and the subsequent points offer actionable advice. I found an article that builds off the ideas that you presented. It highlights why SEO is so important like reaching audiences globally, increasing conversions, etc.
    https://seoasoorm.com/international-seo/#:~:text=Why%20Is%20International%20SEO%20Important%3F%201%201%29%20Reach,…%204%204%29%20Become%20an%20International%20Brand%20

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