International SEO: Elements for Reaching a Global Search Audience

Many people think that international SEO is all about launching sites with translated content, new set of potential customers in an international market, and implementing hreflang ccTLDs, etc., however, they’re wrong. The truth is international SEO goes way beyond that.

In this article, we’ll explain how to leverage your international SEO successfully to overtake your competition. But before we begin here’s a list of terminology that we’ll encounter as we build your SEO internationally:


A country-specific top-level domain. These are assigned by ICANN and are geo-targeted automatically in Google Search Console.


A recognized country that has a ccTLD by ICANN or an ISO code. Google uses ISO 3166-1 Alpha-2 for hreflang.


An HTML attribute used to specify the language and geographical targeting of a webpage. A tag used by Google to allow website owners to indicate that a specific page has a copy in another language.

Meta language

The language-distinguishing tag used by Bing. This tag merely informs Bing of the language of the current page.


Bing Webmaster Tools and Google Search Console allow website owners to claim a specific domain, subfolder, or subdomain, and inform the search engine that the content in that domain or section is developed for and targeted at the residents of a specific country.

Country and Language Targeting

We have to understand what’s the difference between the two and determine our target. Here are some tips to consider:

1.    False associations of country and language

Adding HTML tag to verify a site is best for users and site owners who have experience working with HTML code

Many people associate languages and countries in most instances, but those assumptions are not correct. Here are some examples:

  • France/French
  • Germany/German
  • Portugal/Portuguese
  • Spain/Spanish
  • China/Chinese
  • Japan/Japanese
  • Russia/Russian

Take note: There are some languages that only have one country set as the official language, but users exist in other countries that browse the Internet with that language as their preferred language. For example, a Chinese national working in the London setting up a new IT service business.

2.   Flags and languages

Never disassociate languages and countries. Remember, flags should only be used when the country is being targeted, not the language.

3.   Web technology and use impacts targeting

For example, a business in Japan and we hire an English translator and translate our content to English. There’s a big chance that we get confused based on where that content is placed and how it is tagged.

Language Targeting

The easiest route to expand your SEO internationally. Language Targeting aims to users that speak another language. For example, a business in Japan and we translate our content to English. Language targeting involves two components:

1.   Translation

NEVER machine translate because it’s highly inaccurate. Using machine translations offers a very poor user experience and SEO targeting.

2.   Language Tagging: Hreflang and Meta Language

Hreflang was launched in late 2010 by Google. You can use Hreflang if the bulk of your traffic comes from Google and you are translating only. On the other hand, Bing uses a different tag format, called the meta language tag.

Country Targeting or Geo-Targeting

Country Targeting aims users that live in another part of the world. An example of this is an IT service business in UK and we expand in Philippines.”

TIP: Don’t use geo-targeting if your content doesn’t change or you don’t have the resources to change the content.

Laws, rules, and regulations

Remember to observe the local laws and regulations. Check out local competitors to see what you might need to do.

Contact us now for a free SEO audit.