International SEO: Why is it important

Guess how many businesses already have international clients.

Any takers:

A whopping 58%

That’s more than half of the Businesses starting out.

A survey done by foreign exchange company UXForex  shows that 58 percent of small businesses already
have international customers, while 72 percent plan to grow their international customer base in the next year.

This number will increase as digital marketing expands into different markets, which is why SEO has become relevant for international optimization

Especially with Google tightening the hold on location-based search with their user localization update

What does this mean for us from an SEO point of view?

Well, its now time drill down on the technicalities of what it is that’s required to rank in multiple countries.

Considering everything that comes into play, this could be a complicated process, however, I have put together the perfect guide to point you in the right direction.

What is international SEO?

International SEO is used to optimize your website so that search engines can easily understand which country and language you want your business to target.

International SEO checklist by Smart Insights

Infographic source: Smart Insights

Why has it become so predominant?

As Google started updating their algorithms, search has changed. {Ahhh duhh}

Besides SEO being the process of optimizing your online content for maximum visibility.

Let’s just get sidetracked for a second.

What comes into play with SEO is the relevancy of the information to the user.

For Google relevancy is key. They want to give their users the most relevant answers to their questions.

By having a Machine Learning backed AI (Rank Brain) allows Google to place all of their eggs in one basket and watch the basket.

What I mean here is that they now have this artificial intelligence constantly learning from every search query and constantly refining it based on a users behavior from the results provided (and this is just the tip of the iceberg)

Simply put. Someone in Cape Town rarely has any intention of purchasing a product that delivers goods within the UK only. Unless…. “and this is where AI comes in”

To fundamentally understand this, Google is in the business of knowing what people want.

Back to international SEO

With the above, we also have to consider that Google has over 200 ranking factors

Some of them worth mentioning, when thinking about international SEO is:

Server Location (this is making sense now right)
Your server location will affect where your site ranks in different Geographical regions

Local Searches
If you have a brick and mortar store as part of your international expansion. Placing this business in google my business will allow Google to rank you on the home page for local searches. This data can also be tracked in Google Analytics.

Terms of Services and Privacy Policy
This tells Google that your site is a trustworthy member of the internet. I also included it in this list because different country versions of your website will have their terms of services and privacy policy written based on the laws governing the country you targeting

Site Architecture
Website Architecture is completely tied into International SEO when trying to rank for different countries. An example of this is Siloing locations based pages. Example.,,,

Page Loading Speed
This complements server location. Because it allows users in the country the website is in to have easier access to the website. Meaning that websites hosted in the South Africa would load faster for people browsing from South Africa.

Site Usability
A site that’s difficult to use or to navigate can hurt ranking by reducing time on site, pages viewed and bounce rate. The technical understanding of laying the website out and having the correct version rank in the correct country is important.

You do not want your page that it ranking asking the customer for their $ when their trading currency is ZAR.

This allows us to make Google understand that even though we have similar pages. They are not duplicate and are completely separate serving a different intention.

Example:, might seem similar but are really very different

Country TLD or Referring Domain Links
Country-specific domains like (,, may help you rank better in that specific country.

This is especially good as part of your backlink strategy.

Meaning that you will build backlink for your version specifically from South Africa and build backlinks from UK websites for because these are the areas you intend to rank in.

This does not mean that you should be strict with what backlink goes where but to make it part of your consideration when thinking about your backlink strategy.

Remember any relevant link coming through to your website will contribute towards your Domain Authority.

To Conclude

International SEO has many things to consider, however, taking this on in bite-sized chunks is the secret.

Understanding how every part of it comes together and how it assists each other will move your strategy forward.

About Rudi Van Der Westhuizen

About Rudi Van Der Westhuizen

He is a Digital Marketer with a comprehensive background in SEO, UX and Front-end development. Most of his time is split between his blog and day job “The Grow Theory” where he shares his journey through digital with helpful guides and tips on growing businesses online.

International SEO: Why Is It Important

time to read: 7 min