Being at the top of Google is not a universal thing. Every country has its own version of Google, and even if you go to Google.com from another country, your search results are being personalized for your location.
So how do you get your site to rank well in different countries? Well, there are 5 main things that affect international rankings. And the more of them that you can accommodate, the better you’ll rank in a given a country.
1. Domain Name: TLDs & ccTLDs
TLD stands for “top level domain” and consists in the extension that appears after a domain name – e.g. .com and .net. Some TLDs are general and some are specific to a geographic market. The more targeted your domain is for a country, the more likely it is that your site will rank in the search engine page results (SERPs) for that country.
First you have general TLDs. These are not tied to any country and include extensions such as .com, .net, .org, etc.
Then there are Country Code TLDs (ccTLD), which are country specific. This makes them much better for ranking within a specific country, but less effective elsewhere. A few examples of ccTLDs are .co.uk for the UK, .ca for Canada, , and .de for Germany.
While a relevant ccTLD can is important for your rankings in a specific country, a .com has a lot of pull in the US and internationally in general. So you need to decide how important a country is to you online business before investing in a site just for that ccTLD.
2. IP Address & Location
Your site’s IP address will also affects how your site ranks in any given country. Basically, the server hosting your site has an address, and that IP address indicates where that server is located. So if ranking in certain countries is important to you, you should consider hosting your sites on servers in those respective countries.
OF course, this can represent challenges. For example, if your company hosts its site on in-house servers, then you’ll have to buy additional rackspace abroad. Similarly, if you outsource your hosting, you must ensure that your hosting provider can offer an IP address for each site that corresponds to the country that they’re targeting.
3. Content is King: Onsite Content
SEO is one of the reasons that people say content is king. That’s the first place search engines look to determine the relevance of a website is on that website. And they look at more than just page copy; they also consider page titles and meta descriptions.
So when you target different countries, you need to develop unique content to target each of those countries – including page titles, meta descriptions, and page copy (e.g. product pages). This might mean having different sites in different languages or even different dialects.
As an example, there are many differences in how words are spelled in the UK and the US. So when targeting both countries, you should ensure that your UK site featurew UK spellings, and your US site features US spellings.
4. Contact Info
Especially since the rise of local search, Google has been looking at the address on your contact page. This means two things for you: (1) you must have an address, not just a contact form, and (2) that address needs to be relevant to the country you’re targeting.
You see, your address will determine if you show up in local SERPs (i.e. searches for your city), so it will most certainly affect your international rankings. For example, if you’re targeting the US, but your only contact address is Canada, it’ll be tougher for you to rank.
So make sure that you have a mailing address relevant to the country that you’re targeting. It might only be a PO Box, but having a localized mailing address on a page titled “Contact Us” will give you an added edge.
5. Backlink Profile
One of the most basic principles of SEO is your backlinks profile. Basically, the more targeted backlinks you get from relevant sites, the more SEO authority your site amasses. More importantly, when those links feature certain anchor text, your site will rank for the keywords in that anchor text.
But when it comes to passing juice from one site to another, Google also looks at the TLD, IP address, and onsite content of the backlinking site. For example, a backlink from a site that’s hosted in the UK and has a .co.uk domain name will increase your rankings in the UK more than a link from a .co.uk site that’s hosted in the US.
So for each country specific site you’re trying to rank in the SERPs, you’ll need a separate linkbuilding budget and strategy. This means getting links from sits that have the right TLDs, IP addresses, and onsite content, and then finding way to get them to link back to your site.
Ranking at Home and Abroad
Now the important thing to remember about each of these 5 elements is that they’re each only a part of the puzzle, and they each carry a price tag. For example, it’s one thing to say you sell internationally, it’s quite another to build unique sites on their own TLD, all hosted in different countries to target each and every country in the world.
Rather, you have to do a cost-benefit analysis, determine how important a country is to you revenue stream, and decide how much to invest in SEO for that country. After all, many .com’s rank well in non-US countries, and they do so by having language specific subdirectories.
Of course, if you’re targeting many countries aggressively, figuring out which countries should get their own site and which should be directed to you .com can get tricky. If that’s the kind of portfolio you are managing, then you might want to consider an agency that specializes in international SEO. But the important thing to remember is that each site has a scorecard, and the more of the 5 points that that site can reach, the better it’ll rank in your targeted country.
Author:- CT Moore is a Senior Strategist with the SEO agency NVI. He has over 5 years experience managing content strategy from the perspective of search and social media, and also sits as a staff editor at Revnews.com and has a personal blog.