Going Big 8 Typical Traps of International SEO

Today it is easy for companies to reach international markets through as many different channels as possible. The website and its optimization for the new market play a central role here – SEO is also the keyword here, but the endeavor in the overall construction of expansion is even more complicated than it already is, because: It is not enough to simply translate the texts. Why? You will find out now.

The user is also the focus of international SEO. How is he looking? What is he looking for? Why does he choose you or your competitor? In the following, we will show you the classic stumbling blocks of international SEO in order to perfect the expansion plan online – and that means a lot more than saying goodbye to Google Translate, because: As is so often the case, the devil is in the details.

1. Simply translate keywords: Different countries, different customs

In search engine optimization, the entire project depends on the right search terms. Always keep in mind: “Wrong” are also the keywords with which you are at the top of the Google search, but do not attract the “right” visitors to your website – relevance is also the key here, as otherwise valuable time and Vanishing money into thin air.

At this point we assume that you know which search terms are the most lucrative in your home country and for your company. International SEO would be easy if you only had to translate the terms into the target language and then sit back and relax. However, the reality is very different.

People do not search in the same way all over the world. For this reason you should – based on the nationally valid keywords – carry out a thorough keyword research for the target language or the target audience in advance.

Expert tip: Ideally, you should test the resulting list with the help of a Google AdWords campaign to determine the actual demand and to determine whether the selected words actually lead to the desired conversion. It is important at this point, however,

not only to measure conversions, but at the same time to collect valuable data about properties and behavior of users.

2. Forget potential analysis: check search volume & demand beforehand!

Before you even make a decision in the context of international SEO, in addition to the classic market analysis, you should also conduct an investigation specifically for the search engine market in the target country.


Typical questions are:

  • Which search engines are interesting?
  • How many monthly searches are there on the chosen topic?
  • Seasonal fluctuations? Trends?
  • How strong is the competition in organic search?
  • How big is the traffic potential?

3. Differentiate by language or country?

The question of all questions for you:

Should I split my website by country or by language?

After all, one or the other requires a completely different structure and approach. An example:

1. If you differentiate by language, you could reach Spain and most of South America with a Spanish language website.

2. If you differentiate between countries, you would have to create a separate “website version” for Spain and the Spanish-speaking countries in South America – even if the language here is always Spanish.

The answer to the initial question therefore depends on whether the achievement of your company goals depends on the location.

3. Differentiate by language or country?

Typical questions are:

  • Are users looking for the service or product that is offered in connection with the location? → countries
  • Is a local presence a decision factor for customers? → countries
  • Is my offer not limited regionally e.g. B. software? → Languages

4. The wrong page structure

Another common question in the field of international SEO: subdirectories, subdomains or ccTLDs – which is better? Basically there is no perfect way here, rather the area of ​​application shows us the way:

1. ccTLDs

If you want to differentiate by country, ccTLDs are the best solution, as they bring a ranking bonus in the respective country.

Expert tip:

With the help of the “hreflang” attribute, Google automatically provides users with the URL for the correct language and region.

2. Subdirectories

If you are only interested in linguistic differentiation, subdirectories are the most sensible solution. The reason for this: Everything stays on one domain, so that your entire website benefits from every additional backlink. At the same time, you don’t start from scratch when you are abroad, but use part of the ranking power that has built up directly for the new language.

5. Incomplete localization of the content and structure

Optimizing costs is a must in every company, that much is certain. However, saving in the wrong place will have devastating consequences for international SEO. The fact is that a “simple” translation of the existing text is simply not enough.

It is often the culture of the target country that causes expanding companies to stumble because those responsible do not adapt texts, images and navigation – this would be so important because: The cultural background changes navigation behavior or determines how and whether the target people are addressed by the images used will.

Let’s take a very simple example and its consequences to illustrate the process:

  • You use a certain icon that is self-explanatory in Germany.
  • However, you are creating total confusion in the Spanish market. Simply because it is not common.
  • The result is that your bounce rate increases and your completion rate decreases at the same time.
  • But that’s not all, because Google also draws its conclusions from this: Since the numbers are deteriorating, this means for the search engine that you are apparently less relevant to your topic than expected.
  • And that in turn means a (significant) loss of position in the ranking.

Expert tip:

It’s the little things that count!

Title tags and meta descriptions, i.e. snippet optimization, are often forgotten in the translation, although they are essential for your success. For example, a well-worded and exciting meta description has a major impact on your click rate in search results and thus (indirectly) influences your Google rankings.

6. No separate tracking concept for the new website versions

Tracking is a topic the importance of which cannot be repeated enough. When localizing your website in particular, it is essential that you keep an eye on the behavior of your visitors, because: You can only counter (counter) Take action.

Expert tip:

If you trust Google Analytics, you should set up a separate data view with suitable filters for each language version.

This measure makes data easier to interpret, which leads to better and faster decisions.

7. Links for the original language only

The new language or country version is available, you know that the selected keywords “fit” and have also followed all the other steps mentioned. Still, the Google rankings are not what you want?

This is very likely due to the fact that you have not paid enough attention to the “off-page optimization” component for the target country or the target language. Because it is actually the case that you have to build up appropriate “local” backlinks for each language or country version. Otherwise you will always lose out against local competitors when it comes to top placements.

This means: If you want to rank on google.co.uk, you should collect backlinks from websites with the domain ending .co.uk. At the same time, you can improve your ranking with links from websites with a general TLD such as .com – provided that the content or topic is local, i.e. limited to the target country.

8. No local hosting: not essential, but a factor nonetheless

When it comes to country targeting, the server location is also a small ranking factor. That means:

Your server should be in the target country.

If there is no suitable offer or if the effort is too great for you, this is not a major drama, as the bonus is only minimal. However, sometimes he can tip the scales.


As you can see, international SEO is more than just “translating a little”. You should therefore consider carefully whether you are ready for the dance on the transnational SEO parquet, because without perfect preparation you will very likely stumble – not to mention the costs of the endeavor.

What you need to be successful here is the perfect (service provider) team, that is: the right translation partner, a vigilant SEO agency and trained IT people who know exactly what internationalization or international SEO is all about arrives.


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