KNOWLEDGE BASE International SEO For The US
The information on this page was current at the time it was published. Regulations, trends, statistics, and other information are constantly changing. While we strive to update our Knowledge Base, we strongly suggest you use these pages as a general guide and be sure to verify any regulations, statistics, guidelines, or other information that are important to your efforts.
INTERNATIONAL SEO FOR THE UNITED STATES
Why Localize Your Website and App SEO for the US?
In order for people to be able to find you when they do web or mobile searches, it’s a good idea to have a solid international SEO strategy for your digital products. Having a global SEO strategy increases your chances that prospects will find you in other markets. You will still have to put in the effort to rank highly for relevant keywords in each market, and a strong SEO approach is a great place to start.
People often assume that their website will have the same level of search results globally as it has for searches within their home market, but that’s not the case, even if you’re going to another country that speaks the same language. Google gives preference to local websites to make searches more relevant within each country and they also give preference to websites that have been localized for the people and language spoken there. Google’s primary objective is relevant search results.
There are different ways of approaching SEO. For consumer products, we strongly recommend you optimize for the different languages, cultures, and customer groups you’re targeting in each market. If you have a B2B product, you will use English in the United States as your primary language, unless your target customer group uses something other than English as their primary language. Some companies use a hybrid approach and add localized elements into their English site. Your resources and prospective customers will dictate in part how you proceed, but a targeted SEO optimization strategy in each country is ultimately your best approach for success.
SEO for the US
The people in the US have high levels of Internet connectivity and are doing searches and looking for products online. The majority of people in all age groups are online for personal use on a daily basis, and access the internet with computers, tablets, and smartphones. Google.com is not only the top search engine in the United States, it’s actually the top site overall, according to Alexa.com. Since Google gives preference to local websites to make searches more relevant, and Google dominates among search engines, thoughtful SEO should definitely be part of your strategy.
Recommendations and steps to implement an SEO strategy
As you plan out your strategy, here is a high-level list of steps you should take for international SEO.
In order to develop a strategy for international SEO, it’s important to understand the statistics for your current website and mobile application. Create a simple report that highlights the following by country. If you are currently only in one country, you can still learn a lot from evaluating the following:
What countries are you currently getting traffic from?
What language do the people speak in those countries?
What is the traffic volume you are receiving and how has it trended over time?
What are your top international referral sources?
What are the keywords people are linking off?
What are the top pages they are linking to?
What is the landing page conversion rate by country for each offer?
How is the behavior for each country different from your current customers?
How do you rank for your top keywords within each country’s search engines?
Knowing this information will give you a baseline from which to plan a go-forward strategy.
Pick Your Language Strategy
Even if you’re starting as an English language site , it could still be obvious to native speakers that you’re not localizing due to regional or country differences. To localize your site for the US, consider American spelling conventions (for instance, the British “theatre” versus the American “theater”) and differences in word choice between countries (“chips” in the UK are “fries” in the US). To assist you in this process, view our Language Localization for the US section.
Searches for the United States can also be for the US and USA, so be sure to have those keywords used in your content.
Decide if you plan on creating an SEO strategy using only English, or if you plan to localize using any other language. If you have a specific target market that culturally associates with one of the other languages, or an industry that operates primarily in something other than English, you may want to consider those languages, as well. In the United States, nearly 80% of the population of people over 5 years old live in a house where English is spoken. Another nearly 13% live in households where Spanish is spoken. If this group is your target market, you will want to consider Spanish in your SEO strategy. Of course, the same approach applies if you are targeting another group.
Understand the Industry you are Targeting and the Competitive Landscape with that Industry
As you plan to expand into the United States, you can start by becoming familiar with that market and focusing your optimization efforts there before jumping to the next country. SEO requires time, energy and constant focus. Some of the aspects you’ll want to understand about an industry include:
How big is the industry?
Who are the key companies in the space?
How do the other companies market online?
What search engines do the people use in your target countries?
Look at the top search engines for any country. As you saw above, Google is the top search engine in the US
What devices do US customers use to go online?
You can use Google Consumer Barometer to get an understanding of the research and device habits of the people in the US and as noted above, people use smartphones, computers, and tablets to go online.
What are the top keywords being searched?
Figuring out how people in the country and region you’re looking to attract search is important. Resources: Google’s Keyword Tool can help you look at top keywords and if you use Moz.com, their tools also can assist with this research.
What are the identifiable search trends? Is there seasonality?
Resources: Google’s Keyword Tool
Identify your target audience and understand them for SEO
The Globig Knowledge Base provides you with an overview on the culture and demographics of the United States,, but for a truly effective laser focused marketing plan, you will want to know even more about your specific target audiences so you can create content that is relevant to them, promote that content where the prospective customers can be introduced to your content, and market to them in a variety of ways.
Understanding search and buying behavior for your target audience is also important so you optimize for the best keywords so your site will be one of the top results of their searches.
Create a plan that you can follow diligently and measure to see how effective your efforts are
Start with your local competitors. Identify their most popular content, pages being linked to, and by which sites. It’s also helpful to see if your competitors have AdWords campaigns to see the keywords being used for lead generation. To spy on your competitors AdWords campaigns, use SpyFu.com. By understanding what’s working in the US market, you can then see how best to approach your own strategy. Sites that link to your competitors are also great prospects for you if you reach out to them.
It’s important to articulate how your product and company will be different from your competitor by clearly doing so in your SEO and marketing efforts. Otherwise, customers won’t understand why you have a better solution.
Prepare your website for International SEO
There are several very specific on-site optimization efforts you’ll want to implement in order for search engines to recognize your website in global markets, including in the US.
A. International domain strategy and country specific website
You will have to decide how best to internationalize your domains and prepare your website. Here are the basics:
Make sure that the site is easy to crawl so it can easily be searched and indexed by search engines
Make sure the site is easy to index, having a well-organized international site map helps as does good internal linking
Each country should have their own web structure if your International SEO strategy is by country
There are several options for setting up your website(s) for different countries. Most important is that you have unique page URL’s so search engines as well as your website users can easily identify the country and language. We recommend not using translation tools that automatically translate in a site for international SEO since search engines won’t be able to identify that you have unique pages for each country and point them there.
Option 1- Unique Domain Names
The first option is to purchase the different domain names in each country so you have the top-level domain with the appropriate country code. Examples of this would be Globig.us, Globig.sg, Globig.uk, Globig.de. This is probably the most expensive and complex way to manage your international pages and also requires the most work for your internal team.
Option 2- Country Specific Sub-Domains
Another option is to have the same country code top-level domain but use different sub-domains for your different sites. Examples of this would be us.globig.co, de.globig.co, uk.globig.co. A subdomain is typically easier to manage than buying the different top-level domains and requires less work for your team.
Option 3- Country Specific Sub-Directories
The third option is to set up subdirectories for each different country. Examples for this would be globig.com/us, globig.com/de, globig.com/sg, globig.com/uk. This choice is also easier to manage from a corporate headquarters as compared to Unique Domain Names.
B. Localize Your Website
For best results, engage native speakers to assist with translations or even modifications instead of using only translation tools. Even for English-speaking countries, the expressions, words, and spellings are different enough that having local translators is helpful. Many of the online translation services offer native speakers to assist with automated translation tools. Another option is reaching out to university students for their input. The elements to localize can include:
URLs- language localization
Title & meta description
Phone, currency, time, delivery info/maps
Menu and navigation
Content- reviews, descriptions, articles, videos
Easy to crawl and navigate menu in new language
Having natives speakers help to localize your website and content will make it more appealing and optimized for search.
Pay attention to technical SEO considerations
For search engines, note the country and language in tags such as hreflang annotations.
Resources: For a video on how to use hreflang for language and regional URLs
-Include annotations in XML site map
Resources: For a video on using a site map to indicate alternate language pages
Consider using a country specific Internet Provider if you can, some larger companies offer this as a service, especially for email marketing.
Make sure your site is mobile optimized and responsive design
Maintain ongoing optimization
Monitor your SEO keywords to see how you’re trending
Monitor your competition
Monitor overall SEO trends and Google changes to their algorithms
Evaluate your efforts to see what’s working and what isn’t
Test, test, test
We’ve found that one of the best overviews and resources for you to learn how to optimize your international sites is MOZ.com. They have excellent guides for International SEO and step-by-step instructions to follow.
To see a list of the top Sites in the US
How-To International SEO from Moz.com
How-to “International SEO’ from SEO Watch
Learn more about customers and culture in the Consumer Barometer
Multilingual Sites- Google Resource
Use hreflang for language and regional URLs - Google Resource
Using a sitemap to indicate alternative language - Google Resource
Hreflang Tag how-to by Moz.com
Learn more about consumer behavior
Industry and Competitor Analysis sites
SearchMetrics- Enterprise level SEO and Content tools
Other International SEO Tools and Resources:
KNOWLEDGE BASE International SEO For The US