Introduction and Multi-/International Domain Setups | Lesson 23/34 | SEMrush Academy

Learn how to help search engines easily identify your target countries and the languages you use for business.
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0:47 Different search engines
1:02 Not about translation, but very much about localization
1:50 Important to understand culture differences
2:12 3 ways how to serve internationally and use domains in that context

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International SEO is a very complex topic with many different aspects to it. In this course, we’ve mostly talked about Google so far. We covered how Google does certain things and how Google evaluates websites regarding SEO, etc. However, this is a very limited picture. Granted, globally Google is the biggest player in the world but there are other search engines that are active in certain markets and regions. You have to pay attention to them as well to be successful on a global scale. For example, Baidu is super important in China, the same is true for Yandex in Russia. Other relevant search engines are Bing and Seznam and Naver.

So, let’s talk about keywords first. The big mistake that happens all the time is that people try to simply translate keywords. Sure, all engines will still work and return results based on what you put in, but you’re clearly missing out. When you translate a keyword to another language it might have a similar meaning, without being exactly the same. Also, by simply translating words you miss out on synonyms. Depending on the language there might be multiple words to describe the same thing: For example, the words “car insurance” have up to three different variations in Germany. If you just translate them you’ll be missing out on a significant amount of potential search traffic.

As a side note, it’s even more important to understand cultural differences. There is a different perception of colour in many cultures. These differences need to be considered while building local presences, crafting local ad copy, meta descriptions, etc.

But since we’re talking about technical SEO in this course, let’s move on and cover domains in the context of international SEO.

There are two different ways – or better said three – on how to serve international domains:

When you have different types of ccTLDs, you could use country code top-level domains, like,
Or you could also have a generic TLD, that could be, e.g. With .com you can either decide to use country- and language-specific folders on that .com or similar to Wikipedia you do language-specific sub-domains. So using the gTLD you you’d have to select between subfolder or subdomain – depending on your needs.
For ccTLDs there is a strong default geo-targeting, e.g. Google takes .fr and knows that it is supposed to rank in France. Differentiating from a technical perspective is easy. Disadvantages are that you have to register everything in the respective local market individually. There are sometimes legal restrictions, and in the worst case ccTLD is not available anymore.

In comparison, the biggest advantage of gTLDs is that you do not have to mess around with different domains. It is one single CMS that is more cost-effective to maintain and develop, and from the inbound linking perspective, all the links help strengthen this one .com domain – rather than being split up and distributing link juice to all the different ccTLDs.

Also, the gTLD probably already has some trust. It is way easier to pass this along into the subfolders as opposed to linking your ccTLDs or even the subdomains with each other.

From an inbound link equity perspective, the global gTLD approach is most efficient. You do not need any multisite functionality as would be the case with subdomains on the gTLD.

So, my recommendation is to go for .com as a gTLD and then establish language and/or country-specific subfolders. Make sure you use the features that search engines provide E.g. Google has the ability in Google Search Console to set up individual properties based on language or country directories, and you can also do individual geo-targeting. In the past, there was a problem of missing strong geo-signals, but nowadays you can override it with GSC – which really helps to target the region that you want. Also make sure to properly implement hreflang; we’ll cover this later in this chapter.

#TechnicalSEO #TechnicalSEOcourse #InternationalSEO #SEMrushAcademy International SEO

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