Having the right tools to help with your SEO work is so important. They can help you complete more research, more analysis and more work in tremendously less time than doing the same tasks manually. And with international SEO, it’s no different. International SEO requires some additional knowledge and steps that local and national SEO do not. After all, you are trying to appear to a global audience that are in multiple countries and may even speak multiple languages. International SEO has some additional resources and tools that are helpful to use to make sure your international SEO profits. Let’s take a look at the tools you’ll need to go global.
Your International Status
Hopefully you’ve already set-up web analytics on your site to track your current site visitors. Any decent web analytics program is going to tell you how many visitors your site has, the number of conversions, visits by country, keywords, languages, most popular pages and plenty of other data.
If you’re using Google Analytics, you can easily see which countries your current site visitors are coming from. To do so, from your dashboard go to Audience > Geo and there you can see your site visitors by location and language.
You should also be able to do this with any of the other top web analytics software as well.
Then you can further segment this data by conversion rate, traffic source, etc. to get more detailed information on your international visitors.
You can also view a site’s search queries in Google Search Console (Google Webmaster Tools). From the dashboard go to Search Traffic > Search Analytics and there you can filter by location and view the site’s clicks, impressions in search results, click through rate and position.
Setting Website’s Geolocation
If you’re using a ccTLD (a country code top level domain such as .de for Germany or .nz for New Zealand) you are already signaling to search engines what country you are targeting. If you are targeting one main country, it is a good idea to use a ccTLD.
If, however, you already have a domain or want to target multiple countries, you’ll likely be using an international domain such as .com or .net. If this is the case you need to let search engines know which country you are targeting. This can be done in your Google Search Console account by going to Search Traffic > International Targeting and clicking on the Country tab. If you have multiple sub-directories and sub-domains to target multiple countries, you’ll need to add each domain separately to your account.
Same with Bing. In Bing Webmaster Tools you have the ability to tell Bing which country you are targeting. One big difference is that from the same screen you can track multiple sub-directories / sub-domains and specify which country you are targeting for each one.
Keyword research is an essential part of the SEO process not matter if you have a local, national or international target audience. There are many keyword research tools available and many can be used to international SEO as well.
UberSuggest is a great tool for generating a lot of new keyword ideas. What makes it a great tool for international SEO is that it supports multiple countries and languages.
Rank Tracker will let specify one or more search engines that you’d like to target including search engines from all over the world.
You can also use their keyword suggestion tool to find additional keyword ideas as well. They allow you to search for keyword ideas based on related search engine tools, keywords related to your site and your competitors, other search engines and services and by creating keyword combinations.
Keyword Research & Search Volume By Search Engine
Ideally when doing keyword research, you want to use your favorite keyword research tools and then confirm the search volume for the search engine(s) you are targeting.
So for example, you may use Rank Tracker, SEMRush (or your favorite keyword research tool) and then find the most popular search engine in the country you’re targeting. Some of these keyword research tools allow you to search by country and even language as well which is additionally helpful for international keyword research. Although Google dominates in a lot of the world, don’t always assume Google is the favorite search engine in your target country.
To find this information we can use StatCounter.
Next, you’ll want to go to the corresponding search engine’s keyword tool. So for example, Google has the Google Keyword Planner, Baidu for China has the Baidu Index and Yandex for Russia has the Yandex Keyword Statistics. With these tools you can double check the search volume for the keywords you would like to target to make sure they will be profitable enough.
Identifying The Competition
Part of the keyword research process includes knowing who your competitors are. Beyond just keyword research, studying your competition will help you know who exists in your niche, what their strengths are and what opportunities still exist for you to take advantage of.
You’ll be able to identify who your competitors are based on the keywords you select (we’ll get to that in the next part) but it’s also helpful to see which are the top performing sites in your niche in the country or countries you are targeting. You can do this by going to Alexa and searching for the top sites by country or by category.
SimilarWeb will allow you to search by country and category together so you can really filter down. You can also click through to each site to see additional information about the site, site traffic and audience which is helpful information to have.
Now that you’ve seen some of the top performing sites in the country and in your industry, it’s important to take a look at the specific keyword competition. Grab your keywords and head on over to SEMRush or SEO SpyGlass.
Put in your keywords in SEMRush (see a full SEMRush tutorial here), select the country you are targeting and get tons of great information. Here you’ll see the top performing competitors and can click through to see additional information about their back links, top ranking organic and paid keywords and plenty more.
With SEO SpyGlass you can uncover some hidden information about your competitors as well including their back links locations (which is important to know as back links from sites in the same country you are targeting are very helpful for rankings). Different competitors can also be compared to see the variety of back links, back link metrics and help you see how you can create a better back link strategy.
Hreflang annotations are a must for any international site. These annotations tell Google which language and / or country a specific page targets. This helps search engines show visitors the right page intended for their language or location.
The Hreflang Tag Checker is a free browser extension that helps you quickly see a site’s hreflang set-up to see pages that are targeting an international audience. It’s an easy way to validate your hreflang implementation.
An Hreflang XML Sitemap is the perfect way to let search engines know which content you want visitors to be presented with based on their location and / or language. Media Flow has created a handy XML sitemap generator for just this purpose to make creating your sitemap quick and easy.
For larger sites, the Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool will allow you to filter for pages that contain (or don’t contain) specific hreflang tags.
For sites that want to appeal to an international audience, it’s important to get to know more about the country and the people in order to provide the best content and experience.
One good way to do this is by using TalkWalker Alerts which allows you to set-up alerts for content around brand names or keywords in different languages.
Google Alerts on the other hand, let’s you set-up alerts based on the country as well.
When it comes to translating content, there are always automatic translation tools like Google Translate but the best results are going to come from a native speaker who is actually from the location you are targeting. That way they understand the local lingo and the culture which will show in their writing.
High quality link building is one of the most time consuming pieces of SEO but it makes a huge difference in terms of rankings. That’s why I use Link Assistant for finding new back links from a variety of sources.
Link Assistant helps find new potential sources of back links. First, set the preferred search engines you are targeting by going to Preferences > Search Engine Settings > Preferred Search Engines. Type in the country you are targeting and select the search engines for that country you wish to include.
Next, click on the ‘Look for Prospects’ button. Now you’ll be able to select from a variety of sources to keep your back link profile diverse as it should be. Enter your keywords, click next and Link Assistant will go out and provide you with targeted, local back links.
With international SEO, it’s important to find back links from sites in the same country that you are targeting. Those will hold more weight. For the site here I used 7 keywords and Link Assistant provided me with with over 450 potential back links in just a matter of minutes. And that’s just for one type of back link. Sort through the back links, remove the ones you don’t want and contact the link ones you do directly from within Link Assistant.
Then you can keep track of the back links you obtain from within the dashboard and even further research the potential back links by viewing their metrics to get an insight into why they are rankings.
If you’re not in the location where you are ranking a site, hiding your location will help make sure you see search results as others do. One way to do this is by using a site called I Search From. Simply type in the country (and even language), your keyword and hit search. Below you can even specify a specific city if you’re doing local SEO in another country.
The best way to confirm search results is to use a local IP. The way to do this is by using a proxy service which help hide your address.
With all this hard work you of course need to know where your site is ranking. Your international site versions need to be tracked separately so you can see the site’s ranking in different countries and / or languages depending on how you’ve set-up your site.
If you are using Rank Tracker for keyword research, you can return there to track your rankings. Just as with Link Assistant, you can set-up the specific international search engines you’d like to track and Rank Tracker will tell you where you rank in the search engines for each keyword you are tracking. If you’re performing local SEO you’ll also be able to see the rankings in both organic search results and in the local pack.
There are other rank tracking tools available including Advanced Web Ranking that can be used as well. Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools will also provide insight into the keywords driving traffic to your site via search engines.
Using tools that are designed with international SEO in mind are a great way to make your work faster and easier. Having the right tools will save you a tremendous amount of time so you can focus on building and scaling your website to an international audience.