What is International SEO?

Posted By on January 26th, 2020 in Search Engine Optimisation

In a time of globalisation and constant technological growth, the search for ways to reach more people globally and locally never stops. Owners of multinational business are aware of the value of digital presence to their business. It is essential to cater your content to your audience, across different markets or linguistic backgrounds.

To successfully reach your target audience across different markets and show them the suitable content, an understanding of international SEO basics is required. International SEO refers to optimizing your website to help search engines understand in which countries and in what languages you want your site to appear.

Before going the extra mile to do that, you need to decide whether you need a multinational and multilingual website or not. To get to that, start by looking at traffic sources to your website and overall geo-location and geo-language analysis through Google Analytics. Does it receive a considerable amount of traffic from various regions in which you wish to rank? If yes, then it’s time to develop a multinational and multilingual website. Keep in mind that international SEO demands time, maintenance of more than one website and investment. 


A multilingual website offers content in more than one language within a region or across the globe. For example, a website in the UAE with English, Arabic and French interfaces is a multilingual website. Multinational websites, on the other hand, indicate that a website is targeting different countries using one language or more. An example of a multinational website is one that is Arabic but targets users in Saudi Arabia and UAE. Both types can increase your reach and help you expand your business.

Multilingual Websites:

Most websites in the Middle East are available in English and Arabic. If you offer services in a region that speaks many languages, then you may want to focus only on creating a multilingual website. Also, if a website offers the same services across different languages, then it needs to be a multilingual website.

Multinational Websites:

A multinational business targets users from all regions and offers them an experience customised to their requirements. A multinational website will be developed accordingly, despite the probability that they target countries that speak a common language. For instance, if you have a business based in the UK, Canada and USA, then your content will be in English. Despite the fact that they use the same language, other website specifics like cost and currency will need to be tailored to each country.

An example of multinational websites is e-commerce sites that offer services in multiple markets. You can use either multilingual or multinational or a mixture of both depending on your audience. Yet, if you wish to target regions such as North Africa, the European Union and the Middle East, you can only target countries and regions.

If you plan on developing an international website, then your strategy should go through these top-level stages:

  1. Country targeting: Define the country you want to target with a globally compatible URL structure
  2. Content: Provide content in all languages, catered to audiences from multiple countries. To rank better, avoid using translation tools to ensure the content is SEO and user-friendly
  3. Targeted languages: Identify the languages your site needs and use hreflang tags (language tags) properly


International sites and URL structures:

There are different ways to employ if you plan to target a specific country:

  1. ccTLD (Country Code Top Level Domain): Predefined by Google, ccTLDs are two-letter codes that show search engines and users a website’s registered country. Employing ccTLDs is the best way to target a particular country as it improves your website’s ranking locally. Search engines look at all ccTLDs as autonomous websites, and there is a negligible exchange of link equity. Examples of using ccLTDs: example.ae (or example.ae/ar/ for Arabic), example.in (or example.in/hi/ for Hindi), example.co.uk, etc.
  2. Subdomain: Internationalised content is placed on separate subdomains. Subdomains are regarded as independent websites as well and are not quite user-friendly. Examples of those are: ae.example.com (or ae.example.com/ar/ for Arabic), uk.example.com, in.example.com (or in.example.com/hi/ for Hindi)
  3. Subdirectories with generic TLDs: In which internationalised content sets in different subdirectories or subfolders on the root domain. Since the root domain is similar for all regions and languages, this method is excellent if you wish to benefit from the link equity of the root domain. It is also both SEO and user-friendly. This method is highly recommended for global brands, as you can define languages and regions in line with your strategy. Here are some examples: example.com/en-ae/, example.com/ar-ae/, example.com/en-gb/, example.com/en-in/, example.com/hi-in/

After identifying which URL structure is suitable for your SEO strategy and have the hreflang tags in place, you would want your users to use your multinational and multilingual website. Nevertheless, it is highly advised to not opt for location-based targeting, since it does not allow for good user experience.

User Experience:

To ensure the optimal user experience is to show them the language version of the website according to their browser settings. Which means that an American visiting your site in the UAE won’t get hit with an Arabic interface if he or she has their browser settings set to English. It is also recommended that you include language options that are understandable in other languages. If your website has unique content to each of your target countries (images, news, prices, culture, etc.), then you want to allow users to navigate to regional websites and choose different languages. The best practice is to list down all the countries and languages on one page for users to view and choose from.


Once you decide that owning a multinational and multilingual website should be part of your digital marketing strategy, you would want to select the audience countries and languages. Choose the URL structure that matches your strategy and begin developing content in different languages for the dedicated countries. It is vital to ensure proper use of hreflang tags across the website(s) so that search engines understand your target countries, languages or the combination of both. This, while also making sure that your users can easily see the various options and can navigate from one language/regional version of the website to another.


Once your new website is up and running, hire a professional SEO agency in Dubai to maintain and grow your website. Then you can sit back and watch your business make an impact online!

Bruce Clay AdministratorPerson