The most common mistakes in international SEO and how to avoid them

The most common mistakes in international SEO and how to avoid them

If you’re running your own business and want to expand it to foreign markets, international SEO might be just what you need. E-commerce is a powerful tool for any entrepreneur – it’s a fact backed by research, according to which why by the year 2025, the frequency of online shopping will be up to 5% higher compared to 2021.

It’s worth noting, though, that positioning is a process composed of multiple elements, and there are many traps lurking on the way. What exactly can you expect and how to avoid slip-ups? The answers to these questions can be found in this article.

How to properly conduct international SEO and what to avoid

SEO – also known as positioning – means optimising a website to increase its visibility. It’s a process designed to make search engines place a given internet site as high as possible in search results. Such activities boost organic visibility, as well as yield better conversion and traffic statistics.
The international SEO process consists of many steps, among which we may list:

  • analysing the visibility,
  • carrying out a SEO audit,
  • selecting the target country,
  • analysing competition in a given foreign market,
  • selecting the right domain or subdomain,
  • performing technical optimisation,
  • analysing keywords with regard to the foreign target market,
  • localising content,
  • taking care of link building,
  • monitoring visibility.

As we can see, each daredevil setting off on this complicated, multiphase journey will have lots of work to do – but there are methods which can help prepare for the venture. One of them is predicting the potential obstacles. So, let’s take a look at the most common mistakes in international SEO.

Wrong selection of keywords and keyphrases

Keywords and keyphrases are of the utmost importance in positioning, which is why it is recommended to include them in your content. Unfortunately, one of the most common mistakes is their wrong selection, usually stemming from literal translation of given elements from source language into the target one. As a result, they might be too generic or completely unsuitable for a given market, giving your website zero chance of ranking high in search results.

You have to remember that every market is governed by its own laws. A phrase that has gained a record-breaking popularity in one market might not be used at all in another – which is why a proper analysis of keywords and keyphrases . is so significant. It will let you explore the market to which you want to introduce your business and use the right elements. Implementing them into your content will lead to better positioning, and, by extension, to a higher number of visitors on your website.

It is recommended to begin with the above-mentioned analysis, so that keywords and keyphrases are identified prior to the stage of translation and copywriting. Properly mapped phrases are easier to incorporate into content, thanks to which you can achieve the effect of content synergy. It will also allow you to implement them in a semi-automated manner, which is especially helpful in the case of deployment on a bigger scale. If you don’t know where to start, contact us! Our experts will be happy to help you find the right path.

Wrong selection of a search engine

It would seem that Google is the dominant search engine across the globe – nothing further from the truth! In China, for instance, it’s actually Baidu (used by the whooping 80% of the market users; only 3% of them use Google), and in South Korea, Naver is the main choice. Each of these search engines works differently and employs separate algorithms. Before you make a decision, it’s worth investigating the matter and learning which search engine enjoys the greatest popularity in a given market. There’s a huge chance it’s Google after all, but if it isn’t, the next step would be to learn the specificity of the search engine and to adjust your website accordingly, so that the users of the target market have no problems visiting it.

Legal issues

In some ways, legal issues are similar to issues with keywords and keyphrases or a search engine – so many countries (or markets), so many customs. However, the consequences arising from not adhering to local legal provisions may be much more serious. For example, in the European Union countries, the regulations regarding what a company can write or say online are significantly stricter than those in the US. Hence, it’s not enough to follow your gut or make a wild guess. You need to dedicate your time to getting to know legal provisionsthat are valid in the market you wish to enter.
There are many aspects to be taken into account, e.g. the issue of personal data protection, adjusting store policy or privacy policy – everything needs to be clear and congruent with local regulations. It will help you earn trust of users visiting your website and convince them to choose your products or services.

Skipping local positioning

Local positioning is used to promote products or services among customers from a given market with the use of keyphrases that usually (but not always) contain the name of a given city – thanks to that, you can get a high position in search results connected to the location of a user. It’s especially important for local enterprises, such as hairdressing salons or auto shops. Positioning of this type means less competition, which makes it easier for you to stand out and increase your revenue potential. Moreover, Google automatically adds a suitable map to many keyphrases, which additionally helps customers find just the company they’re looking for. It’s worth noting that as many as 96% of consumers search for services locally – 46% of searches in Google are local (source:

Mindless content translation

Similarly to keywords and keyphrases, content published on our website should be localised, not just translated. It’s extremely important, since the majority of companies operate based on customer acquisition – which is rather hard to complete if you present your new audiences with texts completely disconnected from their reality.

For example: in Poland, everyone knows what Fat Thursday (tłusty czwartek) is. There, at the mere thought of that day, people have a mouthwatering vision of delicious jelly donuts with various fillings. But the seemingly identical holiday looks different in, for instance, Great Britain – there, it’s called Pancake Day, and instead of jelly donuts, people eat pancakes with toppings of their choice. In France, in turn, the holiday is known as mardi grass, Fat Tuesday, and on that day French people enjoy various sweet dishes. It’s also worth mentioning that in the majority of regions, celebrations are held on a completely different day than in Poland (in the countries mentioned above, it’s Tuesday, while in Russia, for example, the celebration lasts a whole week!), whereas in others, it’s not a thing at all. As a result, a text targeted at one audience may be completely irrelevant to another, which might make the new group think you don’t care about them – but you do care about all your customers, of course!

The same URL for each website version

URL is used to locate resources shared on the internet. Each URL address is composed of certain elements:

  • protocol (https)
  • domain name (e.g. locatheart)
  • Top-Level Domain (e.g. .pl or .com)
  • resource name (e.g. /services).

As a result, we get: Overall, it’s best to make sure that your URL is clear and encourages users to visit your website – thanks to it, they will know exactly what to expect. When it comes to international positioning, URL should be adjusted to a given language and country. Once it is, search engines won’t struggle with ranking your website, whereas users will have no problem remembering its name – which, in turn, will allow them to come back and navigate the site freely (also, it may facilitate the potential use of your products or services).

Wrong use of the hreflang attribute

Hreflang tags are used to mark websites that have similar content but are targeted at different languages or regions. It gives search engines a clear signal that a given website has multiple language versions. Thanks to that, e.g. Google can check linguistic preferences of a user and present them with suitable search results. Subsequently, you will have a chance to make your website visible for potential customers from foreign markets, whereas consumers will find it easier to choose from your assortment, which will translate into increased conversion.

By using the hreflang attribute, you will also avoid the problem of content duplication. If your website has multiple versions in one language which are, however, targeted at different markets, the distinction between them may be minimal. Thanks to the hreflang attribute, search engines will not perceive such content as a mere copy but will acknowledge that they are optimised to the needs of different target groups. If your website already contains hreflang attributes, but you’re unsure whether the outcomes can be described as satisfactory, you can use the hreflang checker function available e.g. in Google Search Console or the Screaming Frog tool. One thing is certain: it’s worth dedicating your time to this!

Using a single domain for multiple countries

ccTLD – which is a country top-level domain – is a two-letter suffix that attributes a given address to a specific geographical location. In Poland, it’s .pl, in Germany – .de, whereas in Great Britain – .uk. When it’s used correctly, search engines know who the target recipient of the content published on a website is.
If you want to expand your business to foreign markets, it’s worth taking ccTLD domain into account. If you simply employ a single abbreviation at the end of the URL address, search engines will judge the content to be a mere translation of the main language version instead of separate texts for other locales, which, in turn, will make it difficult to get a good positioning in foreign search results.

One of the available solutions is using a generic domain, also known as gTLD (e.g. .com, .org or .net), which will allow you to run one website with multiple language versions. In such a case, however, international positioning may prove to be unsuccessful, especially when it comes to local positioning. So, if this option is not exactly suitable for you, you can create a separate site targeted specifically at recipients from a given market. To accomplish this, you would have to buy a domain assigned to a specific country.

How to avoid mistakes?

To err is human, that’s for sure. But as business owners, we want to be perceived as professionals, and every mistake may deal a severe blow to our reputation. For this reason, no decision related to international SEO should be taken lightly. If you’re not sure which solutions will yield the best results, it’s a good idea to trust specialists.

At locatheart wwe cooperate with translators and copywriters who are native speakers of a given language. Therefore, they perfectly understand the reality of respective markets and know what sells, and what doesn’t (more information on the benefits of working with native speakers can be found here). International websites simply have to be suited to the markets you want to expand to. And who will optimise your website better if not native speakers and users of those markets?

International SEO with locatheart

Website optimisation is a complex and multiphase process. Every single aspect of it should be treated seriously and professionally. If you care about impeccable localisation of your website, the published content and all attributes, contact us. We will be happy to help!

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