International SEO (ISEO)

Why & How You Should Market Your eCommerce Site Internationally

International SEO


Many people think that their products aren’t made for an international audience and that even if their products were that they don’t know how to begin; feeling that there’s a huge gap in knowledge including, quite often, a language barrier.




5 Reasons to do International eCommerce:


1.       Many foreign countries have a Value-Added-Tax (“VAT”) that can run as high as 20% or more.  (Whoever came up with the name “value-added” surely understands sarcasm).  By offering your products to foreign markets that have a high VAT can save virtually 1/5th of the cost by buying from you here in the USA.


2.       The power of many foreign currencies (especially the Pound and the Euro) over the Dollar ($0.67 and $0.81 respectively) means that they’re able to save an additional, and quite large, percentage on top just from the currency exchange. 


3.       Many products that are ubiquitous here are simply not available abroad.  This gives you the opportunity to fill those gaps and this can lead to increasing your inventory with products that you find are hard to get abroad.


4.       The savings in cost outweigh the costs of shipping!  Shipping is often considered the prime motivator in online purchases.  When faced with regular cost and free shipping versus saving 20% - 50% on the cost by buying from the USA; you’ll see that many will find they save much more by buying from you than their local vendor.


5.       International SEO is not on a par with the USA.  I’m not saying that there aren’t amazing SEOs abroad; I’m saying that there aren’t as many and that acceptance and even knowledge of SEO isn’t as wide spread among the people than it is here.  This means that you'll find less steep SEO competition and far less SEO competition overall in foreign markets, unless you're talking about the top players.


Another great reason is that many sites abroad haven’t gotten up to speed on Responsive Design which means that when it comes to Google mobile you have a much higher chance of ranking well and converting better than local competitors by simply having a responsive (mobile-friendly) website.




English is the International Business Language


One thing that you’ll find is that many people abroad speak English.  In fact, English is considered the international lingua franca, especially for business.  Most of Northern European cities do daily business in English and this includes queries in Search Engines.  English makes up 55% of the top 10 Million websites1 and it is estimated that by 2020, two billion people will be studying English2.


This is great news for optimizing in English but there are still great reasons to optimize your site, at least in part, in the language of your target country.




Gaining an Edge in International Search Engines


Here are some tips for adding that extra edge that can get your pages ranked in other countries:


Include foreign keywords on your category and product pages!


I know that sounds quite obvious and scraily difficult  but you'll be happy to find that many products are searched by their brand name and model number.  “Apple iPod 6” or “Nikon D3200” will be searched for in almost any language or country. You’ll want to look for the words that don’t cross-over.  For example; If you sell digital cameras then you’ll find that the Nikon D3200 is available in France, as the SERPs on show, however DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) isn’t.  The French say “Reflex numérique” while in Italy they’ll search for “fotocamera reflex digitali”.   


This can be done by including them in a separate tab or just adding keywords as tags on the page.  If you have someone who can speak a foreign language then get them to translate a paragraph or two that you can use on your site.  For example; if your DSLR site wants to promote to France then you can include a paragraph like this:


“ sells high-quality DSLR cameras, lenses and accessories including SD memory cards, tripods, camera bags, photo-filters and more”.


If you can’t translate the entire thing (correctly!) then don’t rely on Google Translate to do it for you.  Just include some of the keywords somewhere on the page.


Accessoires Reflex, Trépied, sacoche reflex, Carte mémoireSD, Filtres Photo


If you can get someone to correctly translate that little paragraph then you can include it in your “International” tab in each language.  I wouldn’t be concerned about duplicate content for two reasons.


1.        It’s duplicated in different languages


2.       It’s being added to current content which is likely (and should be) specific to each page (e.g. the product or category description)


So this way you have the right keywords on the page which can increase your relevance to international terms and your overall rankings in international versions such as, .de, and others.




Use Calls-To-Action that Benefit Your Foreign Audience


Use calls to action targeted to foreign traffic (in English and the foreign language):


Use such calls as “No Vat”, “Take advantage of a weak Dollar”, “International Shipping available”.


Sites can be programmed so that they can identify the source country of a user so that you can feed them a specific page or piece of information on the page.  If they arrive from France then you can have certain calls-to-action show only in French.




HREFLANG & Multiple Language Versions of Your Site


If you have the means to create a separate version of your site in other languages then it is highly recommended that you use HREFLANG tags3 which specifically target different countries or languages.  This way you can automatically serve the right language to the right audience and instantly let Search Engines know which version of your site to rank in which country’s version of their engine.



OK, now you have the right keywords on your pages; your site is mobile-friendly; you offer internationally shipping, CTA’s like “No Vat!” and you’ve set up some goal tracking in Google Analytics for international and international-mobile.  Fetch your new pages and start checking your international traffic, sales, bounces, conversion rate and more.



If you’re looking to optimize for English in a foreign-language country or want to know more about International SEO, click here.














About the author’sIinternational SEO background:


Jeff Chance has lived in numerous countries in Europe and currently speaks and optimizes in English, French, Spanish and Italian.  Meteorsite has helped many businesses, both here in the USA and abroad, to market to foreign markets in a variety of languages.