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  • Writer's pictureMordy Oberstein

What Is International SEO, Really?

Lidia Infante joins the podcast to discuss what international SEO really is:

  • Information density and its role in SEO

  • How Natural Language Processing has impacted international SEO

  • Why understanding user tendencies is a must when doing international SEO

Not unlike other areas of SEO, the conversation around international SEO has become far too cliched. There are far too few discussions about the idiosyncrasies of various markets and how that plays out for both bots and users. When it comes down to it, international SEO means understanding how Google functions and how users operate, it's not just ccTLDs and hreflang!

Here's a summary of what we talked about.

Lidia Infante on the SEO Rant Podcast


What Is International SEO

Whenever you read a blog post about international SEO you get the same list of 3-4 items that comprise the topic. But International SEO is far more dynamic than just ccTLDs, localization, hreflang, etc.

There's a whole world of depth and nuance to international SEO that often doesn't get discussed.

Information Density and International SEO

English is a very dense language in that you can say a lot with very few characters. The upshot is that when you are faced with character limits (say a title tag) you generally have a decent amount of space to work with.

The same is not the case in other languages. The words in languages, such as German, are filled to the brim with characters which can make certain tasks a bit more complicated.

It's a real thing. You don't have unlimited space for information and on depending on the language that can present you with a peculiar set of problems.

Natural Language Processing & International SEO

Google's natural language processing is behind a lot of the larger advancements in ranking. At the same time, Google's evolution here is very different across languages. What works in English might not be what works in other languages. To make this a bit more complicated, what works in English is where Google (obviously) would want to take things in other languages as time goes on. That is, what works now in other languages is surely set to change as things progress.

To really complicate matters, not all languages will advance at the same pace. More popular languages, such as Spanish, will more most likely see advancements in Google's ability to understand content than languages spoken in one market (say Hebrew for example).

If you're working with multiple languages you have to understand how Google is "working" within each dialect uniquely.

The hope is that Google continues to make strides in understanding languages and that as it better comprehends one language that understanding will help it better understand other languages.

That means investing for the future. Future-proof your work by aligning your content to where Google is headed. Again, in international SEO that's a bit easier as you know where Google wants to go... it wants to be able to process content as it does in English.

Apply what works in English to the other languages (to an extent) so as to efficiently future-proof your content.

International SEO Means Knowing How People Behave In Different Markets

International SEO is all about knowing your markets. It means knowing how Google functions in certain markets but also how people (we call them users in SEO) operate as well! Users in different markets can take very different approaches to how they search.

A user in Germany might not start their journey with a very specific keyword whereas someone as an American might be far more targeted in their initial search (this is just an example, not an accurate portrayal of each market).

You have to understand what your users want in each market. What works in an English market might not be what the users want in a different market.

Moreover, don't be stereotypical. There are certain stereotypes that you may have about the culture of specific markets as it relates to Search. Check your stereotypes at the door. If you think one culture is "very detail-oriented" you might be surprised that when they search and consume content... they aren't.

If you don't rein in your stereotypes about how various markets Search and consume content it's going to be very easy to create the wrong thing for the wrong user at the wrong time.

Take the time to legitimately understand your market with objective eyes.

The Idiosyncrasies of International SEO: Special Characters

Special characters. If you're doing international SEO you're going to have to consider special characters. These can come into play in a variety of ways. If you have a form on your site and you target an international audience (and even if you don't) you might very well run into issues with the form not accepting entries where the entry includes special characters in the wording.

To that, you might want to limit the usage of special characters in things like file names, etc. If you have a site with a special character in the domain you might run into all sorts of weird issues when doing things like implementing redirects and so forth. "Anglofying" special characters might not be a bad idea.


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