When it comes to ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs), almost everyone thinks about SEO in general. SEO or search engine optimization is about making your website visible to your target audience so you can gain traffic, conversions, and achieve other business goals.

However, to effectively target your audience, an important factor you need to consider is their location. So, start by asking yourself, “Is my business targeting certain countries? Or do I prefer being found by customers near my brick-and-mortar store?”

This is why knowing the difference between local and international SEO matters. (Being strategic is a must for SEO success!) In this guide, we’re going to discuss local SEO and international SEO in detail so you can make the right choice.

Keep reading.

What Is Local SEO?

Local SEO is the kind of SEO that focuses on making your website rank in local search results. You might have searched for the terms plumbers near me, floral shop near me, farmers market near me today. All of these terms clearly have local intent.

Businesses that should use local SEO

This branch of SEO is the best option for businesses that have a physical location. For instance, let’s say you own a pizza parlour in Phoenix, Arizona. To help more people find your establishment, whether these people are living within Phoenix or are travellers, local SEO makes that happen.

As you can tell, the types of businesses that benefit from local SEO the most are those that serve a local market. Examples are dental clinics, law offices, restaurants and bars, and plumbers.

Here are some stats that show how important local SEO is for brick-and-mortar businesses based on Google data:

  • 84% of all “near me” searches come from mobile.
  • 28% of searches done nearby led to a purchase.
  • 88% of people who search locally on their smartphone visit a store within the week.

The benefits of local SEO can range from a stronger online presence in your locality to an increase in-store traffic and purchases.

What Is International SEO?

International SEO, as the term implies, is all about optimizing your website for an international presence. If your business is targeting audiences from different countries, and those audiences may even speak different languages, this type of SEO is best for you. You can think of it as SEO country targeting.

Businesses that should use international SEO

With international SEO, it’s not necessary for a business to have a physical store unlike local SEO — although some businesses with shops in multiple countries need it.

Common examples that benefit from an international SEO strategy include e-commerce stores and SaaS companies. Basically, any brand in any niche that sells online with country-specific content and offers should start establishing itself internationally.

Now that you know the main differences between local and international SEO, let’s try to understand them deeper by taking a look at their strategies. Depending on your business and target audience, you’re going to take a unique approach with the following areas:

  • Keywords
  • Content
  • Link building
  • URL structure

These are just a few essential things to consider. Keep reading below for specific strategies.

Local SEO Strategies

Follow this list to improve your website’s local performance:

  1. Claim and optimize your Google My Business listing

This is one of the most important things to do as part of your local SEO strategy. It’s actually your first step to ensure a local exposure. If you haven’t done it yet, complete a profile on Google My Business.

Once you have a profile, be sure to upload photos of your business. Fill out your address, phone number, website, and business hours.

  1. Focus on local keywords

Take advantage of Google’s Keyword Planner to figure out which terms are best suited for your location. Your target keywords are fairly obvious in this case. Usually, a keyword includes your main offer + your location.

You can also try other keyword research tools like Ahrefs Keywords Explorer and SEMrush.

  1. Create valuable local content

Content types that you should create on your website include the following:

  • Landing pages – These can be city-specific, state-specific, or region-specific.
  • FAQ pages – These pages enable you to provide answers to your searchers quickly. No matter what product or service you’re offering, anticipate the common questions that people ask and be sure to address them on your FAQ.
  • Blog posts – Write about local events, local guides and listicles, interviews with local figures, and reviews about other businesses in your area.

International SEO Strategies

Your international SEO checklist should include the following actions:

  1. Conduct keyword research for your target countries

If you’re trying to rank in countries with different languages, it can be tempting to use machine translation for keywords. Don’t do this. Better yet, hire a native to research keywords in their language.

Another thing to keep in mind: If you’re targeting an entire country, be sure to check the keyword volumes per city. They may differ depending on the demand for your product or service.

  1. Decide on the URL structure

You can choose from any of these options:

  • Country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) – This lets you assign a country-specific website for your market. For example: if you’re targeting the USA, your website would end in .us
  • General top-level domain (gTLD) with language parameters – With this option, you’re going to use a URL parameter to indicate that you’re targeting a specific language. For example, yourwebsite.com/?lang=fr (This means that you’re targeting french speakers.)
  • Subdirectory – Here, you’re going to create a separate folder for a target country, labelled with that country’s ISO code. There’s no need to use a separate domain which makes this option convenient and easy.
  1. Tailor your content to the demands of your market.

Your offers may change from one country to another. This also applies to your pricing, currency, and product images. When planning your blog topics, be sure to consider your audience’s cultural differences.

Continue Reading: SEO Link Building Strategy for 2021

Final Thoughts

Knowing the type of SEO to optimize for (local vs international) is one of the first things you should do to succeed. Not only will your website rank, but you’ll also attract the right audience and get more conversions.

In summary, local SEO is best for businesses targeting customers within their area. Small businesses like shops, restaurants, clinics, and maintenance services usually benefit from this. International SEO, on the other hand, is for those targeting global markets. E-commerce brands are a common example.

You can see that both types have a geographical component and that your strategies vary depending on the location. No matter your choice, always plan ahead, do market research, and focus on quality SEO.

About the author

Lauren is a copywriter, blogger, and social media manager based in the Texas Hill Country. She works with bloggers and small businesses to help build their online presence.


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