National SEO represented by image of London and union jack flag

Whilst Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is something that most business owners have heard of, understanding exactly what it is, may be a little less clear. SEO, in it’s very simplest sense, refers to creating and structuring a website to attract the right target audience i.e. potential customers. The better the optimisation of your website then the higher up it will appear in the search listings on Google or any other search engine. This  ensures that your website can be found by those looking for the product or service you are selling.

This is very much a simplification of the logical steps and technical processes required for successful SEO – you can read more detail about SEO in our in-depth guide What is SEO? Or just read on for more about international SEO and how targeting a global audience requires a different SEO approach.

In order to examine the difference between national SEO and international SEO it is first important to understand exactly what both terms mean.

What is national SEO?

For those companies who sell only in one country, national SEO is the ideal solution. The goal of national SEO is to ensure that your website is showing up in the search results across the whole country regardless of where the business has physical locations. With many service-based businesses increasingly serving a nationwide customer base through the use of virtual meetings and digital deliveries, this approach makes sense to reach a wider customer base. But product-based businesses can equally well serve the whole nation without the need for local premises. Indeed it can be a very cost-effective business model if goods can be stored in inexpensive warehouses without the need for expensive customer-facing premises.

For those companies who have not optimised their content and website for national SEO this means that they could be missing out on a significant volume of traffic. It is important to ensure that users all over the country, not just those who live locally, can find your company online. It is also vital that you have not restricted your business to local SEO searches that will only show up for those in a particular city when you want nationwide customers.

National-level websites and blogs will allow you to focus on a broad range of general keywords rather than those that are location-based.

Whilst highly targeted keywords do have importance to your website you should also work on ways in which you can incorporate broader terms into the content of both your webpages and blog posts. Doing this will help to boost your content’s visibility in online searches.

What is international SEO?

Where national SEO looks to optimise your site when it comes to the searches within a country, international SEO looks at ranking your website in multiple countries for companies who sell on a global scale, or at the very least in several countries. International websites can either be multi-national but single language or multi-national and multi-language. There are also instances of single country multi-language websites such as in Canada, for example, Nevertheless, the approach the international SEO is fundamentally the same.

Why are the differences important?

The big question you really need to answer is should you be using national or international SEO for your website, and in order to truly evaluate whether there is potential for international business growth you should be looking out for a few key signs:

1.   A large amount of the traffic to your website is from a country other than the one where the business is located.

2.     Traffic is from countries where people speak a different language.

3.     You are selling your products or services to several countries

One other factor that is a little different to all of these is that you may sometimes not just be targeting another country but also another language. For example, if you sell merchandise with something written on it in English then your target is not just the UK but also any other country where English is the main language, for example America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa or Canada.

There really is no one rule that fits all scenarios because every business is different and therefore its target audience has the potential to be different as well. The most important thing that you can do in determining which SEO you need for your website is to look at the trends in your traffic. Then, use the data to determine where the website traffic that you are getting is coming from.

One important proviso here is to identify whether the content being read by international visitors is purely informative or if it is part of a typical customer journey. The latter indicates potential to expand into other countries but the former does not.

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