Local vs International SEO Explained: See If Scaling Up Makes Sense for Your Business

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Local vs International SEO Explained: See If Scaling Up Makes Sense for Your Businessd-tags
23 August 2023
If you’ve been asking yourself, “Should I stick with the local market or dare to expand abroad with my brand?” then you’ve come to the right place. After making it big with your local SEO, taking the next big step seems to be the right choice, especially since the digital world knows no borders. With this in mind, should you, an online business owner, try to introduce your brand to global markets? Let’s see if going international makes sense for your business. Let’s run a local vs global SEO analysis.

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You sell your products or services online. You built your website, wrote compelling content, and added sales-boosting, professional product photos.

Great! Way to go!

The bad news, however, is that it’s not enough 😔. Simply having an e-commerce store is not sufficient for your target customers to find you online.

You need the right SEO strategy, either Local or International SEO, depending on your target market and region.

You need search engine optimization, commonly known as SEO, because, without it, your website may not rank well in search results. Consequence? You miss out on valuable organic traffic.

By optimizing various parts of your website, such as content and keywords to name just two, you increase the chances of your website showing up higher in search results.

When people search for products or services you offer, the right SEO strategy ensures your website appears on their radar.

Simply, think of SEO as a powerful tool that drives traffic to your website. Just like how a well-placed billboard attracts more people to a physical store, SEO brings more visitors to your online business.

The thing is that doing local SEO differs from doing international SEO, as each requires unique strategies tailored to target local markets or a global audience, respectively.

I hate to break it to you but even if you’ve mastered the art of local SEO and achieved a high website ranking, it doesn’t guarantee that your website will appear at the top of search results in other countries. In fact, the chances of that happening are slim unless you adjust your website to meet the needs of local searchers in those specific countries.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to discourage you from expanding into new international markets. I just want you to realize that even if your online business thrives in your local market – whether it’s within a state or the entire country – following the same SEO strategy for other countries like Canada, Mexico or Italy doesn’t guarantee achieving the same brilliant results.

📢 The thing is that each international market has its unique characteristics, and that’s why you need to consider tailoring your SEO approach accordingly. That’s why Local SEO doesn’t equal International SEO.

“What are the differences then?”, you may ask. Let’s jump right in and explore the distinctions between these two strategies, Local vs International SEO.

After reading this article, it will be easier for you to make the right decision, whether to stay in your local market or go abroad with your brand.

Boost your international presence and conquer global markets with us!

International SEO Services

Grasping the Essentials of Local SEO

Local SEO is a special SEO strategy used by online business owners to make their websites shine brightly on the internet within their local target audience. It’s all about using the best local SEO tools to get your website to show up at the top of the search results when people nearby are looking for products or services you offer.

So, if you own a bakery in Chicago or a yoga studio in Los Angeles, Local SEO can help you be the first choice that pops up when locals search for “delicious cakes” or “yoga classes near me.”

By doing local keyword research, completing Google Business Profile, and doing on-page optimizations, you put a big imaginary spotlight on your online business, attracting more people from your local area, and helping you grow your customer base.

📢 Naturally, local SEO isn’t limited to just neighborhoods, towns, or cities. You can also use this strategy to optimize your website on a national scale.

💡 Let’s say you run an online store selling premium organic coffee beans, and you ship your products nationwide from your base in California. Your target audience is coffee lovers all across the United States. With Local SEO, you can optimize your website in a way that when coffee enthusiasts in any state search for “organic coffee beans” or “best coffee online,” your e-commerce store appears among the top search results, regardless of where they are in the country, whether it’s Nevada, Florida or Hawaii.

Embracing Local SEO allows you to connect with customers nationwide, create a loyal customer base, and grow your e-commerce business across the entire USA.

What Are the Components of Local SEO?

You may be wondering what elements actually make Local SEO… well… local. Truth be told there are somewhere around 10 Local SEO basic elements that you should always include in your Local SEO strategy. Now let me guide you through the absolutely essential ones.

Google Business Profile Manager (former Google My Business)

Google Business Profile Manager, which was formerly known as Google My Business, is a free and extremely useful SERP feature that allows business owners to create a listing, and showcase essential information about their business like

  • Business name
  • Physical location
  • Phone number and other contact details for customers to reach the business
  • The link to the business’s website
  • The operating hours for each day of the week
  • The industry or type of business (e.g., restaurant, bookstore, dentist)
  • Images presenting the business, products/services, menu, interior
  • Reviews and testimonials from customers who have used the business’s products or services
  • Regular updates or announcements about promotions, events, or news related to the business.
  • Specific details about the offerings provided by the business.
  • Additional features and facilities, such as wheelchair accessibility or outdoor seating, depending on the business type

When you create and optimize a Google Business Profile Manager listing, you’re giving Google what it needs to display your business on local search results and even on Google Maps. It’s like putting your store, restaurant, club, bookstore, or florist on the neighborhood map, making sure anyone nearby searching for your products or services can easily find you.

Local vs International SEO - Google business profile manager

Screenshot of Hard Rock Cafe’s Google Business Profile

In case, you’d like to learn more about making the most out of this Google SERP feature, be sure to check out our guides and manuals:

Local Keywords

When an SEO Specialist like myself says “local keywords,” we mean the special words and phrases that people in your area often type into the search bar when looking for products or services like yours. Finding and later including those local queries in your web content is really important because the local keywords act like a guiding map for search engines, leading them straight to your business when someone nearby is on the hunt for what you offer.

“How does actually it work?”, you may ask. Well, think of it this way.

💡 If you have a pizza place in Des Moines, IA, using local keywords like “best pizza in Des Moines” or “Des Moines pizza delivery” can help hungry locals find you easily. By including location-specific terms in your website content, meta tags, and even product descriptions, you’re telling search engines the following:

“Hey, I’m right here, and I have exactly what people in this area need! Show my website to those people because I’m exactly what they’re looking for!”

Let me give you some perfect examples of local keywords that improve local SEO. Take a look:

  • “Best tacos in [Your City]”
  • “Affordable hair salon near me”
  • “Family dentist [Your Town]”
  • “Pet grooming services [Your State]”
  • “Plumber in [Your Neighborhood]”
  • “Local farmers’ market hours”
  • “24-hour pizza delivery [Your City]”
  • “Outdoor activities for kids [Your Town]”
  • “Top-rated coffee shop [Your State]”
  • “Lawn care services [Your Zip Code]”

Using similar location-specific keywords on your website helps you attract local customers who are searching for products or services in your target area (neighborhood, city, state, country).

Online Reviews

How many times have you found yourself ravenously hungry, on the hunt for a nearby pizzeria? What made you pick place A instead of place B? Wasn’t it the shining yellow ranking stars and glowing reviews left by satisfied customers?

Online reviews matter to business owners because they hold the key to building trust and credibility with potential prospects. Positive reviews from satisfied customers showcase your business’s excellence, making others more likely to choose your products or services over competitors.

As has happened to you numerous times, reviews about a business influence potential customers’ decisions and help you attract a loyal customer base.

local SEO vs international SEO - online reviews

Screenshot of TM Fitness Studio’s Google Reviews

📢 But most of all, online reviews play a crucial role in your local SEO. They enhance your visibility in local search results, which ultimately leads to increased foot traffic and higher chances of your business succeeding in your local area. So, how can you get more Google reviews? Let me share the 5 most effective ideas for encouraging your customers to leave reviews:

  • TIP #1: Provide excellent service. Deliver outstanding customer experiences to leave a lasting impression and encourage customers to share their thoughts through reviews.
  • TIP #2:Ask for reviews politely. After a satisfying interaction, kindly request feedback from your customers. Let them know their opinion matters and that you’d appreciate their honest review.
  • TIP #3:Engage on social media. Interact with your customers on social media platforms, respond to their comments, and engage with them. This builds rapport and encourages them to share their experiences through reviews.
  • TIP #4: Simplify the review process. Make it easy for your customers to leave reviews by providing direct links or QR codes to review platforms.
  • TIP #5: Offer incentives (within guidelines). Consider offering small bonuses like discounts or freebies to your customers who leave reviews. A word of warning though: ensure compliance with the platform guidelines.

📌 Remember, authentic reviews are crucial for building trust and attracting more customers to your physical store.

That was the local SEO essentials. Now, let’s see what makes International SEO quite a demanding task.

Let’s work on your local visibility!

Local SEO Services

The Distinctive Nature of International SEO

International SEO is the process of optimizing your website to speak the language of different countries and cultures, enabling search engines to find and connect with your global audience.

Unlike Local SEO which focuses on a specific area (eg. city, state, or your mother country), International SEO helps your business cross borders to reach and engage customers around the world, a specific country (eg. Mexico), or world region (eg. Scandinavia).

The ultimate goal of International SEO is to expand reach, get more customers, and increase revenue.

The Key Elements of International SEO

International SEO is a multi-layered strategy. Generally speaking, it’s like a massive upgrade to Local SEO but done for countries other than your native one. It’s way more demanding than Local SEO, mostly because it requires you to understand diverse cultures and their search behavior. Language barriers and legal compliances are yet other elements that must always be considered while planning out your International SEO and sales strategy. However, if I was to name just the two most important elements of Global SEO, these would be hreflangs and content localization.

Hreflang Tags

Hreflang tags are special codes added to web pages that help search engines understand the language and regional targeting of the content. They ensure that the right language version of the webpage is displayed to users based on their preferred language and location.

💡 This basically means that hreflangs tell search engines things like “Hey, this page is meant for people who speak Spanish in Spain, this one is for those who speak Spanish in the USA, and that one is meant for English speakers from Australia”

In essence, hreflang tags ensure that search engines serve the right version of your webpage to the right audience, based on their language and location.

Content Localization

Content localization goes way beyond simple translation. While translation focuses on converting words from one language to another, content localization takes into account the unique cultural nuances, preferences, and expressions used commonly in the target region. It also considers that people from different countries may have distinct search habits and use different terms when looking for your products.

The process of content localization typically involves getting in touch with native speakers, cultural experts, and professional translators to ensure accuracy and cultural sensitivity. It also includes adapting visuals, symbols, and other elements to align with local customs. Also, doing international keyword research without the help of a language expert may be pretty difficult.

If you want to appeal to your target international audience, you absolutely must use region-specific keywords in your web content. Without it, you won’t create a genuine connection with your audience, and consequently, you won’t present your brand as relatable or legit.

Example?

💡 Let’s say you’re a business owner selling “sneakers” in the United States, and you want to expand your market to Germany. In the U.S., people commonly search for “sneakers,” but in Germany, they refer to them as “Turnschuhe.” Even though German people also use the word “sneakers,” they use it way less often than their “Turnschuge.”

If you simply translate your content without considering keyword research for the German market, you might miss out on potential customers who are searching for “Turnschuhe” instead of “sneakers.” By conducting keyword research and using region-specific terms like “Turnschuhe,” you can optimize your content for the German audience, ensuring they find your products without a problem.

You absolutely have to localize your content, because without it, you won’t be able to achieve the amazing benefits of International SEO, such as:

  • reaching diverse audiences
  • increasing the chances of your website showing up in relevant search results for users in different countries
  • creating a more personalized and relevant experience for users
  • enhancing your brand’s reputation as a business that respects and values different cultures

Work on your international SEO by yourself with our free checklist!

Internationa SEO Checklist

Local vs. International SEO: The Key Differences

To me, there are three big differences between Local and International SEO.

Firstly, local SEO is tailored to attract customers from a specific location, like a city or region, helping businesses connect with their local community and nearby customers. On the other hand, International SEO aims to target users from multiple countries and languages, allowing businesses to expand their reach and connect with diverse audiences worldwide.

Secondly, local SEO focuses on location-specific words, while International SEO demands a varied content strategy with region-specific keywords to reach customers from different countries effectively. Before expanding into global markets, you must understand that without devising a completely new content strategy for your website and marketing communication, your International SEO efforts will fall short.

While Local SEO focuses on optimizing for specific geographic locations, International SEO demands cultural sensitivity, multilingual content, and a keen understanding of global search trends.

Thirdly, Local SEO is about being seen in your local area, while International SEO involves using technical tactics (eg. hreflang tags) to make your online offer appear in targeted local search results. It also involves you making the wise choice about picking the right URL structure for your multi-language website. As this aspect is a no-brainer while doing Local SEO, you need to select a URL structure that would both appeal to your international prospects and improve your rankings in local search results.

Apart from hreflangs and URL structure, other technical aspects of International SEO that aren’t typically used in Local SEO include:

  • Geotargeting
  • Using language-specific metadata
  • Implementing content delivery networks
  • Creating international sitemaps
  • Including language switcher

We’ve got so far with our Local vs international SEO analysis. I think it’s a good idea to wrap up what we’ve just discovered. I’m going to do this by listing the top 3 benefits and risks considering each SEO strategy separately.

Local vs International SEO: Benefits and Risks of Each Strategy

Let’s start with going through the pluses and minuses of Local SEO:

Top 3 Benefits of Local SEO Top 3 Risks of Local SEO
High visibility in the local market Limited growth potential beyond the local area
Better engagement with local customers Vulnerable to economic fluctuations in the local market
Builds a strong brand reputation among the target audience May miss out on global business opportunities

Compare it with the strong and weak points of International SEO:

Top 3 Benefits of International SEO Top 3 Risks of International SEO
Access to a larger global audience Increased competition in the global market
Opportunity for international growth and expansion Cultural and language barriers
Diversification of market base Requires careful localization to avoid misinterpretations

Once you’ve grasped the basics of Local vs International SEO, we can move on to

Select the Right SEO Strategy for Your Business

Before you take the plunge and either start investing more in Local SEO or going abroad with your brand, we need to look into three things. First, we need to match an SEO strategy to your business goals, check for market demand, and finally include the budget into the equation. I believe those three aspects should guide you in making the right decision for your business.

Aligning Your SEO Strategies with Business Goals

As an online business owner, choosing the right SEO strategy is crucial for achieving your unique business goals. The first step is aligning your SEO approach with your expansion plans – whether you aim to dominate your local market or enter the global stage. Here are some tips to help you make the right choice:

TIP #1:Clearly outline your business objectives and target audience. Determine if your primary focus is on serving local customers or reaching a broader international audience. This should guide your SEO strategy in the right direction.

TIP #2:If you’re looking to grow within your local area, prioritize Local SEO. Optimize your website for local search, claim your Google Business Profile listing, and encourage customer reviews to boost your visibility in the local market.

TIP #3: To expand internationally, focus on International SEO. Utilize hreflang tags, implement country-specific domain strategies, and tailor your content to resonate with diverse audiences in different languages and regions.

TIP #4: If your business aims for both local dominance and global expansion, consider combining Local and International SEO. Optimize specific pages for local audiences while implementing international strategies to reach broader markets.

TIP #5: Regularly monitor your SEO performance using analytics. Regardless of your business type, regularly monitor your SEO performance using tools like Google Analytics. Analyze website traffic, conversion rates, and keyword rankings.

TIP #6 SEO can be complex, and seeking professional help from an experienced SEO agency or consultant can provide valuable insights and customized solutions for your business.

Assessing Market Demand in Different Geographical Areas

First, analyze your local market potential. Start by evaluating the demand for your products or services in your local area. Use tools like Google Trends and Keyword Planner to identify popular search terms or find trending keywords related to your business in your city or region. If there’s significant demand locally, focusing on Local SEO can help you dominate your immediate market.

Later, try to identify global opportunities. Explore potential markets beyond your local area. Research demand for your offerings in other countries or regions. Analyze keyword data and competitor presence in those locations. If there’s a growing interest or demand for your products internationally, International SEO can open doors to global opportunities.

Then, you should research your target audience preferences in different locations. Tailoring your content and marketing messages to resonate with local customs and preferences is crucial for success. If you find distinct preferences among various regions, International SEO may be the way to go.

You should also assess the level of competition in both local and international markets. If your local niche is saturated with competitors, focusing on International SEO might offer a chance to stand out in less competitive regions.

I’d also advise you to consult with SEO experts to conduct market research for you. This will help you gain insights into potential markets. Professionals can guide you in making data-driven decisions and crafting effective SEO strategies tailored to your business objectives.

Finally, don’t forget that SEO strategies evolve over time. Start with a targeted approach and monitor results. If you see traction in specific locations, consider expanding your efforts in those areas. Regularly assess market demand and adjust your SEO strategy accordingly.

Considering Budget and Resources

If you have a limited budget, focusing on Local SEO can be a better choice, at least for now. By optimizing for local keywords and directories, you can target your immediate market without stretching your budget too thin. Consider investing in targeted local advertising or collaborating with local influencers to amplify your reach.

Also, if you lack the resources to support extensive international efforts, Local SEO may be more manageable. With Local SEO, you can create localized content and engage with your local community to build a strong online presence.

📌 My advice to you is to maximize your available resources by optimizing your Google Business Profile and collecting more positive customer reviews.

You may consider a balanced approach, especially if you have some budget and resources to spare. Prioritize Local SEO for your core market while selectively exploring international opportunities. Target specific countries or regions where demand is promising, and tailor your content accordingly.

Furthermore, don’t forget to measure the return on investment (ROI) of your SEO efforts regularly. Assess how each strategy performs in terms of customer acquisition and revenue generation. Allocate your budget and resources based on the strategies that yield the best results.

I’d also suggest you determine whether you have the expertise and time to handle SEO in-house. If not, outsourcing to a reputable SEO agency can be a smart investment. An agency can create a tailored SEO plan, optimize your website, and track performance while freeing up your time to focus on your core business activities.

And finally, consider your long-term vision for your business. If you aspire to expand globally in the future, even a gradual start with International SEO can lay the groundwork for future growth.

Local vs International SEO: Summarizing the Key Distinctions for Your Growth

Indeed, making the choice between local vs international SEO isn’t an easy one. Each strategy has its own unique benefits and risks, and the decision on which approach to take should align with your specific business objectives and circumstances.

To help you make the right choice, let’s quickly run through the most important aspects of local and international SEO.

Aspect Local SEO International SEO
Target audience Customers in a specific location (eg. city or state) Multiple countries and languages
Market focus Dominate the immediate market and connect with local customers Reach a diverse global audience and explore with new markets
Keyword strategy Localized keywords Country-specific keyword targeting and language variations
Content strategy Tailored to local audience preferences and culture Adapted for different languages and customs
Technical considerations Local listings optimization (eg. Google Business Profile) Hreflang tags, domain strategies, and geotargeting
Budget & resources Cost-effective for small local business Requires more extensive resources for global expansion

📌 Let me give you the last piece of advice.

If you’re still unsure about whether to focus and invest more in Local SEO to enhance visibility within your local audience or explore new international markets, it might be better to consult with an experienced SEO agency like Delante. With our hands-on experience, we offer you personalized recommendations and strategies tailored to your business needs. Having an SEO Specialist to talk with can save you time and effort, ensuring you make the best decision for your business’s growth and success.

Alternatively, you may use some valuable insights and effective strategies we developed for our past Clients:

I wholeheartedly encourage you to explore our case studies available under the “Case Studies” tab. You will find workable solutions and actionable SEO tactics that you can implement on your website.

So, make the right choice for your business – whether to dominate your local market or expand abroad with a strong SEO strategy. Whichever path you choose, we’re here to support you, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed for your success!

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Author
Delante

Delante is an online marketing agency specialized in generating website traffic from search engines and paid ads (SEO / SEM). Over 80% of our clients are from rapidly growing e-commerce industry.

Author
Logo Delante
Author
Delante

Delante is an online marketing agency specialized in generating website traffic from search engines and paid ads (SEO / SEM). Over 80% of our clients are from rapidly growing e-commerce industry.

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FAQ

What's the difference between Local SEO and International SEO?

Local SEO targets a specific geographic area, while International SEO focuses on reaching audiences across different countries and cultures.

What are some benefits and risks of Local SEO?

Benefits of Local SEO include high local visibility and better engagement. Risks include limited growth potential and vulnerability to local economic changes.

What are the benefits and risks associated with International SEO?

International SEO offers a larger audience and diversification, but comes with increased competition and cultural/language barriers.

How can businesses decide between Local SEO and International SEO?

Align your SEO strategy with your business goals, assess market demand in different areas, and consider your budget and resources to make an informed decision.

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