6 common international SEO fails and how to avoid them

If you already run an international website or have international expansion on your road map, there are several common SEO issues which can hold back your success.

In this article we’ll look at six international SEO mistakes that you could be making, to help you look out for and avoid them on your site.


One mistake we see with people taking their first step into an international market is not considering the current domain they have.

If you have a .co.uk domain name, for example, you will need to consider getting a new domain for each market you go into, as a .co.uk won’t perform as well in international search engines as it is a UK-focused ccTLD.

IP serving

This is something which, from a development point of view, sounds like the perfect fix. Automatically redirecting people to the correct international version of your website based on their IP address, and so location, does sound really useful.

In its truest form, IP serving cannot be overwritten and a user in a specific country will always be redirected to the site for that country. There are, however, a number of reasons why this isn’t always the right approach to take.

Firstly, you can’t assume that all users in a particular location are from that country. If your IP serving can’t be overwritten by a user, this will mean that anyone in a particular country will be forced to use the site in that language/currency, which doesn’t then take into consideration someone who is travelling or not native to the country in question. This isn’t a great user experience.

The second issue of IP serving is that it will affect your SEO, as search engines aren’t able to crawl your site from every country you may cover. As a result, you will find that your international sites won’t perform as well in the search engines as you would expect.

On many occasions I’ve seen websites with IP serving being used which have real issues in their visibility, with the wrong website appearing in the search results. Google in particular, has real issues with this and I’ve seen local and US sites swapping in the search results on a weekly basis.

I’ve also seen brands who use IP serving, having to buy local language ads in a market to make up for the fact that their local language site doesn’t show up in the search results.

Below is an example of the US Calvin Klein website showing as the top search result for a brand search in Sweden. This is because they use IP serving, and Google is following this to the US site only.

Assuming English is OK

Another big issue for people taking the first steps into an international market is assuming English is OK for certain markets. Common assumptions in this area include assuming that English is OK for the Scandinavian countries, because they all speak English right?

Depending on what the purpose of your website is, this approach might not work. For example, B2B brands looking to encourage people to make a large financial commitment, or high-end retailers, might want to avoid doing this. Generally, the more people are spending the more they will want to see content in their own language, they are investing in you, so you should invest in them.

The other issue with this assumption is that the users in your international markets are more likely to be searching in their local language and not in English, so even if they are comfortable purchasing from you in English, they might not find your site as they will be searching for your products or services in their local language.

Automatic translation

Moving on from using English, some people think the easiest way to implement translation on a website is to use some form of automated translation tool. This is not recommended.

Firstly, these translations, while often dictionary perfect, don’t necessarily reflect how people in any given market speak, they may also miss the nuances of search behavior which could result in you losing out on using words on your website which potential customers are using.

For example, the dictionary correct German word for tickets (such as attraction tickets) is ‘Karten’ but we find there is often more search volume around this topic using the English word ‘Ticket’ in the German market.

Another note on Google Translate as a plugin on your site; although the Google translate tool is super useful it doesn’t change anything on your website which Google the search engine will see.

This means that the translated content it creates in every possible language, isn’t indexed in Google’s results and so does not help you to become findable in the search results when someone searches for you in Brazilian Portuguese, for example.

Getting the language wrong

This is the worst-case scenario, and thankfully something I’ve only seen a handful of times to it’s worst extent. This is the process of completely missing the language you should be using.

A few years back I was reviewing a website which was looking to promote its business into Hong Kong. The website was well put together, and all their SEO was in place and working well. The images were showing local people and the content was all in Chinese.

The issue was that the content was all in Simplified Chinese. Simplified Chinese is used in mainland China. For Hong Kong, the target market of this website, the language should have been Traditional Chinese.

Smaller less dramatic examples of this are forgetting that sometimes users are separated by a common language. Everyone knows the trite “differences” between English for the US and the UK (use of S or Z in some words and whether or not there is a U present in other words).

There are other differences which you need to be aware of depending on the products you are selling.  For example, Egg Plants vs Aubergines and Football vs Soccer.

Hreflang tags

This is one of the biggest areas where people experience problems with their international website strategy. In fact, John Mueller from Google said in February that Hreflang tags are hard!

I’ve seen some humorous attempts at getting the tags right in my time, including people making up countries (Arabia for example) or trying to target an English language .eu domain to every country in Europe with something like 23 individual tags!

There are number of things to watch out for with these tags, mainly around making sure you format the code correctly, don’t make up language and country combinations and that you aren’t linking through to pages which are different from those in your canonical tag, or broken pages!

These are just some of the biggest fails I’ve seen over the years, but hopefully enough to give you a clue as to what you should be avoiding with your website.

Like all SEO, when going international it’s important to make sure that things are right from day one but to keep an eye on things to make sure no issues creep in over time. Your international websites can help your brand grow and get more business, but only if they are set up correctly and nurtured.

Related reading

Where Clickbait, Linkbait, and Viral Content Fit in SEO Campaigns – Whiteboard Friday

When is it smart to focus on viral-worthy content and clickbait? When is it not? To see fruitful returns from these kinds of efforts, they need to be done the right way and used in the right places. Rand discusses what kind of content investments make sense for this type of strategy and explains why it works in this week’s Whiteboard Friday.

Where clickbait, linkbait, and viral content fit in SEO campaigns

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about when and where you might use clickbait and linkbait and viral-focused content as compared to other types for your SEO-driven campaigns.

There’s a lot of savvy sort of folks at the intersection of SEO and content marketing who are practicing things like this right now. We’ve actually spoken to a few agencies who are specifically focused on this, and they have really solid businesses because many brands understand that these types of investments can produce significant returns. But you have to apply them in the right scenarios and the right spaces. So let’s walk through that.

Content investments

Let’s say that you’re a payroll software provider. Your goal is to increase traffic and conversions, and so you’re considering what types of content investments you and your consultant or agency or in-house team might be making on the content front. That could be things like what we’ve got here:

A. Viral, news-worthy linkbait

I don’t necessarily love the word “linkbait,” but it still gets a lot of searches, so we’re putting it in the title of the Whiteboard Friday because we practice what we preach here, baby.

So this might be something like “The Easiest and Hardest Places to Start a Company.” Maybe it’s countries, maybe it’s states, regions, whatever it is. So here are the easy ones and the hard ones and the criteria, and you go out to a bunch of press and you say, “Hey, we produced this list. We think it’s worth covering. Here’s the criteria we used.” You go out to a bunch of companies. You go out to a bunch of state governments. You go out to a bunch of folks who cover this type of space, and hopefully you can get some clickbait, some folks actually clicking, some folks linking.

It doesn’t necessarily have the most search volume. Folks aren’t necessarily interested in, “Oh, what are the hardest places to start a company? Or what are the hardest versus easiest places to start a company?” Maybe you get a few, but it’s not necessarily going to drive direct types of traffic that this payroll software provider can convert into customers.

B. Searcher-focused solutions

But there are other options for that, like searcher-focused solutions. So they might say, “Hey, we want to build some content around how to set up payroll as an LLC. That gets a lot of searches. We serve LLCs with our payroll solution. Let’s try and target those folks. So here’s how to set up payrolls in LLCs in six easy steps. There are the six steps.”

C. Competitor comparison content

They see that lots of people are looking for them versus other competitors. So they set up a page that’s “QuickBooks versus Gusto versus Square: Which Software is Right for Your Business?” so that they can serve that searcher intent.

D. Conversion-funnel-serving content

So they see that, after searching for their brand name, people also search for, “Can I use this for owner employees, businesses that have owner employees only?” So no employees who are not owners. What’s the payroll story with them? How do I get that sorted out? So you create content around this.

All of these are types of content that serve SEO, but this one, this viral-focused stuff is the most sort of non-direct. Many times, brands have a tough time getting their head around why they would invest in that. So do SEOs. So let’s explain that.

If a website’s domain authority, their sort of overall link equity at the domain level is already high, they’ve got lots and lots of links going to lots of places on the site and additional links that don’t go to the conversion-focused pages that they’re specifically trying to rank for, for focused keyword targets isn’t really required, then really B, C, and D are where you should spend your time and energy. A is not a great investment. It’s not solving the problem you want to solve.

If the campaign needs…

  • More raw brand awareness – People knowing who the company is, they haven’t heard of them before. You’re trying to build that first touch or that second touch so that people in the space know who you are.
  • Additional visitors for re-targeting – You’re trying to get additional visitors who might fit into your target audience so that you can re-target and remarket to them, reach them again;
  • You have a need for more overall links really to anywhere on the domain – Just to boost your authority, to boost your link equity so that you can rank for more stuff…

Then A, that viral-focused content makes a ton of sense, and it is a true SEO investment. Even though it doesn’t necessarily map very well to conversions directly, it’s an indirect path to great potential SEO success.

Why this works:

Why does this work? Why is it that if I create a piece of viral content on my site that earns a lot of links and attention and awareness, the other pieces of content on my site will suddenly have a better opportunity to rank? That’s a function of how Google operates fundamentally, well, Google and people.

So, from Google’s perspective, it works because in the case where Google sees DomainX.com, which has lots of pages earning many, many different links from all around the web, and DomainY.com, which may be equally relevant to the search query and maybe has just as good content but has few links pointing to it and those links, maybe the same number of links are pointing to the specific pages targeting a specific keyword, but overall across the domain, X is just much, much greater than Y. Google interprets that as more links spread across the content on X makes the search engine believe that X is more authoritative and potentially even more relevant than Y is. This content has been referenced more in more different ways from more places, therefore its relevance and authority are perceived as higher. If Y can go ahead and make a viral content investment that draws in lots and lots of new links, it can potentially compete much better against X.

This is true for people and human beings too. If you’re getting lots and lots of visitors all over Domain X, but very few on Domain Y, even if they’re going in relatively similar proportion to the product-focused pages, the fact that X is so much better known by such a broader audience means that conversions are likely to be better. People know them, they trust them, they’ve heard of them before, therefore, your conversion rate goes up and Domain X outperforms Domain Y. So for people and for search engines, this viral-focused content in the right scenario can be a wonderful investment and a wise one to make to serve your SEO strategy.

All right, everyone. Look forward to your comments below. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

7 Google Tag Manager courses to prioritize in 2018

If you love data (and what marketing expert doesn’t?), then learning Google Tag Manager should be high on your priority list this year.

Unfortunately, many spend so much time on Google Analytics that GTM gets pushed to the wayside. Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a powerful, versatile tool that helps you track and manage your own website data.

Since understanding analytics is increasingly important for businesses of all sizes, there’s no better time to start learning GTM than right now.

So what exactly does Google Tag Manager do for you? In a nutshell, this tool lets you easily add snippets of code called tags to your site. These tags track things your visitors do.

For instance, you could set up tags to track how many people download a specific file, which channels bring visitors to your site, and even how quickly visitors scroll through your pages. The tags then send your information to your third-party sites of choice, such as Google Analytics or Bing Ads.

The GTM web interface is easy to use and requires no in-depth coding skills, so you can stay on top of your tracking without relying on your web developer to do everything for you.

Getting started with Google Tag Manager isn’t always an intuitive process. You’ll probably want to seek out some training instead of trying to figure things out as you go.

Whether you’re brand-new to this tool or you have some basic knowledge about it already, here are seven courses that will help you get the hang of GTM and take charge of your data.

1. The 2018 Google Analytics Bootcamp on Udemy

If you’re not sure where to start learning GTM, the 2018 Google Analytics Bootcamp on Udemy is a great place to begin. I’ve found that this course is unique among the many other Google Analytics courses out there because it doesn’t just teach you the basics of Google Analytics – it also shows you how to combine that tool with Google Tag Manager.

GTM is essential for making the most of Google Analytics, yet many marketers don’t learn it until long after they’ve mastered the GA basics. Learning both together is a smart way to ensure you make quick progress right out of the gate.

The 2018 Google Analytics Bootcamp on Udemy will get you up to speed with both Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager

If you know a little bit about Google Analytics already, but you want to start getting more out of it, you will most likely find this course helpful. You’ll learn how to set up a Google Analytics property the right way, read and understand reports, and track different kinds of data using Google Tag Manager.

If you’re an intermediate-level marketer, some of this course’s Google Analytics information may be familiar to you already, but it’s still a great introduction to GTM.

I was able to get this course during a Udemy sale for less than the original cost, and with the course you’ll get lifetime access to three hours of instructional videos, several supplemental resources, and a certificate of completion.

Udemy has frequent sales, so if this price is a little steep for you now, keep an eye on the course – you may be able to snag it at a discount later.

2. Google Tag Manager Fundamentals course by Google

If you’re just getting started with Google Tag Manager, why not go straight to the source for information?

Google’s own course provides a solid and comprehensive overview of using GTM. And like Google’s other analytics courses, this course is free. Just keep in mind that you’ll probably want to combine this course with at least one other.

This will ensure you get a well-rounded perspective on GTM.

After you finish the Google Tag Manager Fundamentals course, you can brush up on your skills with some of Google’s other free courses

3. Google Tag Manager Essential Training on Lynda.com

If you’ve ever browsed through Lynda.com’s extensive library of tech-related videos, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that they offer a Google Tag Manager course.

This course is just over two hours long and provides an overview of the most important aspects of using GTM, from creating containers to understanding the data layer.

Google Tag Manager Essential Training on Lynda.com

If you don’t already have a Lynda.com subscription, prices start at $25/month. You may also be able to get free access to the site through your workplace, school, or public library.

4. Google Tag Manager YouTube Series by Weboq

YouTube can be a great place to learn about almost anything, including Google Tag Manager.

If you’re a beginner or intermediate-level marketer, you may find Weboq’s GTM playlist very useful, even though it’s not a course per se. This playlist starts with the basics and tackles more complex topics later on.

If you want to learn to do something specific with GTM – like installing Hotjar or remarketing with AdWords, for instance – you’ll find plenty of specific, step-by-step how-tos here.

Weboq’s Google Tag Manager YouTube playlist starts with the basics

5. Google Tag Manager Tutorials on YouTube by Measureschool

Measureschool’s channel is another good resource for learning about Google Tag Manager on YouTube. There’s a lot of content here, directed towards a wide range of skill levels – beginners as well as advanced users will be able to find something helpful.

This channel is updated with new videos regularly, so if you like the material, check back for fresh GTM tips and tutorials every week or two.

Measureschool publishes new Google Tag Manager tutorials on YouTube regularly

6. Master the Fundamentals of Google Tag Manager by CXL

This results-oriented course, led by marketing expert Chris Mercer, is designed to take you from beginner to proficient in GTM in just eight classes.

Starting from the very first class, which walks you through setting up a tag, you’ll practice essential hands-on GTM skills. This course also gives you access to 10 video lessons that explain the more conceptual side of GTM, such as understanding what tags, triggers, and variables are.

After you finish the course, you’ll get a certificate of completion. This course is on the pricey side at $299, but if you’re motivated and want to see results ASAP, it may be worth the cost.

CXL’s beginner-level Google Tag Manager course will get you up and running in eight classes

7. Google Tag Manager Workshop by LunaMetrics

Online classes are convenient and accessible, but sometimes, the ability to ask questions and discuss new concepts in person is priceless.

If you learn best in a real-life classroom environment, LunaMetrics’ in-person GTM training sessions might be ideal for you. These day-long workshops are offered in major cities across the U.S., from Los Angeles to Boston.

Cities where LunaMetrics holds training sessions for Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics, and more. Source

Prices start at $799 for a one-day workshop. While this isn’t a cheap way to learn Google Tag Manager, keep in mind that you’re also getting a unique opportunity to network with other marketers and collaborate while you learn – something that’s hard to replicate over the internet.

Wrapping up

Google Tag Manager is a must-have tool for every marketer and data-savvy webmaster out there. While it has a bit of a learning curve, GTM opens up tons of possibilities for tracking and improving your site’s performance, so it’s well worth putting in the time and effort to learn how to use it.

Which of these Google Tag Manager courses are you going to focus on this year?

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for No Risk SEO, an all-in-one reporting platform for agencies. You can connect with Amanda on Twitter and LinkedIn, or check out her content services at amandadisilvestro.com.

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