SEO Abroad: Ranking in other countries

Ian Lurie

Selling stuff in another country? Surprise! Google, Yahoo! and Live don’t just transfer your .com rankings worldwide. You might keep the same position abroad. But if you want to compete in the rankings on, say or, you’ll probably need to take some steps:

  • Create a separate site. Oh my god you say. Ian, how can you ask us to make another site? The first one almost killed us! This one doesn’t have to. First, if the new site is in another language, you can just translate what you’ve got. Second, if the new site is in the same language, you can create a smaller site with unique content. It’s worth the effort.
  • Localize your site. ‘Translated’ means you converted your yeses to jas and your nos to neins. Localized means someone who understands the culture and mores of the country reviewed your site to make sure you don’t insult anyone. It’s entirely possible the attractive model on your home page is giving an entire nation the finger. It pays to check. Hire a translation/localization company that does this – it pays off.
  • Buy a local domain. On, will get preference over It pays to host your localized site at the first level domain for that country. Most major registrars make it easy to reserve nation-specific domains.
  • Host locally. IT teams realllly love me when I say this. Nothing like having your web sites spread across 10 different hosting providers to really make site maintenance a breeze (that’s sarcasm). Search engines check your web site’s ip address — that weird number that designates your web site’s unique home on the internet — to see where the site’s hosted. If your server is located within the relevant country, you’ll get extra ranking juice.
  • Use the right keywords. In the USA we might search for ‘18-wheelers’. In Britain, though, folks search for ‘articulated lorries’ (I love that term. I could say it all day…). Make sure you’re using the words folks search for within that country. Do the research. Use that localization company you just hired to help you find the right phrases.
  • Do not use an automated translation service. You probably get e-mails from Dr. Richard Dixon or some other fictional character saying he specializes in getting your site ranked abroad. This spammer’s real specialty? Relieving you of $99 or so, then using Google Translate to convert your site to something that reads like the drugged ramblings of a mentally ill parrot. Use a real translator.

We Americans are legendary for our ability to misunderstand, ignore, insult or otherwise write off other cultures. If you live in the US, please, break the trend. We now have a President who can spell. Everyone has their hopes up. Don’t let the world down. You can do your patriotic duty and make some extra money in the mean time.

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  1. Keeping site hosted in the dedicated country and country-specific domain is not a must, but it still helps. In case you can not host it in these countries or buy appropriate domain, set target country in google webmaster tools. This might have one drawback though – there is no way to select multiple regions there.

  2. You know I haven’t really thought about ranking in other countries and I guess in order to gain more exposure and rank, I need to seriously consider this. Thanks for sharing this!

  3. This is a daily issue for me and my clients. Working in Ireland so many websites are targeted to the UK with .ie domain names and hosting in Ireland and questions as to why this does not work… my poor wee head sometimes.
    I am not sure either about translating everything into another language and getting another domain name and hosting. We have had fairly good sucess with keeping the translations on the same site.

  4. @Leslie I agree. Translation and hosting abroad is generally at the bottom of the list. We do it when all other options have been used.

  5. I help U.S. companies to market in Asia (especially in Japan), and I often get speechless when some folks ask me a question such as “Is there any way I can find search keywords for Japan market in English?” I truly appreciated this post to get the word out about the reality that different SEO strategies need to be employed in other countries. Thank you!

  6. I had recently registered a domain for my business which is located in Hong Kong. I am getting good results from Yahoo! Hong Kong, but poor results in Google. Let’s see if time will make a difference.

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