4 reasons why international SEO fails

Managing and optimizing global websites presents unique challenges for international SEO. Be it an online store that has expanded its distribution to various countries or simply the desire to have your own website available in more languages in order to reach a larger target group. This is a good measure in itself, but it can lead to some problems on the international market. Find out more about four of these reasons and how you can do better.

The best SEO practices should be the same for every website. However, when it comes to international SEO, we often find that best practices that work well for one website are not enough for another.

But why is this the case and why do even experienced SEO professionals find it difficult to optimize and manage global websites? What makes it so difficult?

There are numerous reasons for this and every website has its own unique problems. In this article, you’ll learn about four of the most common problems that keep international website owners (and the SEOs who help them) awake at night.

For the sake of simplicity, I refer to a website that was originally created for a country in which the company’s headquarters are located as the “original” website and other global websites as “

1. local websites are not localized and optimized

This may sound silly, as all sites should be localized and optimized.

Unfortunately, local websites go online more often than they should. For example, there may not have been enough time to fully translate the local websites before the launch. Once launched, new content is added to the local website as a copied version of the same content on the original website. The websites and pages are eventually translated into the local language, but no further localization or optimization work is done, as the original website has already been optimized.

Why this is a problem:

If copied pages go online on the local websites without translation, they become duplicate content on the website. This is a problem even if the local websites are located on different domains.

In addition:

The translated or localized pages may not be optimized for the right keywords.

The local pages may not be as well optimized as the original content because the grammar structures are different or the translators want to make sentences or paragraphs easier to read for the local audience. Sometimes they have to change the header text so that the translated version fits the context, which removes keywords.


If possible, you should only put the website or pages online after the translation or localization work has been completed. Also include quick local keyword research and optimization in the website and a content launch process for the local websites.

The optimization process should not be complicated, especially if the local websites use the same website and template designs.

2. local websites are not created for local target groups

Regardless of the industry in which your company operates, your target audience may have different interests and needs from country to country and market to market. What works well for the original website developed for one country does not necessarily apply to other countries.

Why this is a problem:

Assuming that the audience and the market have the same interests and needs in every country in the world is one of the biggest mistakes companies make – online and offline. If you don’t understand the local audience, including how and what they search for, your SEO efforts may be focused on the wrong content, topics, etc.

In this case, your business will not grow in local markets, even if you are ranked number one for all search terms.


Research, study and get to know the audience of each target country.

Due to resource constraints, it may not be realistic to explore all local markets at once. In this case, you should prioritize the countries according to the size of the company. Many companies have already categorized the countries according to priority levels. Simply using words that local audiences use in your content has a huge impact on visibility and conversions. Another way to increase the conversion rate is to place the terms that are popular with the local target group at the top of the list.

3. several websites are not taken into account in SEO projects

Global websites have similar, if not the same, structures and content as the original website on the local websites. If this is the case, it is not enough to follow the best SEO practices developed for a website. You must now consider how several websites can exist without interfering with each other.

Why this is a problem:

Global websites mean that you immediately create duplicate content on multiple websites. Even if all your global websites are targeted to different languages, as I mentioned in reason one, local websites are often launched without being fully translated and localized. I have already seen Chinese websites where half of the content was still in English. Sometimes the pages are only partially translated for a long time.

If your local websites are immature, there’s a good chance that the original website’s pages will rank better in the local market – especially for brand-related search terms – and cannibalize the performance of local websites.

Another common problem with global websites is that the web pages of local sites take forever to load, causing search engines to display them instead of the faster original site. Not many companies test loading speed and other website performance metrics for all global websites. They only test the original website and assume that all local websites also perform well.

Don’t make this mistake!


With most analytics tools, you can check the location of organic search traffic on any website. For example, if you find that many visits from Australia or Japan are being directed to your GER website instead of their local websites, you may have both a speed and a geotargeting problem.

Product names and part numbers are the best keywords to test whether or not a page is ranking correctly in a particular country, as these are not usually translated.

There are a number of ways to support geotargeting, but implementing hreflang elements would be the most effective way to get the local website to rank. If you test the loading speed of pages in all target countries, you may find that a page takes 15 seconds or longer to load in some countries, whereas it only takes 2 seconds in the USA, for example. In the worst cases, the pages do not load at all and crash.

One way to solve this problem is to use local hosting to reduce the loading time for local users. There are many companies that offer local hosting services that automatically redirect local visitors to the best server.

4. local sites are kept free

By using the same website structures, web page templates, content, etc. across all global websites, you can maintain consistent SEO efforts and quality relatively easily. If all websites use the same web page template design, you only need to optimize it for the original website and pass it on to all local websites. Because if they all use the same template and include the same fields with localized elements, you don’t have to optimize them multiple times for each global website.

Why this is a problem:

Each of the above example scenarios can lead to a considerably large and complicated problem of duplication, update issues and wasted resources. These locally created websites, content and microsites are probably not optimized according to the company ‘s SEO best practices. They may be using outdated designs, messaging, etc. as new templates are not being applied to the local websites.

This is particularly problematic if you create a microsite with similar content, as you now have duplicate or near-duplicate content. Local teams may fall for outdated tactics or gimmicks that run counter to corporate best practices, which could hurt the performance of local sites.


When local teams feel the need to create their own pages and websites, it’s usually because they feel that the global websites are not suitable for the growth of their local businesses. When the team in the central office carries out website management and search engine optimization activities, it is important to communicate with the local teams to understand their needs.

Determine the reasons why you think the current website is not suitable and make adjustments if possible. Create global SEO best practice guidelines and standards that all local teams can follow. Educate them on the basic SEO standards and why they are necessary.

It is also important to let the local teams know that their deviations from these standards can cause critical problems not only for the local website, but for all websites. In some cases, local teams may still want to create microsites. In this case, you should provide a list of “dos” and “don’ts” for microsites. Providing a dedicated template or content area on the website where the local team can create local-only content is one way to solve the problem and meet you halfway.

Perhaps one of the most important solutions is to involve the local teams in the planning discussions so that they have the opportunity to voice their concerns, understand the objectives and be better prepared for upcoming changes to the site.

The most important things to take away

There are a number of reasons why international search engine optimization can fail, but there are also a number of solutions to prevent and improve global and local website performance.

When launching global websites, expect to face some of these issues that are unique to international search engine optimization and develop a plan to minimize as many points of failure as possible.

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