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Traffic. All sites want it and most sites generally get it–whether or not it’s the type (quality) of traffic you want is another matter altogether. For some globally oriented websites it doesn’t matter where the traffic comes from, but for most sites, whether a content-oriented site or an ecommerce site, it matters a lot.

A Nike example

An ecommerce site is selling Nike Livewell shoes and, for the sake of argument, certain countries do not allow the Nike Livewell shoes to be sold in those countries. Without location-based SEO strategies in place, someone searching online in India may get to a site that is selling these shoes yet cannot buy due to the fact the Nike Livewell shoes aren’t available in their country.

To the person conducting the search, they are annoyed because they searched using their country-specific search engine (Google India) and found results suggesting that they could buy the shoes they were interested in. However, the site didn’t qualify their prospects by using local organic search techniques, therefore their metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) are askew.

What makes the task more difficult is when people use broad search terms find products or information. With broad based search terms like “Nike Livewell” it becomes virtually impossible to optimize a site for various audiences in other countries. By contrast, “Nike Livewell in India” becomes much easier to optimize for because the searcher is specifying they are looking to find the Nike Livewell shoes in India, but most people search using more broadly based keywords.

So, how does a site optimize for search that targets people in other countries?

  1. Domain Name
    Simple rule of thumb for search engines is relevance. That is ultimately what they are striving for: to provide their users with the most relevant results for the search term they used. In addition to keywords, title, H1 tags (among many more elements) and content, the domain name in which the country is registered also plays a factor.For example, if you are in Canada searching for travel destinations Google is more likely to show you results from .ca domains like, than it will the .com (USA) equivalent. Why? Google is trying to create relevancy between what you searched for and where you are located. It knows that most people would prefer to deal with travel advisors/sites from their home country.So, the first step in targeting organic search traffic from another country is to register a country specific domain. .CA for Canada, .IN for India, .CN for China.
  2. Hosting Location
    Now that we have a country specific domain name the next step is to host that domain in the country for which is being targeted. That means if a German audience is being targeted, then we should have the domain/website hosted in a German facility. Search engines, especially Google, look at location of hosting to further qualify relevance to the searcher in that country. Sites with an IP hosted in Germany will be considered more relevant to German searchers than those sites with American or Canadian IP addresses.

There’s one more element that is very often an overlooked part of SEO regardless of the audience being targeted and that’s content. Unfortunately, content is such an exhaustive and expansive topic that it deserves a blog entry of its own to properly address. So stay tuned for that blog entry coming soon!

For now, though, you can start with country-specific domain name and hosting locations which should get the ball rolling in attracting traffic from international audiences. Good luck!

Learn more about how public-sector organizations are using SEO.