Chapter 1 - The Difference Between International SEO and Local SEO

When we’re talking about international and local, they are very different. With international SEO, people often refer to localized content and localization of content, but that doesn’t necessarily mean local SEO.  These are the differences.

  • International SEO is the process of optimizing your website so that search engines can easily identify which countries you want to target and which languages you use for business.
  • Local SEO is a search engine optimization strategy that helps your business be more visible in local search results on Google. Any business that has a physical location or serves a geographic area can benefit from local SEO.

International SEO is optimizing your website so that search engines around the world can understand your website and it can rank in the relevant markets and for the relevant languages. You need to ensure that your content is localised so it is relevant to that specific market.

An example of this would be fashion ecommerce sites, for whom it is important that they are optimising the site towards the seasons that are present in their target country at that time. This, of course, varies. An example of localisation can be seen on Nike’s sites in the screenshots below.

Nike’s main navigation for the Australian site:

Nike’s main navigation for the GB site:

Local SEO is more geographically focused, based on searches that are navigational and city or town specific. This is where search features such as the map pack and knowledge panel come into play. An example of this can be seen below, where the Impression site has two offices and the location searches bring up the appropriate office.


Search result for ‘impression digital london’ which links to Impression’s London office and includes the London knowledge panel.


Chloe Fair

Senior SEO Strategist at Impression

Chloe is a senior SEO strategist at Impression, an award-winning digital marketing agency. She is responsible for managing large client accounts and heading up Impression’s international SEO service. She started her SEO career over 6 years ago working for an international travel company in Munich, Germany where she found her strengths in assisting with site launches and new market entry. Chloe specialises keyword and content mapping, language & culture and understanding the impact & risks of new market entry. She supports small and large businesses in improving their organic presence in the UK and globally across over 40 markets.

Watch our Tea Time SEO session here:

Table of Contents

Can we help?

If you are looking for an easy way to automate much of the advice given in this guide, then please book a call with one of our platform experts to explore whether we have what you need.

When learning International SEO from the beginning, it is always important to get to grips with these key terms and definition. There are some commonly used phrases, terms and buzzwords that repeatedly crop up and have caused confusion in the past:


A canonical is an important element of a page that needs to be set up correctly in order for the Hreflang tag structure, defined below, to be optimal. A canonical tag is a way of telling a search engine which URL is the master copy of that page. You would therefore have a self-referring canonical tag on the master page and then canonical tags on twin pages, if this is relevant.

Example canonical tag:
<link rel=”canonical” href=””/>

Hreflang Tag

An Hreflang Tag is an attribute that shows the search engine what language your page is in and allows you to tell the search engine if you have the same page in other languages. If you are unsure of what a specific country and language code is for your target market, then you can refer to this guide.

Example Hreflang tag;
link rel=”alternate” href=”” hreflang=”en-us” />

Translated content

Considering best practice SEO where optimising for a positive user experience is key, translated content is frowned upon. This is a consideration especially when content is translated more literally, perhaps by a translation tool or a translator who has no understanding of the wider context of the page or brand.

Search result for ‘impression digital nottingham’ which links to Impression’s homepage, due to this being the main office and default location, and includes the Nottingham knowledge panel.

Continue reading about International SEO