Obtaining international links is up there as one of the most challenging tasks in International SEO. But much like SEO campaigns for national and local audiences, it's also key to your success.
In this post, I offer some tips and processes to kick-off your international link building campaign.
Why you need to up your game for international link building
The bottom line is that link building is essential for SEO. Whether you’re planning and undertaking local or international SEO, backlinks remain an important Google ranking signal. However, building links to your international content can be a challenge when you the take the following into consideration:
- The competition could be much hotter
- Link sources are different
- Different languages and dialects
- Consumer profiles, trends and behaviours are often different to domestic markets
The good news is that there are various tools and techniques to help you and your business overcome these challenges when it comes to obtaining international links.
1. Identify & leverage existing international backlinks
If your business already serves multiple international territories, there is a good chance that you may have some high quality, territory-specific links pointing to your domain. However, for effective international SEO, these links should be pointing to territory specific content. For example, links from French websites could be pointing to UK English content.
For some quick-wins, run a backlink report of your domain using tools such as SEMRush or Screaming Frog SEO Spider (which is free up to 500 URLs) and identify any external links that could be pointed to more territory specific content on your domain. SEMrush even gives you a top-level breakdown of where your current backlinks are coming from.
2. Research & learn from your international competitors
Researching your international competitors is one of the most important activities you will undertake to develop search visibility in new territories. You can learn a great deal from main competitors whether you’re new to a specific territory, or new to SEO.
SEMRush is your top destination for international competitor research. From the start, you can enter a target keyword or topic in the Keyword Analytics tool and SEMrush will provide keyword data for current Google page one competitors. From there you can switch between different territories.
You can then take the competitors you have identified and run them through the Domain Analytics tool for an indication of where they’ve obtained backlinks. There’s even a Competitors tab which will have SEMrush find and present other competing domains within a chosen territory. It’s not 100% accurate but it does help identify other competitors under the radar.
3. Don’t miss out on overseas mentions
Do you have Google Alerts set up to monitor brand mentions in target territories? Make sure that these are configured to pick up mentions of your brand, products and services in international territories. Picking up mentions in your target territories gives you another weapon in your international link building arsenal.
4. Earn links with local content
Great content lies at the heart of a successful link building strategy. While you can localise universally suitable product and service pages for foreign markets, creating link-earning content for different territories requires a greater degree of planning, research and strategy. One size doesn’t fit all, so one specific blog won’t necessarily appeal to multiple territories. The bottom line is that if you want to create content that’s worth reading, sharing and linking back to from other international influencers and websites, you need to go beyond simply translating English content.
If you don’t have the dedicated resource to produce content in the local lingo, I would recommend enlisting help from native speakers and writers. Google Translate simply won’t be enough.
With regards to fueling new ideas for international content, tools such as Ahrefs and SEMrush will both provide comprehensive competitor research on top linked content. Meanwhile, Buzzsumo will allow you to search by competitor domain or topic and will return with top pieces of content by filtered territory.
Still need more inspiration for new content to appeal to international audiences? Use Google Search Console’s Search Analytics tool. It’s awesome, and it’s free.
Whether you’ve taken the option of top-level domains to target each territory, or sub-domains or folders under a single domain, make sure that you’ve added them as separate profiles in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Until then, you can filter keywords by country in the Search Console profile of your top-level domain. This will help give you some ideas for new content to better serve these search queries.
Another way to find international content opportunities is using Google search operators. Fire up isearchfrom.com to simulate Google search from a different location, and use operators such as inurl: “submit guest post” to find international guest blogging opportunities.
5. Identify international influencers
Your competitor research will help you a great deal with identifying international link building opportunities, but it’s important to fill the gaps and identify online influencers within international territories that are going to help promote your content.
If you want to find influencers, bloggers and journalists within particular international territories, Buzzsumo is a good place to start. Buzzsumo’s influencers tool will allow you to search for top influencers based on your keyword or topic. From there, you can filter by location for a specific list and save them to a personalised outreach list.
6. Leverage paid social advertising
To give your internationally targeted content a boost, I highly recommend that you take advantage of paid social advertising on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. If you’re relatively new to a specific country or international territory, your social media authority may not be strong enough to reach audiences and key influencers organically. This is where sponsored posts can help.
LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook each have Geo-targeting functionality. This will allow you to run sponsored posts to audiences in specific countries or territories. By leveraging paid social, you’re giving yourself an opportunity to boost content to wider, location-specific audiences and earn natural high quality links. However, make sure that the content you’re promoting adds value to the audience and your industry. This will give you a better chance of gathering traction and engagement.
7. Be present
Much like successful local SEO campaigns, you can give yourself a better chance of winning the battle for links if you’re actually present in these territories. If your business wants to crack a new international market online, there’s plenty of local activity to get involved in, such as:
- Local events – Communicate with locals in person and build relationships with customers and influencers. Make your business known!
- Social media – As mentioned previously, become active on social media networks through dedicated international profiles. Also be aware of popular networks specific to certain territories. For example, most Xing users are based in Germany.
- Trade shows – Promote your business and build your reputation at international trade shows, many of which will offer links for a profile page and guest blogs.
- Sponsorship – Build your brand and presence with sponsorship. Local sports teams are a good place to start because they can be affordable.
- Suppliers – If you already have international suppliers, this is a good opportunity to source a link from them.
- Awards – Once you’ve gathered some traction, put your business up for international awards. Many awarding bodies do offer links in return.
- Directories – If your business has a physical location within a specific territory, be sure to create Google My Business pages and list the business within quality local online directories. BrightLocal have written several blogs on top citation sources, such as this one for German citations.
Creating content that is relevant and valuable is essential for earning quality local links and driving your international SEO strategy. It’s also critical to learn from established competitors to arm yourself with opportunities. This comes with embracing local communities, so be sure to maintain an active presence.