07/10/20 // Written by JamalAtcha

Common International SEO Mistakes to Avoid

SEO techniques are continuously evolving in line with Google’s algorithm developments. It’s no easy feat staying on top of successful optimisation methods, never mind when considering SEO across a number of regions.

Working with clients across the world, we’re highly experienced in international SEO. There are a number of mistakes we see occur on the regular with many businesses falling into the trap of carrying out SEO incorrectly, resulting in missed opportunities. Take a read to learn the most common international SEO mistakes you’ll want to avoid.

1) Incorrect language and region codes in hreflang

If you have several international sites selling your products and services, hreflang tags help Google determine the version of the page that should be served to that region. The correct format to display the language and region is ‘Language’ first and then – should you wish to specify – ‘Region’.


  • “en-us”: This means the content is in English and aimed at users in the USA

Or alternatively, you can simply specify just the language

  • “en”: This also means the content is in English with no specific target region

A common mistake we see occur with hreflang tags is the incorrect use of language or region codes which are not in ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 format, for example, using ‘USA’ instead of ‘US’. Ensuring the language and region code is targeting the right ISO code can help avoid this mistake.

2) Not pointing to the canonical URL in hreflang

A page can have both a hreflang and rel=canonical tag. The hreflang tags need to self-reference the page as well as the alternative pages for other countries.

An issue we regularly see is the self-referencing URL in the hreflang tag not matching the rel=canonical tag. If the two tags contradict each other it can confuse Google making it harder for the search engine to find the correct page to reference.



<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-gb” href=”https://www.example.com/page1″ />

Rel=canonical tag

<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.example.com/page2″ />

3) Automatic redirection

Automatically redirecting users to a country page via an IP redirect, cookie or browser settings can prevent Google from correctly crawling all the variations of your pages and should be avoided.

Having hreflang tags correctly implemented across your international sites should be enough to help Google understand which page should be served to which region. Here’s what Google says on the matter:

4) Not writing content in native languages and cultural nuances

Writing (not purely translating) content in a region’s native language can be very important from a user and conversion rate perspective. It shows a cultural understanding of the audience and that your website is a trusted authority in the region.

Many businesses overlook writing content in the native language, instead opting for directly translating the copy from English without amending it. This is a mistake you want to avoid as every language has its own subtle nuances with words having different meanings across different cultures. Even in the English language this often occurs, for example, terminology between the UK and USA can regularly vary.

Writing your content in the native language would be ideal. However, if that isn’t possible you need to at least ensure your content is translated correctly and checked by someone who does speak the language.

There are many factors to consider when carrying out international SEO and these four common problems are just the tip of the iceberg. When mistakes like these are made, instead of seeing conversion and traffic increases, the result could be quite the opposite.

With a team of technical SEO experts, we make it our business to stay on top of search engine developments, ensuring our clients are always up to speed on the latest SEO practices. With years of experience achieving results through international SEO, you can trust that we know what works and what to avoid. Contact us for more information on how we could help you with international SEO.