Local SEO vs International SEO: Things to Know

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Key Takeaways

According to Moz, 46% of all Google searches are seeking local information.

A BrightLocal survey found that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations when evaluating local businesses.

SEMrush reports that 70% of marketers consider international SEO to be a top priority, highlighting the global reach of online businesses.

Local SEO is essential for businesses looking to attract nearby customers, emphasizing the importance of accurate business listings, online reviews, and local keyword optimization.

International SEO focuses on expanding a business’s reach across borders, requiring a strategy that considers language, cultural nuances, and technical aspects for global visibility.

Try searching ‘Best Chinese restaurants’ on Google, and you will likely get a list of eateries around you, most probably in your vicinity, that offer Chinese cuisine. This is because of local SEO – a strategy where the search results are optimized, keeping in mind the audience of a particular local region. This blog will give you insight into the nitty-gritty of local SEO, how it works, and the key differences between local and international SEO.

What is SEO?

Before diving into what local SEO is, let us first understand SEO service and how it works. To begin with, search engines like Google help us find what we’re looking for online. We use these for innumerable purposes like finding a great place to dine out, researching before investing in a new product, searching for a word’s meaning, etc. These search engines direct us to the relevant website where we get the desired information. This is where the role of SEO comes into the picture.

Search Engine Optimisation or SEO, as the name suggests, is the practice of improving the online presence of your business website so that it appears on the top of search results. This increases the chance of drawing more website traffic. There are many ways through which this can be achieved. For instance, using relevant keywords, headings, or meta descriptions ensures more visibility on search engines. There are mainly 2 types of SEO: Local SEO and International SEO.

What is Local SEO?

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is an SEO strategy that helps businesses appear on top of local search results. This is particularly beneficial for companies with a physical presence in a particular geographical area. Such brick-and-mortar stores are more likely to get customers from places nearby rather than from anywhere across the globe. 

Now, in the general scenario, search results are ranked in the order of relevance, prominence, and popularity, which is determined with the help of its algorithms. 

However, proximity is another factor that is considered, especially when a local query is placed. If we take the same example of a Chinese restaurant, even though you didn’t mention your location, Google will show you the restaurants that are near your place on the top. This is because Google has sensed that you have a need that has to be fulfilled locally and immediately.

Thus, the algorithm of local SEO works a bit differently as it focuses entirely on local results and caters to a niche audience limited to a specific geographical area. For this, you must hence consider adopting the best strategies and practices of local SEO for your business.

What is International SEO?

What is International SEO?

Imagine your business operates globally. It serves a wide audience. Such companies have multiple locations. They need to tailor their content for each site.. Moreover, what works for one country may not necessarily work for others.  

Let us take the example of KFC, one of the leading fast-food chains in the world. It has a presence in more than 140 countries, and most countries have different dialects. Accordingly, what may perform well in the UK, may not do equally well in Dubai. In such cases, international SEO comes to the rescue and targets multiple countries (and languages!) through several global search engines.

10 Differences between International vs. Local SEO

Target Audience

Local SEO is designed to attract customers in a particular area. Local SEO is designed to attract people who live or visit New York City. International SEO, however, focuses on reaching customers in different countries and regions. A global software company might invest in International SEO to reach customers who live and speak different languages.

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Local SEO and International SEO have many differences. One is the need for optimization in different languages. International SEO requires businesses to produce content in many languages. They do this to reach their target audience. A global fashion retailer might need to have different versions of its website. They need them in different languages. This is to appeal to customers who speak Spanish, French, and German. Optimizing language may also be needed for local SEO. But, only in the region where the business is. To cater to international and local visitors, a Japanese tourist attraction might need content in Japanese. It also needs it in English.

Keyword Research


International SEO requires thorough keyword research in each country and language. It ensures businesses target the right keywords their audience searches for. Global hotel chains must research the keywords for each country. This will ensure they target the right ones. Local SEO can, however, focus on specific keywords that are relevant to a particular region. Local SEO can target keywords like “plumber in London” and “emergency plumber London”.


International SEO involves the creation of unique content in each country and language. Businesses must create separate versions of their websites for each country and language. A global car manufacturer, for example, would have to create pages that are specific to each country in which they operate. Local SEO can be used to target specific areas with relevant content. A local Parisian restaurant might want to highlight the culture and cuisine of its city.

Domain Structure

International SEO demands a domain structure that can be optimized for each country. You may need to create a different website for each country or use a subdomain/subfolder structure. For example, a global retailer may have separate domains for each country they operate in, such as www.companyname.com/fr for France or www.companyname.com/de for Germany. A domain can be used for local SEO. A Miami hotel may, for example, use the domain www.hotelmiami.com.

International SEO involves building links to relevant websites in every language and country. Businesses should focus on building links to websites that are well-known in each country and region. To improve their local search engine rankings, a global software company might need to link to technology blogs in every country it operates in. Local SEO may focus on building links to websites within the local area. This could include local directories, chambers or commerce, and other businesses. Local SEO can help a flower shop get links from local blogs or event websites to increase its local search ranking.


Local SEO involves the inclusion of correct business information (name and address, phone number, etc.) in local directories and other sources. This is especially important for businesses that depend on foot traffic such as restaurants, retail shops, and service providers. A local dentist in Los Angeles, for example, would want to make sure that their business information is correct on local directories. These are not necessarily important for international SEO. A global software company might not need to be concerned about citations, as they may not have a target audience that is searching for local businesses.

Google My Business

Google My Business (GMB) boosts Local SEO. It creates listings on Google Maps. These include key info like an address, phone number, and hours. Plus, they show reviews. For instance, a San Francisco bakery aims to be found in local searches. So, it needs a GMB listing. On the other hand, businesses with broader targets, like in International SEO, might not need GMB.

Social Media

Although both local SEO and international SEO can be done using social media, the approaches may vary. Businesses can use social media for Local SEO to reach local customers and promote products or services. A local gym might use social media to advertise special offers to its local customers. Social media can be used for international SEO to connect with customers from different countries and languages. A global beauty brand might use social media to show their products to customers in other markets, for example.


Because local SEO can be focused on one region, it is usually less costly than international SEO. The cost of International SEO will vary depending on how many countries and languages the company is targeting. A global e-commerce business targets 10 countries. It has different languages. It might need more international SEO budget than a local restaurant. The restaurant targets customers in a particular area.

Table summary

FeatureLocal SEOInternational SEO
Target audienceLocal customersGlobal customers
Language optimizationLocal languageMultiple languages
Keyword researchLocal keywordsGlobal keywords
Content creationLocalized contentGlobal content
Domain structureCountry code top-level domain (ccTLD)Generic top-level domain (gTLD)
Link buildingLocal linksGlobal links
CitationsLocal citationsLess focus on citations
Google My BusinessEssential toolOptional tool
Social MediaLocal outreachGlobal outreach
BudgetLower costHigher cost

The Final Verdict

In the current scenario, it is imperative to understand the significance of having a proper SEO strategy in place. Irrespective of the scale and size of its operations, SEO strategies are extremely helpful for any business to prosper. The more visible your company is on search engines, the more profits it will generate. 

Also, it is a known fact that most of the time, when we search for something online, we barely look past the top 4-5 searches. Therefore, your business must rank high on these search engines to drive potential clients to your website. However, what is important is to analyse where your focus should be. Should you entirely concentrate on a targeted audience of a local area, or should your target be spread across the world?

On the one hand, you may lose out on potential audiences in your area if you neglect local SEO. On the other hand, you may miss out on the opportunities to flourish abroad if you don’t try to make good use of international SEO.

Thus, knowing what works best for your business is extremely important, or you may face repercussions. You can also count upon companies like Expand my Business (EMB), which has an extensive network of 1500+ verified partner agencies with cross-industry expertise to cater to all your digital requirements.


What is the difference between international and local SEO?

International SEO focuses on optimizing a website to rank in search results across multiple countries and languages, while local SEO focuses on optimizing a website to rank in search results for a specific geographic location.

Why is international SEO important for businesses?

International SEO is important for businesses that want to expand their global reach and attract customers from different countries and languages. By optimizing their website for international SEO, businesses can improve their visibility and increase their chances of reaching potential customers in different markets.

How does international SEO differ from local SEO?

International SEO differs from local SEO in several ways, including the need to optimize for multiple languages, cultural differences, and different search engine algorithms and ranking factors. Local SEO, on the other hand, focuses on optimizing for a specific geographic location and includes optimizing for local keywords and directories.

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