The International Link Building Guide

by Garrett French July 8th, 2009 

2010 SEMMY NomineeInternational link building poses many unique challenges for link builders, not least of which are language and cultural barriers as well as effectively qualifying prospects for their impact on the search engine of your target country. International link building requires a minor feat of mental gymnastics, too: the links you're building are international only to YOU… they are local to the market you're targeting. That's why you'll find several local link building articles in our literature review (aka "the resource section" below).

Here's what you'll find in this article:
1) Identifying Your International SERPs Competitors
2) Prospecting for International Link Opportunities
3) Qualifying International Link Opportunities
4) Acquiring International Links
5) More International Link Building and SEO Resources

1) Identifying Your International SERPs Competitors
Understanding the competitive search landscape will help link builders make efficient, targeted link research decisions. Find the true competitors in any keyword space using the Hostname and URL Counter along with the SERPs Dominator Worksheet. You can read a far more extensive article on using those tools for analyzing the competitive search landscape here.

international seo for camping sites

Let's say you're a US camping equipment company expanding with 2 new camping equipment sites. One targets Canada and one targets the UK. Your top 3 keywords are [camping gear], [camping equipment] and [camping supplies]. Here's an analysis of the site frequency in the top 10 SERPs for each CCTLD.

CA: Frequently occurring sites within the top 10 results in Google.ca for [camping gear], [camping equipment] and [camping supplies].

campsource.ca 3 occurrences in the Top 10
mec.ca 3
campinggearguide.com 3
campingequipmentworld.com 2
thecampingsource.com 2
fcsurplus.com 2
taigaworks.ca 2

Analysis for Link Builders:
First up, let's check out campsource.ca… They appear to be a camping directory for the UK, though they do have a solid collection of items for sale. Their backlinks – at a quick glance – appear to be in part from the websites of camp grounds in their directory. Sure can't beat campground websites for local links! I think I can hear some wheels turning out in the minds of link builders out there… ;)

Now let's look at mec.ca… Their backlinks in Yahoo reveal a rich assortment of sites and motivations for linking to what appears to be a highly, highly reputable and respected outdoor clothing provider. Several in there definitely reflect their CA rankings, especially the backlink from http://wikitravel.org/en/Ottawa. Their backlinks are worth pulling for further analysis for any Canada-facing camping gear websites.

Finally let's take a peek at campinggearguide.com. Most notably they also appear in the top 10 in our analysis of US SERPs below. Does their backlink profile indicate that this could be an issue? Let's lift the hood! Their backlink from http://www.troop11.com/ certainly places them in the US. So why are they doing so well in .CA? Honestly, just from a quick glance at their backlinks I can't tell you. Since they only have 232 backlinks they're not a great target for link exporting.

UK: Frequently occurring sites within the top 10 results in Google.co.uk for [camping gear], [camping equipment] and [camping supplies].
outdoorworld.co.uk 3
gooutdoors.co.uk 3
cotswoldoutdoor.com 3
outdoormegastore.co.uk 2
worldofcamping.co.uk 2
camping4less.com 1

Analysis for Link Builders:
First and foremost – outdoorworld.co.uk. One glance at their domain it's easy to see why they're in the .co.uk results. Their backlinks are definitely worth pulling and investigating for prospects to our new, hypothetical UK camping equipment store.

Next up comes GoOutdoors.co.uk. They have a staggering 140k inlinks according to Yahoo Site Explorer, and a glance at their tent buying guide, for example, provides some insight into how they may have amassed so many… content. I would definitely pull their backlinks and dig deep into their content for guidance on what the space finds "linkable."

Finally let's look at cotswoldoutdoor.com. Notably, their whois data shows them to be hosted in the UK (pointing towards why this non .co.uk ranks well). Further, their backlink profile looks fairly heavy with .co.uk sites. Their 25k+ backlinks will definitely prove useful for a camping gear site targeting the UK.

US: Frequently occurring sites within the top 10 results in Google.com (US) for [camping gear], [camping equipment] and [camping supplies].
summitcampinggear.com 3
rei.com 3
campmor.com 3
campingcomfortably.com 2
camping4less.com 2
walmart.com 2
bizrate.com 2
coleman.com 2
camping-gear-outlet.com 2
campinggearguide.com 1

Analysis for Link Builders:
Note camping4less.com and campinggearguide.com – they both have multi-national rankings. Why do they demonstrate presence across CCTLDs? Perhaps in future articles we'll investigate this phenomenon… Their backlink profiles are definitely worth analyzing. Further, there's the potential that even though I searched .co.uk and .ca to gather data, Google knew I was in the US and altered my results accordingly. As for the other major players here in the Google.com SERPs they're worth investigating regarding the types of content that seems to attract links.

2) Further Prospecting for International Link Opportunities
Analyzing the top occurring sites for a keyword space and exporting applicable backlinks will supply you with all the link prospects you could possibly want. In case you want more (we always do :) here are some other probable sources.

Prospecting International Link Opportunities

For starters, here are some camping-related link operator queries adapted from Tom_C of distilled:

http://www.google.com/search?q=camping+directory+site%3Aco.uk

http://www.google.com/search?q=intitle%3Acamping+directory+site%3Aco.uk

http://www.google.com/search?q=inurl%3Acamping+directory+site%3Aco.uk

http://www.google.com/search?q=camping resources+site%3Aco.uk

These will help you to locate camping-related directories from the .co.uk CCTLD.

In particular, using the [site:(yourCCTLD)] operator should help root out sites whose links will send clear signals to the search engines regarding what country your site is relevant to.

I'd further recommend looking for local news sites and local blogs with potential comment opportunities. Further, some cities are more likely than others to provide link opportunities, depending on how many media creators live there. Try including City names from cites with high access to camp grounds in CA… For example, this bit of highly-linkable content suggests that the city nearest the best camping in Canada is Ontario.

Here's where local and regional knowledge really comes into play for a link builder… It's likely that there are blogs that focus on Ontario… Let's peep: [ontario camping blog site:.ca]. And there you have it – the Southern Ontario Camping Blog. OK, yes, the blog itself is in an iFrame. But you get the idea, right? Including city names in your queries will help you to find link prospects relevant to your keywords and relevant to the region you're targeting.

You can mix and match your link prospect searches with suggestions from these sources as well, or simply use them as jumping off points for your own brainstorming:

Link Search Tool
Long List of Link Searches
Link Building Search Queries Collection
Using Search to Help you with Search Engine Optimization
SEOBook Link Suggest Tool

3) Qualifying International Link Opportunities
We've written a great deal about qualifying link prospects, and even created a link qualification worksheet that guides motivated link builders through the process. In 55 Link Opportunity Qualifiers Within Large Scale Link Prospect Data Sets we discussed signifiers that a site or page is a potential opportunity… but we haven't yet covered potential qualifiers for international link prospects.

Qualifying International Link Opportunities

Here are 7 more qualifiers we submit for the consideration of the link building community:

Country Code Top Level Domain:
When qualifying hundreds or even hundreds of thousands of prospects it's great to go with obvious signifiers! CCTLDs make it simple to quickly and with a fairly high degree of certainty identify the sites amongst your prospects who are likely to impact your international rankings.

Prospective Page Located Within Country Folder:
Like the CCTLD, "country folders" on sites help designate content that's country-relevant. A folder looks like: www.yourcampingsite.com/uk/… Since folders are determined on a site-by-site basis it will be tough to find all of these at once from a large data set.

Geo-location Based on IP Address of Site:
Using a tool such as this Whois Lookup, check your prospects to identify whether or not they are hosted in your target country. Yes, checking huge sets of prospects could drive you crazy.

If you want to get in-depth and have the technical know-how, check out MaxMind's GeoLite Country, Open Source IP Address to Country Database

Site Language:
Is the site's language in the language of the country you're targeting? Even better, can you tell from any indicators in the URLs?

Physical Address Posted on Site:
Sometimes site owners make it very simple by placing their physical address on their website. Though this takes some by-hand digging it can be a reasonably sure indicator of where the site is run from.

Google allows you to verify your business address through their Local Business Center.

Physical Address of Owner, if Listed in WhoIs:
Again, this nifty Whois Lookup tool shows you site owner location data. Though the owner may not be the site's primary creator or updater, this information could help you decide whether or not to pursue a link.

Prospect's Backlink Profile Includes Geographically Related Sites:
If your prospect's backlink profile includes sites from the country or region you're targeting this is a reasonably sure sign that this is a good prospect.

4) Aquiring International Links
We put link opportunities in – roughly – two different categories. There are the existing link opportunities such as directories for submission, relevant conversations to join in comment threads and links/resource pages in which the link builder reaches out with a polite yet powerful email and requests a link.

Then there are the content-based link building opportunities in which the link builder analyzes what attracts links from the target sites, creates content that's better, and then contacts all the people who linked to competing content with a polite yet powerful email and requests a link.

For those who have identified the content that's most likely to attract links but have not mastered another language I submit to you Mr. Ian McAnerin's SEED Translation Process as captured by Mr. Barry Schwartz at SERoundTable.

This is copied verbatim from Barry's conference notes on an Internation SEO presentation at SMX:

Semantic Expression Equivalency Document:
Original English -> English SEED -> Chinese SEED -> Chinese Document
EN ——–> EN ——-> EN-ZH ——–> ZH

In summary, you take your original english page and you bullet point your points of the marketing speak. You express how you want it expressed, the emotion in that document. It is now a soulless document that says what you want it to say. Then you have that document translated into the other language. Then you give it to a real copyrighter in that language and have them write it well.

Of course, once you've created highly linkable content we highly recommend you read 17 Ways to Accelerate Links to Your Link Bait (and Other Highly Linkable Content) :)

5) Further International Link Building and SEO Resources
Geolocation & International SEO Frequently Asked Questions
International Link Building Tactics & Strategies
Search Illustrated: International SEO Tips
International Link Building with DoFollow Blogs
International SEO
Link Building for Local Search
7 Offline Local Search Link Building Tips for Small Businesses
Country Targeting: Subdomain, cc-TLD or folders
Hello world! There is no Europe!

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17 Responses to “The International Link Building Guide”

  1. It´s the first time I see some information about international linkbuiding. I haven´t read everything because this post is huge but I already bookmarked for later. I have some sites in non-English languages, and you are helping me a lot. Thanks for this guide.

  2. Neil says:

    Hi

    Brilliant resource, many thanks. The link to the searchengineland article has given me lots of stuff to do!

  3. Hi folks, thanks for the kudos, and glad you liked the article!

    Here are a couple more resources that I think really help to round out our effort on this particular article:

    Geo Targeted SEO: The Technical Review
    http://www.searchenginepeople.com/blog/geo-targeted-seo-the-technical-review.html

    Link building abroad: Copy & paste is not enough
    http://www.searchcowboys.com/guestposts/738

    Happy link building!
    G

  4. Flemming says:

    Love this article! I will be digging deeper into international linkbuilding shortly as well as shifting to use country speicific domain names, so this article was excellent inspiration! Thanks

  5. [...] French in one of his blogs has listed quite a many valid points that one need to know to understand international link [...]

  6. Noah says:

    Wow, Garrett, that was quite the extensive break down. I've been seeing more and more posts about international SEO lately. Makes sense, I suppose, since its becoming bigger and bigger business as those markets grow, but I have to wonder if there's something else going on that I'm unaware of…

  7. [...] French in one of his blogs has listed quite a many valid points that one need to know to understand international link [...]

  8. MaxMind has a comprehensive database for Geo-location of IP Address. A great tool to have if you intend to geo target your ads.

  9. The link operator queries are a huge help. Great resource. It's always tough to know where to start when it comes to international link building.

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  11. Another brilliantly written piece Garrett! I blasted this out to my clients and they've been grinding it over in their heads.

  12. SEO Pune says:

    Thanks for sharing wonderful information about International Link Building. It helps to understand how we can build link for international web site, specifically country wise.

  13. [...] Guide to building links internationally International link building is one way of expanding your target audience and at the same time, reaching your local areas specifically. In this article which can also be called as a crash course to international link building, you will see that there are several things that you have to know before you can actually do it. These steps include: identifying your international SERPs competitors, prospecting for international link building policies, qualifying international link building opportunities and actually acquiring international links. [...]

  14. Bdhire.com says:

    While searching some great articles on Google some articles that I can refer new recruit link builders who are fresher , I have found this article. This excellent article helps the training much easier for us. Thanks for a great stuff.

  15. [...] The International Link Building Guide by Search Engine People [...]

  16. [...] search marketing. Garrett French, also a contributor to our magazine, kicked off the first post on international link building. The second post by Ron Kunitzky is dedicated to international SEO. Both authors note that there [...]

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