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  • Writer's pictureAl Sefati

International SEO: How to Keep Your International Domains Out of US Google Results

Updated: Jun 10


Disclaimer: This technical SEO post is for educational purposes only, and the sample codes provided were generated by ChatGPT 4o. While we’ve done our best to provide accurate information, we can’t guarantee the codes are perfect or free from errors. We also can’t take responsibility for any issues that might come up if you use them. Please make sure to work with your IT, engineering, or technical team to implement these solutions correctly and safely.


 

Managing multiple domains for different countries or regions can be a challenging task, especially when ensuring that the right content is shown to the right audience. This is where international SEO becomes crucial. Effective international SEO prevents confusion and maintains the effectiveness of your localized marketing efforts by optimizing your website for different regions and languages. If your international domain, such as a Canadian domain, is appearing in US search results, it can undermine these efforts.

What is International SEO?

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. This involves creating content tailored to different regions, using hreflang tags to indicate language and regional variations, and implementing geo-targeting techniques to ensure that your site appears in the correct search results for users in different countries. The goal is to enhance your site’s visibility and effectiveness in global markets, ensuring that users in various regions find the most relevant version of your site.

To achieve effective international SEO, consider any of the following international SEO strategies:

  1. Implement Hreflang Tags: Use hreflang tags to tell search engines which language and regional URLs should be shown to users in different locations.

  2. Set Geotargeting in Google Search Console: Specify your target country in Google Search Console to help search engines understand the geographical focus of your website.

  3. Use Noindex for US Visitors: Apply noindex tags to certain pages for US visitors to prevent them from appearing in US search results.

  4. Block US IPs via Web Server: Use your web server settings to block US IP addresses from accessing certain pages or sections of your site.

  5. Canonical Tags: Implement canonical tags to avoid duplicate content issues across different regional versions of your site.

For each of the international SEO tactics above, there are pros and cons, so review the details and pros and cons for each below:

1.Implement Hreflang Tags

Hreflang tags are HTML attributes used to specify the language and regional targeting of a webpage. By using hreflang tags, you can tell search engines which version of a page should be shown to users based on their geographic location and language preferences.

Advantages of Implementing Hreflang Tags:

Accurate Targeting: Hreflang tags help search engines understand the intended audience for each page, improving the accuracy of search results. This ensures that users are directed to the most relevant version of your site.

Improved User Experience: Directing users to the correct version of your site based on their location and language improves their experience and increases engagement.

SEO Benefits: Reduces duplicate content issues by indicating regional alternatives, which helps consolidate your site’s authority.

Disadvantages of Implementing Hreflang Tags:

Complex Implementation: Implementing hreflang tags can be technically complex, especially for large sites with many pages. Incorrect implementation can lead to indexing issues.

Maintenance: Requires ongoing management to ensure tags are correctly implemented and updated as needed, especially when content changes or new pages are added.

Example: For a Canadian page targeting English speakers:

<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.ca" hreflang="en-ca" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com" hreflang="en-us" />

2. Set Geotargeting in Google Search Console

Geotargeting in Google Search Console allows you to specify the target country for your website. This helps Google understand which audience your content is intended for and adjust the search results accordingly.

Advantages of Geotargeting

  • Google Endorsed: Using Google’s own tools ensures compliance with their best practices and provides a reliable method for targeting specific regions.

  • Simplicity: The setup process within Google Search Console is straightforward and user-friendly.

  • Effective for Country-Specific Targeting: Helps focus your SEO efforts on the desired geographic region, ensuring that your content reaches the intended audience.

Disadvantages of Geotargeting

  • Limited to Google: This method only affects search results on Google, not on other search engines like Bing or Yahoo.

  • Not Foolproof: Geotargeting preferences can sometimes be overridden by user search behavior and other signals, such as location settings or search history.

Steps:

  1. Go to Google Search Console and select the domain you want to target.

  2. Navigate to Settings > International Targeting.

  3. Select the Country tab and choose the target country (e.g., Canada).

3. Use Noindex for US Visitors

Using the noindex meta tag for US visitors can prevent search engines from indexing your site when accessed from the US. This method requires server-side logic to detect US IP addresses and serve the appropriate meta tag.

Advantages of Using NoIndex

  • Precise Control: Allows you to specifically prevent indexing for certain users based on their location.

  • Customizable: Can be implemented in various ways depending on your server-side capabilities and business needs.

Advantages of Using NoIndex

  • Technical Complexity: Requires server-side scripting knowledge and access to IP geolocation services, which may involve additional costs and resources.

  • Potentially Overkill: Might not be necessary if other methods are effectively implemented, and it can complicate your site’s architecture.

Example in PHP:

$ip = $_SERVER['REMOTE_ADDR'];$details = json_decode(file_get_contents("http://ipinfo.io/{$ip}/json"));if ($details->country == "US") {    echo '<meta name="robots" content="noindex">';}

4. Block US IPs via Web Server

Blocking US IP ranges using a web .htaccess or whatever web server you use can prevent US visitors (and bots) from accessing your site altogether. This method can be effective but may have significant drawbacks.

Advantages of Using NoIndex

  • Direct Blocking: Ensures that US users cannot access your site, providing a clear and immediate solution.

  • Immediate Effect: Changes take effect as soon as the .htaccess file is updated, offering quick results.

Disadvantages of Using NoIndex

  • User Experience: Blocking users based on IP can lead to a poor user experience for legitimate users who might need access. It also prevents users who may be traveling or using a VPN from accessing your site.

  • Maintenance: Requires regular updates to ensure IP blocks are accurate and comprehensive, which can be time-consuming and complex.

  • SEO Impact: Blocking access entirely can prevent search engines from indexing your site properly if not handled correctly. Web Server Configuration Code Examples

Example for .htaccess:

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
    RewriteEngine on
    RewriteCond %{ENV:GEOIP_COUNTRY_CODE} ^US$
    RewriteRule ^ - [F,L]
</IfModule>

Example for IIS:

<configuration>
    <system.webServer>
        <rewrite>
            <rules>
                <rule name="Block US Visitors" stopProcessing="true">
                    <match url=".*" />
                    <conditions>
                        <add input="{HTTP_X_ARR_GEOIP_COUNTRY}" pattern="^US$" />
                    </conditions>
                    <action type="CustomResponse" statusCode="403"statusReason="Forbidden"
 statusDescription="Access Forbidden" />
                </rule>
            </rules>
        </rewrite>
    </system.webServer>
</configuration>

Note: The HTTP_X_ARR_GEOIP_COUNTRY header is used assuming you have Application Request Routing (ARR) and URL Rewrite modules installed. You need to configure ARR to add GeoIP headers.

Example for Nginx:

http {
    geoip_country /usr/share/GeoIP/GeoIP.dat;

    server {
        listen 80;
        server_name example.com;
        location / {
            if ($geoip_country_code = "US") {
                return 403;
            }

            try_files $uri $uri/ /index.html;
        }
    }
}

Note:Ensure that the geoip_country directive points to the correct path of your GeoIP database. You might need to install the GeoIP module if it's not already included in your Nginx installation.

5. Canonical Tags

Canonical tags help search engines understand which version of a page is the preferred one, reducing duplicate content issues across different regions. This method is useful when you have similar content targeted to different audiences.

Advantages of Using Canonical Tags

  • SEO Clarity: Helps search engines understand which version of a page should be indexed, reducing duplicate content penalties.

  • Flexible Implementation: Can be used in conjunction with other methods to enhance targeting and indexing control.

Disadvantages of Using Canonical Tags

  • Limited Scope: Canonical tags alone may not fully prevent the indexing of an international domain in the US. They should be part of a broader strategy.

  • Implementation Errors: Incorrect use of canonical tags can lead to indexing issues and negatively impact SEO.

Example: For specifying the preferred version of a page:

<link rel="canonical" href="http://example.com/us-page" />

Additional Considerations for International SEO

While the methods above provide robust solutions for preventing an international domain from being indexed in the US, there are additional factors and best practices to consider:

Content Localization: Ensure that your content is truly localized for each target audience. This includes language, currency, cultural references, and any other region-specific details.

Subdomains vs. Subdirectories: Decide whether to use subdomains (e.g., ca.example.com) or subdirectories (e.g., example.com/ca) for your international content. Each approach has its own SEO implications and management considerations.

IP Geolocation Services: If you choose to use server-side solutions like noindex tags or IP blocking, invest in reliable IP geolocation services to accurately detect user locations.

Monitor and Adjust: Regularly monitor your search performance and user behavior to adjust your strategies as needed. Use tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console to track the effectiveness of your efforts.

International SEO Tactics for International Websites

Managing international SEO can be complex, but using a combination of hreflang tags, geotargeting in Google Search Console, noindex tags for US visitors, IP blocking, and canonical tags can help ensure your content is shown to the right audience. Each method has its pros and cons, and the best approach may vary depending on your specific situation.

Expert International SEO Help from Clarity Digital

If you’re unsure which method is best for your organization or need assistance with any aspect of SEO, contact Clarity Digital. With over two decades of SEO experience, including international SEO, and an international team, international SEO is a core competence of ours. Our team of experts can help you optimize your international SEO strategy and ensure your content reaches the right audience. Get in touch with us today!


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