Your Ultimate How to Guide for Local, National and International SEO


Local, National and International SEO graphically interpreted


16 min read

SEO stands for search engine optimisation. This is the process of refining your website so that it is the most appealing to Google and other search engines.

This process involves curating content and pages for user experience and sending all of the right quality signals to the Google crawler.

It also involves creating a sensible internal linking structure so that the Google crawler (and users) can navigate the site and figure out what content is important and what content isn’t.

On top of that, there’s also the importance of off page SEO– gaining quality backlinks, from the right places, from the right businesses, with the right linking profiles.

And roughly 200 other factors.

SEO is a strange one.

On the one hand, it’s both extremely complicated because normally, you’re trying to outfox an AI capable of comprehending (but, in the interest of specificity, not understanding ) literally billions of searches a day.

On the other hand, because you’re dealing with such a capable and incredible AI… the right website almost always wins.

All you have to do is be the best website out there, and match user search intent, and you’ll come out on top.

So… would you rather compete with an incredibly sophisticated robot that functionally runs over 50% of all of the commerce in the entire world, or 1-13 million other people competing for the number one spot at any given time?

It’s like a maximised, real life version of the well debated hypothetical:

Would you rather fight one horse sized duck, or 100 duck sized horses?

Thankfully, there are some tricks that can minimise your battle.

You can choose the terrain of the fight with Local SEO.

You can choose to fight one pony sized duck instead of one horse sized duck with National SEO.

You can decide to fight the duck sized horses 25 at a time, instead of all 100 at once, via good International SEO.

You might have noticed that I love a ridiculous extended metaphor, especially when talking about SEO.

But bear with me, and I’ll justify it- so let’s dive in, and justify talking about the war room tactics of a battle against 100 duck sized horses.

a duck

Local SEO: What it is, and How To Implement It

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is optimising to maximise the appearance of a businesses website in local search.

Local search isn’t entirely well defined.

What Google counts as ‘local’ is a slippery thing.

It’s part of the super secret algorithm that makes Google work the way it does.

It’s part of the super secret algorithm that has kept Google’s competitors chasing them for the past 15 years…

So they don’t really share the specifics unfortunately.

The best guess, taken as an aggregate of 1000s of opinions from search engine optimisation professionals, is that local SEO works based on proximity, review signalling from user generated content, availability, and local link networking and NAP citations.

This breaks down a bit like this:


If you’re talking about local SEO, you’re talking about locality.

I know this is a bit like saying water’s wet, but it’s worth noting.

This becomes more important when you consider the significant and growing prevalence of mobile search and voice search.

People are searching on the move more than ever.

‘Near Me’ searches are everywhere.

The most difficult thing isn’t being nearby when someone makes a search- you can’t change the location of your brick and mortar business address to capture as many people as possible. The closest you can get to that is a delivery service.

So how exactly do you leverage local SEO to let proximity mean something to Google?

You tell Google where you are- using their Google My Business account… and engaging with the local digital community.

It’s a big help to set up GMB, but it isn’t enough on its own. Otherwise anyone could set up a Google My Business account in high profile or high potential areas.

Imagine if tomorrow every Fintech, even those in development, suddenly had an address in Canary Wharf. Carnage.

You need to add a little bit of legitimacy, a little bit of ‘I’m really here.’

And that’s where…

Review Signalling

…Comes into it. Review signalling is when people or other businesses tell Google that you’re the real deal.

Reviews and word of mouth marketing have always been vital to businesses. Good or bad reviews are at the very least proof that you exist where you say you do, and that will help your business appear in local search SEO.

If all else is set up properly, and all else is equal, the reviews will be the tiebreaker in any rational human’s mind. It’s not too much of a leap to assume the Google algorithm accounts for this sort of thing in a similar way.

What we do know is that sites that have falsified Google reviews, or exchanged money, goods, services, or even trading reviews for reciprocal good reviews get punished aggressively by Google.

So don’t do that!

Social proof goes further than just individuals reviewing your goods or services and attaching that to your business.

You’ve also got…

local link networking and NAP citations

If other, more established and authoritative local businesses link up with you in a digital way and lend their credibility to yours, it will help local SEO.

It’s sort of another ‘water is wet’ statement, but if people and businesses are saying you’re good and you exist, and Google trust these people and businesses… well, it’s a bit of gimme.

NAP citations work similarly.

NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone Number. The more your name and details appear in local directories, the more powerful, influential or authoritative your business appears in your local community.

The Google algorithm works similarly on the local level as it does on the macro level- it’s looking for the best of the best, and it’s looking for a consensus on who the best is.

Local link networking and NAP citations are exactly the sort of quality signals the Google algorithm looks for when it comes to local SEO.

And once that is all aligned… it’s time to consider the final, but equally important, factor in local SEO.



This is an easy one to win at, but only if you’re already winning at it.

Availability is just being the only option- if I’m in Yorkshire, and I Google a particular service or business that only exists in London with the tag ‘near me’, I’ll still be served that company’s services.

As long as there’s no one in between you and your customers geographically, your services are significantly better than your competitors, and Google can tell that that’s the case, or you’re the only game in town… your availability is pretty perfect.

red and yellow darts on a dartboard

Local SEO

Local SEO is tricky, and hard to do.

But it’s a great, valuable and important tool to optimise for, and something you should definitely be doing for your business.

If you need any assistance in your local SEO marketing efforts, content marketing is the key after the small technical tasks are taken care of.

Why not get in touch and see how Canny can help your marketing efforts develop and take you and your business to the next level?

woman looking at a map

National SEO: What it is, and How To Implement It

National SEO is the process of optimising your website for maximum, positive, national digital exposure.

Unfortunately, national SEO is an under utilised and underestimated form of SEO.

As a result of national SEO sitting above the local level, but below having to make any linguistic tweaks to appeal to an international audience, it’s often difficult to find an actionable national SEO strategy.

If you’re doing any form of SEO, a lot of the default strategies and implementations benefit national SEO anyway which is why it’s so often overlooked.

National SEO works best for B2B SaaS businesses or digital product vendors.

These industries specifically are less dependent on brick and mortar shop fronts, and can operate and thrive remotely.

The core difference between National SEO and local SEO is geographical focus in content.

On page factors are huge differentiators for local and national SEO, but can be a bit complex to try and grasp without a concrete example to follow along with, so:

If you run a business and only wanted to target a very specific location, your content strategy becomes easier.

If you run a business thatexclusively operates within 25 miles of the fictional english town of Seoshire, then your targeted keywords would be more geared towards ‘[insert business offering here] in Seoshire’.

All of your content and strategy would be focussed very locally, with little deviation from that.

If you run a business that operates nationally, it isn’t just as simple as dropping the ‘in Seoshire’ from that and trying to compete for just your business offering keywords.

This takes a much more strategic approach, and becomes much more focussed on the confluence of your brand positioning, brand power, content strategy, inbound and outbound marketing efforts, and even the speed and accessibility of your website.

From a content marketing perspective, being strategic when competing in a crowded national marketplace will probably first come in the form of targeting relevant, profitable, intentful long tail keywords.

So let’s break that down a little:


The keyword you target should be relevant to your business and offering. That much should be obvious. The most important thing to consider when targeting relevancy is how relevant and current your keywords are to your target audience.

If your ideal buyer persona wouldn’t search for your product, what would they search for?

Once that person is on your website, it’s much easier to curate a buyer journey to allow them to find what you want them to find, even if they arrived looking for something else.

Don’t just write about anything and everything in the hopes of casting the widest of nets possible, but when considering relevancy don’t be afraid to dip into topics within your customers or clients interests.

Profitable and Intentful

Again, this is a little bit of an obvious one, but targeting profitable niches and keywords is important.

This is a lesson learned by almost every marketer at some point in their inbound marketing journey: traffic does not equal profit.

Some of the most well trafficked pages on the Canny site don’t convert into many profitable leads. This is because although they are relevant, interesting and well written, they don’t target particularly intentful searches.

By matching your keywords to things that would typically bring in mid to end of funnel traffic shortens your buyer journey and allows for a more streamlined conversion process- which allows for a higher volume of sales and profitability.

Long tail keywords

Long tail keywords are keywords that are longer and more specific. The opposite of long tail keywords are referred to as broad head keywords.

Broad head keywords tend to cover a wider area, and tend to be a semantic cluster rather than anything specific or targeted.

Broad head keywords are your overarching product or services- so for Canny that would be things like ‘Branding’, ‘Web development’, and ‘Content Marketing’.

Long tail keywords are much more specific and targeted. For Canny, long tail keywords are things like “How much does branding cost uk” and “questions to ask a web designer before hiring”.

The broad head keywords are very important, because they are your non-specialised, high volume search terms… but your long tail keywords typically enter potential leads lower down in the sales funnel, making them more likely to convert.

Rolled together, this looks a little bit like this:

search intent vs funnel position infographic

Hypothetically speaking, the best combination of keywords for Canny, as a service provider, would be something like “best web design agency for SaaS firms UK”.

It is relevant to us, because we are a web design agency that specialise in SaaS.

It is potentially profitable, as if we fit the bill in the mind of the end user they’re likely to convert into a web design client.

It is intentful, as they are looking for ‘the best’ web design agency. Looking for the best is looking for social validation or social proof, which tends to be something potential clients do towards the end of their buyer journey.

It is long tail, and it’s length excludes competitors that don’t specialise in SaaS companies, which is good because it means we’re not competing with everyone in our marketplace.

As far as a national SEO keyword is concerned, that’s pretty much as good as it comes!

Unfortunately, due to the specificity of the search, it’ll be fairly low volume, but that’s ok! Sales/clients/consumers that convert are better than passive browsers of the site!

National SEO will naturally fold into your overarching SEO efforts, and so it isn’t one that is quite as actionable, but bearing in mind user intent and service relevance when creating long form SEO content.

Doing so will help curate your content to capture good leads and fulfil user intent, which will improve the profitability and overall search presence of your inbound marketing efforts.

And with that, we’ve covered off local and national SEO- and thankfully there isn’t a ‘galactic’ SEO to contend with, meaning we’ve only got one type of SEO to cover off.

globe in a persons hand

International SEO: What it is, and how to implement it

International SEO is slightly easier to understand.

This involves optimising your website to appear in search results where the searcher is not in the country where your business is based.

In the first instance, this can be done in a very top level way.

There are several options for catering to a more international audience for websites.

You could adopt a subdomain, allowing you to segment visitors into their respective countries to serve relevant (and language appropriate) content to them.

This, for Canny, would look something like this:

Because we get a lot of enquiries from Australia, this isn’t a bad way of doing this. It consolidates the existing strength of the Canny website quite well, and shares a bit of it’s perceived authority with the subdomain.

Another way to cater for international readership is to categorise site visitors by their default browser language with a url language parameter.

This, for Canny, would look something like this:

That is telling Google, and the browser that the end user is operating, to send anyone who has their browser set to read and comprehend things in Australian-English to this page.

This is a good way to manage international SEO without diluting your domain strength overall- as the language tag remains part of the top level domain.

If you don’t want to commit to anything quite so intense and technical a good way of doing this, and the way Canny currently does this, is via a separate page in a locations subdirectory.

This looks like that:

This is good because it separates out the location from the offering. Because Canny is a company that is well set up for international clients anyway, setting up sub-domains or adjusting language tags didn’t make much sense.

This allows us to illustrate that we operate in various locations across the globe. It also makes for a much better user experience, as it allows us to make the specific locations pages easily navigable from the pages the majority of users arrive on.

Outside of those relatively simple international SEO fixes, there isn’t a lot you can do, unless you’re directly serving your content in multiple languages.

If you are capable of displaying content in multiple languages, you need to serve a metatag on your native page that will look something like this:

This tag tells Google that:

  • There is an alternate version of this page
  • It is at this web address (
  • It is using the Australian English setting (hreflang=”en-au”)

Another good way to indicate that you’re an international site would be to select a hosting service on an international IP address via strategic hosting. This would only work if you were only targeting one international location, but it would signal to Google that your site exists in and for that location.

Other than that, international SEO looks a lot like national and local SEO. It’s about interacting with the correct people, in the correct areas of the world, and having those people interact with you and your site in a positive manner.

It might sound a little bit daft, but international SEO is just a scaled up version of national SEO once you’ve addressed any potential language gap.

In hindsight, Australia might not have been the best example to use because Australia speaks English… but as Canny aren’t currently set up to handle non-english speaking enquiries, it’s the best example I could think of!

The only other thing to consider when optimising for international SEO is ‘which search engine am I catering for?’

For Russian audiences, Yandex is the search engine of choice.

For Chinese audiences, Baidu is the preference.
Whilst the algorithms and decision making of these two search engines are very similar to the Google algorithm, there are some core differences.

These differences are fairly nuanced, but as a broad overview, here are some core differences.

Yandex, Baidu, and Google: What are the differences?

    • Mobile page speeds:

It looks like Yandex is far more punitive to sites that aren’t optimised for mobile devices, whereas Baidu converts non-mobile optimised sites into mobile friendly formats.

    • Backlinks as a quality signal:

It looks like Baidu puts a much stronger emphasis on backlinks, and especially backlinks from Chinese sites. Unfortunately it is widely reported that Baidu’s spam link detection isn’t quite as sophisticated as Google’s yet, and so spam link building as a black hat SEO technique still seems to work on the Baidu search engine.

Yandex and Google seem to treat backlinks fairly similarly, in that they both acknowledge good, properly earned backlinks as a quality signifier.

    • Social media signalling

Anecdotally, Yandex uses social media referrals as a quality signifier. I actually quite like this, as social networking and word of mouth marketing should, in my eyes, be considered a signifier of quality.

Google have said they categorically do not use social media, but many SEOs have disputed this.

Baidu currently don’t use social media as a ranking factor, and this appears to be true.

Local, National and International SEO

And that pretty much rounds off our post on Local, National and International SEO!

I hope this helped clear up a few of your burning questions around how to implement SEO to help your business reach the next level.

As always with SEO, the most important thing to consider is the end user.

As long as you’re putting out quality content that fulfills user need, and people are engaging with that content, then half of the battle is already won!

If you need help with any of your technical SEO requirements, or your inbound content marketing efforts then why not get in touch with Canny Creative and see if we can help you.

Historically, we’ve been pretty damn good with SEO- more likely than not, you found us on Google- so if you’re interested in growing your leads and improving your conversion rates for your marketing campaigns… well, what are you waiting for? Get in touch today.