International SEO: how to optimize international brands and businesses

First off, this blog is kinda old. Have a look at my new online home: Umbrellum.

International SEO is all about scalability and high authority. There are a lot of opportunities most businesses miss out on. SEO doesn’t have to be harder for international businesses, it needs to be smarter, scalable, and you should use the power of your brand to increase authority.

This article is directed to sites and businesses that are globally active, but some of these points can also be applied to businesses who are only active in a couple of countries.

The biggest aim here is to optimize a site with minimal effort on the site itself. Often, the bigger the business, the harder it gets to change something on the site and the harder it is to make big sitewide changes. Therefore, hopefully these points will impact as little as possible on the site itself.

How to get dozens of international university backlinks

Universities are often high authority websites. They provide tremendous link authority when linking to your site. The only problem is often to find a good way to get those links, and to get a lot of them.

As an international brand you’ll be able to get dozens of these backlinks quite easily. You don’t even have to do a lot of extra work to get them.

Enter international recruiting.

Your brand is reputable, a lot of people would love to work there. Make sure to have an English version of your careers page. Maybe even English translations of your vacancies.

International students might be very well interested in taking a job or internship at your company. They’re currently in school and might be looking for international opportunities. This is where you come in.

Look for careers-pages on university sites and see if they might link to your international careers page. Shoot them an email explaining that you’re specifically looking for the type of students of that particular degree or school who are looking for a job or internship abroad. And send them the link to the careers page. As you can see this can be applied worldwide, even if your main office is in Amsterdam for example.

How to find these international university backlinks?

Simply do the following search in Google:

university intitle:”working abroad”

Or, regarding internships:

university intitle:”internships abroad”

Or try “Universiteit” instead of universities to get dutch universities. And try other languages of course.

Some examples:

A couple of pointers to keep in mind and the most out of this technique

  • Make sure your careers section is on the main .com domain. Not on a subdomain. This way the linkpower will flow to the entire domain, and not just the subdomain.
  • Make sure to point internal links to your main commercial pages. If it’s a vacancy as a brand marketer for the car sales department. You can link to the actual cars for sale on the site. This will help redistribute the linkpower to the commercial pages of your site. This should be best practice for all of your vacancies.
  • The links that you attract with this method will benefit the entire domain, including the commercial pages, as the careers page sits on a subfolder and not a subdomain.
  • When a vacancy is filled, please either keep the page up for the next time when you need a similar candidate, or redirect it to the category the vacancy is in. Always use a 301 redirect.

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3 highly effective link building strategies in the travel industry

Most people in the travel niche have difficulty building quality links to their site. Even the big brands are struggling. If you check out some of the link profiles of the bigger brands you’ll be amazed at what crap links help them rank.

In the last couple of years I worked for mostly sites in the travel industry and along the way I experimented with a lot of ideas I had on building links. Some of them worked, some didn’t. Some of them though, worked really well. In this post I’ll highlight the 3 most effective link building strategies in the travel industry I have found to date.

The secret behind all link building techniques

Basically all link building techniques come down to one single mindset. And that is asking yourself the following question:

To what group of people is my site/content useful? And on what sites do they hang out?

Sounds simple right?

But most people do it wrong.

Most people focus on relevancy in terms of content, what you need to look for is relevancy in terms of context.

If your site contains holidays to Greece, most link builders will search for sites about Greece and see if they can get their link on there. This is a rookie mistake and will not be really successful.

You see, those sites are already solving the same problem your site is, or it’s very similar. And therefore won’t post a link.

To be truly successful in link building you’ll have to dig a little deeper. It’ll be explained further in the three link building techniques in this post. Hopefully, after you understand all techniques, and you understand why they work, you’ll be able to think of techniques on your own.
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Study: Most linked content in the SEO industry

When starting out with a blog, you either don’t know what to write about, or you have so many ideas you don’t know where to start.

Instead of reinventing the wheel you’ll want to start with content that you know gets shared and attracts links. Content that has been proven already.

This post contains proven content in the SEO industry.

I took 40 of the most well known SEO companies/blogs/authorities and started analyzing their top linked pages in Ahrefs.

This has grown into a top 500 most linked pages in the SEO industry.

It contains everything you want to know if…

  • You want to know what content attracts links
  • You want a list of sites you can email to get links to your content
  • You want to know what content gets shared a lot
  • You want to find outdated (and proven) content that you can update

That’s what you’ll find in this post. If you’re a blogger or agency in the SEO industry you might find some inspiration for your next content piece.

You’ll learn exactly what content attracts links and why.

First things first. Let’s start off with the results before we dive deeper into the best performing infographics, blogs, resources, SEO tools and news.

Most linked content in the SEO industry

(click to enlarge)
Most linked content SEO industry

Feel free to share this infographic on your site or blog:

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14 ways to build links with Ahrefs

For me, Ahrefs is the ultimate link building tool. I use it every day to come up with new link building strategies. Of course you can check out the backlinks of competitors and copy them, you can check your own backlinks and see which pages have gotten links naturally. But you can do so much more! This guide will help you dig deep into the tool and get the most out of it.

14 ways to build links with Ahrefs

  1. Copying other countries
  2. Broken inbound links
  3. Broken links to competitors
  4. Organic incoming links
  5. Copying competitors
  6. Broken links on potential link targets
  7. Using the top linked content on the domain
  8. New links of competitors
  9. Reverse grey hat (Advanced)
  10. Lost links and get them back
  11. Building trusted links like a champ
  12. Find anomalies in your grossing pages
  13. Copy backlinks for referrals
  14. Outbound links to get listed on the linktarget of your dreams

1. Copying other countries

It’s awesome to be dutch, we have the second best beer in the world, beautiful women and Google algorithm updates first happen in the US long before we get hit. Also, SEOs in the US and UK are often further ahead than most dutch SEOs, they often have more competition to keep up with. Therefore we can often learn some new link building tactics by just analyzing the link profile of US based businesses in our niche and see what they’re doing.

But, US based companies can also check out dutch/german/UK sites in the same niche and look for inspiration. Maybe an infographic did really well here in the Netherlands, chances are, the same concept of infographic will work in the US. Maybe you can figure out which blogposts get the most links on a dutch site and see if you’ve covered those topics on your own/clients site already.

You can find these gems by manually looking through the entire link profile of an overseas competitor, or take a loot at the most linked pages.

Example: Airbnb has some blogposts that attract a lot of links and social shares. I can create similar content for my travel clients and reach out to the dutch sites that are similar to the ones linking to Airbnb.
5 airbnb most linked content

2. Broken inbound links

1 broken backlinksThese links are often the easiest, a quick win. Especially for new clients I work with. The first thing I do is check Ahrefs to see which links are already pointing to 404’s. So basically inbound links to pages that don’t exist anymore. Then I just send them a list of 301 redirects to implement.

Bonus: How to attract new clients using this method.

At the moment I get enough clients via word of mouth, but in the beginning I used this technique to get a foot in the door with some new clients I wanted to work for. Basically I did the following:

  1. Create a list of 10 to 20 sites you want to work for
  2. Check their broken inbound links and export them to Excel
  3. Cut out all irrelevant info from the sheet
  4. Add some suggestions on where you would redirect the old page to
  5. Send the list to the company and explain how it will benefit them

Email script:

Subject: Problem with the site (page not found)

Dear Sir / Madam,

Please forward this email to the person responsible for SEO or the marketing manager.

I was doing link building research for a client of mine and I noticed you have some really good backlinks that currently don’t pass any value because they link to non-existent pages.

You’re missing out on Google traffic because of some deleted pages on your site. There are XXX links pointing to pages that return the 404 header status. These sites include and These are very authoritative links and at the moment they don’t pass any link value to your site because of the 404s. I suggest you redirect those old 404 pages to relevant existing pages so you can benefit from those links. You’ll probably will rank higher in Google with almost no effort.

I added a list of all the links in the attachment.

Hope this helps your ranking.

If you have any questions, feel free to call: ##########.

Wouter van der Meij

Expect 80% to respond and about 40% will be interested in working with you. Pick sites that have a lot of these broken inbound links so the impact of fixing the issue is big. They’ll love you for it. I’ve landed my first couple of consulting clients this way. After that every new client came in through word of mouth.

Anyway, a good technique to get a foot in the door of some dream clients, but also really a good link building technique. It’s a nice first boost if you start off with a new client. Almost every site has broken inbound links. It’s a quick win with almost no impact on company resources.

1 broken backlinks rand fishkin

3. Broken links to competitor site

Of course, using the same tool in Ahrefs, you can also find a lot of links pointing to non-existent pages on competing sites and tell the linking site the page they’re linking to doesn’t exist anymore. Be sure to have an alternative ready on your website so they can change the link to you.

If you don’t have an alternative, but you do think you have a page on your site that’s beneficial to the site you’re targeting, suggest that page to be included. In my experience 20% will add your link as well because you helped them out and they see the benefit for their users.

2 broken backlinks competitors

Sometimes you find a piece of content that has been taken down but has a lot of backlinks. Simply email all those linking sites and point them to your own (better/similar) content.

4. Organic incoming links, finding high potentials

Always check your entire link profile for links that you didn’t build yourself. Organic, natural links.

When working for one of my clients I suddenly found a couple of articles on how to save on expenses on your holiday. These articles were linking to the client’s products. I then proceeded to suggest the link to other similar sites about this subject as well. It resulted in some really good in-content backlinks, including a bank.

And the best of all, these links pointed directly to product pages!

At first I never thought these sites would directly link to the product pages of this highly commercial site, but once I saw some natural links coming in I tried anyway and it resulted in quite a success.
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Relevant authority backlinks for any site in any niche

There used to be a time where we could rank a site by building a lot of crappy links from forum profiles, business directories and link directories in general. Now, those links will hurt your rankings more than help.

The hardest part of link building is not really earning the link, but designing a great strategy and perfecting it. Outreach is the easy part. The best link building campaigns involve a large set of prospects of high authority that are willing to link to you.

Tens of thousands of potential linkprospects

Most people are not really using the techniques described in this article, but there are literally tens of thousands of authority websites in the US alone, waiting to publish your link and craving for content you can provide.

These prospects can be found worldwide, for every niche and every business in every city.

Even if you’re just starting out, these sites can send a lot of trust and authority your way. It also doesn’t involve content that needs to be published on your (clients) site so those of you working for big, slow, bureaucratic businesses where content marketing is a pain in the ass will love this!
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