International SEO URL Structure

When it comes to international SEO, optimizing your website for multiple languages and countries could be both tricky and rewarding. There are various considerations one should take into account, such as creating unique content for each target market, managing different currencies and time zones, and most importantly, ensuring that the URL structure is optimized to cater to different search engines outside the English-speaking market.

In this article, let’s delve into everything you need to know about international SEO URL structure, and how you could up your search engine game even more for a global audience.

How to manage multilingual or multi-regional website URL structure?

When it comes to choosing the best URL structure for international SEO, there are a few options that you can consider. It’s important to keep in mind that each option has its own advantages and disadvantages, and what works best for one website may not necessarily work for another.

Here are the 4 most common URL structures for international SEO:

URL structure for international multilingual website

1. Country-specific domain

This involves using a ccTLDs (Country Code Top-Level Domains) specific to each country, such as for France or for Germany. This option allows you to have separate websites with unique content and branding for each target market.

2. Subdomain

A subdomain is a part of your main domain that acts as a separate website, but still linked to the main domain. For example, would be the subdomin for Spanish content.

This option could be a good compromise between having separate domains and using subdirectories, as it allows you to have different content for each country while still maintaining the overall branding of your main website.

3. Subdirectory / subfolder

A subdirectory is a specific folder within your main domain that houses content for a particular language or country.

For example, would be the subdirectory for Spanish content, while would be the subdirectory for German content.

This option may be simpler to set up and manage, but it could also potentially have an impact on your overall website’s rankings if not done correctly.

4. URL parameters

This involves adding specific parameters to your main domain in order to indicate the language or country of the content. For example, or This option is often used for multilingual websites, but it may not be the most effective for SEO as it could potentially cause duplicate content issues.

What is the best URL structure for international SEO?

The best URL structure for international SEO often involves using subdirectories (e.g., or to represent different language or regional versions of your site. It’s essential to combine this structure with hreflang annotations to indicate language and regional targeting to search engines.

Using subdirectories for international SEO keeps all versions of your site under a single top-level domain (TLD), which can consolidate domain authority, simplify website management, and provide a clear hierarchy for search engines. This approach is also more user-friendly, as visitors can navigate between different language or regional versions of your site using a common domain and a straightforward URL structure, improving the overall user experience.

Should you use subdirectories or subdomains for different language or regional versions of your site?

When it comes to choosing between subdomains and subdirectories for different language or regional versions of your site, there is no one right answer. Both options have their own advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice will depend on your specific website’s goals and needs.

Subdomains can be a good option if you want to have completely separate websites with unique content and branding for each language or region. This can be beneficial for SEO as it allows each subdomain to rank independently, and it may also help with localizing your website’s branding and user experience.

On the other hand, using subdirectories can be a simpler option to set up and manage, especially if you have limited resources or technical expertise. However, it could potentially impact your overall website’s rankings if not implemented correctly, as search engines may view the different language or regional versions as duplicate content.

Should you translate keywords and phrases in the URL?

Translating keywords and phrases in the URL structure can be helpful for both users and search engines. It allows users to easily identify what the content is about and can improve their experience on your website. It also helps with SEO by using relevant and targeted keywords in the URL, which can help improve your website’s rankings for those specific terms.

If you have languages that use non-Latin alphabets, such as Chinese, Japanese, or Arabic, you can use native characters in the URL as long as they are properly encoded using UTF-8. Just be sure that your website, server, and content management system support the proper encoding and handling of non-Latin characters in URLs.

Best Practices for handling international SEO URL structure

1. Localise your URLs based on the language of your target audience

The first thing you should do to optimize your URL structure is to ensure that it’ll cater to your target audience’s language. This means that you’d have to localize your URLs accordingly and avoid using URLs that may confuse your international audience.

For example, if your website targets both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking audiences, get separate URLs for each language. Your English URLs should lead to pages that are in English, while your Spanish URLs should lead to pages that are in Spanish.

2. Create a logical URL hierarchy

Another critical element of international SEO URL structure is to create a logical URL hierarchy. Doing this helps with your user experience, SEO, and site architecture.

For instance, the top level of your URL structure should define the language and the country code you’re targeting. The next level should represent the category or product name, followed by subcategories and finally the product URL. This creates a well-organized structure and helps search engines to understand the relationship between different web pages.

3. Implement hreflang tags

Hreflang tags are an essential aspect of optimizing your international website’s SEO. These tags tell search engines which language and country your content is meant for. By implementing hreflang tags, you can avoid duplicate content issues and ensure that your content appears in the country-specific search engines. Note that hreflang tags should be included in the header section of your site and should match your URL structure.

4. Keep URLs short and descriptive

Lastly, ensure that your URLs are short, descriptive, and unique across your website. This makes it easier for search engines to understand your website’s content and helps with your site’s visibility. A good practice is to use hyphens instead of underscores between words and avoid using generic terms such as “homepage” or “product page” in your URLs.


Having a well-optimized international SEO URL structure is vital for any business that wants to expand globally and reach out to non-English-speaking markets.

By localizing your URLs, using country-specific domain extensions, creating a logical URL hierarchy, implementing hreflang tags, and keeping URLs short and descriptive, you could improve your site’s visibility in local SERPs and drive more traffic to your website.

Remember to track your website’s performance and adjust your international SEO strategy as needed to stay ahead of the competition.

Aubrey Yung

Aubrey Yung

Aubrey is an SEO Consultant with 5+ years of B2B and B2C marketing experience.