Most companies adopt a "one size fits all" approach when it comes to their websites. In most cases, they tend to target a single majority spoken language of the population. In other cases, their targeting tends to be on a geo-targeting by IP strategy. In doing so, they would miss out on niche language audiences, either at home or abroad. In today's borderless context, outside of dominant language audiences are too precious to ignore or neglect.
Know your audience and its preferred language, then create contents in your website in the language. Or have a language option in your website to communicate with this audience. For example, if your target audience at home is comfortable using Mandarin, by having Mandarin language contents on your website, you would also be communicating with Mandarin language audiences residing outside of your country. Essentially, your audience net is cast a lot wider.
This is to create a subfolder on your existing website. For example, to signal content targeted to people in Germany, your subdirectory would look like this: website.com/de.
Pros of using subdirectories: A subdirectory structure is easy to set up and maintain. Creating subdirectories structure to your website is simple and cost-effective. It requires one website domain, and the authority you build up for the main domain will be carried over to the subdirectories. This method emerges as one of the popular choices for many businesses.
Cons: The international SEO signal for a subdirectory is weaker than if you were to set up a website completely dedicated to a country with top level domain.
Some companies prefer to choose to set up a separate website for visitors from each targeted country. This is called a local country code top-level domain (ccTLD). A ccTLD for users in Germany would look like this: website.de
Pros of using ccTLDs: Creating a separate domain using a country code offers the most powerful signal to search engines for international SEO. It also tells website visitors that your brand is dedicated to its presence in that country.
Cons: Maintaining separate websites for different countries requires more resources and can be more expensive to maintain. When it comes to international SEO, you'll also have to build authority for each website separately.
You could set up a subdomain on your website for each country. However, the disadvantages generally outweigh the advantages.
The international SEO signal is weaker for a subdomain than it is for a dedicated country code top level domain. It may also be more difficult to take advantage of the authority of the main domain for subdomains than for subdirectories. Google treats subdomains as separate from main domains and thus does not carry over or dilute the authority of the main domain.
Hreflang tags are little snippets of code that tell search engines like Google what language the content on any given page on your site is written in, what geographical region it's intended for, and how it relates to other pages on your site. Hreflang tags are essential for any website that has different page variations with the same content in multiple languages. Websites with multiple languages using Hreflang tags promote good user experience with its intended audiences. Search engines like Google like to provide the most relevant results to its users. Thus, Google would likely rank localised web pages higher. You are essentially indicating to Google to know what language each of your web pages are written in by reading the Hreflang tags.
Hreflang tags are especially important for international SEO. Without Hreflang tags, a multi lingual website may be interpreted by search engines like Google as duplicate contents which is a bad signal that can negatively impact your ranking.
Because the goal of international SEO is to serve the local customers, it will be well worth to understand local preferences for colours preferences, design aesthetics, organization of content, and other cultural factors. It is also important to make sure your translated content is prepared by a native speaker and reviewed by local audience whenever possible.