With people constantly on the move, surfing the web each step of the way, the International search pattern will help you track a visitor’s local searches.


Thanks to the many, nuanced factors that make up any given local search — location, language, device, user intent — coming up with an effective local SERP tracking strategy can be about as easy as cracking the Google algorithm.

Fortunately, we have a STAT Guide: Strategies for local SERP tracking, that will help your local SEO win the battle for SERP space. We took all of the nuanced factors mentioned above and created seven distinct patterns that reflect how users typically perform a local search.

In this sixth and final local search post, we’ll focus on the International tracking strategy. And if you haven’t been following this local search series from the beginning, catch up on the rest here:

  1. The Armchair Researcher
  2. The Mobile Time-Killer
  3. The “I want it now”
  4. The Long-Distance Dreamer
  5. The Metropolitan

The International

The standout feature of this pattern is a mismatch between the searcher’s physical location and the device’s default location, language, or regional search engine.

The factors that make up the International local search pattern
The factors that make up the International local search pattern

The International

These factors make up the International local search pattern.

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In this post, we’ll talk you through what motivates this search, who should be tracking it, and what makes it such a useful yet complicated search pattern.

The search scenario

This pattern is a hallmark of international visitors. Once safely at their destination, the searcher is ready to start exploring their new surroundings, relying on search engines to help them find what they need.

Since the International search pattern is performed by anyone from vacationing beach-bums to Himalayan backpackers to globetrotting businesspeople, both smartphones and laptops are packed for use on the road.

Who should track this pattern?

SERP tracking this local search pattern should be a priority for industries such as travel, hospitality, tourism, and international business. Basically, anyone who relies on people who leave one location and travel to another.

The two sides of the International search pattern

The International is an unusually complicated search pattern, not because of anything the searcher does, but because Google likes to throw a wrench in SERP tracking whenever it can.

For example, if an Australian businessperson, feeling peckish after their flight to Japan, types [best restaurants in downtown Tokyo] into their phone, Google will treat the query as one of two types — which we call non-native and redirected — and each will return substantially different SERPs.

An informal poll of industry professionals and frequent travellers reports that neither treatment is seen more frequently than the other.

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By tracking non-native and redirected queries, you can see what international travellers are seeing in your target market. Complicated as they may seem, if they’re not part of your local SERP tracking strategy, you’re missing a good chunk of your audience.

Non-native queries

When Google treats the query as non-native, the searcher remains on their “home” version of Google throughout the search.

This means that our Australian businessperson is still searching on www.google.com.au, even though they’re in Tokyo. Both their language and search engine are considered “non-native” to their new location.

If their device’s location services aren’t enabled, it would look (and be tracked) like the Long-Distance Dreamer search — ie. someone in Australia researching the local eats of Tokyo. But because most devices, including laptops, are equipped with some kind of location services, the physical location of the searcher still plays a factor, influencing search results and adding another layer of tracking complexity.

With multiple markets, languages, and locations to pair and juggle, it’s easy to see how tracking this pattern can become overwhelming. But by narrowing your focus to countries where the majority of your visitors are coming from, and tracking and segmenting your data in a smart and methodical way, your SEO data will be organized and easy to analyse.

Redirected queries

The second side of the International search pattern is when the user is redirected to the local version of Google.

In this instance, after typing their query into www.google.com.au and hitting enter, our Australian businessperson will find themselves looking at the SERP on Tokyo’s version of Google, www.google.co.jp.

Roaming around Tokyo, Japan, this searcher starts their query on the Australian version of Google and ends up on the Japanese one.
Roaming around Tokyo, Japan, this searcher starts their query on the Australian version of Google and ends up on the Japanese one.

A redirected query in action

Roaming around Tokyo, Japan, this searcher starts their query on the Australian version of Google and ends up on the Japanese one.

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While this initially looks like just another Tokyo-native performing a search, Google is returning results based on the language used in the search query. Google may be transferring your search over to the local version to handle, but it’s not going so far as to translate your query into the local language.

However, even though the search is performed in English, doesn’t mean that the SERP results will also be in English. Our Australian businessperson will likely see a blend of English and Japanese-language results. That said, most of those Japanese-language websites will have an English-translation page, which Google has matched the query to.

Tracking this search query involves building out extensive keyword sets in the most commonly used languages of your visitors and setting the market and location to your own locale. In our example, the keywords would be in English, the market set to Japan, Japanese (JP-ja), and the location as Tokyo, Japan.

Contributing factors

As we mentioned above, it’s unclear when Google will treat a query as redirected or non-native, but we suspect why this search experience differs is based on some combination of the following factors:

  • what device type you are using;
  • whether you’re logged in to a user account;
  • whether you’re searching on a browser homepage or in an address bar;
  • whether you’re accepting cookies;
  • whether you have location services on or off;
  • whether you’re on Wi-Fi or on a mobile network.

But wait! There’s more!

While this is the last search pattern we’ll be featuring on the blog, it’s still worth your while to download the STAT Guide: Strategies for local SERP tracking, for the full seven patterns — including the market baseline — plus a more in-depth look at the factors that drive them.

STAT guide(PDF)

Want pin-point local results from any state, province, city, postal code, and ZIP — heck, even any neighbourhood? And in every language? Say hello and request a demo!