How to Handle Your Multilingual SEO

SEO is tough as it is, let alone when it's multilingual. But fret not, this article will teach you how to handle it!

We’re all aware of how important SEO is when it comes to helping your online content rank higher in the organic search engine result pages. The higher your content ranks, the more search traffic it yields and the greater commercial success you’re likely to achieve.

So, if you’re scratching your head wondering what multilingual SEO could be – fear not. Multilingual SEO is simply an extension of regular SEO and involves translating your original site’s content into other languages, and subsequently optimizing this translated content for search engines to bring in search traffic from different browsers searching in different languages.

For businesses with international ambition and a growth mindset, getting multilingual SEO right could be the key to making the ambition a reality.

Of course, while all this sounds great in theory, it’s putting it to practice that often causes the difficulty, for individuals and organizations alike. Fortunately, in this article, we’re going to give some top tips that will help you smash multilingual SEO and bring your business to the next level.

How to handle your multilingual SEO

As multilingual SEO is an extension of regular, domestic-level SEO it involves applying the same basic principles such as keyword research, backlinking, indexing, etc. However, to fully master multilingual SEO you’ll need to make some additional considerations. So, we’re going to take a look at a number of different areas to make sure you’ve all your bases covered.

1. Target the Right Countries – Multilingual Keyword Research

World map with pins

When it comes to taking care of your multilingual SEO, it’s prudent to carry out keyword research in international languages to establish whether or not there are high volumes of searches. This in turn will help you to effectively target new markets.

For example, say you’re a business based in Ireland selling umbrellas. While you’re having great success in the domestic market, you might be wondering whether or not there’s commercial potential in countries like France or Germany where torrential rain is perhaps less commonplace.

This involves carrying out the same level of keyword research you did for your domestic market in the foreign language. Fortunately, this can easily be determined through the use of a keyword explorer tool such as Ahrefs.

In the below example we can see that ‘parapluie’ gets 28,000 searches in France per month, indicating that there may be potential to expand in the French market. It’s also important to consider the keyword difficulty which determines how easy it will be to rank highly on search engine result pages. The closer to 100 the number gets, the greater the difficulty of the keyword.

Ahrefs report

Once you’ve carried out in-depth keyword research for different countries, you can decide what languages you’ll need to translate your content into to give a localized experience to potential customers.

Of course, if SEO isn’t your forté, you always have the option of getting some help with this. You could hire an SEO specialist with experience in multilingual SEO or alternatively you could simply hire an SEO agency in the target country to help you with this.

2. Translating your Content

As the name implies, multilingual SEO will involve translation. So, not only will you need to translate your high volume keywords, but also – the entirety of your site’s content.

Doing so is a great way to make your content more accessible to international visitors who speak in different languages. On top of this, from a customer-centric perspective, website translation is the ultimate move when it comes to showing your international customers that you appreciate and value them.

Of course, like most things – this is easier said than done. From a practical viewpoint, you may be asking yourself how you can achieve this, especially if you’ve thousands of pages to translate.

On one hand, you’ve got the option of involving professional translators to deal with all this content. However, the cost must be considered, and quite often professional translations are not financially viable when you’ve thousands of webpages to translate.

Luckily, you can strike the balance between cost and time efficiency through a multilingual translation solution such as Weglot.

Weglot

Though it’s a hybrid approach to translation, you can combine neural machine translation with post-editing translations carried out by humans.

Firstly, the entirety of your website, including content from other plugins or applications is automatically translated using the first layer of neural machine translation. Following from this, you have the option of using human translation, through either manual editing of the translations or by involving professional translators.

3. Metadata translation

When it comes to your regular SEO, metadata plays an important role in optimizing your search engine ranking. So, when it comes to multilingual SEO it’s no surprise that it’s equally as important. Your meta title and meta description serve a dual purpose:

  • When stacked with relevant keywords, this information allows search engine bots to effectively crawl through your content resulting in higher SERPs rankings.
  • For individuals surfing the web, these titles and descriptions are key previews of what the page might contain, thus greatly influencing traffic.

Weglot search result

As a result, when we think about it logically, it only makes sense to make sure all your metadata is translated into the target language. Not only will it encourage more click-throughs, but will also help you to rank higher on international SERPs pages where internet users search in different languages.

While this can, in certain instances be a complicated endeavor, if you use Weglot as your translation solution you’ll be automatically covered in this regard. Being an SEO friendly solution, all your metadata is automatically translated meaning your webpages will be indexed following best practices for multilingual SEO.

4. Dedicated URLs

Domains

Another huge determinant of the effectiveness of your multilingual SEO is related to the URL structure of your website. In order to optimize your multilingual site for search engine purposes, Google best practices recommend the use of dedicated URLs which can take a number of different forms:

Country-specific domain → www.underconstructionpage.fr

Contrary to popular belief, setting up country-specific domains are not necessarily a requirement for companies looking to expand businesses internationally. While these domains do bring with them a number of distinct advantages, you need to be aware of the following:

  • The cost: owning multiple domains can be an expensive option and often isn’t feasible for small to medium businesses.
  • The maintenance: running multiple domains requires a greater level of maintenance and can be heavy on human capital.
  • Building domain authority: for each specific domain, you’ll need to build up domain authority which is a complicated endeavor.

Subdomains → fr.underconstructionpage.com

A fantastic alternative to country-specific domains is language-specific subdomains. Subdomains are super easy to set up and come with the benefit of only needing to manage one domain. Subdomains are well received by Google when it comes to multilingual SEO.

Subdirectories→ www.underconstructionpage.com/fr/

Much similar to subdomains, language-specific subdirectories are also not as complex or tedious as country-specific domains and are favorable for Google SEO purposes.

With seemingly quite a bit of work to do to set up dedicated URLs, you may be wondering if it’s even worth your while. However, before making any rash decisions, it’s important to remember that Google heavily penalizes duplicate content on websites when it comes to SEO rankings.

So, while you may be tempted to upload all your translated content to one page, this would be far from wise and is a highly discouraged practice.

Fortunately, opting for a multilingual solution like Weglot means you don’t have to worry about manually setting up your own dedicated URLs. Weglot automatically sets up language-specific subdirectories or subdomains based on the CMS you’re using. Meaning that your site will be automatically set up under optimal search engine URLs, which in turn will help you to gain increased amounts of traffic.

5. Hreflang Tags

Perhaps one of the more difficult aspects of multilingual SEO to be considered is the addition of hreflang tags to your website.

Basically, when hreflang tags are set properly on your website, they make search engine bots aware of the fact that you have the same content available in different languages, with each of these translated pages linked in an obvious way. This will enable the search engine bots to understand the multilingual structure of your website.

Additionally, they enable search engines to show the most relevant URL for a given web browser based on their location and language settings. The consideration of these two factors make it a very precise and effective SEO tool and can bring about increased traffic to your site.

While there are a number of guides out there to help with the implementation of hreflang tags on your own site, this can quickly become a tricky task. John Mueller of Google admits that hreflang tags can be deceptively simple:

John Mueller tweet

Fortunately, when opting for Weglot for your multilingual needs, it is equipped to automatically add hreflang tags for your site, taking out the heavy lifting from what can be a very complex aspect of SEO. This is a great feature for personalization and effectively targeting your desired audiences.

6. Cultural Context

Multiple flags

When considering multilingual SEO, one important yet consistently overlooked consideration is that of cultural context or country-specific localization. Essentially, this is because even though two countries may use the same first language, they can also have a number of key differences which in turn alters how you communicate with them and how best to approach them commercially.

So for example, while the USA and the UK both use English as their first language, they are very much disparate societies host to different cultures and values. This can involve undertaking subtle adjustments such as making local references that are understood or appreciated, being sensitive to cultural taboos, or even using more colloquial language to better engage an audience.

Of course, the question when it comes to this is – is this actually an essential component of my multilingual SEO efforts?

Basically, yes it is. With behavioral factors such as the average time spent by visitors on your site playing a bigger role in Google’s assessment of the quality of your site – it’s crucial to get these things right.

Google can easily track this through their own analytics and thus alter SERP rankings. So, not only will adapting to local culture to make your website a more user-friendly experience, but it will also indirectly stimulate more traffic via a higher search engine ranking.

Go International with Multilingual SEO

With native English speakers accounting for only a quarter of internet users and with research showing that 72.1% of consumers spend most or all of their time on websites in their own language, going multilingual seems like a must for any organization. But going multilingual means nothing if you don’t optimize your content so that it’s discoverable to potential new customers.

Although seemingly elaborate, innovative multilingual solutions like Weglot can greatly facilitate your site’s multilingual SEO efforts, saving you time and effort all the while helping give your organization the best chance of international success.

So why not try out Weglot’s free trial and see how it can help you get your multilingual SEO on track!

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Published on August 13, 2020 by Peter Hughes; modified on August 21, 2020. Filed under: , .

Peter Hughes is a digital marketing consultant and author. Peter has more than 10 years of experience in SEO and Internet marketing.

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