Multilingual SEO (search engine optimization) is more important than ever before. It is a strategy in which a website is translated into several languages and then optimized for the search engines. For example, an English website for a hospital that is also offered in Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese is a multilingual website. Through the use of search engine optimization, the additional languages on the site can garner new areas of search.
Some of the benefits of multilingual SEO include:
• Expanding your audience
• Improving your chances of ranking across several languages with various search engines
Additional benefits include:
• Improved customer service
• Improved conversion rate
• Improved loyalty among customers
Engaging the Services of a Language Translation Company for Better Multilingual SEO
By utilizing the language translation services of a language service provider (LSP), you can get more mileage out of your content. Not only can they help you translate and localize your material into different languages, they can also assist and advise with many of the technical aspects of setting up a multilingual website. In this article we’ll discuss the necessary steps required to implement multilingual SEO. We’ll also touch on how to utilize the services of a language service company to make the process easier.
1. Decide on Multilingual SEO or Multiregional SEO
One of the first steps you’ll need to make is to choose between a multilingual or multiregional website. Although there is often overlap between the two, there are clear distinctions. Multilingual SEO is the practice of offering optimized content in a variety of languages, where multiregional SEO takes the process a step further by writing unique content for each targeted region.1
An example of multiregional SEO is an e-commerce site, with sections broken out by country. In this example, each region’s page would have unique content. The content is not only translated into the corresponding language, but also heavily adapted to the cultural norms, laws, buying habits and nuances of the region being targeted.
With a multiregional SEO strategy you will want to consult with a language translation and localization expert who can help you draft and localize your content. A language service company will have translators on standby who are fluent in the language you are targeting. They can help guide you through the entire process.
It is possible to simultaneously implement both a multilingual and multiregional website. You could set up a multiregional website that is broken out by several languages spoken within each geographical region. For example, a website that is regionally set up for Canada would have options in English and French, whereas the Swiss region could have options available in German, French, Romansh and Italian. This would make sense as these are the languages spoken in each region.
Although multiregional SEO is more labor intensive, the approach can yield results through improved customer conversion in the groups you are targeting. However, it really comes down to your strategy and budget, both of which you will want to figure out in advance. Consulting with a language services company can help you identify your goals and decide which of the two approaches works best for you. They’ll also gladly give you a free quote which you can use to estimate your translation budget when you are in the planning phase of your project.
2. Keyword Research in Other Languages
Once you have identified the languages you want to target, the next step is keyword research. You will want to find keyword equivalents in the languages you are targeting. This is another area where a language service provider can be of great assistance. They can guide you in identifying keyword equivalents in the languages you are targeting. They can also assist with:
• Adapting layout and design to properly display translated text
• Converting your content to account for regional conventions (such as currency and units of measurement)
• Using proper regionally preferred formats for dates, addresses, and phone numbers
• Addressing regulations and legal requirements applicable in certain locales
• Adapting graphics to your target markets
• Modifying content to suit the tastes and consumption habits of the unique markets you are targeting
3. Proper Use of Hreflang Tags for better Multilingual SEO
You will want to correctly mark the different language versions of a website using the hreflang attribute. Hreflang is an HTML or tag that tells search engines the relationship between pages in different languages on your website. Google uses the attribute to serve the correct regional or language URLs in its search results based on the searcher's country and language preferences.2 This step will help searchers from each region find their region’s content.
A language service provider can give you guidance on how to set hreflang up. They can work with you or your web development team to make sure you have properly implemented the HTML tag. If you are still in the planning phase, they can also advise you how to set up your site pages so that they utilize proper use of Hreflang tags.
4. Domain Structuring for better Multilingual SEO
Another important consideration with multilingual SEO is domain structuring.3 To successfully target your audiences, you need to identify which pages you want them to land on. This is referred to as geotargeting. It is a method of determining the geographical location of a website visitor and delivering different content to that visitor based on their location. Google advises using an URL structure that makes it easy to geotarget your site (or parts of it) to different regions.
Below are the URL options you will want to consider using. Each of the options have pros and cons. Compare and contrast each option to see what works best for your site goals.
• Pros: clear geotargeting, server location is irrelevant and allows for easy separation of sites
• Cons: expensive (can have limited availability), requires more infrastructure and hasstrict ccTLD requirements (sometimes)
Subdomains with gTLD
• Pros: can use Google search console for geoargeting, allows for different server locations andeasy separation of sites
• Cons: users may not recognize geotargeting from the URL alone (is "de" the language or country?)
Subdirectories with gTLD
• Pros: easy to set up, can use Search Console geotargeting and is low maintenance (same host)
• Cons: Users might not recognize geotargeting from the URL, has a single-server location and separation of sites is harder
5. Make Sure Site Visitors Can Easily Find How to Switch Languages for better Multilingual SEO
Always make sure userscan easily find the location on your site that allows them to switch languages. This means placing your language switching options in a prominent location on your homepage and every other page of your site where multiple languages are available. Also, you don’t want to take the user back to a portal screen where they have to start over to select another language. You’ll want your user experience to be seamless when switching between different languages. This creates a better user experience as well as reduces unneeded page bounces.
Levon Guiragossian, Marketing Consultant
Levon is a marketing consultant and writer. His current focus areas include content marketing, digital strategy and multilingual branding. Before working with Language Link, Levon led corporate marketing efforts through various management and leadership roles with companies around the world. Levon is a graduate of the University of Queensland in Australia where he holds a Bachelors of Business Management with a major in Marketing.
1 "Multilingual vs Multinational.” Google Webmaster. June 29, 2019. https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2012/05/multilingual-and-multinational-site.html
2 "The SEO Benefits of hreflang.” Yoast. June 30, 2019. "The SEO Benefits of hreflang”. https://yoast.com/hreflang-ultimate-guide/#hreflang-seo-benefit
3 "Domain Structuring.” July 2, 2019. Monitor Backlinks. https://blog.monitorbacklinks.com/seo/multilingual-seo/
About Language Link
At Language Link, we excel at helping our customers grow their brands through our translation and interpretation services. Headquartered in Vancouver, Washington and incorporated in 1991, Language Link has more than 27 years of experience as a full-service multilingual communication agency. We have highly qualified linguists working in over 240 languages and dialects. We also offer a comprehensive suite of translation options, including audio visual services and eLearning and website localization, as well as Over-the-Phone and Video Remote Interpretation.