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Multilingual SEO: Best Practices and Common Mistakes [2022]

0. Featured Image - Multilingual SEO_ Best Practices and Common Mistakes [2022]

Your eCommerce store is performing exceptionally well, and you’re thinking about exploring new markets. To do so, though, you need to convert your website to several languages and rethink your SEO strategy.

Multilingual SEO is the process of dealing with a big and complex website, and ensuring you can reach international audiences.

It’s not easy to optimize your website for several languages, that’s why we’ve gathered the best practices to follow and some common mistakes to avoid.

What Is Multilingual SEO?

Multilingual SEO is when you optimize your website for different languages, in order to become discoverable in new markets, so that people from different countries can find your website through organic search. Every website that offers content in more than one language is considered multilingual as well.

Imagine you have a website in German, selling all kinds of products for pets. You are so popular and visited that the local market becomes small for you. Business growth is possible, but only if you expand your services to new markets such as French, Spanish, or English-speaking countries.

Logically, you will need to translate your website to those languages, so you can reach your new and potential customers, as they, most likely, do not understand German.

What would happen to your search engine optimization, you ask yourself, and you’re right to do so. Since you’ve already optimized all your products into German, how do you optimize them multiple times for different languages?

Why Is Multilingual SEO Important?

Having content in multiple languages can be confusing for Google, and users alike. Hence, why it’s important to optimize your website for each language, as this allows you to prepare for foreign markets.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the best practices, as well as, common mistakes when dealing with a multilingual website.

Multilingual SEO: Best Practices

Your website might be performing well in your home country, but that’s no guarantee you will also do well in other countries. Translating your content into another language, alone, will not do the trick. You also need to fix some technical aspects of your website.

  1. Use dedicated URLs
  2. Apply hreflang tags
  3. Translate metadata
  4. Keep translation quality

1. Use Dedicated URLs

One of the multilingual SEO best practices is to utilize dedicated URLs with a language indicator. Using a language indicator makes it much easier for Google to instantly identify the language of the page by only looking at the URL.

For example, your English or default page is www.website.com, and the French version of your page is www.website.com/fr, the Spanish version – www.website.com/es, and so on.

There are three different ways you can set up multilingual URLs, depending on the URL structure you’ve selected.

Use a ccTLD – www.website.fr
Alternatively, use a subdomain – www.fr.website.com
You can also use a subdirectory – www.website.com/fr

Each of these methods has its pros and cons, (using ccTLDs can be expensive, but they have a clear geotargeting, make separating sites easy; and subdomains are easy to set up. However, it can be confusing to users.), however the using of subdirectories (as shown in the example) is the easiest and the most commonly used way to go.

2. Apply hreflang Tags

Apart from the language indicators, Google uses hreflang attributes to determine the language of the page and the designated region it’s intended for.

This tag is inserted into the header section of the original page or submitted through a sitemap.
Let’s take a look at this example:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”fr-ca” href=”http://example.com/fr/” />

 

Adding this tag is a clear indication for search engines that the page is in French, and it is meant mainly for users in France and Canada, as well as other French-speaking countries.

However, keep in mind that this method of doing multilingual search optimization is quite complicated and cumbersome, as even Google’s own SEO experts admit.

3. Translate Metadata

Translating the content of your website, but leaving the metadata untranslated, could make you look ridiculous. So, ultimately, always make sure to translate your meta descriptions, alt tags, and SEO titles.

Keep in mind that your original keyword might not be the same for the translated version. It’s better to do a new keyword research with the targeted markets in mind to establish which will be the most appropriate keyword.

The same goes for the meta descriptions, do not just translate it word for word. Instead, research and try to focus on your target market. Of course, you can always rely on a professional tool to help you out with the translation.

4. Keep Translation Quality

Do not sacrifice quality to please search engines. After all, the best way to reach the top of the SERPs is to write high-quality, informative text – the same should go for translated texts.

You should not underestimate the importance of a good translation of your website, especially if you want to appear as professional and savvy. Let’s say someone who is a native Italian speaker finds your website. They see a bunch of obtrusive grammatical and linguistic errors, and you’ve already lost their trust.

In a nutshell, in case you were thinking you could only use Google Translate, please do not. Better use a native speaker to translate, or at least, proofread your copy.

2. Multilingual SEO - Best Practices and Common Mistakes

Multilingual SEO: Common Mistakes

Now, let’s look at some of the most common mistakes when dealing with multilingual websites.

  1. Using the wrong keywords
  2. Ignoring search engines
  3. Lack of a native feel to it
  4. Automatic redirect by IP address

1. Using the Wrong Keywords

The keywords have weight. Therefore, the keywords you use in English might not have the same value when you directly translate them into Spanish. The buyer intent is probably different, the phrasing might be off, etc. It’s better to research the local market and adjust your keywords accordingly.

In short, do not simply translate your keywords into another language and think you’ve done a good job.

Multilingual SEO keywords can be tricky to understand at first. However, a little adjusting here and there, so they have the same effect as the original keywords, will make all the difference in the world.

2. Ignoring Search Engines

In most cases, we are all talking about Google and trying to please its search engine algorithm to get ranked higher. Sometimes we’re oblivious to the fact that there are other search engines out there, specifically ones that are very popular locally.

For example, in Russia Yandex is the dominant search engine, in China it’s Baidu, and in South Korea it is Naver. Doing SEO for Google in these countries will not have the same impact, as it would in the U.S., for instance.

Every search engine has its own set of indexing rules, so it’s best to carefully research or approach an expert to be sure you’re doing things correctly.

3. Lack of a Native Feeling

It’s very easy for a native speaker to determine if your website was translated correctly or not. And it’s not only that. Sometimes you can make an honest mistake that can change the entire meaning of your paragraph, title, etc.

3. Lack of a Native Feeling

Other times, it’s a matter of local slang or nuances of the language. The same word can have different meanings in French and French Canadian. Why risk being the laughingstock, when you can avoid it by using the services of a native speaker to correct any mistakes or discrepancies.

4. Automatic Redirect By IP Address

Applying automatic redirects based on the IP address of the user might seem like a good idea, but it’s not. In reality, this can be frustrating, as the user could be situated in France, but still want to visit your site in English, since that is the language they speak.

Furthermore, Google itself does not recommend such actions, due to the fact that both robots and users could reach an irrelevant page, and may miss visiting all versions of the website.

The solution here is to choose one of the methods we’ve described earlier in the article – set up a subdomain, subdirectory or use ccTLDs.

Bonus Tips for an SEO Multilingual Site

Wouldn’t you know it, there’s even more tips for multilingual SEO coming your way.

Regarding your content, in a nutshell, it should be focusing on the same aspects as it would for your original content.

So, write crystal clear titles that describe the content of your text, put extra emphasis on the way you write and structure your subheadings, provide clear call-to-action buttons, and always focus on what the search intent is, and try to be as informative, as possible.

Here’s how to write effective content for your multilingual website:

  • Write clear and descriptive titles
  • Emphasize on subheadings
  • Focus on user intent and provide relevant information
  • Set clear CTA (call-to-action) buttons

Additionally, you must not forget that you need to show some love to your new pages, or to put it in SEO terms, acknowledge and develop your internal link structure. The links you placed on the English version of your website will not be valid for the German version.

Thus, you need to set proper links and remember to emphasize on articles for each language if you want to gain more exposure.

Summary

Multilingual SEO is not that hard once you get to know the basics. Following the best practices and avoiding the most common mistakes will almost certainly guarantee that you will be able to incorporate multiple languages into your website.

Of course, always be prepared to face the unexpected. Research, analyze, strategize, and only then act.

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