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Multilingual SEO: How To Expand On The International Markets

Multilingual SEO: How To Expand On The International Markets

Do you want to target a foreign audience and expand into international markets? Translating and localizing your game is vital, but not enough. You need to develop and implement effective marketing strategies, with multilingual SEO being one of the best ways to ensure that you are found organically by your international target audience.

We have often been asked: what should I do in terms of SEO when I target both a local and a foreign audience? Well, there are a few things to consider.

First, you need a multilingual website. Second, you’ll want to make sure people in different countries see the right pages for their specific locations, and also avoid penalties for duplicate content. Fortunately, Google has come up with several measures you can take to improve your ranking.

What actionable steps can you take to beat the search algorithms and drive more organic traffic to your multilingual site? Let’s see!

What is multilingual SEO and when should you use it?

By definition, multilingual SEO means optimizing your website content for different languages, so it can become searchable in new markets and people speaking different languages can find it through organic search.

Simple and complicated at the same time, right? Let’s break it through and analyze this information. Let’s break it through and analyze this information.

According to Statista, most internet users use American English as their search language. But statistically speaking, English is just the third most spoken language in the world.

multilingual SEO - most spoken languages

And even if your main audience is living in English-speaking countries, you’ll find that not all of your visitors are native English speakers. So, it’s worth using multilingual search engine optimization to reach as wide an audience as possible.

Therefore, it might be tempting to rely on Google translate, which non-English speakers can use to translate both the results of a Google search and the contents of your site. But this is only in theory. But the truth is that if you use a dedicated multilingual SEO strategy, you will get much better results, both for SEO and for the quality of the translated content.

Why is multilingual SEO so important?

When expanding into an international market, you need to know that this process requires coherent and consistent marketing strategies, in which SEO and localization play a key role.

This means that all the SEO rules used for the local market extend to the international one. In addition, you add the localization efforts. To make your content both accessible and searchable, and have a unique presence that resonates with your new audience, translations need to be fine-tuned to everything, from cultural and religious norms to the different nuances of the language.

Therefore, you need to start with proper and in-depth research, by answering questions such as:

  • who is your new target audience?
  • what do they look like (demographic and geographic characteristics, habits, education)?
  • what do they search for?
  • what do they want to know more about?
  • how did they respond to your competition’s efforts to reach and engage with them?

Based on the results, you can tailor your content to meet users’ needs and meet them where they already are. After all, you’ll want to make it easier for your new potential customers to find your content in their native language.

Multilingual SEO best practices

To optimize your translated website for SEO, consider these tips:

Translate and localize your keywords

multilingual SEO - localize keywords

When it comes to multilingual SEO, it is not enough to simply translate the current keywords of your site. Instead, it’s vital to find out what words your target audience tends to use when searching and include them in the translated content.

And that’s because your foreign audience can search for content using terminology different from that resulting from a simple translation. To be listed in search engines, you will want to respond accordingly to these queries.

When thinking about your translated site, you need to identify the keywords that resonate in each of your target locales. That’s why is vital to work with a localization team native to the target market. Once you have a solid list of keywords, include them both in your website content and metadata – site description, meta tags, and ALT tags.

Content localization matters for your multilingual SEO

multilingual SEO - content

Content is essential for your SEO strategy. If you want to publish content in different languages on your website, you’ll need to adapt the existing one or create a new copy. However, adapting your content while maintaining efficient SEO can be a challenge.

Because the same words have different meanings in languages used in different countries, just translating your keywords using Google Translate or other AI translation tools is not enough. You have to get into the head of your audience, know which words they are using, and understand their search intent.

Also, when translating content for a foreign audience, you need to take into account the cultural differences that exist between countries. Otherwise, your audience will realize that the text was not written specifically for them and will not engage with it. Therefore, you should work with native speakers who can localize or at least check your translated content. Thus, you avoid making awkward mistakes and offending potential foreign clients.

Use dedicated URLs

Duplicate content is one of the main problems when having multilingual websites. While not all duplicate content is harmful, text that appears in multiple URLs can lead to penalties, such as lower ranking or even de-indexing in search engines.

To avoid this, Google recommends using “dedicated URLs” that include a language indicator. This enables both users and search engines to identify the language from the URL itself. For example, while your original page might be www.example.com, the Italian version could be www.example.com/it/, the German version will be www.example.com/de, and so on.

Depending on the structure of your URL, you will have a different placement of the language indicator in the URL, especially when it comes to the difference between using country code top-level domains (CCTLD) and subdomains on your own site. You have three options:

  • Top-level domain (e.g. www.example.fr)
  • Subdomain (e.g. www.fr.example.com)
  • Subdirectory (e.g. www.example.com/fr/)

However, also a language indicator can be misinterpreted – so to make sure your website is SEO optimized you need to define your URL parameters.

Apply “hreflang” attributes to avoid duplicated content penalties

multilingual SEO - hreflang

When implementing multilingual SEO, you will probably hear about hreflang tag. But what is it? And why is it important?

In plain English, this is a tag or an attribute that was created by Google to tell its algorithm that “this page is translated to a specific language” and should be prioritized. This is more effective not for country differentiation but for regionalization.

Let’s say, for example, that you have separate sites for the US and Australia and even if the content is very similar, the pages are tagged with the appropriate language attribute. Because Google recognizes you have optimized pages for users in different languages and regions instead of duplicated content on your site, you’ll avoid the penalties and end in boosting your website’s rankings on country-specific search engines.

Hreflang tag used in combination with other international SEO strategies allows Google to guide your potential customers to the right version of your website.

Translate your metadata

When you develop a multilingual website, you’ll also need to ensure that you translate not just the texts, but also the metadata (meta description and ATL tags). They are crucial on-page SEO elements that will help you boost your ranking for the new countries you’re targeting.

But due to the differences between languages, this is not always just a simple word-for-word translation. Therefore, before publishing the translated version of your original content, you need to conduct new keyword research specifically for your new target markets. Every single time.

You can easily do this by using SEO tools like Ubersuggest, Ahrefs , or Semrush, to name just a few. You can do this by using their keyword explorers and following a few simple steps:

  • Enter a translated keyword
  •  selecting the country you want to target
  • review the results to give you a better idea of what your potential customers might search.
multilingual SEO - Ubersuggest DE
multilingual SEO - Ubersuggest EN

Keep one language per page

You might be tempted to translate just some parts of your website and keep others in the original language. Some examples of these situations could occur when:

  • the main content is translated but the navigation menu is in the original language
  • user-generated content (such as comments or forum discussions) is in different languages.

In both cases, you can clarify the intended language and region of the page by adding hreflang tag.

However, having multiple languages on the same page could alter your users’ experience, especially when they don’t understand the original vocabulary of your website. In the first case, even if the reader might understand the main content, he will have difficulties when trying to navigate to other pages. In the second case, user-generated content in different languages could result in confused or even frustrated users, as they lose the context of the discussions.

Therefore, you have to make sure that your stick to the same language on a page, and using an AI machine translation tool can be helpful.

Make sure your website is loading fast


Starting with July 2018, your website loading time has become a key ranking factor for SEO, so it’s important to have a fast page not just to provide a great experience to your users, but also to rank higher in SERPs. 

In other words, the speed of your website will directly influence the amount of traffic your website gets. There are a few easy steps to implement to make a significant difference in the loading time. These include:

  • installing a plugin that enables page caching 
  • setting up browser caching
  • integrating a CDN with your website
  • optimize the size of your images.

Most of these methods are somewhat technical, but if you’re using WordPress to build your site, you have access to many plugins that will help you increase your site speed. Plugins such as WP Rocket, fix most problems identified by Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

Final words

When creating a website in multiple languages, it’s vital to ensure the quality of your translation. And yes, as mentioned many times (and we can’t stress enough with this), having a localized website is a matter of quality content on all your pages.

But you also need to consider several multilingual SEO factors, that will help you to define a clear intended reader for each of your pages and avoid duplicated content. This way, you will not just boost your website rankings but also improve the overall user experience.

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