The Secret Guide to Multilingual SEO for Online Business

Is your business based in a country where English isn’t the first language? Do you have a great online business that you want to take international? Then it is time to charge-up your SEO game. Set up multilingual SEO for your website and help more users find you on the search engine.

As a digital marketing specialist working for one of the best SEO companies, I have seen wonders in traffic rise and conversions for ecommerce and service-based companies when the site is optimized in more than one language.

In fact, only 6% of the world is a native English speaker, while 75% do not speak English at all. But, over a quarter of the human population shops online, even more during the pandemic. Thus, websites selling essentials, groceries, clothes, shoes etc. need to be more inclusive and must target more languages while setting up their SEO.

Online retail sales have soared to over 32% in 2020 and 39% in Q1 of 2021. Amidst such competition, businesses need to put their best foot forward and optimize even for the untapped markets.

While many SEO agencies simply translate the websites to different languages, here is what you can do to ensure your website does not get lost in translation.

1. Don’t Just Translate. Research the Keywords.

Now let’s get the first thing out of the way. Of course, you are going to translate your website content. But despite the urge to use Google translate and other tools, use human translation. Hire a freelance native speaker of that language to do so. Poor translations can hurt the message of your brand and can be detrimental for your business.Secondly, keyword research is as important in the native language as it is in English. Since intent-based keyword research is what works best, direct translations won’t work here. Car insurance usually translates as “l’assurance automobile” in French but the popular searched term is “auto assurance”.Take suggestions from the native speaker about the keywords that are relevant to your content. Consider the dialects in the region too. Eg: coche is a car in Spain but a baby stroller in Latin America.Germans use English for searching technical terms despite conversing in the local language/dialects.An important aspect here is that the search engines can consider the same flow of images and links as duplicate content. To avoid that, use the hreflang and alternate tags. That will prevent raising flags.Here’s our little secret – the competition for keywords in other languages is not as high as with English terms. So, the chances of success are better and easier!

2. Domain Name and URL Structure

This may sound simple but isn’t.Choose a good top-level domain (like .ca, .uk), subdirectories (like /es/ or /de/) and subdomains (like es.example.com) and use them in suitable combinations.Using a country specific domain helps you rank better in that region. So, if you are targeting a particular country only, then it is best to go with this strategy. Although international results will not be the same.If you want to target countries or languages or both, then using generic TLDs with subdirectories will be quite helpful.For example:Spanish in USA – www.mywebsite.com/esEnglish in USA – www.mywebsite.comGermany – www.mywebsite.com/de-de/This method helps users distinguish between different versions of your website. You should especially do this for countries like China where Baidu (search engine) prefers local websites.

3. Multilingual or Multinational Content

If you have the same product or service on offer, regardless the country of the user, then all you have to focus on is the language of the content. Take for example any social media channel like Facebook, they give the language options to the user to select and display accordingly.But if your product or service will vary in different countries based on the policies or availability or even say shipping specifics, then you will have to give a country selection option and give the different languages required for that location. Eg. If a user selects USA, he/she would further require English/Spanish option.Such conveniences on your website will lead to better sales and conversions.

4. Optimize by Country, Not Language

Translating a website is the most inexpensive approach of all while targeting multiple languages. It gets tricky when you have the same language users in multiple countries. Example: if you translate your English site to Latin American, you would be targeting Spanish speaking users in Europe too. Similarly translating from English to French would target users in France and Canada.The cultures, however, are not the same. Popular keywords are different and you will miss out on the intent-based search advantage if you just focus on the language change and not on the country.Getting the entire website content rewritten with the flair and appeal of the particular location is obviously the most attractive option but the most time-consuming and expensive as well.Best approach by any SEO company is to get only the main website pages rewritten and translate the remaining. I call this the hybrid approach. It saves time, money and is quite effective.

5. Target Appropriate Search Engines

Your international ambitions can take a hit if you tunnel your vision to your website and forget the search engine. Google isn’t the only player. Countries like China have their own search engine (Baidu), Japan largely prefers Yahoo, South Koreans opt for the local Naver, and Yandex is popular in Russia.It makes sense to familiarize ourselves with the nuances of the search engines in our target country. Yahoo reacts better to more keyword density (7-8), Baidu gives more importance to meta-tags rather than inbound links and crawls slower than Google, Yandex catalogue allows you to target specific cities by assigning upto 7 regions to your site and counts outbound links as well as inbound.Search engines like Yandex can also penalize you if you have too many pop-ups or ads on your webpages. Knowing such basics while setting up multilingual and multinational SEO can help you turn a start-up into a success.

6. In-Country Link Building

To rank higher on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), link building is like salt to a meal. Enhances all the way!Google responds better to links from authoritative sites, for Baidu you can improve rankings even with lower ranking site links. Quantity is what matters in the latter. Yandex ignores links from unmoderated directories, web forums or sites that aren’t managed by humans.No matter the market, backlinks play a crucial role in ranking. Hire native speakers to help you find target sites. Go ahead and conquer your niche with backlinks!Setting up SEO in any language means you have your work cut out for you. So, it is best to hire a professional agency to do it for you as well as maintain the desired rank. Get in touch with us for the best SEO services.