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Multilingual SEO: Tips and Tricks for Optimizing Your Site for Other Languages

Maintaining your company’s website ranking can be a difficult task with its own set of challenges. You know that maximizing your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is important when it comes to gaining visibility for your company, product, or service. So, what happens when you decide to sell and market your product overseas or to a multilingual audience? Is translating your website content enough?

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Ultimately, that answer is no. While translating your website content will help you connect with your international audience, you also need to consider a multilingual SEO plan to ensure you reach your target audience. Here are some tips and tricks for optimizing your site for other languages.

What is multilingual SEO and why is it important?

Multilingual SEO covers both translating content into other languages and optimizing that content in such a way that it drives search traffic in those other languages. Developing a multilingual SEO strategy for your translated content is what helps customers find your content. After all, what good is a translated website if no one in your intended market is able to find it?

Planning your multilingual SEO strategy

Before anything else, it’s important to develop a solid plan for what you want to do and learn more about the demographic you’re trying to reach.

Get to know the audience you’re targeting

Your new market most likely has different customs and cultural practices than your English-speaking, U.S.-based audience does. A lot of how they search is determined by language. You must choose keywords and phrases that your target audience would enter into search engines. This is how you successfully draw them in. What is important to your current consumer base may not be important at all to the multilingual consumers you are looking to reach. If you do not already know this multilingual market inside and out, be sure to find a consultant who does. Skimping here could have a particularly negative impact on your search engine rankings, and therefore, your sales revenue.

Some preliminary questions you may want to ask yourself as you’re creating a strategy:

  • How are our customers searching for information online? 

  • What is important to them?

  • Is there anything currently use in our marketing strategy that may be perceived as negative or offensive to this new audience?

Shape your SEO strategy to fit your target market, instead of trying to make your target market fit into your current SEO strategy for English speakers.

Decide what content you’ll have professionally translated and adapt your SEO strategy there first

Your SEO strategy can be laid out in phases, depending on which pages of your website you plan to have translated first. If you are not planning to translate certain pages (perhaps those that are not relevant to your non-English speaking market), then there won’t be any need to translate or optimize keywords or create SEO descriptions for those specific pages. 

Doing so could actually have a potentially negative impact. If you create Spanish search terms for pages that haven't been translated or localized yet, the user who searched for those terms will visit your website expecting to read that content in Spanish. If the site is only in English, the visitor may feel disappointed and frustrated with your company, and click away without visiting other pages of your site that may actually be localized specifically for them.

This strategy is typically easier on your overall translation budget as well. Choose the pages that will help you reap the most benefits from your investment, and either save the rest for later, or leave them in English, depending on your long-term goals. Mirror your SEO efforts with this overall plan.

Don’t forget about the details behind the scenes that will help your search engine rankings

There is a lot that goes into multilingual SEO strategies that has nothing to do with what your new site visitors will actually see when they visit your site, but is still just as important to your overall goals. 

  1. Translate your tags and keywords. Even the best translation won’t show up as often in a search result if your tags are not translated into terms your target market is actively searching. They won’t be searching for these keywords in English; they’ll be searching for them in their primary language. The tags you use should reflect this as well.

  2. Think about search terms your multilingual customers may use in a voice search. When you’re creating your multilingual keywords, be sure to optimize some of these for voice search as well. You can read more about how these differ from typical search terms here.

  3. Include hreflang tags for any page with multilingual offerings. Hreflang tags are basically the code you include on the back end of your site to show search engines like Google that you have content in multiple languages. In a nutshell, it is the coding behind why a user sees the correct URL/language in their search results. Having these tags in pace also prevents content duplication issues (which actually hurts SEO rankings by making your pages compete against each other!).

  4. Consider location settings. When coming up with a new SEO strategy for foreign markets, don’t neglect to include the country, city, or even the region your new target market is in when deciding on keywords to pair with your product. People tend to use “near me” or city names in their search when trying to find a product they’d like to purchase or browse for online. Having the location information in your SEO setup will help your site appear more often in search engines.

Make it easy for site visitors to switch between languages if they don’t land on your page in their preferred language

If someone is searching in Spanish when they come across your page, chances are good that they’ll be automatically directed to your Spanish-language site. However, sometimes people come across your page through other means (links from a friend, searching in English because they assume more information is available, etc.) so having an easy way for them to switch to their preferred language is a great way to take them there. You can make a drop-down menu available for the language options you offer, for example. Keep it visible and easy to find for anyone who may wish to switch to another language. If they have to search for it, they’ll be more likely to click away.

Planning a brand-new SEO strategy for an international market can be difficult, but you don’t have to do it alone! Did you know we offer website audits? We’d be glad to take a look at yours and help create a strategy for your international growth! Feel free to contact us if you’d like to tackle this one together.