SEO for a Multilingual Website

What is a Multilingual Website?

Today, business is not just restricted to a particular region or language. Every brand has the potential to reach globally to a diverse clientele. This means that the website needs to cater to their expectations. And this is the basis for a multilingual website.
Brands treat international and multilingual websites the same. But there are significant differences between the two. An international website is for an international audience. What this means is that it may or may not be multilingual. But a multilingual website has different language options which the user chooses.

Related : International SEO & Its Importance

When you have a global clientele, you need to approach web development and design. The first thing you need to focus on is the language. There are hundreds of languages spoken around the world. A multilingual website needs to be understood by your target audience.
For instance, Nike is an international brand that provides the content to users based on their linguistic behavior as it’s in Japanese in Japan.
And beyond that, the language has to be neutral. A word or phrase can have different or even conflicting meanings across the world. A multilingual website needs to bridge all the cultural differences and ensure that a brand message is clear and consistent.
Finally, the design, development, and implementation phases also need to be looked at. It varies across the world and can be as diverse as the languages themselves. This makes developing a true multilingual website a challenge.

Tips to Do SEO for a Multilingual Website

1. Setting up Your Website and URLs

The first and most important thing you need to do is consider additional URLs or sub-domains. Even the biggest brands like Google have different sub-domains to service different nationalities.
Brand targeting Croatian user base use .hr in their website URLs.
There are different domains for searches like,, and just to name a few. The function of the websites remains the same, but the language is different.
Another factor is the subfolders when the domain remains the same. You could arrange the URLs as This funnels everyone from France into that specific subfolder.
A search engine indexes a page only once. This means that you need to make sure that you have the right language on the website. So, it is critical to get it right the first time.

2. Adding Geotargeting

Geotargeting is another important consideration when your business is expanding into another country. With geotargeting, you’re essentially instructing search engine spiders to direct relevant traffic. They prefer a specific language or are from a particular region.
It’s something that Coca-Cola has excelled at for many years.
The key here is to revamp content so it caters to the local audience. You can also reuse older content, but you need to make sure that it does not fall under the duplication issue.
Geotargeting is a reliable method to get high-quality traffic to your website. It can also be implemented during your expansion phase and is not difficult to do so.

3. Researching Your Competition

As with competition analysis, you can get a lot of information from other players in the niche. With advanced SEO tool suites today, getting insights from your competition is easy. With Ubersuggest, SEMrush, or Ahrefs, you can get the performance of a website for a particular location.
And this is especially powerful when you’re a new brand setting up in the niche.
Check for how their URL structure is optimized for different types of demographics.
You could also run an in-depth keyword analysis to see what they are targeting. This can help your SEO campaign gain more traction and in much less time. Also, check your competitor’s backlink profile to see where they’re getting traffic from.
Good backlink analysis tools can help you track down quality backlinks which you can use as well.

4. Creating Localized Content

Content marketing has become important for SEO Marketing. This is especially true after the latest search engine updates. And when it comes to multilingual websites, local content is a critical ranking signal.
Find what topics are trending around the area and create content centered around it. This can get a lot of people interested in your brand.
You can find trending topics for different locations on Google are any tools like BuzzSumo.
And this is not only your on-page content but also your URLs and metadata. And anywhere else which has language-specific communication. Now is a good time to take another look at your SEO metrics like keyword usage and targeted keywords.
Keywords that you’re using currently may not deliver great results. But you could always revamp them for better reach. It can also help you with content duplication.

5. Optimizing for UTF-8 Characters

Depending on the region you’re reaching out to, there are high chances of encountering UTF-8 characters. This is especially relevant in the South East Asian and Russian regions. Their script calls for characters that are not found in the typical Latin character set. This is why you need to support UTF-8 characters so you can include them effectively.
Adopting better support for UTF-8 characters means searches will crawl your website effectively. The reason is that local searches are already adapted to the language. This means that they’re looking for relevant results in that specific language.
If your website does not have it, there are chances you might not even figure it in the search results.

6. Using Natural Language Processing

When regional languages are involved, translation is going to be an important part of the process. But this is a double-edged sword because bad translation can ruin even the best brands. An example, let’s say you have a pesticide brand you’re marketing globally.
The text “He has a green thumb,” meaning they are good with plants. In a translation software, this will be translated into “that person’s thumb is green in color.”
Simply plonking everything down into Google translate is a bad idea. One, because you are not giving your translation software any context. And secondly, your software most likely does not handle contextual data.
With the launch of the Google BERT update, the necessity to implement NPL has become more vital than ever.
The solution here is to opt for natural language processing. An NLP software is the best chance of getting a usable translation for commercial use. It incorporates context while creating translated text.

7. Optimizing for People, Not Just Search Engines

More often than not, brands optimize pages for search engines these days. This can be a huge negative when rankings are considered. The whole SEO ecosystem is moving towards a more user-centric experience. Brands are making websites more personalized and in line with customer expectations.
Your website should be appealing to your visitors. You need to make sure that you are addressing common problems with your website. And it should be in a regional language that a majority of the people understand. As a webmaster, you need to be careful with the content you use here.
Everyone knows that BBC is a brand, and it gets millions of traffic per day. But still, it never overlooks to help a small (compared to a global audience) number of people using their website in the Igbo language in Africa.
You need to use the right terms or phrases on your website. This is where contextual awareness comes into play. Get the best and most relevant copy for your website in a specific language.

8. Analyzing Customer Behavior

Customer behavior analysis has been integrated with SEO for quite some time now. Brands use complex heuristics and tools to determine customer behavior and probability. You can keep a tab on behavior using Google analytics or any Google analytics or any other third-party tools.
This ensures better traffic numbers and higher conversion rates. It also significantly helps with retargeting or upselling products, especially for niche brands.
Customer behavior is a diverse area, and it is a unique part of the buying experience. It has grown more complex over time as more metrics have been incorporated into it. In more ways, it is even more diverse than the languages they speak. As a business owner, research is needed into typical customer behavior for a given region. It can give you the leverage you need to improve your branding efforts on a multilingual platform.

9. Getting More Local Links

A big part of a good local ranking is connecting with authoritative local brands. And ranking locally can help people identify with your brand better. Which in turn means better business and ROI. Businesses need to spend considerable research and effort to get relevant websites to link back to them.
Getting a local ranking is difficult, especially because you’re doing it in another language. A large amount of content with local flavor needs to be created.
Guest posts like blogs, infographics, and listicles can establish local authority. With attractive infographics and quality content, you’d invite a lot of local bloggers to add you as a useful resource.
You might want to hire content creators who are well-versed in a particular language or belong to a region. It is imperative here that you don’t lose the brand message through badly translated content.

10. Keeping Language Consistent on Your Links

Something you need to look out for is to make sure that you curate your backlinks. Not just in terms of the subject but also language. When brands reuse backlinks from their original site on their multilingual website.
For example, here’s a blog page hyperlinked to the original page (in English) in the Croatian language.
In several cases, their links might have websites that use a different language. This creates confusion for the users. Search crawlers will also classify that link as not being useful.
Curating backlinks might take a lot of time, but it is critical for current SEO practices. Having links in different languages will be detrimental to your rankings. But if you’re thorough with your research, you will find equivalent websites to link to. And before long, you will have a powerful link profile for your website.

Related : Legit Ways to Earn Backlinks to Your Site

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Multilingual Website Vs. Multi-regional Website

# Multilingual Website Multi-regional Website
1 Refers to a website that has content in more than one language Refers to a website that caters to people from a particular region
2 You can target a wider demographic with a multilingual website You can only get the audience from a specific region, limiting your exposure
3 The content used here would be the same as the parent website with minor changes for localization The content is going to be read in different languages, so each website needs to have unique content
4 Fewer options to customize for different audiences A lot more marketing customizations are available depending on the region
5 Cannot be differentiated at the domain level, only sub-folders Country-Code Top Level Domains (ccTLD) are country-specific and a powerful way to get more targeted traffic

Best Tools to Manage Multilingual Content

1. WordPress Multilingual Plugin

WPML is one of the most popular multilingual plugins for most websites. And since it is a WordPress plugin, there is a great chance that this is compatible with your website. WMLP makes it easier to build multilingual websites and run businesses in multiple locations.
It is a simple and powerful tool that has quickly become the standard for this niche. It allows translation at all levels, including metadata as well. It can also integrate with other plugins like WooCommerce Multilingual for a more cohesive experience.

2. Screaming Frog SEO Spider

As popular SEO tools go, this one is used by even top brands in the niche. Screaming Frog is a brand, and it offers its SEO services as white label partners. Their website is multilingual, and you can use it to connect with people across the globe. It also has features that are multi-regional. This is critical when you’re reaching out to global audiences. Webmasters get a list of international targeting metrics they should check.

3. Answer The Public

Even by itself, Answer The Public is a stellar SEO suite for businesses. But they also include extensive multilingual support. This can make reaching out to people in other countries a breeze. Even though it has a free version, the language options are only available in the Pro version.

4. Transifex

Transifex is a tool that is dedicated to translation services and is good at it. Businesses having an international audience and spending huge amounts on paid advertisements needs it the most.
It is a SaaS-based tool that people use extensively to localize various projects, including SEO campaigns. Its customer roster has several top names on it, like HubSpot and Microsoft. Since it is web-based, it’s pretty easy to access. Also, various teams can easily collaborate on it from around the world. All these features make this a localization tool to consider.

5. OpenText Translator

OpenText Translator is one of the most featured tools on our roundup. It is aimed at enterprise-level brands which are looking for multilingual options at a massive scale. It comes with an easy-to-use dashboard, but there are a lot of options for the expert user. Since it's light on resources, it’s a great choice for daily use. And compared to others, its translated content is much better to read. It works great for handling heavy text data like documentation and blog posts.

6. Memsource

Memsource is a cloud-based translation platform that can help businesses with their translation. The difference between this and the rest is that it uses AI to help with the translation process. This means that the results you get are cross-verified between hundreds of thousands of instances. It makes the result accurate and more localized than other tools.

7. Polylang

Another WordPress plugin and one of the closest competitors of WPML, Polylang, is another viable option. It is a powerful platform and has several options for different languages. It can automatically download the requisite language packs off WordPress and update them on your website. It feels a lot more upmarket than its competitors online.

8. TranslatePress

TranslatePress is a new entrant to the market but is a full-fledged translation and localization tool. Choosing this tool gives access to a plethora of benefits as per SEO.
It comes with support for over 221 languages and automatic language detection features. This can either be browser settings or IP-based switching. Another key feature is that you can have several accounts dedicated to different languages. This is especially useful for global teams.

MultiLingual SEO FAQs

1. Why should I consider multilingual SEO?

If you are thinking of expanding your business, a multilingual website is a good first step. Getting more reach through different languages can be a huge boost to your brand.
Additionally, it allows you to target a wide range of audiences and turn them into your clients.

2. Should multiple languages be hosted on the same domains?

Best practices state that you host a region-specific language on the appropriate country-specific domain. This can allow for clear geotargeting and separation of websites. But you can also host multiple languages on the same website. This is considered the best as per the SEO standards and the perks it renders.

3. Is using automated translations okay for my website?

Automated translation might be a lot quicker, but it doesn’t work and manually curates all the content. AI-assisted tools can help reduce the occurrences of contextual errors. Matt Cutts, the former head of the Google search quality team, said a decade back in his video that automated translation is not good for any website.
But the best option would be to hire a content specialist fluent in the specific language.

4. What does the hreflang tag mean?

When creating multilingual websites, this is the most critical part of your website code. It lets search engines know of your language choice. Hreflang allows search engines to display your web page in the local language of the user.
People searching for information in a specific language will be directed to your website.

5. How do I optimize multilingual websites?

It would be best if you had an internal checklist for various parts of your website SEO. There are several things you need to look at. It starts from location-specific URL optimization and ends with outreach. Here are a few things you should be mindful of. You should add language-specific code to your website. Also, have an option for users to switch languages.

6. Do different versions of one language (US vs. UK English) cause content duplication issues?

There are different schools of thought regarding duplication issues, especially the US vs. UK English debate. The safe route to take is to have unique content for both these pages. Google Algorithms change almost every week now. Rather than risk de-ranking, we might as well create content that is specific to each region.

7. What should I do when the language is the same but regions are different?

If you have many versions of the page for different languages or regions, you can let Google know about this. It will help you with indexing your website better. You can indicate these alternate pages through HTML tags, HTTP headers, or Sitemap.

8. Why is there a translate link for my page even when using the local language?

This happens when a part of your website content is in an alternate language. You need to double-check and make sure that you audit your website for language inconsistencies. This will help prevent this from occurring.
Are you looking for an SEO expert to optimize your multilingual website? Drop your details here.

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Joseph Schneider

He has spent more than 12 Years in strategising and executing SEO campaigns. He is interested to writing Digital-marketing, PPC and Social Media Marketing related topics.