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What is multilingual SEO and how to do it on WordPress

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If your online business is doing well in your country, you might consider expanding your business to international markets. To be successful in new markets, it requires additional investment in SEO as well. You better start thinking about the multilingual SEO , if you want to be sure that your site will be found and used in other countries! Here, I will explain what multilingual SEO is, why it is important and what are the things to consider.

What is multilingual SEO?

Multilingual referencing makes it possible to offer optimized content for several languages ​​or several sites. Let's explain this with an example. Imagine you have an online store: you sell WordPress plugins in many countries. To increase your sales in Germany, you have decided to translate your content into German and create a German site. Now you have two variations of the same page: an English and a German version. Pretty simple, would you say? Well, there is more.

Especially if you want to target countries with similar languages ​​or countries where multiple languages ​​are used, this will cause some problems.

Obviously you want people who search in German to be directed to the German site. Maybe you even want to have a specific site for German speakers in Switzerland. It would be even better to have a French alternative for French speakers in Switzerland, of course. For now, let's assume that you don't have the resources to do this. In this case, it is probably best to send users from Switzerland who speak French to the English site. On top of that, you need to make sure that you are sending all other users to your site in English as they are more likely to speak English than German. In a scenario like this, you need to configure and implement a multilingual SEO strategy.

Why multilingual SEO is important

You want your website to be found with Google. In a standard SEO strategy, you optimize your content for one language: the language in which your website is written. Sometimes, however, you want to target audiences in multiple countries and regions. These audiences are probably similar, but there are always differences. This presents you with an opportunity. By specifically targeting your audience, it is easier to meet their needs. One of those differences is the language they speak. When you make your site available in multiple languages ​​and target specific regions, you achieve two things:

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  • You develop your potential audience;
  • You improve your ranking chances for a specific region and in multiple languages.

Let's go back to the example we discussed earlier in light of this. By making a German variation of your site in English, you have made it possible for users searching in German to find your product. Ultimately, multilingual SEO is all about meeting the needs of your users.

It all sounds pretty clear, but multilingual SEO can be difficult. A lot of things can go wrong and a bad multilingual implementation can hurt your rankings. It means you have to know what you are doing.

One of the biggest risks with multilingual SEO is duplicate content. If you feature very similar content on your website across multiple pages, Google won't know what content to show in search engines. Duplicate pages compete with each other, so individual page rankings will drop. You can avoid this particular problem with hreflang, a part of your multilingual SEO strategy. But it's not just multilingual SEO. Let's discuss the main aspects below.

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Multilingual SEO: content, domains and hreflang

Content for international sites

Content is a very important aspect of your multilingual SEO strategy. If you want to write content in different languages, you need to adapt existing content or create new content. Tailoring your content while maintaining good SEO can be a challenge.

Your content strategy should always start with keyword research for the region and language you are targeting. You can't just translate your keywords using Google Translate. You will need to get into the minds of your new audience. You need to know what words they are using. The same words can have different meanings in languages ​​used in several countries.

Translating the content is also a challenge. Take into account the cultural differences that exist between countries. Otherwise, your copy will not be attractive to your new audience. If possible, you should have translators on hand or at least double-check your translated content to avoid making awkward mistakes.

Domain Structure for International Sites

To successfully target your audiences, you need to determine which pages you want them to land on. There are several options as to which domain structure you are going to use. Do you need to get ccTLD (Country Code Top Level Domain) as example.de for Germany? Or could you create subdirectories for countries like example.com/de ? Or, will you use a subdomain like de.example.com ? And what about countries where several languages ​​are spoken? How do you set up a domain structure for these countries?

There are a lot of things to consider when making these decisions. This is where domain authority, but also the size of your company and the marketing capabilities in your target countries come into play.

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hreflang

Hreflang is the technical implementation that you will need to put in place if you are offering your content in multiple languages. In other words, you will tell Google which result to show to whom in the search engines. It's not as easy as it sounds and is something that often goes wrong, even on large sites.

International ambitions? Do good multilingual SEO to succeed

Multilingual SEO focuses on optimizing content for different languages ​​for search engines. With a good multilingual SEO strategy, visitors from different countries will be able to find your website for their market, in their native language. Multilingual SEO can be difficult and you need to know what you are doing.

This article features 2 comments

  1. Excellent article I find! Multilingual site and SEO, a good SEO strategy internationally is actually not complicated. On each of the language versions, let's take for example the French version, we should mention to Google the alternative via a tag in the head of the page. Just an addition to your advice more than complete in this area.

    1. Hello Pascal,

      You are right. And I would add that there are processes that allow this to be done fairly well with machine translation. I also recommend the Gtranslation.io plugin

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