Google Ranking and SEO for Multilingual Websites

Google Ranking and SEO for Multilingual Websites

Trapica Content Team

Marketing Guides
6 min read
May 3, 2021

During the pandemic this year, many e-commerce services have found an audience in other countries. People are spending more time online and customers are doing some exploration to find products that match their needs. For businesses, this has meant growing the services outside of the United States. While growth is always a positive, international success also brings several challenges. For example, how do you deal with customers of different nationalities and languages coming to the website?

If you’re in this position now, we have some advice!

What’s Multilingual SEO?

The internet connects us and binds us together, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that multilingual SEO has become something that more services need. As the name suggests, this is the process of optimizing a website for several languages. With your website available in Spanish, Italian, and Chinese, it is suddenly searchable in these markets. You’re making the whole service more accessible and there are opportunities to grow abroad.

In the United States, we’re accustomed to American English and it’s hard to imagine an internet where English isn’t the chosen language. However, we need to remember that Mandarin Chinese and Spanish both sit above English in a list of most-spoken languages.

Even if you have no interest in selling to other countries, you can still accommodate people of other nationalities within the US. According to census data, around 14% of the US population are native Spanish speakers (41 million people). With a website available in this language, you open the service up to another huge audience.

Should I Use Google Translate?

We understand that Google Translate is easy to use and, in theory, it seems like a strong place to start. Though Google is a reliable platform and translates pieces of text from one language to another, we recommend a multilingual strategy because it will allow you to not just speak another language but communicate the language in a way that resonates to the user and is conversational.

Do You Need a Multilingual Website?

Some businesses are unsure as to whether or not they need a multilingual website in the first place. To get started, head into Google Analytics and assess where your traffic originates. After clicking on Audience, choose Geo, and then you can review both the Language and Location pages.

If you haven’t looked at this page in some time, you might be surprised to see the location of some of your website visitors. As an English-written website, you may have lots of visitors from Canada, the UK, and Australia.

Do you need a multilingual website? In our experience, the vast majority of small businesses shouldn’t waste resources on this sort of thing. Likewise, it doesn’t apply to people with a physical location because, no matter how many people you have on the website from The Netherlands, it’s pointless if they aren’t going to fly across the world and visit your physical location.

There are no shortcuts to creating a multilingual website; you can’t just create a European page for everybody on the continent because there are dozens of languages there. If you’re going to produce content in another language, make sure you have enough interest from the respective country.

Creating a Multilingual Strategy - Important Considerations

Choose Your Approach

If you’ve decided that a multilingual strategy is necessary, the first step is often to choose your approach. For example, those who offer one service, regardless of country, can place an emphasis on languages. Looking at Facebook as an example, the product is exactly the same in every single country. With this, it simply offers users an opportunity to choose a different language at the bottom of the homepage.

On the other hand, some businesses will need to cater to different countries as well as changing the language. If your service differs from one country to the next, this is where the hard work comes in.

Consider Dedicated URLs

As we all know at this point, duplicated content is bad for SEO. If Google spots the exact same content across several URLs, it could lower the ranking of your primary content and harm your website. According to the best practices suggested by Google, the way around this is to create dedicated URLs with a language indicator included. This way, Google can identify the content as a different language and the website as a whole doesn’t get punished. Here’s an example:

  • www.umbrella.com
  • www.umbrella.com/fr/

Depending on your current structure, you could add the second language as a top-level domain, subdomain, or even a subdirectory. Whichever route you choose, make sure it doesn’t negatively affect your SEO.

Language SEO

Whether you have enough interest to justify full country targeting or not, it’s always good to start with language targeting. Google Translate has made lots of progress since the early days, but, as noted previously, human translation is always the best way to go. There’s a huge difference between content that has been translated by Google and content that has been translated by a native speaker of a language.

Fortunately, the days of contacting expensive specialists in this area are gone. Instead, you can use freelance websites like Upwork and Fiverr to translate sections of text. Some professionals will translate text for just a few dollars, but we recommend moving above the base level. The best professionals demand a premium and we believe it’s better to do a job well once than have to keep redoing it.

Use hreflang Tags

If you haven’t used these tags before, you’re probably reading the subheading and thinking there’s a typo on the page. Don’t worry, hreflang tags are used by Google to determine the region and language for which the content is intended. You have two options to add these tags into a page:

  • Through the sitemap
  • In the header of the page

If you want to use the same page for several regions, you can add a number of hreflang attributes. Since this is sometimes a difficult process, we recommend working with a tool that does this automatically.

Create a Sitemap

When creating all sorts of pages and translations, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of different languages. With this in mind, create a sitemap not only for the search engine to find content but also to help you when expanding the website. Even if you’re still on WordPress, some useful tools will help including Google XML Sitemaps. The tool will do everything on your behalf which is ideal for beginners.

Think About Regions and Languages

Many businesses will detect the country of the user before then redirecting them to a specific language. While this sounds like a good premise, plenty of countries have more than one language and dialect. Using India as an example, there are over 120 recognized languages. Even in the United States, we have over 30 recognized languages. Just because somebody is located in the US, it doesn’t mean they want American English on the website.

We have two secrets to share that will help improve the experience for the visitor and your ranking on Google:

  • Take advantage of the browser-supplied default language settings.

Spanish individuals in the United States will get the language they use on the browser rather than just offering English because of their location. As an internet user yourself, you want web pages in English while abroad, right?

  • Ask the visitor for their preference.

This sounds too simple, but why assume when you can ask and know for sure? When giving users a choice, don’t use flags either because, as we’ve seen, countries don’t necessarily equal language.

Quick-Fire Tips

1. Don’t try to cover all languages on one page; it’s better in both the short-term and long-term if you invest in unique pages for each language.

2. It’s just as important to translate the metadata as the actual content on a page.

3. All the same rules apply in terms of boosting your Google ranking. Pay special attention to page loading speed because it is something that often goes awry when introducing different languages and pages.

4. Make sure you have the pricing adjusted based on the location of the individual. If the wrong currency is on a web page, users automatically assume that the service isn’t available and click away.

5. Try to produce content that resonates based on different locations and cultures.

6. Ensure that the content team understands the different laws and regulations that exist in the new countries you wish to service. For example, the GDPR laws recently caused a big shake-up in Europe.

7. You can use hybrid targeting by starting with geo-targeting and then using a hreflang to choose the right language.

Learn how Trapica can help you automate and optimize your Google ad campaigns

Marketing Guides
6 min read
May 3, 2021