Notching up your website ranking is hard even if it’s in English but what if it’s in Chinese? Optimizing your website for different languages or for a multilingual audience can have profound benefits for your business.
Assume a scenario, if you’re running an online business but your website is only searchable in countries that speak in English but remains elusive in other plausible markets worldwide?
You’re surely losing on to the potential customers for your business. As per Internet World Stats, just over 25% of Google searches are in English and the remaining are in other languages. The enormity of the stats gives a sense of the bigger piece of the pie of the global market that remains untapped.
What is a Multilingual Website?
As per Google’s Official Webmaster Central blog, “A multi-regional website is one that explicitly targets users in various regions (generally different countries); we call it multilingual when it is available in multiple languages, and sometimes, the website targets both multiple regions and is in multiple languages”.
Like it or not, online marketers have saddled up on a snail to milk the potential that lies in the multilingual sector. Translating your website into different languages can give you a good chance to climb the search engine ranking.
It all may look like a pandora box but a little knowledge on how to make a multilingual website click can take you a long way.
In this blog, we will focus on 5 such essential steps focus on which can help create a successful multilingual site that ranks well with a relevant search engine:
Are you up for the challenge? Let’s begin …
Research Keywords For The Target Market
The first and foremost step involves the selection of your potential target markets and the competition level.
Realize that it’s a critical step and amateurs handling the job wouldn’t cut out for you. Hire SEO specialists to crack the tricky code for you laying down the perfect road to user-friendly websites.
In most cases, translating English keywords into a foreign language is a futile step. From the keywords to regular phrases, local variations, and even regular grammar is different across various countries.
Perform keyword research in a native language to get the most potent keywords for best SEO practices for your website.
Use Ahrefs Keywords Explorer to calculate the keyword search volume and the keyword difficulty for target keywords in the international market.
Alternatively, you may find Google Trends pretty helpful in finding what’s buzzing in a particular market.
Note: Google is not universally used as a Search Engine; So you may see different search volume for keywords in certain countries. China (Baidu), Russia (Yandex), and South Korea (Naver).
The Right CMS
Some of the commonly used CMS such as WordPress, Drupal, Magento, Shopify, etc provide complete support such as a shared database for pursuing multilingual SEO.
This helps to create your site with different domains and subdomains. What does that mean for you?
Whether you add/abandon a product/service, redesign a website, or anything else, every change is reflected on the different versions.
In an otherwise case, where your website is built on anti-multilingual CMS, follow the steps:
- Develop the website from scratch
- Copy the entire HTML code to the new site followed by a translation
- Develop a website in a targeted foreign language on a CMS.
So, you can retain your English website but adds the international site to the kitty.
The URL/Domain Name
Once you have pinned down the target foreign language (or market), distil the URL/Domain name for the international website.
Be clear with the URL structure if you plan to make your website available in different countries.
Google’s Official Webmaster Central blog states, “It’s difficult to determine geotargeting on a page by page basis, so it makes sense to consider using a URL structure that makes it easy to segment parts of the website for geotargeting.”
The mention of the language in the URL depends largely on the domain structure. Generally, there are three options:
- Top-level domain (e.g. www.snippet.fr)
- Subdomain (e.g. www.fr.snippet.com)
- Subdirectory (e.g. www.snippet.com/fr/)
Each of these have their pros and cons, but subdirectories are generally preferred.
Reflecting upon the domain names, Google differentiates between the following two types:
- ccTLDs (country-code top-level domain names)
It’s country-specific. E.g. .cn for China, .uk for the United Kingdom etc. A clear signal to search engines and users about the origin of the website.
- gTLDs (generic top-level domain names):
Non-generic. E.g. .com, .net, .org etc. Does not give any clear signal but the universal connotation is upheld by Google.
How Google Does Geotargeting?
- Websites with ccTLD provide complete clarity about the host country. Avoid using “vanity ccTLDs” (such as .tv, .me, etc.) for Google holds the discretion of using it generic.
- Use Webmaster Tools Geographic Target setting to prioritize search results as per the targeted country.
- Server location can give a huge clue. According to Google, “Server location (through the IP address of the server) is frequently near your users. However, some websites use distributed content delivery networks (CDNs) or are hosted in a country with better webserver infrastructure; so, we try not to rely on the server location alone.”
- General signals such as a business address on the website, local links, or business listing, etc.
International Host Provider
Having hosting within your target country makes a significant difference to the users accessing your website. Also, it helps your website being indexed in geo-specific search engines. For instance, if your target market is Spain, look for a hosting provider in Europe.
Use hreflang Tags
Google uses hreflang attributes to configure the language and location of the page. It enables you:
- To access the page in your preferred language as per your geographical location.
- Location-centric website content.
How to Implement hreflang ?
- You can add them in the header section of the original page or submitted via a sitemap.
For example, if you want to add hreflang tag signalling a French page intended for the audience sitting in Canada, it will look like <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”fr-ca” href=”https://example.com/fr/” />
- Use hreflang=”x-default” annotation for locations/languages not specified.
- Add the exact same set of hreflang for every variation in your language/location of the page.
- Make sure you’re using the proper ISO 639–1 code for languages and ISO 3166–1 Alpha 2 for locations (optional).
Is Your International Website SEO-Ready?
Having a multilingual website is still a job incomplete. You might be expecting a deluge of visitors but that isn’t happening this easily for every website. Managing a multilingual marketing campaign depends on the three main factors:
On‐page content: Translate your website content and optimize it for the selected target keywords without stuffing. Duplicate content can be a common issue for websites with languages for diverse locations or regions. You can implement the rel=”alternate” hreflang link element and x-default hreflang annotation correctly to eliminate such possibility. Do not forget to rewrite the meta for the new keywords.
Incoming links: Get natural, high-quality backlinks in the same language from high PA/DA recognized websites for extra bonus SEO points.
User Experience: It’s dynamic and varies depending on the prevailing search engine.
The Last Thoughts
SEO has been evolving for years. Pursue ingenious strategies to adjust with the algorithm changes to improve your online presence. The bottom line is to walk along with the tide and work out a strategy that pays off well for your business. Whether staying local or going international is your call to make.
Having a seasoned web development expert for startups and enterprises can make the herculean-looking task of creating multilingual websites a lot easier. If you plan to go international, you can always bank on DIGITURNAL for end-to-end services for creating and managing a marketing strategy.
Do you have any questions regarding optimizing your multilingual site for search engines? Drop us your query at firstname.lastname@example.org