How multilingual SEO works

The basic rules of Search Engine Optimization have become relatively familiar to most companies over the past few years. However, this does not always mean it is easy to set up. Especially not if your website is offering content in multiple languages. While this can also be an advantage, companies do need to be mindful of some important things. This is how multilingual SEO works.

Domain structure

The first thing to be mindful of, is how segment parts of the website for ‘geo targeting’: customizing advertisements for products or services to specific markets based on the geographic location of your audience. There are multiple ways to do this, and each bring their own pros and cons. The first option is to have multiple country code top level domains (ccTLDs). If a company has an English and a French website, that would mean having company.com as well as company.fr. This is an easy way to separate sites, however it is also expensive, and means having more infrastructure.

Generic ccTLDs

Generic ccTLDs with subdirectories may be a better option: the url for the French site would then be fr.site.com. That is easy to set up as well, but might cause confusion, because not all visitors will understand what it stands for. Then there is the option of subdirectories with generic ccTLDs, so company.com/fr. This is easy to set up, has low maintenance, however it might make separation of sites less clear. Finally, companies might choose URL parameters: company.com?loc=fr, but this is not recommended.

Multilingual SEO : prepare your domain for multi regions and languages

Hreflang tags

Serving visitors based on their language and geographic location can also be done automatically. By adding the rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” annotation, Google can identify which URLs need be served to specific visitors based on geographic location and language. This can be done in three different ways: you can place an HTML link element in the header, create an HTTP header or submit language information in a Sitemap. And make sure to remember there are specific hreflang supported values for each language and region. For example, de-ES means you are offering German content to users in Spain, while using only de means you are offering German content independent of region.

One language per page

Some pages may be meant for multiple regions, and as a result can have multiple languages on one page. For example, the main content can be translated, but the navigational menus may stay in their original language. While the abovementioned hreflang tags can clarify the intended language, having multiple languages on one page does not benefit to the user experience. People might like an article, but if they do not understand how to navigate to another page on your website, they are not likely to click through.

Create content in multiple languages

Opening new websites to new markets might be fairly easy from a technical point of view, but these tricks and tips leave one aspect uncovered: the content. There are two options:  either create new content in another language or translate the existing content to a new language. Both options used to require a lot of time and effort, and writing new, localized content still does, but translating pages to new languages has become easier, especially when using Verbolia’s Solution. It automatically generates content to multiple languages without any intervention. And what’s more, adding new languages requires no intervention from the client’s side.

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