An optimized multi-language site is, without doubt, the most important tool in your marketing toolbox as you expand your business into new terrains. Over 80% of consumers worldwide shop online – and even more use the internet to seek information and carry out research. Having a website that meets your new audience’s needs is paramount.
If you neglect multilingual SEO as you develop your multi-language website, these new users aren’t going to find you. Follow our guide to building a translating your website – with tip-top SEO to match!
Choosing Between Domains, Sub-domains, And Sub-folders
It is not always possible to acquire a country-specific domain (such as using example.fr in France and example.co.uk in the UK). Using sub-domains or sub-folders has the advantage of being easy to set up and maintain, with the added bonus of allowing you to use your existing web domain and structure. That said, it only works when:
- Your main domain is international (e.g. ends in .net or .com).
- Is a brand name or international keyword (hotel works well in most languages, most words lose all meaning if not translated).
- You don’t use play-on words like sk8er or products-4-u. These are particularly hard to translate as numbers will sound completely different in other languages.
Find out what Google says about different multi-language structures.
How Link Building Works For Different Structures
Probably the biggest advantage to using sub-folders as opposed to sub-domains or separate domains is that crucial backlinks that you build will have an impact on all of the content on your site.
For example, let’s say you have a backlink from a French site to a blog post in French about making croissants, at example.com/fr/croissants. The presence of this backlink would also boost the ranking of content in other languages across your site, too, making multi-language SEO easier.
That’s because Google still considers sub-folders to be a part of your main domain, whereas it treats sub-domains more like a separate site. That said, Google does take into account the language and country incoming links are from. If you only have English links to your site, it will be hard to rank in European countries, for example. Having more internal outgoing links (e.g. if your site is in ten different languages) also means the ‘link juice’ is spread between all the sub-folders.
Choose your CMS carefully
Your CMS – which stands for Content Management System – is the software program that enables you to create a website without needing in-depth knowledge of computer coding. Just a few years ago, building a website was a complex process not to be carried out by novices. Thankfully, things have changed and now even the technologically challenged can have a go. (But don’t panic – the days where computers become so sophisticated that they develop their own brain are not upon us yet…!)
A suitable CMS allows you to manage and edit your website easily. It should be simple to upload content and manage who can see it. There are various options out there, and many allow those of us who are computer-rookies to maintain and update a high-quality website.
Well-known CMS WordPress began life as a platform for aspiring bloggers, but it has come a long way since then. In fact, it is estimated that over a quarter of the world’s websites have been created using WordPress. It is easy and intuitive to use and allows you to set up a website quickly.
Joomla is also a popular choice, but is a little more complicated than WordPress and has fewer themes and plugins. Drupal is a good choice for those with some prior knowledge of web development and is ideal if you want to create a complex site that processes a lot of data.
If your original site isn’t in a CMS mentioned above, first research if it’s multi-language compatible. If so, you’re probably best to keep the same CMS as you currently use. If not, it’s often easier to convert your original site into a different CMS too, then use a shared database for all languages. This means that updates on one site are easy to apply to other sites too, whereas having different CMS systems results in double the work in the long run.
How To Translate Pages In WordPress
Website translation can feel somewhat daunting, but if you used WordPress to host your site, it is relatively straightforward. This cm has a translation plugin called Weglot, which enables you to create a multilingual website automatically – without needing any knowledge of coding. It is compatible with all WordPress’s themes and plugins and automatically updates the translation if new content is added.
Of course, website translation isn’t simply the translation of words; turning an English site into a culturally appropriate site for your new focus country needs to take into consideration other factors. The local culture, expectations, and nuances of certain words mean machine translation will not always elicit the best results. A native human translator with a handle on the values and culture of a country cannot be replaced by a plugin or robot. Language is more than just words!
Tips For Optimal SEO
Now you have a localized website aimed at your new audience, but how will you make sure you are discoverable? Optimizing SEO for new and different cultures can feel like something of a minefield when you think of all the elements you need to consider.
- Finding the best keywords to use in your target language
Tip: you can’t always simply translate the keywords you use in English, into the target language! On occasion, the English might actually be used, often when the words are of a scientific or technical nature. Other times, there might be a different cultural term that elicits better results in the language you are targeting. Use a keyword tool like Semrush or Ahrefs to identify the best keywords for your target country.
- Consider local habits
Different people do different things, and with multilingual SEO, it is important to know the habits of your target audience. This means you need to understand how your new customers use the internet. For example, some cultures use social media more than others; others shun certain sites entirely (did you know in Germany, for example, Twitter is used less frequently than in other countries?) Spending time learning how your coveted new customers spend time online will pay dividends in the long run.
- Don’t forget about metatags
As well as translating your website, make sure you translate all your metatag titles and descriptions. These often-neglected little words are really important because they can have a significant impact on where you appear in search listings, and what’s more, they’re your user’s first impression of your site. It’s all very well making sure you appear high up the search rankings, but if you’ve left your metatags in English, your user will be clicking elsewhere.
Ensure Local Laws Are Respected
Europe and America in particular have different internet laws, so ensure you comply with both in terms of mentioning cookies and collecting data.
You might also find yourself having to write specialist legal content for each country; for example, if you were to buy a Germany-specific domain (ending in .de), you would need an ‘AGB’ (Allgemeine Geschäftsbedingungen, meaning General Terms of Business) as well as an ‘Impressum’ (which provides details of legal contracts and ownership).
Build Backlinks In Each Language
Backlinks form an important part of your SEO strategy, but when it comes to multi-language SEO, you need a separate backlink campaign for each language. Since Google takes into account the authority of the sites to which you are linking, it is also important that you focus on quality backlinks, rather than quantity. Likewise, it makes sense to research relevant sites for every new language you are targeting and build quality links from there. For more advice, consider using a specialist to make sure you get this right.
While this might be time-consuming initially, compiling a database of high-authority sites in your target language pays dividends in the long run. To get things started, you might consider focusing on web directories in each language, although this probably won’t suffice in the long term. A multi language SEO agency can advise on the best strategy for your business and budget if this element feels too daunting to tackle alone.
Creating a multi-language website needn’t be a mammoth task. Focus on the key elements that make your website work well in your native language, and then think about your target audience and their online expectations.
Follow our tips will help make sure you have taken into account those all-important SEO considerations. Good luck! Or perhaps that should be Bonne Chance, Viel Glück or ¡Buena suerte!
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