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The Ultimate Guide to Multilingual Website SEO

One of the first things that companies need to worry about when they create or restyle their website is search engine optimisation. Marketers and web designers can find thousands of articles and guides to optimise a website in English. Unfortunately, there is not so much attention to the optimisation of a Multilingual Website.
There are a few similarities in the optimisation of a website in English or in a foreign language, (e.g. you should always write alt texts for images), but multilingual website SEO has its own peculiarities. In this guide, we have gathered a few tips to help you increase the chances that potential foreign audiences can find you online.

Multilingual Website SEO starts with targeting choice

A good habit to develop is to always start your localisation strategy by choosing the regions you want to target; languages come after this. Once you have a clear idea of the countries and areas where you want to launch your website, the first thing you have to decide is the URL structure or the domains which you wish to use.
In fact, Google advise using a structure that makes it easy to segment parts of the website for geotargeting. For this step you have three options; here we will have a look at the pros and cons of them:
Country code top level domains: (,
• clear geotargeting
• irrelevance of server location
• clear separation of websites
• expensive solution
• potential issues with user experience
• more infrastructure and maintenance

Subdomain: (,
• easy to set up
• possibility of using Webmaster Tools for geotargeting
• easy separation of sites
• potential misunderstandings (e.g. is “en” language or country?)

Subdirectories: (,
• easy to set up
• possibility of using Webmaster Tools for geotargeting
• limited maintenance
• potential misunderstandings (e.g. is “en” language or country?)
• difficulties in separating websites

In the last two cases, you have to let search engines know that or is the section of your website for French visitors. Forget to do this and your dominant site will almost certainly overshadow the better-oriented local website.

Keywords are important for a multilingual website

Once you have decided the right address format to use for your multilingual website, you then need to focus on choosing the appropriate keywords. You may think that a literal translation or a machine translation can be effective in gaining visibility in the target market. Nothing could be further from the truth! Word-by-word translation will not help you increase the popularity of your website. To give one example, the literal translation of “low cost flights” in Italian is “voli a basso costo”.
You just need to take a quick look at the Google Keyword Planner to realise that something is wrong with that phrase. In fact, the phrase “voli a basso costo” is only searched within Google 2,400 times per month; whereas the more popular phrase “voli low cost” is searched 368,000 times per month. You should work with a trusted translation agency and its localisation team to find the right keywords for your project, in order to communicate properly with your target audience.

A multilingual website means localised content

You have chosen the right keywords to gain visibility in a foreign market; the next objective of your multilingual SEO strategy is visitors/customer retention. In order to achieve your next goal you need to improve the relevance of your content. A direct translation of a popular page or post from your dominant website might not be enough to engage a foreign audience.
Your potential clients in a different country may have different interests and needs. A post referring to a unique cultural aspect of your local market may not have any relevance in a foreign market. You should plan a multicultural and multilingual content strategy, offering relevant content to each different audience which you are targeting.

Local inbound links will help your local website ranking

You have created relevant keywords and relevant content for your local website; now you should be able to improve the popularity of your website in a local market. You may have already seen some initial results. However, if you have basic knowledge of SEO you will know that inbound links will massively improve your ranking. Furthermore, if have pushed your SEO expertise a bit further still, you may know that not all inbound links are created equal.
Usually SEO experts suggest searching for websites and directories that are relevant for your niche market. The relevance of a link from an important and influential website will have a much greater impact on your website than a link from an incoherent website. The same concept is valid for local inbound links. You should find links from websites located in the place where you are launching your website, as Google and other search engines would consider them more relevant than a foreign one.
Having control of your inbound links can be a complicated issue in your native language, so you may wonder how you can manage a local inbound link strategy. You should submit your local pages to the appropriate web directories. But what can really make a difference is localisation of the content of your website.

A solid SEO strategy may help you to gain the right visibility online. Many companies do not take their multilingual marketing strategy very seriously; consequently, you can leverage the knowledge you have learnt from reading this post to your advantage. If you take multilingual website optimisation seriously and professionally, the chances are that your ranking in the countries you are targeting will see an improvement within a few weeks.

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