Published May 28th, 2019 by Editorial Team

Reaching a Wider Audience with Multilingual SEO

Getting your business to perform well in your country or region is a massive feat, but it’s highly unlikely that your company goals would stop there. If you think your products and services have a shot at going global, then it’s time to think of tactics for you to reach international markets.

While English is one of the most widely used languages in the world, you’d be missing out on audiences that are more well-versed in their mother tongue. After all, only 20% of the entire population speaks in English, and most aren’t even native speakers of the language.

So, how do you tap into the remaining 80%? The answer lies in multilingual SEO.

What is multilingual SEO?

The importance of investing in multilingual services seems like an excellent strategy for reaching untapped markets, but what does SEO have to do with it? Here’s a simple definition for this tactic: Multilingual SEO deals with offering optimized content for multiple languages or multiple locations. Multilingual SEO  is critical in reaching either multiple countries or one country where several languages are used. Businesses should aim to be inclusive in the areas they operate in and not just rely on one language to reach their desired audience.  

10 Benefits of Multilingual SEO

It all sounds great in theory, but what returns will you be receiving from implementing this for your business? Keep reading to learn what benefits multilingual SEO will bring your online strategies.  

1. Gain a competitive edge

52.9% or more than half of the websites on the internet are in English, but Mandarin and Spanish outrank English when it comes to the most spoken language in the world. Do you see the discrepancy here? Going for multilingual SEO will help you reach broader markets that most companies don’t even think about. Many are content with just reaching the English-speaking portion of the world, but they’re missing out on a lot of business. Consider how universal your products are, such as digital services or worldwide shipment of products, and target areas where you think you would do well.  

2. Grow your worldwide reputation

No doubt that through the discovery of your business in other regions, you could come across investors or business partners who could elevate your company and help you branch out that much faster. Your brand will also become known all over the world and not just in select areas, further catapulting your status into a household name rather than a niche brand.  

3. Increase in customer satisfaction

English may be a common second language for many, but nothing beats transacting and speaking to your customers in their native tongue. This allows them to formulate their concerns better, give more accurate suggestions, and express their reviews more in-depth. Most customers will choose a brand that speaks their language over one that doesn’t, precisely because of the comfort and convenience the former brings. This also increases customer loyalty—they wouldn’t think about leaving this kind of support they have from your company for another that won’t give them the same courtesy.  

4. Build trust

When you browse online, would you click on a link that doesn’t speak your language? Probably not. The same is true for non-English speakers who always see English webpages on their search engines. Not being able to communicate with them in their language indicates that your brand either doesn’t care about them or it could be potentially seen as a scam. If you want them to make purchases or perform other actions on your website, you have to come across as professional and inclusive. Executing multilingual SEO can solve language barriers and help your website get more relevant clicks in the process.  

5. Save on marketing costs

The primary role of multilingual SEO is visibility. Once that job is done, they can redirect users to the correct website offering their language. This is a more cost-efficient tactic than developing many sites in different languages and optimizing each for unilingual SEO. You can have multilingual SEO experts look at the current state of your website, and SEO efforts and they can optimize it accordingly to make it multilingual.  

6. Increase in sales

Not only will you save money, but you’ll also be earning more as well. Naturally, if you reach a broader market and your product seems to be satisfying the needs of your target audience, they will spread the word and keep coming back for more. Your broadened reach will give you a better opportunity to turn website visitors into leads and eventually customers. Hitting your ROI is a critical part of the business, and knowing it can be done with a smart strategy like multilingual SEO proves how crucial it is for you to adopt this tactic.  

7. Hit your long-term goals

As a business, one of your goals is to stay relevant, profitable, and useful to your consumers. Incorporating multilingual SEO will help you achieve that as you slowly but surely capture different markets across multiple regions. This means your brand, products, and services will be visible to both the global and local marketplaces, and you will get more traffic as more people discover your brand. When done correctly, it’s a surefire road to success.  

8. Explore more search engines

Google is a powerful search engine, but it should not the be-all end-all of your SEO efforts. It’s an excellent place to start, but don’t forget about branching out. Case in point: Google, along with Yahoo!, MSN, and Bing are not the default search engines in many European and Asian countries, such as France, Japan, and China. If you’re thinking of targeting people in those markets, you would’ve already lost them by just focusing on your English SEO on Google.  

9. Improve your international marketing efforts

SEO is a non-negotiable strategy when it comes to digital marketing—if you don’t strategize, you will get left behind. Just like its unilingual counterpart, multilingual SEO will push you to get creative with marketing for international customers. This means getting to know your foreign market’s habits, likes, dislikes, culture, and the like to be able to communicate with them better. This is exciting because it can help you in the long run with further international marketing efforts that you may want to execute.

10. Adopt a global business outlook

Customers nowadays notice brands who make an effort to build a relationship with them. Getting into the global marketplace will position your brand as a powerful voice for relevant issues and matters, expose your brand to more moment marketing opportunities, and show that your brand is willing to embrace other cultures and take on the complex demands of running an international business.  

How to Reach a Wider Audience with Multilingual SEO

How exactly do you execute multilingual SEO? Find out in the steps below.  

• Plan out your strategy

Cover your bases and answer the questions that need to be addressed before executing a multilingual SEO strategy. First, you should decide which countries or languages you’re going to target. You can take a look at your current traffic and find out which countries or locations you already have an audience with. You can check this on Google Analytics -> Audience -> Geo -> Language and Location.  

• Translate relevant content

This step is about choosing which existing content you want to translate. When it comes to multilingual SEO, most of the work is already done for you—but you need to narrow down which ones to prioritize. If you’re ready to go ahead and translate everything, that works too. Just remember to review the content that no longer works for you so you can weed out extra work, or get right to updating your library of posts that you’ve published over the years.  

• Choose a domain and URL structure

Once you’re ready to distribute your multilingual content, it’s time to choose a URL structure. This is quite the bulk of the SEO work since these are the webpages you want to rank for multilingual keywords. You typically have three options here: ⁃ top-level domains (example.de or example.ca) ⁃ subdirectories (example.com/de, example.com/ca) ⁃ subdomains (de.example.com, ca.example.com) Your answer will depend on what you’re targeting: is it a country or a language? If you’re going for a country, top-level domains may be better for you. If you’re looking to target a specific language, a subdirectory will work better. There are pros and cons for each, and deciding on one early on will help in fixing your website structure in the following steps.  

• Avoid URL parameters

As a general rule of thumb, avoid URLs that look like these: ⁃ example.com/?lang=de ⁃ example.com/?lang=fr Adding special characters to your URLs are bad for SEO, and can subsequently make them unfriendly to search engines. You want to keep your URLs clean and readable. Your website visitors will have a hard time with this too as they won’t be remember the exact URL later on. Another thing to note is that analytics tools find it more challenging to track links of this nature. Stick to your top-level domains and subdirectories or subdomains.  

• Familiarize yourself with hreflang tags

Hreflang tags use this format: rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” where X is the language. It’s required to add this tag to your homepage so that search engines will know which parts of your sites are directed towards other regions. The code looks like this:

Let’s put it into action. For instance, you could have a version of your website that you would like to market in Spain or towards Spanish speakers with the subdomain http://es.example.com. You need to add the code below before the closing head tag on your home page:

Studying this more closely, you’ll find that the code contains a language and region code separated by a dash (es-es). You can find a library of language codes and region codes online to plug in for your hreflang tag. You can also read through Google’s hreflang support to get a better sense of the methods you can do to implement this tactic.  

• Consider adding the hreflang x-default tag

Creating a multilingual site means you need to set a default page that you can show to your visitors the first time they click on your site. Specifying a default language is easy with the x-default attribute. All you need to do is to enter the code below to each page on your site, replacing the href URL with your web page URL. Note that X means the language:

This is helpful if you have a site that both serves English and German languages. If your default language is English and someone from Germany visits your webpage, the English version of your website will be displayed by default.

• Add meta language tags

This is a step that you need to do only for Bing, as the hreflang tag is for Google. However, it should be noted that this step shouldn’t be skipped. As mentioned above, working with multilingual SEO also works with other search engines, so you need to be mindful about what each need. Meta language tags are necessary for optimizing for Bing. The code is as follows: This code should be added in the head section of every page so that Bing will know what language the page is in. These meta language tags use the same language and region codes as hreflang as well.

• Add options to switch languages on your site

Often, sites deploy automatic redirects when they detect the user’s location. While this is done to help, it can be quite frustrating for users who don’t want to hop to a different language just because they are accessing the site from a different location. Even John Muller from Google advises against this. Instead, what you can do is make the option to switch languages on your website menu visible so that users can have the opportunity to choose which language they prefer to read your site in. One way you can do this is by adding a flag icon so users can easily infer that you have a multilingual website.  

• Continue creating authentic multilingual content

When it comes to creating content across your sites, you want to avoid automated translations whose final output may not make sense. If you present content in a user’s native language that is poorly written, your site may come across as unprofessional and they may exit quickly. Consequently, your SEO and web conversions will get a bad rap. What’s more, your keywords may get all messed up with machine translations. Don’t be afraid to hire a native speaker to translate content for you and create original ones from then on. This makes for a better user experience and shows how much you care about the information that your global audience gets to read.  

• Conduct keyword research in other languages

It’s critical to know which keywords are ranking in your target region and their native language. Your website will only be visible to users if their search query matched the content of your webpage. This is all part of creating that seamless experience for your users and boosting your SEO in your selected languages. Keyword research in different languages follows the same process as keyword research in English, which means your existing knowledge would apply there. Get the help of your translator for this job as well, since they would naturally know better.  

• Monitor your performance

As with any new strategy implemented in an online business, it’s imperative to track your KPIs and set metrics of what you deem as acceptable results for your multilingual SEO strategy. You can pull up these results from existing SEO tools you already use that support multiple languages. Collaborate with your international team and find out what you can tweak to meet your goals further and create the best user experience for your visitors.  

Go Global with Multilingual SEO

Congratulations, you are now ready to take on multilingual SEO. It may sound intimidating and technical at first, but it will be the best step you can make to level up your business and achieve global success.

Take it from the benefits mentioned above: It will be more rewarding for your business and your customers if you choose the multilingual route. There will be broader opportunities for your business, and you can touch base with audiences you thought were impossible to reach. With cost-efficient methods and practical applications, choosing multilingual SEO should be a no-brainer for your company.    

 
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