When creating a multilingual website, you have to consider what sections you will translate or what new content will be written for each new market. During the whole process you will always keep in mind what your SEO strategy is going to be. Good planning will save you time and money because your web developers will know what to expect.
International SEO is part of the process of internationalisation and localisation. First of all, you must be sure that your business needs a multilingual website offering services to every country where your company operates. But before you start translating you need to research how SEO will be planned for each of the international versions of the website.
How to approach your target market
In order to optimise your international website in search engines, you should consider that translating keywords will not be enough. Your target audience will use specific terms and expressions in their native language and, what is more, in their dialect. Before you start translating you should research what keywords are being used in the target language. With these keywords in mind you will create a terminology scheme, in the form of a style guide or glossary, that your translators will stick to.
Google refers to some guidelines explaining the pros and cons of using certain types of URLs for publishing multilingual web sites.
In general, you have three options:
- Using ccTLDs (country-code Top Level Domains). These domains look like this: http://www.example.es or http://www.example.de
- Subdomains, such as http://fr.example.com (where you should host the French version)
- Sub-directories, such as http://www.example.com/es, for a version in Spanish
The budget, the time you want to spend on the maintenance of the sites, or even the applicable regulations, are issues that will determine how you structure the URLs of your sites. For example, if go for geographic top-level domains, or ccTLDs, each of these domains will work as a separate application and you will apply a specific SEO strategy for each of these websites.
What matters is that the localised version is found.
Regardless of how you plan your multinational or multilingual website, the important thing is that users can access other languages or countries from any page. Geolocation does not always work in redirecting users to the section of the website offering the content in their language or local version.
As for incoming links, it’s always better that they come from the same country
Many search engines appreciate that links come from the same country, especially if the site is also hosted in that country.
When focusing on a local market you should create inbound marketing campaigns, such as social media campaigns, aimed at these international locations. It is a good way to get links from local websites and businesses, and also to attract potential buyers and consumers. Another advantage is that links from local websites will improve site authority.
What to do with duplicated content
Google confirms that translations of original content on multilingual or multinational sites will not be penalised. But beware of translating only templates or repetitive texts, and not the whole website. Google doesn’t like the user to have a bad experience with poor content and will surely penalise you.
It looks like Google has somehow considered as duplicate content created from machine translation, i.e. engine translation that has not been reviewed and edited by human translators. Our conclusion is that translations should always be reviewed and proofread by professional translators. And if you go for machine translation, post editing and reviewing is essential.
There is no doubt that a good SEO takes a lot of time and effort, especially if you build a site for several countries. A few years ago, internationalisation required the help of developers: the entire website had to be analysed and all text strings of translatable content had to be extracted (articles, menus, error messages, images with text, absolutely everything). But thanks to the new content management systems such as WordPress and a variety of translation plugins (and other technologies such as translation proxies), content extraction is much easier and you can spend more time and resources on your specific SEO strategy.