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What on Earth is Multilingual SEO ?

by Gaurav Gorain
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May 22, 2017SEOLeave a comment

Multilingual SEO, ring a bell?

In case it doesn’t, then you surely are at the right place, reading the right blog, right now.

The Definition : Multilingual SEO is the practice of offering optimised website content in a variety of languages.

The very moment you step into the world of multilingual SEO, you step into more complex Search Engine Optimisation techniques. This is because you apply the best practices on websites that need multiple language support and are generally heavy (heavy in size) by nature.

The overall objective of multilingual SEO is quite the same as that of normal SEO. However, your practices will be applicable on websites supporting content in multiple languages, as per different geographical locations.

This practice is quite valuable lately because most of the websites whether related to a business or education, simply informational or ecommerce, are now offering multi-language support. Hence, It is actually wise to perform SEO of the websites in different languages as well. Why, because the overall effectiveness of this practice will in turn be reflected in the SEO results of the main English version of the website.

Speaking of which, different language websites would also differ with respect to the urls. say for instance a French website would be supported by a .fr domain. same goes with any other language. Regionalization and language translation are two important things when it comes to multilingual SEO. These days search engines have become smart enough to analyse and read different kind of languages and thus it is important to make sure that the content on these multi language website well optimised just the way the respective parent English sites are done.

Since there are different types of URL’s, the approach towards optimization of each kind is ideally unique. Not to mention, this practice of multilingual SEO has been quite successful in various Nations across the globe. In fact, it is considered to be a complex technique, mostly preferred by the truel SEO gurus who have been adjusting to the changing SEO trends ever since the beginning and trying to find savvy ways to redefine the search results.

Case in point, now multilingual SEO is also being practiced in India.

Further ahead in the blog, I will give you a detailed overview of what multilingual SEO is all about. Here we go.

Difference Between multilingual and multiregional SEO

The major difference between multilingual and multiregional SEO is that multilingual SEO is the practice of optimising web content in different languages while multi regional SEO is optimising content based on different geographical locations. Case in point, multi regional SEO is more of a region specific practice.

Whatever your approach is, you simply need to be clear with what your end goal is. today’s do you wish to perform multilingual seo or do you wish to perform multi regional SEO. When you are able to determine your target locations and your target audience, you will be able to perform SEO better and set your goals accordingly.

Now let’s talk about TLDs i.e top level domains.

Before we step into the nitty gritty of multi lingual/ multi regional SEO, we must understand what TLDs are.

TLD a.k.a Top level domain are of two types, generic and location specific.

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Generic top level domains or GTLDs are domains that appear like de.site.com, fr.site.com etc.

Below mentioned are the pros and cons of GTLDs according to Google.
Pros:

  • easy to set up
  • can use Webmaster Tools geotargeting
  • allows different server locations
  • easy separation of sites

Cons:

  • users might not recognize geotargeting from the URL

ccTLDs- country specific top level domains appear like site.de, site.fr etc.
Pros (+)

  • clear geotargeting
  • server location is irrelevant
  • easy separation of sites
  • legal requirements (sometimes)

Cons (-)

  • expensive
  • potential availability issues
  • more infrastructure
  • ccTLD requirements (sometimes)

Generally ccTLD are more common than GTLD. There are two more kinds of domains – RTLD’s i.e regional top level domains and GCC TLD’s i.e generic country code top level domains.

Why I wanted to introduce you to these different kinds of domains was because as I mentioned earlier, the practice of multilingual SEO varies according to the type of domain. Case in point, we’d have unique SEO approaches for each kind of domain. You may read more about different kinds of domains here.

Now that we have discussed the different types of URL’s, let’s try and understand the process of multilingual SEO.

The Process

There are a couple of questions that you must ask before proceeding with the practices.

a) where are you targeting?
b) what all languages are you targeting?

Based on the answers to the above 2 points, you would lay the foundation of your multilingual SEO projects.

Instead of Geo targeting, we can always use a suitable URL structure to segment parts of your website. Basically what I am trying to say here is that you need to map out the location first. There are different URL Geo targeting patterns. You may refer to Google Webmaster blog to learn more about the different kinds of URL Geo targeting patterns.

Google’s recommendations/ Best approaches

I will give you a scenario.

Consider buying a non country specific domain that host all kinds of versions of your website.

You can easily put the content of every language in a different subdomain. For example, if abc.com is your main website, you can create subdomains such as en.abc.com, fr. abc.com etc.

OR

You can put content in unique subdirectories as well.
For eg, abc.com/en/ or abc.com/fr/

As per the SEO experts, the latter is better because subdirectories add on to the overall authority of the entire site.

Subdomains, to the contrary are more separate than the directory structure when it comes to content segmentation.

I will surely discuss content segmentation in another block so that it will help you understand the functionality of subdomain and subdirectory much better.

Webmaster Tools for geo targeting.

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Setting up Webmaster Tools for geo targeting is actually pretty pragmatic. All you need to do is simply follow steps mentioned by Google. For your convenience I have mentioned the basic three step below (as mentioned in Search Engine Land):

a) On the Webmaster Tools Home page, click the site you want

b) Under Site configuration, click Settings

c) In the Geographic target section, select the option you want

You may refer to this video for a better understanding of the process.

Now let’s talk about server location as a factor

Server location used to be a valuable geo-targeting factor during the early days.

But now, with timely technological renditions, a lot of things have changed. As per Google, server locations are basically the IP addresses of web users. Since various websites use cdns, that is, content delivery network and certain websites are hosted with better web server infrastructure in a particular nations, relying on server location is not really a priority for Google anymore.

In conclusion

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I have surely discussed a lot of information on multilingual SEO so far. However, there is lot more like can be discussed. Perhaps in the next blog to avoid data overload.

I hope you got an idea about the process of multi lingual/ multi regional SEO and understand that optimisation of websites should not just be restricted to one particular language. By performing effective multilingual SEO and by targeting geographical locations specifically, you will be able to enhance the website results on search engines and in turn attract some quality traffic. At the same time you will also be offering valuable information to your target audience in multiple languages.

While many SEO practitioner depend on vivid language translation tools for the same, I would rather suggest to keep language experts in your SEO team so that the translations are precise and meaningful. At the end of the day you need to keep one thing in mind, you are doing all of this just to ensure that your content is adding value to the searchers.


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