Best Practices for Multilingual SEO

Mar 7, 2022

You’ve done the work – you’ve translated your website into multiple languages! That’s a great start and a big step forward to reaching global audiences. But have you optimized these sites? How are they ranking? Are they doing as well as your source language site or are they not ranking at all? Or have you not thought about checking this data?

If you haven’t looked at the data for your multilingual websites, you’re not alone. Many companies go through the work and expense of translating their website, but they don’t stop to see how these websites are performing. And if that’s the case, they most likely haven’t thought about search engine optimization (SEO) during the website translation process.

Yet these companies are missing a huge opportunity to be found organically and compete with local markets. If a company is going to spend the time and money to localize their website, they should also optimize the content for global search in these languages with the help of a professional translation service.

Here are some best practices to get started with multilingual SEO.

#1. Follow Basic SEO Principles

Given that multilingual websites are based on the source language website, it’s a best practice to follow basic SEO principles for all sites. The source language has to be ready and optimized or else you’ll end up replicating the mistake(s) into other languages. And that can get costly and time-consuming.

Although we can’t cover all the different aspects of SEO in this blog, we need to talk about keywords. Keywords are words that people use to search for things in a browser. You may think you know what people are searching for (like a product name), but if people don’t know what your product name is, how can they find it? Until you do the keyword research, you won’t truly know how people are searching for the goods and services that you offer. So don’t guess – take the time to do research.

To get started with multilingual SEO, you’ll want to map the keywords to each page on the source language website. And, of course, you’ll need to use these keywords wisely in the content and the metatags as well. You should then share this map with whoever will be working on multilingual SEO.

#2. Transcreate the Keywords

Keywords for other languages don’t necessarily map 1:1 to the source language, since people use different terms for the same concept. For example, a “sweater” in the US means a knitted garment for the upper body that’s usually long-sleeved. However, in the UK, a “sweater” is called a “jumper.” So if you want to try to sell sweaters in the UK, you’re going to need to change the word to jumper.

The transcreation process involves translation, but goes further in that it adapts content from one language to another so that it better resonates with another culture, and is better suitable for a particular audience. Transcreation results in creative new messaging and is a more specialized service performed in tandem with translation services. A professional translation company with SEO experience is needed because you’ll most likely be competing against local websites that are already optimized for your target audience. Your audience will be able to tell if the content isn’t customized.

#3. Localize Your Website – Don’t Just Translate It

Has your website been localized by a professional translation company and not just translated? What’s the difference? Localization is similar to transcreation in that a translator takes the culture and objective of your content into account during translation. A simple example is that if you’re an e-commerce site trying to sell jumpers in the UK, a translator would need to change the currency from dollars into pounds.

If you were planning to or did use a translation tool, or your nephew who speaks Spanish to translate your website, you’ll want to rethink that. Google knows when something has been translated poorly, and as a result, you’ll slide down in search engine results pages (SERPs). So now, if your intended audience can even find you, they’ll know instantly that the translation is poor and will most likely move on to another site that was localized correctly.

#4. Create a Content Marketing Plan that Includes Localized Content

Getting recognized in SERPs by Google is an ongoing process; it’s not a one-time project that you can cross off when you’re done. One of the many “signals” that Google takes into account when it indexes websites is how often content is refreshed. Refreshed content can mean website copy, social media or thought leadership pieces like blog posts and white papers. So just as you do with your source language website, you have to produce refreshed content. It takes work. It’s not hard, but you have to do it.

So what should you do with your multilingual websites? In many cases, it’s a good idea to translate/localize new content. You’ll want to consider your global audience when you develop content. That includes things such as not using local references, as they might not work for another audience.

When developing content, you also want to do keyword research on the topic before you begin writing, and use these keywords throughout your content and in the metatags. And, of course, share these keywords with your translation company so they can transcreate them when they translate the content.

Conclusion and Next Steps

These best practices are just part of an overall multilingual SEO strategy. If you want to get found in SERPs, you have to do multilingual SEO.

We’re a professional language services company with many years of experience in transcreation and localization, and we’re here to help. Our team of globalization experts will gladly answer any questions you may have. Contact us at for more information.

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