Multilingual SEO (Search engine optimisation) has been a tricky topic for marketers and business owners alike for more than a decade. Most struggle to keep on top of their SEO workload in one language, let alone optimise their site and content for multiple languages.
There’s no getting away from it: SEO is a tough nut to crack.
For successful multilingual SEO, where you have to adapt your site for global audiences and search engines, things are far more complex. To give you an idea of the work it takes to create a site for international audiences, here are five of the worst multilingual SEO mistakes to avoid at all costs.
#1: Translating your keywords for multilingual SEO
Translating your keywords may seem like the obvious place to start with your multilingual SEO efforts, but you’ll be making a mistake. Search habits don’t always translate and the keywords people use between different languages can be completely different.
So start again with your keyword research with each language. Use language experts to pinpoint the most important search terms and make no assumptions about direct translations.
#2: Neglecting the technical side of multilingual SEO
The technical side of multilingual SEO is a huge topic – one you don’t want to underestimate. Optimising your site for multiple languages starts from very URL of your site, the code behind every page and the content they contain.
Here’s a quick look at some of the things you need to keep on top of for successful multilingual SEO:
- Domain structure
- HTML language specification
- Dynamic markup (more on this later)
- Language detection
- Language selection
- Local SEO for multiple locations
- Hosting specifications
- Server location
- Duplicate content
That’s not a complete list by any means. Take it from us, your regular search marketing expert won’t be enough to get your site optimised for multilingual audiences. You need dedicated multilingual SEO experts with specialist knowledge.
#3: Low quality hosting
We mentioned hosting in the last section but this is worth exploring in more detail. Choosing low quality hosting is one of the worst moves you can make as a website owner – especially if you’re targeting international audiences.
Poor web hosting comes with slow speeds, traffic limitations, bandwidth restrictions and a greater risk of security problems. All of which are multiplied significantly once you open the doors to global users.
You also have to think about server location. The further away a user is from the physical location of your server, the longer it will take to load. So get yourself a content delivery network (CDN) that taps into local servers and gives a healthy speed boost to your site.
#4: Not hiring pro translators
Google has said many times that machine translated content is bad for multilingual SEO. Despite this, you’ll still find countless themes on WordPress and other CMS platforms promising to translate your site into multiple languages.
Aside from causing SEO problems, shoddy translation is no way to connect with international audiences – which is the whole point of multilingual SEO to begin with.
#5: Not localising your content strategy
Much like keywords, simply translating your content isn’t always the best way to go. You don’t want your Christmas ads to feature snowmen for audiences in the Southern hemisphere where the sun blazes in December, for example. Likewise, you probably don’t want audiences in predominantly non-Christian countries to see any Christmas content at all.
The same thing goes for all those Brexit blog posts references to Maybot. International audiences might not be as interested in the same topics as your home crowd. Likewise, if your keywords are different in another language you might need to create entirely unique content for them.
It’s worrying how many brands underestimate the importance of multilingual SEO – or remain oblivious to it. Aside from the language barriers you have to break, search habits vary around the world and the list of technical SEO requirements are considerably larger for multilingual websites. A regular SEO agency might not be enough for you to reach your international audiences in the most effective way. So be sure to get some dedicated multilingual SEO experts on your side once you start targeting other languages.