Running a multilingual website is no easy task and it does not help when there is so much misinformation on topics like this. The biggest issue is, you can set yourself up for a hard time if you get things wrong in the early stages – especially in terms of SEO, where it is so difficult to undo damage.
In this article, we are going to look at five myths about multilingual SEO to help you avoid these problems and explain what you should really be focusing on.
Myths about multilingual SEO
First, let’s start by looking at some of the most common myths about multilingual SEO. Be wary of dealing with any company that tries to tell you any of the following:
- “You only need to optimise for Google”: Google might be the top search engine in most markets, but it is not the top search engine in some of the world’s biggest markets such as China or Russia.
- “Just plug in a translation tool”: Forget about WordPress themes or other templates that promise to automatically translate your content into other languages – when it comes to SEO you need professional translators and SEO specialists.
- “Duplicate content kills”: Actually, there is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty, although it does help to specify which version of a page should rank in each market (most major search engines can figure this out for themselves).
- “Translate keywords one-for-one”: Directly translating keywords from English into other languages in a fixed, one-for-one manner will not give you the best results – your site will perform much better if you build in localised keyword research.
- “Design for a universal experience”: Just because your website is great for users in one market, this does not mean every other user base is going to appreciate the same experience – so optimise for each market individually.
The key thing to remember with multilingual SEO is that you are dealing with multiple target audiences, not just multiple target languages. Each market is going to have its own search trends, interests, needs and expectations from your brand.
You need to adapt your messages and optimise the experience for each of these.
What you really need to focus on
A multilingual website is better thought of as multiple websites and each one should be optimised accordingly for the target language and user base. This is fundamental to everything you do in multilingual SEO.
There are two key categories you can break this down into: technical multilingual SEO and experience optimisation.
On the technical side of things, you need to choose the right domain structure, define your URLs and then start optimising for every individual page. Next, you’ll need to think about those keywords and really try to pinpoint how search trends vary between different markets and the impact this has on keywords.
You don’t simply want to translate keywords into other languages; you want to find what people are actually typing – or speaking – into search engines when they have the same user intent you are targeting.
This brings us to the experience side of multilingual SEO and this is where you need to continue thinking of each target market as its own audience (or multiple audiences) with unique needs.
Above all, you need quality translation to achieve quality content and rank well in search engines, but you may find the entire messaging you target users with needs changing or adapting for certain markets. You may find consumers in Japan expect a different kind of user experience while using your website compared to those in Germany, for example.