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How to implement multilingual SEO

How to implement multilingual SEO

By Greig Holbrook, director of OBAN Multilingual (

What is Multilingual SEO?

Imagine having a website that attains page one rankings on search engines in China, Japan, and Lebanon. When the users visit the website, they can read content in their own language, complete with their own sayings and colloquialisms.

The page they see has also been customised for their cultural preferences and habits. This is possible with multilingual SEO.

Multilingual SEO is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to international websites from search engines. To understand the process, we must first understand how search engines work.

Search engines like Google send out “spiders” which “crawl” through the web. The spider reads a webpage, and follows its links to other sites.

The spider records its findings in a giant index. The information in the index is then sifted through and ranked in order of relevance.

How search engines determine these rankings is most important for multilingual SEO. Search engines look for a number of things when ranking, such as location and frequency of keywords on the page, and links to that page.

It’s crucial to understand that people often prefer to search in their own language, using local search engines.

Here are some tips to help your website reach those international customers:

It’s not about translation

· Businesses in international markets should not be simply translating their English site into the native language of a particular country.

· Businesses need to look at key-phrases customised to each individual region.

· Keywords typed into search engines may be written according to regional spellings, which vary vastly - they may be misspelled, or they could be words we might never have associated with the topic.

Beware of search engine prejudices

· The vast majority of search is conducted using search engines other than Google.

· In Korea, the most popular search engine is Naver. Leading the pack in the Czech Republic is Seznam.

· It is crucial to have a local understanding of the search engines in each country and of how best to optimise for those countries – do not rely on simply Google and Yahoo.

The Many Faces of English

· English and Danish have become intertwined in Denmark to create ‘Danglish’ – with over four and a half million people online in Denmark, optimising in this unique language could vastly improve website traffic

· UK-based websites targeting Americans should be converted into American English. There are important differences between the two Englishes. For example, US searchers will use the word ‘vacation’ in searches, whereas British searchers tend to use the word ‘holiday’.

Cultural Key-phrases

Over the past two years, a culture of search has developed within countries whereby searchers are developing their own varieties of phrases and are also searching significantly more than in the past.  Searchers in other languages have three different approaches to key-phrase construction:

1. They use the appropriate phrase or phrases in their language
2. They mix their language with a version of English: e.g. Kinder Diaper
3. They use a variety of English which is either a misspelling or its usage is not common in native forms of English.

Link Building

· Last year’s changes to algorithms on the major search engines have made the destination of the links back to websites a critical factor for multilingual SEO.

· Ten quality phrases or relevant links within the target country can be more valuable than 100 links from directories especially if the directory is not related in language and semantics.

· In 2008, Google introduced geo-targeting for websites, allowing webmasters to specify what country the site is based in, regardless of the top level domain. This offers more strategic opportunities for multilingual SEO when a site is not able to use country-level domains.

Multilingual SEO dos and don’ts

· Don’t just translate! The problem with this strategy is that many relevant phrases are not included as part of the translation. It’s all about conversion and localisation.

· Keywords are the foundation of a successful campaign. A keyword, in internet search, is a term that captures essence of the topic of a document or a search query. These terms can vary considerably in each country.

· Write good copy. This is a highly skilled exercise. For optimum results, copy should be written from scratch in the target language.


For SEO training, contact the experts at The Knowledge Engineers who can help you to achieve SEO success.

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