International and Multilingual SEO Strategies That Work

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By Dimitry Karloff

Expanding your business globally online requires implementing effective international and multilingual SEO strategies. By optimizing your website and content for an international audience, you can increase website traffic, leads and sales from around the world. This article explores key strategies for international and multilingual SEO success.

Conduct Keyword Research in Multiple Languages

The foundation of effective SEO is doing keyword research to determine what terms and phrases your target audience is searching for in search engines like Google. When going global, you need to research keywords not just in English but in each language you want to target.

Tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush and Soovle allow keyword research in other languages. Look for high search volume keywords that relate to your business offering. Also, research longer, more specific “long-tail keywords” that attract very targeted traffic. Optimizing for multilingual keywords will increase discovery by foreign language speakers.

Translate and Localize Website Content

Simply translating your existing English website content is not enough for multilingual SEO. You also need to localize it to fit the cultural nuances, terminology and expectations of each target country.

When translating content, be sure to adapt it for local dialects, units of measurement, currencies, postal codes and more. Also, make cultural references familiar to the region and write in the appropriate tone and style for local readers. Hiring native language speakers from each country is key for localization.

Alternatively, Google and Microsoft now provide decent quality artificial intelligence-based translation services which can save on costs, but still require human review and localization expertise. The goal is to make content read as if it was written natively in the language.

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Optimize for Target Languages and Locations

Search engines like Google allow you to create country-specific versions of your website that can be customized for the language, content and user experience in each region. This requires indicating to Google which URL and content versions match with each location and language using properties like hreflang tags.

It also helps to have the desired location and language set in the URL structure (e.g. example.com/fr/ for French pages targeting France) and indicate the target language using HTML lang attributes so search engines can better understand your multilingual site architecture.

You can then customize title tags, meta descriptions, headings, image names and alt text for keywords and location names matching what the region would search for. This signals Google where to rank specific pages in those countries and languages.

Adapt to Local Search Engine Preferences

Beyond Google, optimization practices can differ across search engines preferred by various countries and languages. For instance, Russia favors their native Yandex search engine over Google for Cyrillic languages. In China, Baidu has dominant usage due to past government restrictions on Google.

Some best practices for local search engines are:

  • Registering with the search engine where possible
  • Using site links and tags for geo-targeting
  • Submitting XML or HTML sitemaps
  • Indicating a local IP address
  • Enabling domestically hosted versions of your site

So, researching the top search engines beyond Google is key when entering new global SEO territories. Optimizing accordingly can better position you in those markets.

Set Up Local Domains and Hosting

Another technical SEO enhancement for going multilingual is setting up local country-specific domain names and website hosting. This signals to local search engines that your website is targeting and relevant for that region.

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For example, pairing a .de domain and German website hosting shows Google Germany the site should rank well for searches there. Additional local domains and hosting for regions like France, Spain, China, etc., further improves local ranking and click-through rates.

Populate and Optimize Local Business Listings

Ensuring your business is registered properly on Google My Business and Bing Places for each country is equally important for international SEO success. Completing your business profile on these directories allows you to share translated address, contact info, description and images.

This helps local customers find your exact location(s) in their country and language as you expand globally. Customer reviews on these listings also build trust and social signals for your localized sites to rank higher in local results.

Adapt Marketing and Calls-to-Action

As part of your multilingual website localization, don’t forget to also adapt your calls-to-action (CTAs) for specific languages and cultures. CTAs like “Download”, “Buy Now” or “Contact Us” should use local dialect and terminology. Also, ensure contact forms, phone numbers and emails route properly by country to avoid losing global leads.

It also helps to customize both graphic and text CTAs to include elements like flags, culturally relevant images and locally targeted value propositions. Marketing automation rules can then serve these appropriately to site visitors by location and language. This increases conversion rates from your SEO traffic.

Measure Analytics and Search Metrics by Market

With all your technical efforts around international and multilingual SEO, you need to track how each country and language version of your site is actually performing. Using Google Analytics you can easily view traffic, engagement and conversions for URL and language variants.

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Diving into search analytics allows you to see rankings and click-through rates for important local keywords by market. This enables you to diagnose which parts of your global SEO strategy are working or need further optimization for each locale.

Also, monitoring website performance tools helps reveal website translation issues, slow loading times or mobile responsiveness problems that may hurt conversion rates abroad. Continually refining your localized site analytics is crucial for improving multilingual SEO ROI over time.

Truly effective international and multilingual search engine optimization is about much more than just passing your site through Google Translate. It requires in-depth localization expertise and technical implementation across numerous elements to gain visibility and conversions in global markets.

However, as cross-border e-commerce sales continue rising, following these essential multilingual SEO best practices makes expanding globally much more achievable for SMBs and enterprises alike. Just remember that international strategies take time and ongoing optimization based on location-specific data is key for maximizing foreign opportunities online.

Focusing on searchers and engaging website visitors in their native language improves trust and positions your brand for long-term SEO success around the world. With the tips highlighted here, you will be better positioned for higher multilingual search rankings and global qualified traffic.