Multilingual SEO: Optimize Your Website for Global Reach

Last Updated December 10, 2020

Is your online presence optimized for all customers, or just some of them? Here’s how multilingual SEO helps you win the click in every market.

Growing an e-commerce business globally means pursuing online customers in foreign markets with the same precision-targeted SEO already deployed in your home market.

However, what works in one country can’t be assumed to be as effective in another. To maximize findability in all markets, each location’s SEO strategy must be tailored to the regional market using international SEO (ISEO).

Learn how to make your e-commerce website local everywhere.

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Why Your Business Needs International SEO (ISEO)

Organic traffic is the main source of traffic for the majority of successful e-commerce businesses. Therefore, search engine success can make or break a business in the long run.

Any SEO expert knows that to achieve SEO success, e-commerce websites must be both search-engine and customer friendly. This requires a deep understanding of the customer.

Therefore, it’s best if your SEO-optimized content is created in your customer’s native language.

According to a 2014 study by Common Sense Advisory:

  • 72% of shoppers prefer to buy products in their native language.
  • 60% rarely or never buy from websites offering English-only content.

To generate sales internationally, content must be created multilingually. And to be found by these customers, SEO must also be managed multilingually.

The Benefits of Multilingual SEO

Visiting an e-commerce website and making a purchase should always be a hassle-free experience, whether the ‘store’ you are buying from is on the other side of town or the other side of the world.

Multilingual SEO helps to deliver this experience, and many other benefits besides, including:

Competitive advantage. Multilingual SEO boosts a business’s chances of success, both in the fight to reach the top of the search-engine rankings and the battle to provide customers with what they are looking for.

Increased engagement. As shoppers conduct searches in their native language, they spend more time on a site, which improves opportunities for sales conversions.

Link building. Location-targeted SEO—tapping into topical and newsworthy stories in a particular country, for example—unlocks new streams of interest from local or national media, online influencers, and bloggers.

Brand recognition. Using international SEO to compete effectively on the world stage helps to establish a brand globally, boosting a business’s reputation as the go-to store.

Improved reputation. Reviews and ratings play an increasingly important part in customer buying decisions. Anything that can be done to improve customer satisfaction—such as multilingual websites optimized for a local audience—is likely to have a positive impact on future sales.

Creating a Multilingual SEO Strategy

A successful SEO strategy is not simply a matter of targeting regions on a map. Southeast Asia, for example, cannot be considered a single, homogenous market. The region includes a diversity of languages, cultures, and social nuances—all of which have a huge impact on SEO.

Developing a tailored SEO plan is also not a simple matter of performing a word-for-word translation of existing home-market keywords. This is true for three reasons:

  1. Languages are too complex and sophisticated. A minor mistranslation can nullify SEO efforts, resulting in search engines overlooking a relevant site and, consequently, potential income streams being lost.
  2. Word-for-word translations will often exceed character limits for title tags and meta descriptions. For example, if you’re translating from a relatively “short” language like English to a “long” language like Swedish.
  3. SEO keywords vary from location to location, culture to culture. Each country has different regulations, different interests, and uses the internet differently, so it is no surprise that their key search terms also vary.

The differing climate and economic situations in Canada and Bangladesh, for example, will result in different search volume. Canada’s may be tailored towards outdoor activities, such as skiing equipment, while Bangladesh’s may favor more fundamental needs, such as food and clothing.

Even within a language, regional linguistic differences need to be considered. An e-commerce site tailored for ‘pants’ in the US, for example, would not do well in the UK unless its SEO was refocused onto ‘trousers’.

A site’s metadata must also be considered. Each language version of an e-commerce site requires its own, carefully created, meta titles and meta descriptions. It takes an expert linguist with a deep understanding of the technology behind e-commerce to implement a strategy that simultaneously hits all these SEO buttons.

Eric Doty, SLT’s Global Marketing Manager, explains:

Eric Doty

Global Marketing Manager, Summa Linguae Technologies

"Engaging with a multilingual audience means speaking to them in their native language. Your SEO optimizations have to be equally fluent, with keywords and content accurately reflecting the linguistic nuances, local culture, and search intent of each market."

How to Maximize the Impact of SEO

Gone are the days when packing keywords into a site’s content, irrespective of meaning or value to the reader, was enough to propel it to the peak of search-engine rankings. The ‘X’ factor that modern search engines are looking for when picking a winner is far more sophisticated.

A website is judged by the quality and context of each page’s content. This holistic approach is designed to favor the most relevant and useful information for the user when ranking search results.

For a website to be prioritized in the search engines, its content must demonstrate to the search engine bots that each page offers something valuable, original, and authoritative. And this applies to every language in which the site is available.

Here’s what you need to do to maximize the impact of multilingual SEO in today’s online environment:

  1. Translate source content with a level of expertise that ensures the target content is as articulate, informative, and engaging as the original.
  2. Replicate SEO efforts in each target language and implement the findings with full awareness of linguistic nuances and cultural insights.

Getting your brand noticed in a crowded global marketplace is a big challenge. Adding more languages to the mix magnifies the challenge even more so.

With years of experience bringing multilingual e-commerce and cutting-edge technology together, SLT can ensure your websites are localized and optimized for local searches across multiple international markets.

So, if you’re looking to extend the reach of your website, catch the eye of global consumers, and compete on a level playing field with your international competitors, contact SLT today.

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