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Multilingual SEO: What It Is & How to Do It

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

What Is Multilingual SEO?

Multilingual SEO is the practice of converting your website content into multiple languages. Users can search Google in specific languages to find your website in organic search results. Multilingual SEO allows you to expand to an international audience and drive more sales to your business.

Multilingual SEO Credits: SemRush

Step 1: Identify Your Markets

When considering countries to expand your business, you should find countries with high search demand for your products or services. Translating your website content into the native languages of these countries could make sense for you, too

Step 2: Conduct Keyword Research for Your Chosen Countries

After identifying your target countries, conduct keyword research.At this point, consider hiring a native speaker or qualified translator to help brainstorm seed keywords in the country-specific language.(Seed keywords are broad phrases or single words related to your business.) Use keyword research tools to expand on your seed keyword list and pull metrics, such as search volume and keyword difficulty. Knowing the specific keywords and language your ideal customers use is important. Really important. So, don’t rely on automated translation tools. They make mistakes that can harm your multilingual SEO and keyword research efforts

Step 3: Decide Your URL Structure

When creating your URL structure use dedicated URLs for each language and country version so that Google indexes your site properly so it can serve users searching in specific languages. There are several options to choose from when deciding on URL structure. Each option has its own pros and cons.

Separate Domains

Using separate domains or ccTLDs (country code top-level domains) is one of the most popular options. With this option, you’ll need to purchase and manage multiple domains, which requires a massive IT infrastructure investment. From an SEO standpoint, you’ll need to build links to each domain individually. It can be time-consuming but having separate domains gives you the ability to use localized hosting. Which could improve your page load times.


Using subfolders is also a very popular option for websites in multiple languages. With subfolders, all your content will sit within a single domain. From an IT perspective, this is easier than rolling out subfolders and pages on a completely different hosting setup. That said, you can’t use localized hosting with this option.


Subdomains are another option to consider. Many SEOs think Google treats subdomains as separate domains. This means you may need to build SEO authority for multiple domains as opposed to a single, main domain. But similar to ccTLDs, using subdomains gives you the ability to use localized hosting to improve page speed.


Google doesn’t recommend using parameterized URLs when doing language SEO.URLs with parameters confuse search engines. Search engines may find it difficult to understand and serve correct language versions to users.

Step 4: Translate and Optimize Your Pages

Once your URL structure is set up, the next step is to translate your pages and optimize each page for its target keywords. When translating, don’t cut corners and rely on translation tools, such as Google Translate, to generate literal translations from English to other languages. Automatic translation tools don’t take nuance into consideration. So you’ll often end up with sentences and paragraphs that read too formally or even misconstrue information. Title tags are often the main piece of information people use to decide which result to click on.

Keep it brief. Keep title tags to fewer than 60 characters. Google truncates title tags over 60 characters.

Use your multilingual SEO keyword. This helps Google understand what topic the page covers. So it can rank appropriately.

Don’t do clickbait. Make sure your page delivers what you promise with your title.

Meta Descriptions

The meta description shows up as the short description of your page in search results.

Here are some tips to follow when crafting meta descriptions for your translated pages

Keep them short. Google cuts off meta descriptions that extend over 120 characters

Use your keyword. Google bolds words and phrases closely related to the query

Use active voice. Address the searcher directly

URL Slugs

In search results, Google displays URL slugs to let users know where they will land if they click on a page.

Keep them short and descriptive. Google truncates longer URLs. The best way to make your URL slugs short and descriptive is by including your language-specific target keywords in them

Use hyphens to separate words. Not underscores

Use lowercase text. This is a general rule of thumb

Use safe characters. No symbols in URL slugs. They can make your URLs appear spammy.

Avoid dates. Dates in URLs make your content appear outdated

Internal Links

Internal links are links from one page to another on your website.

Step 5: Implement Hreflang

After translating your website content and performing on-page optimizations, implement hreflang attributes on your multilingual website. Hreflang is an HTML attribute websites use to tell search engines the location and geographical targeting of a webpage. In simple terms, hreflang helps Google serve the right language version of your pages in search results.

Step 6: Build Backlinks

Acquiring backlinks is an essential step in building a successful multi-language website. Backlinks are seen as “votes’ and generally, the more votes you have, the better your chance of ranking well in search results. The majority of your backlinks need to be from relevant websites. When building links, always aim to build links from reputable, high-authority websites. Links from high-authority sites carry more weight.

Broken Link Building

Broken link building involves finding broken links on other websites and contacting the website owners to suggest replacing the broken link with a working, alternative link from your own site.

Digital PR

Digital PR is about getting media coverage for your brand. This helps boost awareness of your business, products, and services.

Competitor Backlink Research

Researching your competitors’ backlinks provides insight into the content types that attract links in your space. Multilingual SEO is the way forward if you want to drive traffic and revenue by translating your website content into other languages.

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