Defining your SEO positioning strategy for a multi-language website can get complicated. It may be that your website operates in a number of countries - and within those countries, you could be dealing with different dialects. All of this adds a further layer of complexity.
The initial concept behind this post was to propose an all-encompassing SEO positioning strategy. But when we got down to it, we realised it could actually be counter-productive, given that each website is a world in itself: and each has its own idiosyncrasies that make it unique.
In the end, we figured the best route forward would be to write an article outlining the most common questions everyone needs to ask when they're embarking on SEO positioning once an international project is underway. Let's go!
Should I go for professional translation or can I just get a machine translation of my website?
The simple reality is that the all-powerful 'Google Gods' don't like websites that contain machine-translated content. The search engine's aim is to give users quality results, and Google knows that machine-translated content is of a lesser quality. As such, it penalises websites that go down this route.
Something else to think about when you're translating SEO is the use of keywords. When you translate your website, you need to know which market you're targeting so you can optimise your content. In other words, you don't just need an effective translation, but you need to use keywords common in your target market. Let's look at an example. American English uses "pants" for trousers; but in British English, the word means underwear. And in turn, underwear is the same in American English. In British English, trousers are trousers, not pants. So you can see why it's important to choose the right keywords. A machine translation just can't think along these nuanced lines. Nor can your brother-in-law 'who speaks some English'.
So the answer to that first question is, without a shadow of doubt, you need a professional translation.
Should I translate my website with proxy software or via a native connector?
Once you've decided how to move forward with the first point, you'll need to think about how you're going to translate the website professionally.
Software with proxy technology
AT Website Translator is the most automated solution on the market: software with proxy technology that automatically detects content for translation and sends it directly to our professional translators. Once the translation's been completed, AT-WST publishes translated content in all your website's languages and, guess what? It'll be optimised for SEO! It doesn't matter how much content you generate on your website; with AT-WST your website will always be up-to-date and translated into all the languages you need. To translate your website, all you need to think about is writing content in just one language!
- It's not a translation plugin, so the translation process is much faster and simpler. Why? It eliminates the processes of sending the texts for translation, waiting for a quote and uploading the translated texts to the website.
- It detects new text, which will be translated automatically, instantly. But the difference is, it'll be in the hands of a professional native-speaking translator!
- SEO friendly. This is important. All the keywords and metatags are translated and a URL is generated for each translated version, so your translated content maintains the same position in search engines as the original content. BE CAREFUL! The URLs aren't translated; rather, subdomains are created. For example, https://www.at-languagesolutions.com/en/ (website in Spanish); https://www.at-languagesolutions.com/en/ (website in English); and https://www.at-languagesolutions.com/fr/ (website in French). Practically speaking, a subdomain behaves like an independent website, so Google sees them as different projects. According to Moz, a leading SEO website, URLs help to improve browsers' UX, but they're less of a factor when it comes to positioning the website/search rankings. Using a URL that includes keywords may improve the website's visibility in searches, but the URLs themselves don't tend to have a significant impact on the page classification. What is significant - and absolutely necessary - is having quality content, with a good user experience and properly identified web pages. We'll take a look in a moment!
Translating a CMS with a native connector
Native connectors are plugins designed for a specific CMS, and are integrated into the CMS itself. Integration is quick and easy, and it's often the most cost-effective solution.
- Simple website content translation.
- SEO isn't automatically optimised - instead, you'll need to install another plugin, such as the Yoast SEO for WordPress.
- This gives you the option to select the pages you want to translate.
- You can manually translate the URLs, and add any keywords you think you need in each language. For example:
www.ejemplo.com/pantalones_pitillo (Spanish page)
www.ejemplo.com/skinny_trousers (British English page)
www.ejemplo.com/skinny_pants (American English page)
Connectors are a practical option for companies that don't deal with a large volume of translations.
How can Google tell I've got a multi-language website?
The hreflang tag is perhaps the most powerful tool you can use to tell Google your pages aren't repeating content, but rather has different web pages that need to appear in searches in other countries - or in different languages in the same country.
This is why it's extremely important that each page correctly includes the hreflang tag on each of its versions, whether the content is for another language or other country. This tag always needs to be in the head of the page code. Here's an example:
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://www.at-languagesolutions.com/en/” hreflang=”en” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://www. at-languagesolutions.com/fr/” hreflang=”fr” />
The first line of code would point to the British English page and the second to the French page. That would be your configuration for the Home page. Here's an example showing tags for your About Us page:
<link rel=»alternate» href=»https:// https://www.at-languagesolutions.com/en/conocenos/ » hreflang=»en» />
<link rel=»alternate» href=»https:// https://www.at-languagesolutions.com/fr/conocenos/ » hreflang=»fr» />
These hreflang tags should be included on each page of the website, indicating the corresponding URL for each language version with the same content.
Watch out! You need to define the hreflang tag that will be used for the various language/country pages. Use the official Google specification, as well allowed country and language formats and values to avoid including them in incorrect locations, or with disallowed tags, attributes or values.
What should I pay attention to in my SEO positioning strategy for a multi-language website?
Do keyword research for your SEO translation
It's a common pitfall to think that having professional translations is enough. But no matter how well the content is translated, it could be that the keywords you're using in the source language don't work in the same way in the target languages.
In many cases, the words users search for on search engines could be different depending on the country, even for the same product. That's why it's important to do keyword research for every new language, making your search terms for potential customers more accurate.
Use the rel=canonical tag to prioritise the preferred language
This is an error that can render your whole SEO positioning strategy useless. If you use this tag you're saying to Google that, regardless of the language the user wants to see, the most important page is the one in the main language.
For example, the Spanish version is not relevant to a French visitor, which Google will consequently penalise your positioning for. Remember, the rel=canonical tag was created to be used on duplicate pages in order to avoid a penalty from Google.
SEO positioning for multi-language websites in several languages is tricky, and it's something you need to pay attention to. But it's not impossible, and there are currently several useful ways of telling Google about the multi-language versions of a website.
You need to make sure you're offering an optimal user experience, clearly structuring your website and having quality translations of each of the elements on the page. The rest can be done by a connector for your CMS or software with proxy technology, like our AT-Website Translator.
If you'd like a professional translation of your website and some help with your international SEO positioning strategy, just get in touch! We'll take a look at your website and offer you the best option.