When your company is looking to reach new international customers, establishing a solid SEO strategy becomes a priority, fast. But building SEO value for multilingual websites has different challenges than it does for your origin website, and requires its own set of best practices.

This section provides plenty of actionable advice that can help your multilingual SEO efforts, such as:

Avoiding Weak Domain Authority: Your branded keywords, which have lots of Google juice in your primary market, aren’t often much help in new multilingual markets. We’ll school you on why, and what to do about it.

Effective Keyword Use: Companies should always be cost-conscious, but there’s an upside to translating content-rich website sections such as blogs, FAQs and support pages. This will increase translation costs, but we’ll show you how it generates robust results in organic search … which leads to more conversions.

Boosting Local Search ‘Signal’: We’ll tip you to the incredible (and overlooked) value of inbound link strategies for international and multilingual markets.

Keyword Optimization: We provide three useful insights that can maximize the visibility of your translated site in regional search engines. Here’s a sneak peek: Using translation memory technology can avoid diluting the potency of your keywords with inconsistent word choices.

Connecting Your Global Properties: You’ll learn how this best practice gives multilingual customers a seamless, trust-building global experience and increases your translated websites’ position in page rank and relevance.

Working “Under the Hood”: There’s plenty of techniques to keep your localized site on top of search results, most of which are overlooked by most translation vendors. We’ll provide a straightforward to-do list that’ll empower you to optimize your in-language SEO and generate more inbound traffic.

The Power of Google Search Console: We’ll explain why keeping a close eye on your Google Search Console can rescue your translated website from obscurity, should your site experience unseen technical errors.

5 Reasons Why Translated Sites Need Better SEO Processes

There’s a major gap in understanding the nuances of international SEO, and how it impacts a company’s global digital strategy. For instance, international SEO considerations go much further than country-level domains (such as .mx or .ru), subdomains and subdirectories.

The keys to ranking well in search include providing outstanding content, a superb UX and a mandate to write and design with humans—not search engines—in mind. But how do those best practices apply when companies translate their websites for multilingual customers, or look to improve the performance of their existing localized sites?

Here are five key reasons why multilingual websites don’t perform at the scale that companies anticipate.

1: Weak Domain Authority

A company’s brand and website may be well known in its domestic market, but they can be practically unknown in the emerging markets they are trying to serve. In fact, this might be the first time the domain is presenting content for a topic in a different language.

As the new kid on the block, the company will likely find branded keywords—which are so helpful in its flagship market—aren’t so helpful in these new markets. The company must build authority in different ways, in different languages.

Many product names are often creative rather than descriptive. Unless customers in new markets know these names, search results may be poor. That’s why you may need to create content containing generic terms.

For instance, a swimwear line includes a product called “Tugless Tank.” In order to increase optimization and SEO success, the company could describe this branded product as a one-piece swimsuit to improve SEO.

 2: Lack of Guidance to Search Engines

Companies should provide search engines with helpful information to ensure users enjoy the best possible online experience. Without it, they may not receive the right localized version of the site in their search results.

One of these signals is the hreflang attribute. It allows organizations to give search engines like Google and Yandex guidance on the languages their websites are available in, and the markets they serve. This information fast-tracks multilingual customers to the version of the site they can best understand and transact on.

Alternatively, brands and retailers can use search engine tools such as Google’s search console, or Bing, Yandex and Baidu webmaster tools.

3: Ineffective Use of Keywords

It’s vital to consider the quality of a multilingual website’s SEO keywords and the depth of its content. How can a company rank highly in local searches when it fails to include terms local customers actually use to find products?

Achieving the goal of domain authority and page authority in these new markets calls for using locally preferred keywords and terminology for specific topics.

When beginning their website translation projects, many companies opt to not translate content-heavy sections such as blogs and FAQs. While this is understandable—after all, translation costs can be high—such content can help build domain authority.

Another upside to translating that material: it’s full of authoritative content and brimming with SEO-rich keywords. The search-rank lift a company will see in emerging markets might just be worth the cost of localizing this content.

4: Local Signal Shortfall

Local marketing teams should be tasked with creating an attractive local online presence.

There are elements to this process that companies can control, such as providing the right local organizational schema. But others may require more work, such as generating links from local publications and third-party websites. Experts believe these links should be from websites that are optimized for the target country.

Inbound link strategies are a common best practice in domestic markets, but they’re often overlooked for international or multilingual markets.

5: Looking in the Wrong Place

International SEO is a different beast because an organization must regularly deal with different languages, customer behaviors and search engines.

If a brand is launching a localized site to serve China, it would be a mistake to only consider optimizing for Google. Instead, the company should also consider the homegrown search engine Baidu.

Website Translation and Keyword Optimization

Now that we’ve covered how companies often shortchange their international SEO efforts, let’s discuss some ways to improve them.

SEO keywords matter just as much for your localized international websites as they do for your origin site. Translated keywords help increase the likelihood of your translated sites showing up in local search results.

These best practices can help maximize the SEO visibility of your global sites:

Full Website Translation

Presenting the entirety of your website in a market’s preferred language is the most viable option to earn the business and trust of multilingual customers. It’s also the best way to feed search engines quality content with in-language SEO keywords and keyword clusters that will boost your ranking and relevancy in search results.


Some core concepts that are vital to your brand identity or products might not translate directly or might require a different approach to convey the idea to your customers. In this case, a simple translation of keywords might not be enough.

Localization—or nuanced translation that captures the culture and preferred phrases of a target market—can help make your content feel authentic to customers. It will also benefit your in-market SEO by using keywords that actually match what locals are searching for in their preferred search engines.

Translation Memory

By using a translation memory database, you can avoid diluting the potency of your keywords with unnecessary synonyms or inconsistent word choices. Translation memory allows you to save time and effort, as well as maintain consistency, by identifying and reusing content for words and phrases that have already been translated.

A bonus benefit: You can re-use those translations for omnichannel marketing, such as social media posts, and boost traffic through social sharing and relevant backlinks.

The Importance of SEO Keywords and Localized Sitemaps for Website Translation

Website discoverability is another vital element of your multilingual customer experience. After all, what good is a translated site if customers don’t know it exists?

Translated Keyword Research

As you investigate website translation solutions, make sure to inquire about international SEO keyword research. Great vendors can do this research—and implement those regionally appropriate keywords in their on-site translations—in any language, for any market, in every industry.

Make sure:

  • Keywords include synonym-based searches, so visitors can easily find your localized site(s) in multiple ways
  • This research and implementation requires no effort from you
  • The solution can effectively increase organic search traffic

Translated Global Sitemap

Configuring and updating multilingual versions of your origin website’s sitemap.xml files also boosts regional SEO. You’ll want to layer in special hreflang tag attributes, too. This best practice:

  • Improves international SEO by providing the right mapping signals to search engines
  • Intelligently organizes and packages all localized website URLs
  • Reduces effort for customer-side SEO analysts by removing constant manual updates to language referencing tags in source code
  • hreflang tagging tells search engines which language you are using on a specific page, so the search engine can serve that result to users searching in that language
  • Ensures international search engines are displaying the correct localized version of a site

The best vendors offer technologies to optimize your translated site’s sitemap on an ongoing basis with no effort required from you.

You can read more about these SEO-related capabilities, and many others, in the below section.

Connecting Your Translated Websites

Connecting your multilingual websites across markets gives customers a seamless, trust-building global experience. More importantly for your SEO, this practice helps your translated websites increase in page rank and relevance.

Make sure you follow these well-established strategies:

Interconnected Translated Websites

Connect your multilingual websites by cross-linking them to each other. Search engines value these links because they are relevant and related to each other. Your customers value these links as well, because it allows them to navigate to different translated versions if they choose.

Language-Detection Technology

In many instances, your global customers may visit your origin website, and need to immediately find a localized version of the site in their language. If they don’t find that site right away, they’re likely to abandon the experience—often never to return.

This can be prevented with smart language-detection technology that algorithmically determines what language a user prefers and prompts them to visit the proper localized website.

Global Sitemaps

Through implementation of hreflang tagging, your localized website’s URLs can be organized and automatically associated with a URL from your origin website. This provides a signal to Google that a translated—and likely better—user experience exists for customers who speak a certain language, live in a particular location, or both.

How to Further Improve International SEO

Beyond optimizing your SEO keyword strategy and establishing connections across your global properties, there are some technical tweaks you can make to help search engines find your translated websites

Submit Localized Sites to Search Engines

Use various webmaster tools to submit your localized sites to Google, Bing and other search engines to ensure they get crawled and indexed. Otherwise, it could take a while before your global sites show up in organic search results. In addition to the most common global search engines, make sure to determine the search engines your global customers use and submit your sites to them, too.

Keep It Crawlable

Make sure your website is accessible to search engines by maximizing website crawlability. Check your site’s robots.txt file to make sure it’s not blocking content from being indexed or followed, or disallowing pages, sections or even all website pages. Also limit use of temporary redirects and avoid redirect loops.

Metadata / Structured Data

Your multilingual websites should contain translated SEO-rich metadata—like titles, descriptions and local schema metadata—that search engines use to determine website quality, content relevance and page rank.

Localize this keyword-rich content to help your site rank highly in local search engines.

International Targeting Settings

Properly using Google’s international targeting settings can help ensure your websites are seen by the right customers. You can select a countrywide target for your website or ensure your hreflang tags are correct.

Website Translation and Google Search Console

Pay attention to diagnostics in your Google Search Console, such as crawl errors, international targeting errors and security issues. If an error has been detected, troubleshoot it and correct it immediately. If Google is seeing problems with your website, customers might not be able to find your site at all. You might be losing precious SEO benefits.

Wrapping Up

Implementing these international SEO best practices on your multilingual websites can help improve your visibility in local search results and increase organic traffic.

One important thing to note, however, is that it requires a balance of marketing, technical and cultural know-how—on top of great translation skills—to correctly pull these off. Even large global brands can overlook these key factors and waste their SEO potential.

Great website localization providers should be able to:

  • Optimize your site’s translation for SEO value
  • Deploy language-detection technology solutions
  • Set up global sitemaps with hreflang tags
  • Translate and optimize metadata
  • Provide insight on your sitemap, txt, redirects and other under-the-hood components that affect your SEO

Ask your existing translation vendor how it can help you with your multilingual SEO—or look for one that specializes in these optimizations.

Read more about website translation in our ultimate guide to website translation.