This is an article ‘Multilingual SEO: Optimizing for a Global Audience in a Digital Age’ by Marc Primo Warren.
Reaching a global audience is always one of the most crucial goals for any business, much more if it operates in several countries. With the rise of the internet, the world has indeed become a smaller place, and potential customers can be found in every corner of the globe. But there's a catch: to effectively target an international audience, you need to go further beyond simply creating a fantastic website with excellent site speed and engaging content. These days, you should learn to speak your target audiences’ languages—both literally and figuratively. This is where multilingual SEO (Search Engine Optimization) comes into play.
Why try Multilingual SEO
Before we dive into the more practical aspects of multilingual SEO, let’s first try to grasp the significance of this route. First and foremost, the most apparent benefit of multilingual SEO is how it can expand your potential audience fast. Websites designed to accommodate multiple languages can connect with an additional 75% of internet users who do not predominantly speak the English language. It’s also not surprising that a significant 60% of worldwide consumers express a preference for navigating websites in their mother tongue, as it contributes to an enhanced user experience (UX).
By optimizing your content for multiple languages, you can connect with individuals who speak those languages, regardless of their location. This global reach can open up new markets and revenue streams for your business. Of course, when you offer content in a user's native language, you also provide a more convenient, comfortable, and enjoyable UX. This can reduce your bounce rates, improve overall user satisfaction, and get you more chances for return visitors.
The Competitive Edge of Multilingual SEO
In most industries that go beyond boutique numbers, competitors are likely already implementing multilingual SEO strategies. By joining the ranks of businesses catering to a diverse audience, you can remain competitive and even gain an edge in your chosen niche.
Search engines like Google reward websites that offer high-quality, relevant content to users. This includes offering content in multiple languages. Plus, multilingual SEO helps search engines crawl and understand your content's relevance to different language groups, potentially leading to higher search rankings.
Like in any other SEO endeavor, the foundation of a campaign (whether in one or multiple languages) is thorough keyword research. When targeting a global audience, keyword research becomes even more critical.
Here's how to approach it effectively:
Understand Local Search Behavior
Different regions and language groups may have unique search behaviors. What works in English-speaking markets may not apply to Spanish or Mandarin-speaking audiences. Start by understanding how people in your target regions search for products or services similar to yours. In a recent poll, it was found that local searches contribute 22.6% of a website’s traffic. The traffic for location-based businesses has also dramatically soared from 19.2% to 28.8% from Jan 2020 to July 2021.
Use Multilingual Keyword Research Tools
To uncover the most relevant keywords in multiple languages, utilize specialized tools such as Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Google's Keyword Planner. It also does not hurt to invest in ChatGPT4 and other useful artificial intelligence and machine learning tools, which can impressively translate lengthy content from one language to another. Overall, these tools allow you to identify the search terms your potential customers are using.
Remember, your keyword strategy should strike a balance between global and local keywords. Global keywords are terms that are relevant across all language groups, while local keywords are specific to a particular region or language. Combining both types within your content can help you reach a broader audience.
Discovering the keywords your competitors are targeting can also provide you with valuable insights. Keyword research tools are valuable in this aspect in how they help you identify your competitors' strategies and discover keywords that are driving traffic to their websites, not to mention your shared audience’s search intent.
Producing Multilingual Content For Your Website
Once you've identified your target keywords, it's time to create content that resonates with your international audience. This involves two forms of localization.
Content Localization is the process of adapting your content to the cultural, linguistic, and regional preferences of your target audience. For the most part, it includes translating your content. However, it's more than just merely swapping words. This process entails that you ensure a prolific native translation of what you post on your web pages to show how your brand genuinely understands the nuances of the local market.
With this, it’s best to avoid machine or AI translations like ChatGPT4, as they can lead to embarrassing and costly mistakes. If you have the budget, go for a polyglot expert who can help you translate your content.
It also pays to focus your attention on cultural differences and adapt your content accordingly. Always try to create content that is specific to the interests and needs of each region or language group you're targeting. This can include local news, events, and cultural references on your featured snippets within your web pages.
On the other hand, Content Internationalization is the process of setting up your website and infrastructure to support multiple languages and regions. This relies more on language tags. Use hreflang tags to easily indicate the language and region of your pages. This helps search engines understand the languages you're targeting and display the appropriate content for local users.
Also, note that choosing a URL structure that is friendly to both users and search engines can give you better-ranking points on Google. Options include subdomains, subdirectories, or parameters that specify the language and region. Once you’re done with your URL structure, make it easier for users to switch between languages on your website via dropdown menus on your page headers. Clearly label their language options in the navigation menu to improve your site’s UX and optimize your website for multilingual SEO.
Optimize Your Website With Multilingual SEO
By understanding the unique needs and behaviors of your target markets, conducting effective keyword research, and creating localized content, you can successfully optimize your digital campaigns for a worldwide reach. Remember that the process doesn't end with implementation—ongoing measurement, improvement, and a commitment to providing valuable content in multiple languages will be the keys to your long-term success in the international digital landscape.
Don't hesitate to explore new strategies for communicating your brand’s message in different languages. Most importantly, be open to the diverse perspectives and opportunities that a global audience can bring to your business.