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How-to 12 min read

How to set up a multilingual website for SEO

Multiregional and multilingual sites reach a large audience. It is important to set them up correctly - not only translate the content of the website, but also the interface, observe the technical settings, correctly register the meta tags.
A multiregional and multilingual website is not the same.

Multiregional ones are created for visitors from different countries. Most often, they are doing online shopping, selling products in all regions. For each country, their own platforms are created - it increases the chances of a quick and successful promotion. The ranking algorithm primarily generates a SERP from pages created for local users.

Multilingual ones are made for visitors who speak different languages, even if they live in the same country. For example, in Canada, a manufacturer can launch two versions of an online store - for French and English speaking customers. This is taken into account when ranking. The search engine first displays pages written in the same language as the query.

Please note: the same websites can be both multiregional and multilingual.

How to create a multilingual website: SEO methods and their differences

There are several most popular options for translating a website into different languages:

● use of different domain names;
● different subdomains;
● categories and folders.

On different domain names

This is one of the most effective ways to promote and at the same time expensive options. The bottom line is that you need to create a number of independent resources, depending on the number of languages into which you need to translate the website, and then fill and promote each. Accordingly, it will also be necessary to administer them separately. Links also need to be built separately for each domain.

As a result, in the address bar of the resource for each country will be prescribed a domain under which it was developed, for example:

● .de;
● .it;
● .pl;
● .com.

The name of the website may remain the same or also be translated to be better perceived. Since one more is added to the above-described disadvantages of this method — due to the independence of the sites, their overall reference weight and age, which would have been if they functioned as one resource, are lost, this option is usually refused.

On different subdomains

In this case, the address bar in front of the domain name indicates the language into which the website has been translated. For example:
Site language on the subdomain
In order to simplify the work for users, a special script is additionally configured that determines their IP address and automatically translates to the desired page. In this case, the weight is partially transferred between subdomains, as the search engine understands the relationship.

In categories and folders

To implement this method in practice, a multi-language module is installed on the website. Then we create categories and folders where the content will be copied. In this case, the weight is preserved, since the structure is implemented within a single domain.
Multilinguality in categories and folders of the site
As this is one of the most optimal ways, it is used even by some site designers - they have the ability to copy and translate individual pages. Agreeing on this option, the main thing is to consider all the errors that may cost a good position in the issuance.

Developers may offer other options, depending on the size of the budget. For example, to make the whole site in one language, and one or more of its pages on another. They will collect and redirect users to the main resource. Or use popular CMS, allowing to implement the site in several languages.

For example, multilingual in Joomla is installed using the extension FaLang, and the plugin WPML helps you create a multilingual WordPress site.

What errors occur when setting up a multilingual

Multilingual site is configured successfully if the bot easily finds the relationship between the desired pages. If this does not happen, make sure that:
Different URLs are assigned to different languages - this is how all language versions will be indexed. If the content is written in different languages to display using JS on the same page, this will adversely affect the ranking.
The hreflang attributes for alternate pages are set. The bot will be able to find them in the same way, but will not link them to the group, especially if multilingualism is configured for each page.

It is important! You should not specify the country code - the search engine will not be able to determine it. At the same time, it is permissible to put a language code, and after it a country code, if you need to open access to the web page only for visitors from a particular region.

For example, fr-be is a page in French for readers from Belgium or nl-be for those readers in Dutch.
Country code in hreflang
There is a mark on the page options in the Sitemap file. In practice, this is implemented using the "loc" element, in which its URL is written. At the same time, the XHTML: link child tags contain links to all regional and language variants, including the main web page. That is, for three alternative pages, there should be three elements with child tags.
Title, meta description, and other meta tags are translated correctly. Ideally, they should be subtracted by a professional translator or a native speaker - sometimes online translators give out inhuman text. Firstly, it is not readable, and secondly, it can be regarded as spam.

What else to look for when translating a site


Well, if multilingualism is planned at the site development stage - then you need to think about the encoding and make fewer mistakes. If the resource is already working and not only Latin is used, it will be more difficult. Most often, Unicode is used to customize the translation.

The problems arise in two cases: if the encodings are mixed or the project is converted - after a while the site was translated, adding another language version. As a result, errors may appear on the page - the words from another language that are incomprehensible to the user.
Encoding problems while translating the site


It makes no sense to customize multilinguality, if the text is not added to the website, written in a language understandable to the users. Exception - if the lack of content does not interfere with the work. To save money, you should translate most important individual pages.

There are also certain requirements for translation, especially if the site is highly specialized: texts should be written in a clear language, on different pages you should use the same terms to describe certain products. After translation, it is advisable to subtract content, since errors and unreadable sentences undermine the credibility of the site.

Pay special attention to the translation of documentation, in particular, legal texts, rules for using the service. They should be re-read by a lawyer to make sure that they do not contradict local legislation. As it is technically difficult to do this, the translation of the website pages with documents is not always done.

News and promotions

Almost there is a section with them on all resources: they help in promoting and acquaint users with the unique offers of the company. But blindly you can not translate them - the content for pages that are displayed by users from different regions should be carefully selected.

For example, if a project works in the USA and Europe, it is not necessary for Europeans to know about opening branches in one of the states - they will not be interested in the news. The same applies to stocks developed for buyers from a particular region.


Before launching the site in two languages, it must be checked. It is possible that certain sections might not be translated. For example, orders are accepted online only in one region, etc.

Switch between language versions

Ideally, users should change the language just by pressing the corresponding button on the website:
Switching the language of the site
Difficulties may arise if the structure of all language versions does not match. Then the desired page does not open in a specific language.

System messages and external module messages

It is good if the engine was written for a specific project taking into account multilingual - in this case all error messages will be displayed in a language understandable to the reader. If not, you will have to check each and rewrite. The same applies to messages and files that were additionally installed on the site, and these are photo galleries, Flash player and so on.

The inscriptions in the pictures, national currencies

Not only the captions to the images, but also the inscriptions on them should be changed, especially if the readers are informed about discounts and promotions in this way. Also, we must not forget that for each country there may be its own rules for designating currency or writing dates. Do not ignore them - it complicates the work with the site.
Currency choosing on the multiregional website

Translation of the interface in a personal account

For the convenience of users, it is required to transfer all the content in a personal account. Otherwise, it will be difficult for them to navigate and find the necessary information.


Multilingualism is an important condition for website promotion in different regions. You can implement it in several ways: on different domains, subdomains, in separate folders and categories using special modules - everything depends on the budget. The main thing, when setting up, is to take into account the technical aspects:

● register different URLs;
● set the hreflang attributes;
● embed the appropriate markup in the Sitemap;
● correctly translate meta tags.

To fully translate the site, you need to pay special attention to the content that is related to navigation. Then it will be possible to improve the position of the site and reach the right audience without undermining its credibility.

This article is a part of Serpstat's Checklist tool
Checklist at Serpstat" title = "How to set up a multilingual website for SEO 16261788313921" />
Checklist is a ready-to-do list that helps to keep reporting of the work progress on a specific project. The tool contains templates with an extensive list of project development parameters where you can also add your own items and plans.
Try Checklist now

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