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SEO 29 min read August 24, 2023

Multilingual SEO: SEO Localization vs SEO Translation

Multilingual SEO: Translation or Localization?
Kateryna Hordiienko
Kateryna Hordiienko
Research Editor at Serpstat

Ensuring their effort won’t go in vain for any SEO expert is essential. Given the long-term benefits of applying and complementing the right localization strategy with advancements, even new sites can overcome severe competition in the chosen business line. It remains to make the best choice possible: translation vs. localization.

With so many types of SEO practices, there is one that helps any company unleash its potential while bridging linguistic and regional boundaries. With the help of multilingual SEO, business owners can expand their reach and quickly discover new areas at home and distant galaxies. We talked to the MK translation bureau representative to dive deeper into the topic. Keep reading to find out more practical advice on selecting and realizing a successful SEO multilingual tactic. 

What Is Multilingual SEO?

If you perceive this term as directly as possible, SEO for multilingual websites means representing its pages in other languages. This can be done with AI resources or a multilingual SEO agency. However, building a truly strong presence in a new market isn’t always as simple as literally translating your content. Although it works as well, its results are somewhat lacking compared to the next-level methods. The latter offers more benefits to SEO experts and website owners. While providing more personalized access to local markets, it also increases your original traffic without difficulty and with long-term results. Here are the two most popular ways of such services in a nutshell.

Translation

The best website structure for SEO multilingual efforts incorporates more advanced methods that convey original messages into the target language. That’s where SEO translation can serve you well. Instead of focusing on preserving the audience's content quality, this approach considers major elements such as meta tags, keywords, URL slugs, and so on and ensures they preserve their attribute value.

It is a good solution for experts to create content for a new GEO and maintain originally nice positions in SERPs. Since languages might be too distant, like in the case of English and Japanese, literal translation can lead to worse rankings.

Localization

Compared to the alternative method, this one focuses on preserving the text value for the reader in a new market. Thanks to localization techniques, complicated language structures such as jokes and metaphors will also reach their original goals in another medium. Although it is time-consuming and labor-intense, it works for strong websites that are going to remain in a chosen business line for a long time.

Pros and Cons of SEO Localization vs. SEO Translation

When it comes to the internationalization and localization of multilingual SEO, a lot of factors have to be thoroughly analyzed to ensure you get the most out of this opportunity. If you fail to determine your goals in the target market and start implementing search engine optimization tactics in a new area bare-handedly, your effort is prone to multiple negative consequences — worse ratings and increased bounce rates because of duplicate content.

When done correctly and with attention to detail, this SEO strategy is projected to bring several positive changes to your platform. Let’s outline the most common effects of choosing the good and evil sides of multilingual on-site translation and adaptation.

Pros Cons
It offers enhanced ratings in SERPs.
It won’t function effectively without complete immersion in the chosen language.
It increases brand awareness and reachability by driving more organic traffic and conversions.
It is more complicated to create multilingual and multiregional SEO sites and maintain their quality in the long run.
It helps level up your SEO profile and keyword range.
It requires constant updates, which drives extra spending.
It promoted more customer satisfaction and loyalty.
If you offer a multilingual SEO domain, presenting support services in chosen language pairs has to be implemented as well.
It helps you stay ahead of the competition and conquer new fields simultaneously.
Myriads of differences between the nations are reflected in their languages and, therefore, search queries and online behaviors.
This method ensures your site’s continued growth and development while accessing more search engines that were previously unreachable, like unique alternatives in Japan and China.
You have to spend a lot of resources to conduct in-depth research and get the big picture to navigate your site’s development in a new market.

Benefits of Multilingual SEO

Websites can flourish with professionally translated and optimized pages that are easy to index and crawl. It is a nice opportunity to drive more traffic to your domains. Since you employ more effective website-running tactics with multilingual SEO services and satisfy new audiences’ intent to visit pages, you can hit higher rankings in SERPs. This effort leads to better website visibility, brand recognition, and so on.

To be able to enjoy the below-highlighted advantages of SEO for multilingual sites, you shouldn’t forget about crucial fundamentals before getting started:

By establishing a global product with the guidance of a skilled multilingual SEO consultant, you maintain simultaneous growth in different countries. 

Increase Organic Traffic from International Markets

Ensuring your platform’s traffic growth is crucial for its health and visibility. This parameter is tightly interconnected with other aspects of your site’s lifecycle, including conversions and ROI rates. Anyway, with an acceptable benchmark of a 10% to 20% increase in a monthly traffic indicator, gaining more audiences to share your content with is a powerful and long-term fuel.

The more users visit your site and stay on it, the more credible source you become in the analytical eyes of Google, Bing, and other search engines.

Improve User Experience

The appliance of multilingual SEO best practices becomes a win-win scenario for both website owners and prospective visitors. Since a platform gets a version immediately understandable and perceived by a representative of another country, you minimize your domain’s bounce rate. You present service and information value to your audience in a clearer way, ensuring your original message is qualitatively transferred via borders between the countries.

Expanding Business Opportunities

As of January 2023, English was the most popular language for displaying content on the internet — 58.8%. However, making versions in other systems of human communication on the list, including Spanish with 4.3%, French and German with 3.7%, Japanese with 3%, and Turkish with 2.8%, to mention a few, lets you reach the markets where the knowledge of English isn’t a widespread phenomenon — the native language in these countries has a too strong influence to conquer.

Creating an SEO multilingual website promotes more accessibility for your business product. Since local search engines might also be monolingual, this approach guarantees your message will be heard by the target audience. Such a solution to heighten your brand awareness certainly delivers a competitive advantage right to your domain’s doors. The more visitors, the better the rankings in SERPs, conversions, and returns of investments. 

What are the Challenges of Multilingualism?

Whenever you want more traffic and other benefits that come with the implementation of a multilingual and optimized website, you have to grasp potential problems as well. This big picture will positively influence the SEO strategy you pursue, letting you tune its instruments and master timely decisions to improve your statistics.

Language and Cultural Nuances

The site’s visibility in SERPs is a dynamic parameter. Professionals can increase it using fitting keyword clusters to access the target market. When generating new content or rearranging your previous articles, it is crucial to pay attention to how language and cultural peculiarities distinguish the way the related search queries are formed. Such unique features include preferring and abandoning certain phraseologies and idioms — that’s where simple and literal translation won’t be beneficial. For instance, the literal meaning of thunderstorm, “Donnerwetter!” in German, is “God damn!” in reality.

Another example relates to unique pictures of the world. You might need to alter your site’s color palette to ensure its symbolism is correct for every target audience. Let’s be more precise. Red in several African countries is a bad omen associated with aggression, and white in Japanese customs is a shade of death and mourning. Before catering to any audience, analyze its way of thinking and cultural background, it will help you get rid of crucial mistakes and possible misunderstandings, putting your brand identity at risk.

Keyword Research and Localization

Finding the best phrases that speak to customers and search engines is the process of conducting keyword research. With shifting your focus to a new language and target audience, more issues arise. Since keywords for English- and Spanish-speaking markets won’t coincide, this creates a need to locate the right cluster of keywords to use within the domain and its structural elements like URLs.

Assessments done by a local SEO expert are invaluable. Despite the opportunities people get with the use of AI and machine learning tools, in-depth results are possible only thanks to relying on human resources only.

To avoid problems related to complex keyword research and localization, you can check the data of Google Analytics and define popular and traffic-bringing phrases. Another aspect is to go for optimization for mobile searches. 

To automate your keyword research and clustering, take Serpstat opportunities!

Try the numerous search suggestions and related keyword reports by 240 search databases worldwide and start SERP-based clustering directly! A 7-day trial is available.

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Technical Considerations and Website Structure

From a technical standpoint, this strategy requires a precise understanding of its nature and must-have parameters. These tend to negatively impact your website performance, so one of the best multilingual SEO tips is to get rid of the issues highlighted below:

Managing Multiple Language Versions of a Website

The more scope of work to deal with, the higher the resource spending and the more complicated requirements to fulfill. For beginners, referring to Google’s guidelines will be an advantageous strategy, letting them find out how to manage multilingual websites' SEO. But what does it mean to avoid novice mistakes and simplify several versions of your site? Here are some good ideas to incorporate into your strategy:

How to Do Multilingual SEO

Before incorporating particular changes once you have decided to test Google multilingual SEO, consider how these parameters will influence your strategy:

Stay tuned to get acquainted with an SEO checklist for a multilingual SEO page and implement localization upgrades successfully.

Identify Your Market

A lot depends on your expansion goals and opportunities. One of the strategies is to surely pay attention to how your content is distributed and define where else it is popular and in demand. This approach increases your chance of obtaining a new market with loyal customers quicker and using fewer resources. On the other hand, you should consider your field's current development rate and potential in that market — to leverage your risk management, among other reasons.

The ideal destination is one with strong demand for your deals, positive trends, and available resources for further expansion. The rule of thumb is simple — you bring one language at a time. This maintains a solid and consistent quality of your SEO localization approach.

Your competition might also assist in defining possible markets to enter. Consider your top rivals overall and check how expanded they are. This strategy will broaden your horizons in additional ways to distinguish your products and services from rivals in your business line.

Localize Your Content

By localizing your articles, posts, etc, you definitely build more lasting connections, gain your audience’s trust, as well as enhance your service’s cultural appropriateness and relevance. When translating your content, you should consider how different SEO components might be in a new language. With proven tools like Serpstat, experts can work with divergent SEO parameters and adapt their keyword scheme even in a system they don’t know, including Chinese, Spanish, and other texts.

At the same time, specialists are requested to adapt the website’s page to the values shared by the target audience, including language peculiarities and cultural specifications they convey. When SEO comes to the ground, more strategies participate in this transformation. From changing the prices to correspond to local currencies to the methods presented below, this suite of activities is a must to obtain the desired SEO results right away.

Define the Structure of Your Website

You have to consider whether you want to create separate home pages for each language version you intend to create. On the other hand, it is possible to upgrade your current domain by adding more levels — .com versus .com/ua or .com.uk:

URL Parameters

You should handle URLs correctly. Otherwise, they will squander the crawl budget, making search engines overestimate your bandwidth, degrade and confuse Google ranking signals, as well as add duplicate content to your domain. The parameters start after a question mark in any URL address, and that part should be organized in an SEO-friendly manner. Most visitors don’t find unsightly URLs with seemingly random numbers, signs, and letters trustworthy.

These parameters have a situational impact on your site, with several use cases to determine and analyze. Here are some ways to make things easier:

Use Hreflang

Experts are welcome to apply multiregional SEO and multilingual SEO default hreflang tags to help Google and other search engines evaluate their on-site content and correctly distribute it in the SERPs in the target language. If you have already engaged yourself in a challenge to translate your domain’s page into several languages, don’t hesitate to add these attributes as navigation tools for both search engines and readers:

To check the attribute configuration, you can use Serpstat audit:

Serpstat audit

Translate Your URL Slugs

URL slugs is a multilingual URL structure that shares data with search engines and informs them of the content properties. URL slugs influence your site’s evolution in the database, letting you establish a seamless and streamlined experience for your audience. To empire such insights are maximally informative and benefit your domain, you should take care of translating them.

This practice surely helps your site remain personalized, coherent, and engaging, regardless of your target audience. It is important for your overall SEO strategy, too, ensuring search engines crawl your pages qualitatively and show your website in SERPs in the target language and making it available for international content consumers.

Please note that you don’t have to follow all the language peculiarities while preparing a localized URL slug. Umlauts in German, for instance, like in “Übung,” meaning “exercise,” shouldn’t be reflected in chosen URL parameters. If the target language is too different from the Latin script, there are special plugins to solve this problem.

Expert View

During our discussion with Sergey Ventskovsky, the Chief Commercial Officer at MK:translations, we obtained insightful knowledge from his expertise. Also, we asked freelancer Tanya Quintieri, who has experience as a translator (21 years) and a web designer (11 years), about the challenges she faced.

What key factors should businesses consider when translating and optimizing their website for multiple languages and regions?

Анастасія Вороніна
Sergey Ventskovsky
Chief Commercial Officer at MK:translations
1.Language selection

Research shows that 75% of customers prefer buying in their native language. That's why despite expanding the website's audience, the English version doesn't open the doors to all markets.

When choosing a language, keep in mind its dialects and regional variations. Such as the difference between English in Australia and in the United Kingdom. Or the distinctions between South American and European Portuguese. In some countries, multiple languages may be commonly used, like English and French in Canada, Dutch, French, and German in Belgium, and German, French, Italian, and Romansh in Switzerland.

2.Cultural differences

Each country is unique in its culture, history, customs, celebrations, mentality, and lifestyle. Because of this, you shouldn't wish the Chinese a Merry Christmas, joke about Hitler around the Germans, or show half-naked women and scenes of heavy drinking to the Arabs. Even colors and emojis can be perceived differently. So study the culture of your target audience first, and then localize your website to match it.

3.Localization depth

If your new target audience has strong cultural distinctions, you'll need to localize both the main text and all the components of your website: the interface, audio and video content, pictures and their captions, time and date formats, currency, units of measurement, support sections, including FAQs, and technical guides. Besides, you'll have to connect payment systems that are familiar to the customers.

4.How to localize a website

There are four main options: free online translation services, a translation agency, freelance translators, or your in-house translation team. Eliminate the first option if you want to take over the market. The latter is a luxury only some companies can afford, as keeping a full-time staff of translators for each target language usually doesn't make sense. That leaves a professional vendor and a freelancer.



Tanya Quintieri
Tanya Quintieri
Serial Entrepreneur, Freelancer 

I want to make a case for freelancers: In my two decades in translation, I've witnessed firsthand how quality can vary, regardless of the provider's size; agencies don't inherently offer better quality or more reliability; the size of an organization doesn't guarantee excellence. There is a common notion that freelancers are a 'cheaper' option with fewer guarantees, which is misleading. Specialized translators and localizers often charge competitive rates, reflecting the high quality and dedication we bring to our work. Fair pricing is about delivering excellence, confidentiality, and guarantees – attributes not exclusive to agencies.

Being freelance translators with smaller client portfolios doesn't diminish our commitment to these standards; if anything, it amplifies it. Each project we undertake receives our full attention, ensuring high-quality results that stand on par with, if not exceed, what agencies offer. It's crucial to recognize the diversity and strength within our industry, where freelancers and agencies have unique value.

In addition to the four options presented above, we suggest a fifth: Organizations with global offices and robust marketing and documentation departments should consider hiring a dedicated localization project manager experienced in the language industry. This approach effectively combines the strengths of agency, in-house, and freelance resources, offering a comprehensive solution that leverages diverse expertise for optimal results.

How does your company ensure that localized content is culturally appropriate and relevant to the target audience?

Анастасія Вороніна
Sergey Ventskovsky
Chief Commercial Officer at MK:translations

Analyzing the selected target market is the first and most important stage of localization, determining whether the localized content meets the cultural background of potential customers. Our research usually covers: 

  • The culture of the target audience and their lifestyle
  • Consumption habits and purchase motives
  • Native languages of the audience
  • Payment systems within the market
  • Marketing activity of competitors
  • Effective advertising tools and SEO keywords.

For each project, we build a team of professionals with relevant experience in the chosen market. We hire local experts, such as consultants, marketers, or SEO specialists, as well as native speakers for translation and editing.

Localization undergoes a 5-level linguistic, historical, cultural, and UX/UI adaptation, which enables the product to conquer the foreign market.

We also use a tech base like CAT tools (Computer Aided Translation), minimizing quality losses by 98% and saving up to 20% on each project.

Conclusion

In the case of SEO and multilingual sites, the content quality should never be compromised. While there are text types and topics that can be translated easily, highly specific terms and notions will test your attention to detail.

When you take advantage of global awareness and reach, you immediately place a lot on the line. Without the correct setup for multilingual websites for SEO and precise transfer of ideas and senses from one language to another, you won’t be able to reap any positive gains from your expansion. On the contrary, your interaction with the current audience will also suffer.

That’s why it is obligatory to estimate all the pros and cons, as well as available technology, human, and budget resources, before deciding to favor a multilingual SEO strategy. It will become a superior framework for your site’s evolution in the best-case scenario. With multilingual SEO, you don’t only increase your reach and brand integrity. It is also an advantageous approach for those interested in increasing their organic traffic, ROI, conversion rates, customer awareness of your brand, and so much more. 

FAQ

Multilingual SEO is the practice of establishing more language versions of your site and implementing local SEO methods in new markets. You don’t create separate sites for different demographic groups of searchers. Instead, multilingual SEO experts help you localize SEO parameters such as URLs, meta description, titles, and keywords.

Although this strategy isn’t a must to follow for each and every site on the internet, it is a successful approach to keeping a continuous growth and development basis for your platform. By reaching out to more prospective visitors, you satisfy plenty of goals at the same time. The list impresses with its complexity since it results in benefits for both readers and content providers. To be more specific, it is a wonderful solution for letting your global audiences bring more organic traffic and conversions.

A lot depends on your budget opportunities and business objectives. For an average SEO expert, it might be complicated to represent all the nuances that the source text could hide. On the one hand, there are so-called false friends of translators, also known as pseudo-international phrases. By using “embarazada” in Spanish, you won’t say “embarrassed” in English — it means pregnant, actually. On the other hand, the abundance of untranslatable word combinations and concepts like the already adopted “hygge” from Danish explains why the services of a professional translator are required for long-term quality results.

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