Ultimate SEO Checklist for International/Multilingual Websites

Ultimate SEO Checklist for International/Multilingual Websites

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Multilingual SEO helps add an extra layer of complexity to the regular monolingual SEO.

No matter how successful your SEO strategy is in your home region, it may not translate quite well in any other language. Simply having your web pages translated in a new language and expecting that different search engines would rank them may not be sufficient. Rather, you require a comprehensive SEO strategy to reach your target audience in a specific geographical area, and in the language they speak and read.

The multilingual SEO checklist here offers a comprehensive guide for multilingual SEO, which you can use as a reference to come up with a winning international SEO strategy.

  1. Performing Multilingual Keyword Research: The keywords you use in your home region are a great way to begin, but just translating those keywords into a new language may not bring you the desired results. You may translate such keywords in multiple ways, so you need to follow an exhaustive multilingual keyword research process. The most accurate translation of a given keyword in your home country might not be the most appropriate one in a different country, since it should precisely match what your audience is actually searching for. Hence, keyword research is key. 
  1. Setting up Google Analytics: This is perhaps the very first thing most businesses do once their website is live. Google Analytics lets you monitor your web traffic to create a profile of people visiting your site. You can also see from which regions your site visitors are coming, the source (such as, direct search, social media or organic traffic) and how long they interact with a page. It provides crucial insight to check your website’s performance, helping you optimise your online presence, globally. Setting up multilingual Google Analytics is a bit more complicated than setting up the Analytics for a monolingual website. You would require adjust the Analytics for every language to measure how well the multilingual SEO strategy is performing. For setting up the multilingual Analytics, you can consider including a standalone property for every locale or domain, or setting up one property with multiple views. 
  1. Checking How Fast Webpages Load in Every Language: Speed is an important factor for websites. In fact, Google considers it as a factor for rankings of your pages in SERPs. There are many things that impact page speed – some of which are related to the server, whereas others are related to the website content. Configuration modifications on the server involve removing page redirects, enabling compression, setting up caching of the website and improving server response time. Likewise, modifications to the website content comprise minifying CSS, HTML and JavaScript files and optimising images. So, with so many factors to consider, it may be tough to figure out what you need to focus on. This is where Google PageSpeed comes in. Besides helping you to measure the speed of your webpages, it gives you an overall speed result for the webpage while providing you with recommendations for improvements. 
  1. Setting up HTTPS: Google ranks sites that use HTTPS higher. HTTPS safeguards your site by encrypting the connection between the web server and the user’s web browser, eventually lowering the odds for cyber threats and attacks. Using some specific tools, you can easily set up HTTPS by generating free security certificates and configuring the webserver, accordingly. Besides offering search benefits, HTTPS may help increase the number of site visitors. Again, for a multilingual website, things can be more complicated, compared to a single language website. If you are using several domains, with one domain for every language or locale, you would need to make sure that every domain’s server is configured appropriately and you may need to manage them throughout the life of your website’s service. 
  1. Monitoring Backlinks: Backlinks are the spine of SEO that may impact SERP rankings remarkably. Getting good backlinks require a lot of time and effort. While incoming links are critical to improving rankings, bad links can affect your rankings negatively. Google assesses where your links are coming from and accordingly decides whether they should affect your search ranking in a positive or negative way. You can make use of backlink monitoring tools to track your incoming traffic, in order to determine where it is coming from and then review that website to check if it will have a positive effect (or negative effect) on your webpage. You can further create a disavow file to let Google know that you want to ignore such sites, in order to prevent your website from losing its present rank. So, what about multilingual websites? For a given website, you have to choose which content you want to translate and in which languages. In general, you decision will be based on the content you think would be appropriate for your target country, based on your budget. Now, consider the situation, where an original webpage is attracting some incoming links with the potential to drive a lot of traffic to that page. In such a case, you may want to translate that specific page in other languages. 
  1. Keeping SEO Friendly Content: Content is a crucial SEO factor. Hence, you need content that could help search engines understand what it is about, what visitors will learn by reading it and what user concerns it addresses. This will help boost SERP rankings. Multilingual search optimisation brings considerable benefits to a site – for example, increase in web traffic and regular audience in all your target countries. A winning SEO strategy can be cheaper and way more impactful than paid advertising. Keyword research is necessary for creating highly engaging SEO friendly content. Besides being present in your content, these keywords can guide you for the tone and format of your web content. For instance, do these keywords indicate that the page is an informational piece or wants customers to buy something? Assessing your keywords this way can help you understand how your content should be written. The content also needs to be in line with your target audience – and ensuring that it is relevant to visitors in their language is equally important, which may require considering cultural sensitivities and local relevance. Using localised keywords, specific to each language is key to ranking in a particular region. 
  1. Using Target Keywords in Heading, Title & URL: Studies have shown that articles that include their target keywords in the page heading, page title and URLs, usually rank higher than articles that don’t do so. It is important to use the keywords relevant to every language – and such optimisation should be done for every target language. When you use your keywords in the URL, it makes them more readable, which will give your visitors more confidence that your page is related to their queries. 
  1. Sticking With a Single Domain Prefix: You can choose to configure your site with or without “www” prefix. While this has been conventionally used, more websites are now only using the domain name. But, no matter what route you use, it is suggested to redirect the ones not in use towards the domain that is in use (called the canonical domain). So, if your server is set to run on the address: https://www.abcdef.com, it will help in configuring the webserver towards: https://abcdef.com to the live address. This means, up on typing in either of the two addresses, your visitors will still be able to reach your site. Having said that, you should have a preferred address and stick to the same while publishing links, particularly the internal ones. If you want to set up redirection to the canonical domain, make sure to use a 301 Permanent Redirect. If you are using other redirections like a JavaScript or PHP redirection, search engines would think that the two domains are two distinct websites with some content on one and some on the other. 
  1. Having Multilingual Sitemaps: XML sitemaps aid search engines in discovering pages on your website. They provide search engines with a website’s URLs and an entire map of all pages on the site. This enables search engines to discover and prioritise different pages after crawling them. Note that the sitemap doesn’t warrant that your page will be added to the index of search engines and that the page content will still be reviewed for its quality. However, it may help discover new webpages, particularly the ones with few internal links. Multilingual sitemaps are way more complex than single language sitemaps because of the number of pages and links they refer to. There are several ways to structure your sitemap. But, make sure your sitemap involves two things: the whole website structure for each language and the languages in which every page is available. 
  1. Creating a Robots File: The robots.txt file is a crucial component of your overall SEO toolkit. Located in your site’s root folder, it gives clear instructions to search engines regarding the pages they should crawl and index. It is generally used to restrict specific folders and pages on a website from being crawled by search engines. This allows you to focus on the webpages you want to drive traffic to and block the ones you don’t want your visitors to land on; for e.g., your search pages or checkout page.

If you are currently looking to expand your business beyond your home territory, a multilingual website is your way forward. Connect with experienced multilingual SEO consultants at Alchemy Interactive, a leading international SEO agency in London, to create a SEO-friendly website for the global markets.

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