Many technicalities need to be considered when thinking about how to do multilingual SEO. Luckily, in this blog, we have summarized it all – from the technical setup to the competitor analysis and the keyword localization.
The content of this blog is based on a Clearscope webinar with Adriana Stein, AS Marketing’s CEO & Founder, an accredited SEO expert, and Bernard Huang, Clearscope’s Co-Founder, a Top Voice for Organic Search on Linkedin.
Why Multilingual SEO is the New Norm
Scaling brands need to think beyond local audiences. A truly global footprint means reaching potential customers in multiple languages and understanding their unique cultural perspectives. At the core of this is a solid multilingual marketing strategy.
Simply put, multilingual marketing is becoming the new norm.
The intent behind it is revenue diversity for company sustainability. By tapping into multiple markets, brands cushion against fluctuations in a particular region, thereby maintaining a stable revenue stream.
Regardless if it’s B2C or B2B, customers today seek personalization. Speaking to them in their preferred language isn’t just a good practice; it’s a necessity. As Adriana puts it:
“localization is about making interactions as engaging and personal as possible”
The implementation of a personal approach provides a unique advantage over competitors in several ways.
Firstly, it differentiates your brand in a crowded market. When customers feel that a company understands their individual needs and preferences, they are more likely to choose that brand over others that offer a one-size-fits-all experience.
Secondly, personalization can lead to more effective marketing. By targeting customers with messages and offers that align with their interests and needs, businesses can achieve higher engagement rates, better conversion rates, and ultimately, a stronger return on investment.
What is Multilingual SEO?
Multilingual SEO refers to the process of optimizing website content for multiple languages to improve search rankings in different markets.
This strategy goes beyond simple translation of website content; it involves tailoring SEO elements such as keywords, meta tags, and content to suit the cultural and linguistic nuances of each target audience.
To summarize, here’s the difference between translation and SEO localization:
That is why it’s important to consider SEO localization before you mass-translate your website.
Considerations Behind a Multilingual SEO Strategy
Venturing into multiple markets isn’t without its challenges. It’s a huge undertaking that can’t be taken lightly. Here are some key considerations before making the decision to go multi-language.
The Operational Shift
When a company decides to enter new international markets, it must adapt its operations to meet diverse customer needs, comply with local regulations, and different buyer processes.
This might involve revamping the supply chain to ensure efficient delivery in new regions, localizing marketing strategies to resonate with different audiences, or even modifying products or services to suit local tastes and preferences.
Currency fluctuations, tax implications, and varied business practices are also crucial aspects of this operational shift.
We’ve summarized everything you’ll need to localize in terms of brand strategy, buyer personas, content and operations here:
It might feel overwhelming, but international expansion requires an operational shift and comprehensive changes in order to generate sustainable ROI and long-term growth.
Native Speaker Experts
Localization is not just a layer you add; it’s the foundation upon which international SEO is built. That is why it’s so important to have access to native-speaking experts when starting a localization project.
A holistic approach is necessary – one that encompasses cultural nuances, local idioms, and regional dialects. Nuances can mean the difference between a phrase that sings and one that falls flat.
Here’s a localization example from our work with Pulze, a US-based heated tobacco company that wanted to expand into Hungary with an SEO-driven approach.
When directly translating heated tobacco to Hungarian, there was 0 search volume.
When instead localizing the word with the help of a native speaking expert, there was more than 880 in search volume. In fact, more than the search volume for the US targeted keyword.
The lesson here: Always check local keyword search volume and consider similar phrases.
Here’s another example from our work with Conga, another US-based company that wanted to expand into Germany. They wanted to localize their blog “what is process management” to German to educate their German audience about the need for a revenue lifecycle management software.
When translating the title, the search volume was 20.
When localizing the title with the help of a native speaking experts, that understand German search behaviors, we were able to localize the blog for a keyword with as much search volume as 480. Once again, more than the US-targeted keyword.
The lesson here: Identify search intent match keywords in the local language.
Multilingual SEO Best Practices
Now that you understand what multilingual SEO is and its considerations, let’s take a look at best practices. These should be followed to ensure the success of your project.
Prep Your Site Structure
Before we dive into content and keywords, let’s talk about the technical setup. A poorly structured website can become a house of cards, vulnerable to the slightest algorithmic breeze. If you’ve already translated your site en masse without considering structure, take a step back. Reassess.
Ensure that your technical foundation is solid, with a clear hierarchy and URL structure that delineates language and regional content spaces. Choose one of the following:
Subfolder Structure: example.com/de/ for German, for instance, consolidates domain authority and aids in the overall site’s organic ranking potential.
Subdomain Approach: de.example.com might benefit some, depending on your hosting and domain setup.
Country-Specific Domain: Going for a .de domain can signify a dedicated presence within a country, though it may require more effort to build domain authority from scratch.
The subfolder structure tends to preserve and leverage existing domain authority best. Remember, the path you choose can significantly impact your site’s ability to rank in a new market.
Find Your Local Competitors
With the technicalities out of the way, let’s scout the terrain. Use tools like SEOQuake to analyze SERPs for your targeted country and language. Such insights are invaluable. You might find that the competitors you face in one language differ vastly from those in another, even within the same market.
The reality is, your global competitors aren’t always your local SEO competitors. To truly understand the battlefield, you need to dig into the local SERPs. Observe who repeatedly appears for your target keywords – these are the real contenders you’ll be vying against for that coveted organic visibility.
Identify Relevant Keywords
Armed with competitor insights, the next step is crafting a keyword strategy through a localized lens.
Aim for long-tail keywords that are specific enough to align with local search intent but broad enough to draw in traffic. Tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and even Google’s Keyword Planner can shed light on keyword variations and search volumes within specific regions.
As you unearth these keywords, weave them into a content strategy that speaks directly to local audiences. The goal here is to marry relevance with reach – targeting terms that will not only attract visitors but will resonate deeply, prompting engagement and conversion.
Build Your Keyword Map
Creating a keyword map is a foundational step in any effective SEO strategy. This involves identifying and organizing keywords that are relevant to your business and the content on your website.
Start by conducting thorough research to understand what your target audience is searching for, including their questions, needs, and language nuances.
Group these keywords based on topics, relevance, and user intent. Your keyword map should align with the structure of your website, assigning specific keywords to relevant pages.
Use Keywords in Content and Scale
Once you have your keyword map, the next step is to incorporate these keywords into your website content strategically.
This includes using them in your web pages, blog posts, articles. When updating the content, use a brief like the one below to ensure that the keywords are integrated naturally. Keywords should enhance the readability and value of the content rather than just being inserted for SEO purposes.
Localize Keyword Position Tracking
When dealing with a global audience, it’s essential to localize your keyword position tracking. This means monitoring how your keywords rank in different regions or languages.
Use SEO tools like Ubersuggest (pictured below) that provide localized tracking features to gain insights into how your keywords are performing in specific target markets.
Track Market Conversion Sources & Types
Track the sources of your market conversions – whether they are coming from organic search, social media, referrals, or paid campaigns. This data helps in identifying which channels are most effective for each market and where you should allocate more resources.
Additionally, distinguish between different types of conversions, such as product purchases, sign-ups, downloads, or contact form submissions. This helps in understanding local user behavior and preferences, enabling you to tailor your localized strategies to not only drive more traffic but also to enhance conversion rates.
The Benefits of Multilingual SEO
So, what are the benefits of multilingual SEO?
Well, multilingual SEO is a complex, yet rewarding endeavor. Here’s a revenue forecast we created for a Complex B2B Company that was planning to enter the German and Japanese markets.
Here’s how we forecasted ROI for them:
With an additional 13 sales per month, they could generate as much as 845,000 USD per month. For them, German SEO indicates a well worth investment.
The Japanese market had a smaller traffic share, so the improvements will have less effect. However, by implementing Japanese SEO they should be able to close another 7 sales per month, totaling up to USD 455,000 per month.
If you are interested in having a similar ROI calculation for your multilingual SEO project, reach out to us below. We’re happy to calculate your ROI for free.