How to do Multilingual SEO? (1/2)

Mon 17 November 2008 21:59, Eduard Blacquière

How to do Multilingual SEO? (1/2)

The last session on day 1 of SMX London I attended was the "International SEO" session. For an international search marketing blog like SearchCowboys this session couldn't be skipped of course. This is part 1 of my recap, named "How to do Multilingual SEO?"

Duncan Morris, director of Distilled, started with the situation where you rank in a search engine for a local market but want to rank in another one as well. He names the Information architecture of a site a key succes factor in reaching Multilingual SEO goals.

As we saw before in "The Global Search Universe" 90% of all people online can be reached with just 20 languages.

But how do you manage to show up in the search results of a local search engine? Duncan Morris gives a list you should use when aming for a local organic listing:

TLD (Top Level Domain)
If you want to rank in Germany, make sure your site is on a .de domain

Hosting location
Make sure your site hosting location is in the country you want to rank for

Google Local
Add your local address(es) in Google's Business Centre to be found in Google Maps

Physical address on page
Make sure your physical local address is listed on the site

Inbound links
Get inbound links from sites in the country (or any geographic region) you want to rank for

Google Webmaster Central
Set your location within Google Webmaster Central (but don't rely on it and let this be a camouflage of a bad site architecture!)

Multilingual SEO with sub folders
Starting with the domains, let's have a look at some examples from which we can learn how to do Multilingual SEO. For instance the IKEA domain is organized this way at the moment:

Every language has it's own sub folder which contains the content suited for the specific language. But what about countries which have multiple languages? Therefore a better solution when doing Multilingual SEO would be:

(Dis)advantages of sub folders
This solution gives you the possibility to target multiple languages in one country. This has the advantage that all links go to the domain which makes an even more powerful domain.

On the other hand the .com domain has the disadvantage of lower click through rates (CTR) and conversions, especially in European countries where people tend to favor the country specific domains above .com domains.

The .com solution also brings up questions like what to put on the homepage? Besides that you face the fact that American pages outrank British pages most of the time.

Multilingual SEO with sub domains
Another solution could be to use a sub domain for every language. An example of a (large!) international site which uses this solution is Wikipedia:

Every language has it's own sub domain which contains the language specific content. Just like with sub folders this solution lefts behind the possibility to target multiple languages per country. To reach this you could go for a solution like this:

(Dis)advantages of sub domains
This solution obviously gives you the ability to target multiple laguages per country. This has the advantage that all country/language specific inbound links point to one (sub) domain. It's also possible to host different sub domains in different countries.

A disadvantage however is that search engines treat sub domains more independently which causes the value of inbound links to be damped across sub domains. This solution also brings up the question what to put on the homepage or the www (sub) domain.

Multilingual SEO with separate domains
Of course you could also use separate country specific domains which host the content in the country specific language(s).

(Dis)advantages of separate domains
This solution has the advantage that targeting a specific country gets easier, bacause country specific domains are generally favoured in search engine results above non-country specific domains. This also results in higer click through rates and conversions, bacause the domain indicates the language of the content.

On the other hand this makes linkbuilding harder, bacause every country specific domain needs to build up it's own value and trust. This also could lead to duplicate content with the same content hosted on more than 1 URL, but I think this isn't a problem to worry about. Another disadvantage here is that a .com domain often outranks the domain for English content.

At the end of his presentation Duncan named some suggestions for search engines. A good thing was that ex-Googler Vanessa Fox was writing down some of these suggestions ;)



In part 2 of my recap named "How to do Multilingual SEO?" you can expect 10 tips for multilingual SEO by Andy Atkins-Kruger, followed by some insights into markets like Russia and China.

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