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Multilingual SEO and Content Localization for WordPress

March 24, 2021
Multilingual SEO and Content Localization for WordPress

WordPress SEO and Multilingual SEO go together so that they reach certain crucial audiences that may or may not speak your language. There are so many people who look at WordPress blogs and reside in different nations. If you want to drive traffic to your website, you can’t miss these key demographics.

According to current market research, such as this video by Harvard Business Review, multinational companies rely on comprehensive local customer bases to ensure a successful international expansion. Local consumers reading your website will spread the word about your website. If your website isn’t optimized for your target market, your new customer base won’t be able to relate to you, let alone your blog, your services, or your product.

This guide will show you how to incorporate multilingual SEO with ease, reaching multiple language regions and zeroing in on key languages for your WordPress blog.

What is Multilingual SEO?

What is Multilingual SEO

At the heart of Multilingual SEO is the need to market and optimize content for consumers of different languages. Say you’re looking to target the French language. It’s not just consumers in France you’re optimizing for, but also Belgium, the Ivory Coast, and the other 29 countries where French is the official language.

In your usual SEO strategies, you would optimize your content for one language. With multilingual SEO, you’re optimizing content that’s available for many languages. That means your English site will need to have its French variant. So, multilingual SEO can be tricky. But its rewards are beneficial since you’re not only expanding your audience, you’re also ranking for a specific language or region.

Here is the strategy for a successful WordPress site for multiple languages:

  • Multilingual Website: For this particular SEO strategy, we start with setting up the website for multilingual use. This includes technical processes such as:
    • hreflang: Duplicate content without optimizing for that target region is tricky. First of all, you’re going to be appealing to users who have different needs. Using hreflang, the technical code for all multilingual sites. You can add hreflang tags in WordPress. By using this, it tells Google which page to show for a particular region or language. You can use the hreflang tag, which is a combination of language and region, to help Google rank these pages; otherwise, Google will think it’s duplicate content.
    • Landing Page: you can choose which landing page visitors will first see, so you can target both region and language here.
    • Domain Strategy: you can choose your own domain, using ccTLD like for a French Canadian site. Or you can have a subdomain structure: for example, a Canadian site that includes for English and for French. Make sure your slugs are translated, too.
    • Multilingual Site Maps: In order for Google to crawl your website, you need a sitemap so it’s not confusing. You can use a WordPress plugin, like this one, but you’ll still need to alter the sitemap. This allows Google to know that “This is the [French or Spanish] version of [your website] in English”
  • Multiregional SEO: Part of a multilingual SEO strategy is the multilingual SEO strategy. This is so your French speakers in the Ivory Coast will know the site is targeted towards them not towards French-speaking countries in France.
  • SEO Strategies: You can’t have multilingual SEO without SEO strategies.
    • Keyword Research: as with any SEO campaign, you still use keyword research so that your content ranks on Google for your multiple websites. The strategy here is to know the high-ranking keywords for the language region you’re targeting. The region here is important, the UK will have different search queries than the US, though they both speak English.
    • Translated Keywords: identity target keywords, and make sure you translate them. Make sure measurements, currencies, and phrases match the language region you’re translating in.
    • Metadata: Page description, image alt tags, and social media – Image metadata (especially for infographics or images containing text) and social media metadata rank as well so don’t forget to put the translated keywords here.
  • Translation: So you can’t just duplicate content, but you can’t just translate the content either. A global SEO strategy must localize content to fit target audiences. This means you have to do the technical work, like mentioned before, the SEO work, and the language work. The language needs to be suitable for cultural differences in each region, in idioms and phrases local to that region, and in that language. For example, you can’t say “buenos días” on your site if you’re targeting Argentinian users because, for them, it’s “buen día.”
  • Content Localization: Content is King, so you’re not just inputting translated keywords and leave it at that. Your content needs to be localized too, and it’s one of the most important parts of a multilingual SEO strategy. Let’s talk about it now.

What is Content Localization?

What is Content Localization

Content localization is the process of making sure that the native speakers of the target language are just as accommodated as the source language. So for example, if you’re translating from English to Spanish, you’re making sure that your audiences in Argentina, Spain, and English are all equally accommodated. Without content localization, you’ll be entering a new market to expand your business without seeming to know your consumer’s needs. Content localization has a lot to do with meeting the culturally specific needs of your consumer bases. So, how do you do this?

In some cases, it means optimizing the content on the homepage. For some, it means your content may stay the same for all your multilingual websites, but you have blog posts or news sections specific to that audience.

What’s the Difference Between Localization, Internalization, and Globalization?

What’s the Difference Between Localization, Internalization, and Globalization?

Part of a successful Content Localization strategy is knowing the difference between localization, internalization, and globalization. So grab your SEO dictionaries, because we’re about to define all of them.

Here are the differences between the three:

  1. Localization – localizing is the process of adapting content to a specific locale, or a specific audience. It’s about looking at the website, product, or service, through the lens of that specific audience. Content localization is an obvious part of localization.
  2. Internalization – the process which is the opposite of localization. If you want to get technical, it’s the process of making a specific product appeal to the larger world. So, internalizing your product will make your product have mass appeal. Content localization may go hand-in-hand with internationalization.
  3. Globalization – this is the global term that’s an umbrella term of all these processes. Localization, internationalization, multilingual SEO, multiregional SEO, these all fall under the broad term of globalization. The process of globalization is connecting with audiences all over the world, whether through targeting specific regions or being part of a broader international conversation. Content localization is part of globalization.

How do they all work together? If you want to globalize your WordPress site, you can choose to localize or internalize, to do multilingual or multiregional, or to do all.

Best-Practice Tips for Your WordPress Sites

So, here are the best practices for working with multilingual WordPress sites:

  • Don’t just translate
  • Do make sure to use hreflang tags
  • Do utilize the multilingual sitemaps
  • Do use content localization
  • Do keyword research appropriate for the region

Why Do You Need All of These Strategies?

Well, you need a broader reach, and all these options will bring you a global reach – whether it’s localizing multiple language demographics or internalizing for an international audience.

For a multilingual SEO content strategy, you need all the technical set-up (such as subdomains and hreflang tags) as well as keyword research and content localization. Yet, content localization is perhaps one of the most important subsets of a multilingual SEO content strategy, and you need it just as much as translated subdomains.

Let me be clear, content localization is not the process of translation, though it is part of the umbrella that translation services offer, and may include translating. But simply translating, or worse, using automatic translation, for your multilingual sites, may have cultural inaccuracies.

Let’s go back to the example of UK and US English. Say, you’re a WordPress site that specializes in tea. Your content touches on both UK and US English-speaking, tea-drinking audiences. A British UK site will have different content than a US site – like a blog post that outlines manners during afternoon tea time. Meanwhile, your US site may have an infographic about different kinds of North Atlantic tea. By localizing your content due to the cultural differences of those regions, you can reach both of those English-speaking users.

You can localize your own WordPress content by yourself, through the strategies outlined above, and using the “Translate Page” module on WordPress.

But, if you’re unsure, you can also choose a language services provider that is experienced at delivering multilingual content.

You can use a WordPress plugin that specializes in localization, or you can use translation services that have expertise in that. You’ll still need to edit the technical processes and optimize the content though. Where possible, write content that is as internationalized as possible for the beginning so that it won’t need as much localization.

The Takeaway

A multilingual SEO approach shouldn’t be tricky if you focus on your target audience – the people who will likely be your consumers. This will dictate the ways you optimize content, as well as how you use language and region to your advantage. Always have the user in mind, and, with the help of some technical knowledge, you’ll be on your way to being a multilingual SEO pro.

Article by Tomedes guest author
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