Language builds bridges between the self and the rest of the world. It defines humanity. It connects us. As such, the importance of language cannot be underestimated. Properly executed SEO strategy will surefire your website in all languages markets.
Nowadays, more and more businesses embrace the significance of foreign languages. They choose to address their customers with the familiar sounds and letters of their mother tongues.
On the other hand, there are many caveats to using multilingual communication, particularly online. When not translated or optimized properly, multilingual sites can do more harm than good to your business.
In fact, many multilingual e-commerce sites repeat the same mistakes time and time again. If you own a multilingual website, chances are you too might be struggling with optimization.
To help you get on the right track, we have prepared a list of 10 multilingual SEO mistakes and ways to avoid them.
1. Using the Wrong Keywords
The combination of word-for-word translation and failure to research new target keywords causes many multilingual businesses to focus on the wrong foreign language keywords.
You should never assume that buyers in different countries use variations of the same keyword. In fact, your domestic market search queries may significantly differ from the queries used elsewhere in the world.
Even if your foreign and domestic customers use similar queries, you should resist the temptation of applying word-for-word translation.
Instead of making assumptions, research your new target market in terms of keywords used. In addition, consider hiring a native speaker to help you create a foreign language content based on the results of your keyword research.
2. Not Changing the URL for Translated Pages
Many websites deliver great translations but fail to change the URL for translated pages. Instead, they serve multiple versions under the same URL.
Google recommends that each page should have no more than one language. This means that you need to have different URLs for different languages.
Take a look at the following examples:
If your e-commerce has English and German translations, you need to change the URL key for the German website into the German translation of the products and services. Same should be applied to your content pages.
3. Badly Implemented rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x”
The hreflang attribute tells search engines what’s the relationship between web pages in different languages.
Hreflang serves to help the right country and language version of your pages appear in the correct localized version of Google. This is why the rel=”alternate” hreflang is essential to multilingual pages.
Common rel=”alternate” hreflang implementation mistakes include referring to a root domain, not the exact page that you are targeting, as well as using incorrect hreflang tags.
Let us look at the following examples:
www.example.com/clothes.html rel alternate to www.example.de/Kleidung.html
www.example.com/clothes.html rel alternate to www.example.de
Correct tag: hreflang=”gb”
Incorrect tag: hreflang=”uk”
To sum up, make sure that you use the hreflang attribute so that localized and regional versions of Google display the appropriate translation of your page in search results.
There is no use in implementing rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” if your references or hreflang tags are incorrect.
4. Mixing rel Alternate with rel Canonical
As already stated above, you should use the rel=”alternate” hreflang for multilingual pages with similar content displayed in different languages.
Canonical tags, on the other hand, solve the issue of duplicate content, pointing Google towards the version that the website owner wants indexed.
The following is an example of good and poor rel canonical implementation.
www.example.de/Kleidung.html canonical points to a duplicate version of the same page in German www.example.de/Kleidung.html
www.example.de/Kleidung.html canonical points to the English version of the same page www.example.com/clothes.html
Similarly, do not use the rel=”alternate” hreflang to solve the duplicate content issue, as this is not its purpose.
5. Applying Auto Redirect Based on IP or Accepting Language Headers
Some multilingual websites offer on-site language selectors based on cookies or automatic redirection based on the user’s perceived language.
Google cannot read cookies and advises against auto redirect based on IP, as these redirects could prevent both users and search engines from accessing all the versions of the website.
In case your website already provides automatic redirection and you choose not to change it, make sure to set x-default hreflang which allows Google to identify your default language.
6. Using robots.txt or no-indexing for Translations
Many owners of multilingual websites choose to hide their translations from search engines for fear of creating duplicate content. They do this by implementing robots.txt files or noindex meta tags in the pages HTML code.
Duplicate content refers to content which appears in more than one location on the Internet.
Although quite common, this issue forces search engines to choose which version of duplicate content to rank and display. As a result, websites with duplicate content suffer rankings and traffic losses.
There is no need for you to restrict Google from accessing your translated pages if you have properly implemented the rel=alternate tags. Also, there is no risk of running into duplicate content issues in case of pages with similar content aimed at different regions and languages.
You should only ever restrict indexation of automatically translated pages since these are viewed by Google as spam.
7. Poor Cross-Linking of Translated Pages
Multilingual e-commerce websites generally consist of a large number of pages in different languages, making it easy to omit important links and neglect the proper cross-linking strategy.
All the translated pages must be cross-linked.
For instance, this German category page www.example.de/Kleidung.html should contain a link pointing to the English version of the same page www.example.com/clothes.html, and vice versa.
English-speaking visitors looking for clothes who land on www.example.de/Kleidung.html will most likely want to reach www.example.com/clothes.html, instead of being taken to the homepage www.example.com.
Cross-linking is typically implemented using internal hyperlinks, country flags or text links with the corresponding language names. Consider using text instead of flags, as flags represent countries, not languages.
Also, use the target language to indicate choices of language, meaning that your text link should be “Deutsch”, not “German”.
8. Focusing Solely on Google
A large number of website owners optimize their pages for Google. However, if you own a multilingual e-commerce website, ignoring search engines other than Google can have a negative impact on your global business.
If you want to sell your product in China, you should optimize your translated pages for Baidu, a search engine that is most used in China. On the other hand, the most popular search engine in Russia is neither Google, nor Baidu, but Yandex.
It is essential to research the search engine market and adjust to particular algorithms that the search engines around the world use.
Remember that what works for Google might not work for Baidu, Yandex, Yahoo, Bing or any other search engine commonly used in different parts of the world.
9. Failing to Gain Link Authority in Local Markets
Many multilingual e-commerce websites focus on building a lot of links to their .com site, thus ignoring multilingual sites and failing to gain link authority in local markets.
In order to rank better on competitive terms in international markets, you should build a solid mix of local and global links.
Reach out to local bloggers and websites.
Local web directories might also be an appropriate choice for some markets.
Make sure to publish locally relevant content and attract interest from local news sites and online communities. This will not only help you gain local authority but also show that you understand your foreign customers and care about their needs.
10. Providing Website Visitors with a Second-Class Experience
When your website visitors click the button for their language, they rightfully assume that they will be taken to a page with design, information, and features similar to the ones displayed on the rest of your website.
If you offer minimal design, insufficient information and poor layout for translated pages, your users will likely feel disappointed.
Not only does the design of your multilingual pages affect the website’s SEO, but it also has a direct impact on customer satisfaction and consequently, on your sales.
Remember that nobody wants a second-class experience.
In conclusion, multilingual search engine optimization of e-commerce websites is an ambitious venture riddled with some common mistakes. Avoiding and correcting these mistakes is essential to achieving success in the increasingly competitive global marketplace.
Therefore, you should get any help you need and avoid rushing through the optimization process.
Poorly conducted multilingual SEO will bring you more harm than good.
In other words, if you’re not going to it right, don’t do it at all.