There’s a lot that can go wrong when trying to optimize your SEO for global traffic (read 8 Tips for Making Sure Your SEO Works Globally). Hreflang tags can be complex and confusing, badly translated keywords can make your site unsearchable, having content duplicated too closely can confuse search engines and so much more.
Here are some things to look out for and look at if you have issues with your multilingual SEO:
- Relying on Google Translate to provide your website translation does nothing to assist your Global SEO as Google recognizes it as machine generated content, so your site will not show up as a search result in non-English markets.
- Make sure your keywords appropriately translated and culturally relevant – are they what your target audience is searching for? If not, do more research.
- Cookies could cause an issue – if a person accepts cookies in English, they may have difficulty getting to the in-language/country specific page that’s appropriate for them.
- If you cloned your pages for different languages, the content may be too similar which confuses search engines. This could lead to the wrong language page showing up in results.
- XML sitemaps can cause issues if you have a localized plan, a page for each country rather than globalized language pages, yet you only did one XML map per language.
- Transition from URL to hreflang tags – if your URLs were built by language, and you want to localize hreflang tags, make sure to update URLs by country.
- There are more than 180 unique combinations of hreflang language-country tags – Make sure you use them right on your website to target and measure results accurately.
- If your hreflang tags are set up wrong they won’t help your SEO – double check that they are correct and appropriate.
- Hreflang tags for language are required, but country is optional – using only a language tag means you’re globalizing for that language, using a language-country tag means that page should be specific for both language and country (localized) – set-up your pages correctly.
- Make sure your hreflang tags are set up correctly – language first, then country separated by a hyphen. Also language is typically lowercase, and country uppercase, but that should not cause problems if both are lowercase – the order is most important.
- Hreflang tags are not always intuitive – you need to look them up to ensure you’re using the correct tag. For example, you may assume sp is for the language Spanish, but the correct tag is actually es. Or you may assume UK is the correct country tag for the United Kingdom, but it is actually Ukraine. The United Kingdom is GB.
- Inconsistent use of language versus country code can cause issues – you need to know the language you are targeting not just the country for example, PE is the country of Peru but it’s not the language. There is no pe language code, so a search engine will not understand if that is the only tag you use.
One point to note or expect, your US team might not like the impact that globalizing your website as part of your multilingual marketing strategy has on their metrics. Once your multilingual SEO starts working, your English site will see a decrease in visitors as the numbers shift toward the multilingual pages. For regional marketing teams, this can be a source of competition yet in a well manage global company, it’s an opportunity to share best practices. See our blog about ROI on translation, 8 Ways Translation is a Fuel for Growth, to see why a drop in one market can mean an increase in revenue for the company.
Rapport International specializes in multilingual marketing and website and SEO translation. We work with companies to make sure this is set up right so that your company achieves success in its target market. Contact us for more information, or to schedule a free consultation so we can answer your questions.