5 Best Practices for Multi-lingual Search Engine Optimization

I recently had several meetings with organizations interested in translating their website as they enter global markets.  Along with our partnership with The Magnum Group, a world-class translation agency based in Philadelphia’s international business district, we provided consulting for these organizations prepared to take on multi-lingual SEO projects.  We advised them with some of following best-practices for multi-lingual SEO projects:

  1. Start with your analytics.  Do a deep dive to see what content is visited most often.  Look at complete paths.  It’s not enough to develop a list of the most visited pages.  Users don’t visit the website to just see those pages.  Look at click paths to see how they enter the site, and more importantly what they do once they consume the most popular content.  Pages that have your calls to action are obvious, but it’s pages in between the final call to action and the most frequently visited content that are frequently forgotten.
  2. Start with keyword research using common Pay Per Click tools.  Then do some moderate PPC advertising to learn what keywords are most queried, and how those ads work with your display URL and your landing page copy.  It’s important to test the user experience, it’s not enough to test an keyword|Ad combination.  You need to test the keyword –> Ad –> Display URL –> landing page copy –> call to action.
  3. Phase the project based on what you’ve learned above
  4. Do NOT display the option to select languages in a drop down box.  Use links on the page or flags, although I’m not a big fan of those symbols like that.  The challenge with a drop down box is your are requiring your users who visit the website in English to read English in order to find the drop down box.
  5. Use a content management system that relates English content to the other languages of the same content.  Offer a user experience where users can easily switch back and forth the language at the page level.  In the case of say a medical website, an adult child may be doing research for a senior parent and prefer to research in English and then print that page out to share with their parent in the parent’s native tongue.  Systems that have this feature include Ektron’s CMS400 and Drupal has some modules for multi-lingual SEO projects.

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