Multilingual SEO: Navigate the challenges to increase your online findability worldwide


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So you’ve created a beautiful, compelling website that wows your home audience. The time is ripe for adapting it for key markets around the world.

But how valuable is your excellent website to your intended audiences if they can’t find it online?

Enter multilingual SEO. Done well, SEO for each of your website versions can illuminate your site in the search engine spotlight—right before your customers’ eyes.

Here are some tips from experts on dealing with common challenges arising from multilingual SEO.

The right content for the right market

The biggest challenge by far is making sure your content reads well in all languages. Having native speakers write this for you is of upmost importance. I once saw a native English fashion client describe their range of leather jackets as “skins,” which was hurting their visibility as well as their conversions. Understanding the subtle changes in culture is important for marketing as a whole, so it’s definitely important for SEO as well.

Also important is earning coverage and links from native-speaking sites to the relevant language/locale URLs. This is what will build textual and link relevance for search engines that will associate the content of the page that links to you with your business.
–Shreedhan Vaidya, head of SEO, Engage Interactive

Learn more: Multilingual search engine optimization: Taking your global marketing strategy further

Different domains

With multilingual SEO, each country needs to be targeted separately. I would recommend creating different TLD (top-level domain) websites with 100 percent different content. Each domain should end in the countries’ ending domain. So for France, it would be:

If this cannot be done, then creating sub-domains on the main website is preferable with the country’s language. This will help separate everything. In the end, this is completely worth the effort.

Also, do not use Google translate for your website. It creates duplicate content issues, which Google and other search engines do not like.
–Todd Jirecek, president/SEO director, Website Marketing Pros LLC

More on duplicate content: Avoid getting dinged by search engines

Always be mindful of the menace of duplicated content. This can make or break your long-term SEO efforts.

To deal with duplicate content-related SEO dangers, you can use any (and I recommend all!) of the below tips:

1) Set up a verified Webmaster Tools account and enable Google to notify you if they detect a duplicate content issue via internal message. Another easy way to find duplicate pages is by checking your duplicate meta descriptions under the WMT > HTML improvements tab.

2) Watch your parameters. When you have one page in multiple languages, each language with various tags for your analytics or marketing can cause unwanted duplicate page creation. So consult with your Web team on the best solutions before you switch your multilingual site on.

3) Use website audit tools like Screaming Frog or similar. They have dedicated options especially designed to sniff out duplicated content. When you find those pages, be sure to add a rel=canonical tag on them so you can show the search bots what the original page is. Not doing this can result in massive SEO damages.

4) Non-translated areas of your website. If you have a larger website, some parts might be left untranslated. This is bad news for the SEO for that specific language. Be sure to have less than 10 percent (I`d even recommend 5 percent, but 10 percent is the standard) of your website without translation.
–Martin Milanov, digital marketing lead, FairPoint

Ready to roll with multilingual SEO?

Consider working with a language service provider who’s heavily experienced with website translation and other global marketing initiatives. Expect tailored guidance with multilingual SEO and an overall roadmap to help you expand your online reach.

Courtney Huber, M.S.
Courtney is a professional writer and senior communications specialist at Sajan, a leading global language translation services provider. Sign up for Sajan blog posts to receive new translation best practices every week.


  1. Excellent tips on multilingual SEO! This will be my go-to article for expanding my website by adding additional language translation. Thanks!


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