Many businesses serve diverse populations, and sometimes they must do so in different languages. Most of our SEO content is covered in English, but can be transferred to any other language. You have to optimize your site for what people are searching for, using their search terms. These tips are language-agnostic. But what if your website needs to cater to multiple languages simultaneously? There are three things you should do in order to optimize.
First, you need content in each language you want to be found in. This will be the most labor-intensive part of this project, because it requires creating content in each language and/or translating content into each language. But the effort will be worth the reward. The SEO world has a motto: content is king. Without content, you have very little to optimize, you cannot be found, and so you cannot get traffic. There are exceptions, but these are rare and require an extraordinary confluence of circumstances. Make content, translate that content.
If your website is largely populated by user-generated content: forums, sharing sites, etc., you would only need to translate the common elements like navigation and header/footer info.
Second, organize your site appropriately. If your audience is spread between different countries, take advantage of country-specific top-level domains (TLDs). Yoursite.de for Germany, yoursite.fr for France, and so on. If TLDs are not available, or your population is primarily located in multi-lingual countries (certain areas of the United States and Canada for example), subfolders specific to languages may be your best bet. Yoursite.com/en/ for English, yoursite.com/fr/ for French, yoursite.com/es/ for Spanish, and so on. A final option are language-specific subdomains.
Be sure, if you’re getting backlinks, to request that linkers in different languages link to the appropriate version of the website. A French-language blogger linking to the French-language version of the website generates exposure for that site, for example.
Third, set hreflang for language and regional URLs. This will tell browsers what language and region to send a user to, if they have selected a preference in their browser settings. Google gives a helpful rundown of how to do this effectively, including a video. This is not just helpful for getting users to where they want to go: it also opens up a new tool for you in Google Webmasters Tools, covered next.
Fourth, take advantage of Google’s geo- and language-targeting capabilities in Webmasters Tools. In Webmasters Tools, select Search Traffic > International Targeting. This will allow you to set your primary geographic and linguistic audience. This is only third because you have to set hreflang tags in your website, and have it crawled by Google afterwards, before you can set language targets.
These four steps will help ensure that you have a prominent web presence across all of your target languages.