Running a Successful Multilingual SEO Campaign

Whichever way you look at it, creating, executing and optimising multilingual and international campaigns on multiple digital marketing channels is not easy.

At the very least you need to ensure you are taking into account cultural differences within each market, different languages as well as how the mighty Google will treat your website and rank you for each specified location and language. Although there can be challenges, by taking on board the key recommendations below, excellent results can be achieved.

  1. Research

Cultural research and knowing each market is key before you even start to think about what content you need to deliver to each individual who visits the website.

How a 20 year old man searches for clothes in France is likely very different to a 20 year old man in the UK. The style, the fit, the colour, the location, and the stores are just a few differences. When targeting multiregional campaigns it is crucial you get this part right. Like with any marketing, you need to know the target audience in order to tailor your message to them.

Statistics on seasonality and online trend data to see how each market varies is going to help you plan your budgets and execute the most effective strategy. Learning about device usage in each country and content delivery and optimisation of multi device ad copy is required. The real challenge is keeping up to date with trends, anyone will know within their own country within one industry vertical trends can change very quickly.

  1. Language

There is the lazy way – taking your local language and “translating” that language into the multiple languages required. The problem with this is twofold. Firstly, there is not always words in other language to translate to. Take the Eskimo example – there is no one word for Snow. Secondly, translating English content and concepts to other languages and countries completely ignores the target market. Does the English market like the same food as the Hungarians, is popular music in Germany the same as popular music in France? The answer is likely not. So although it often seems easy to take one language and translate it like for like, it may be a quick fix, but it is also like sticking a plaster on the problem.

The right way – to engage local speakers per market to write the copy based on the brief and the target market. By doing this more invested approach, you are only likely to get better results and engagement, appear to your audience as understanding their needs and in turn driving more interaction and engagement.

  1. Domain Structure

There are several options when it comes to domain structure for multilingual and mutliregional accounts:

  1. Separate Domains e.g. .co.uk, .de, .fr
  2. Sub Domains e.g. uk.site.com, de.site.com, fr.site.com
  3. Directories e.g. www.site.com/uk, www.site.com/de, www.site.com/fr
  4. Query strings www.site.com/?c=uk, www.site.com/?c=de, www.site.com/?c=fr

There are pro’s and cons of each but the main recommendations I would make are if you have the time money and resource to spend, go for separate domains. This will allow the right content and a relevant domain which users are familiar with to show in the relevant country.

However if you do not have the budgets, or perhaps don’t own the domains the recommendation I would personally make is directories, as long as your SEO structure is a well-oiled machine. If not you may end up with all kinds of problems with the incorrect domains showing for the wrong locations – this can be a disaster for business if not managed correctly.

  1. “Talk” to Google

Although Google will not directly help you if you call them up – you do need to send them some clear messages on how your website is structured and let them know how to read the content. This is where you NEED to be using Google Search Console (previously Webmaster Tools).

  1. Hosting

I have previously written a blog on whether “localised hosting helps SEO”, although there is no direct conclusion or answer from Google, there is an argument to suggest that if your hosting allows your website to be delivered faster, more robustly and securely then it should not matter where it is hosted.

  1. Hreflang

The hreflang annotation in your website code is there to tell google which language content to deliver to which location. For example if you have multiple languages being delivered in one location this would be a good way to deliver the right content to the right user based on their PC or device settings.

E.g.

fr: is French content no matter which region you are searching from

en-GB: English content, for GB visitors

fr-DE: French content for users in Germany

x-default: allows you to set a default go to page of the site if the visitors settings are not relevant to any of the language or location options you have set i.e. anyone out of the current locations you have set.

For more information and to learn more, contact us today.

Rachel Mepham
With over 15 years’ experience in Digital Marketing, Rachel heads up the team at Digital Clarity. With a deep skill set in the Paid Search, Social Media and Analytics, Rachel is regarded by both clients and peers as one of the most experienced and prolific women in the UK digital space. Her approach and application to digital strategy planning has been used by some of the biggest brands as well as leading advertising and marketing agencies.