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Multilingual SEO

Launching a Multilingual website in 7 steps

Posted by Annemieke, October 21 2013

If your audience consists of speakers of different languages, it is a good idea to launch a multilingual site offering your content in two or more languages. Launching a multilingual site can be a complex, time consuming process that you will want to get right the first time. We have set out the most important considerations to bear in mind from the start. Of course if you would like more information or discuss your project, give us a call on +31 (0)23 - 2024 723 or email

Gathering requirements

As with any website project, the key to a successful multilingual site is to think about your requirements. The following questions could be used as a starting point:

  • Will every single piece of content be translated, including blogs and calls to actions, or will you offer only key content in foreign languages? If, for example, you do not have the resources to update the blog in each language, it might be worth considering removing it from the foreign language site altogether.
  • Will you structure your sites based on languages or territories, or both? For example, will there be a separate site for Northern Ireland and Ireland, and will there be both a French and an English version of your Canadian site? How will this be reflected in the URL structure?
  • Is there an online purchasing system? Does this need to be localized – for example the currency, delivery timelines, postage costs, VAT?
  • Will images need to be localized?
  • Who is going to manage the content for each site? If you work with in-house translators and multilingual SEO providers, will they all be working in your CMS at the same time? How many concurrent users will your CMS license need to allow for? If you are using an external supplier, how will you manage the translation and SEO processes? Do you work with native speakers to check all content? Does the CMS need a workflow system to ensure all content is translated?
  • Are there any restrictions with regards to your server setup? This may impact on your URL structure and SEO strategy.
  • How will you roll out future updates to your site? Having to update several language sites may increase maintenance and translation costs depending on the technology you are working with.
  • How will you decide which language to present to the user? Do you want to use IP information to detect where a user is based, and serve content based on that location? There are some downsides to this method. Another option is to show a language selector, such as the one on
  • Do you have separate social media profiles for each market? Should your French site, for example, show only your French Tweets and Facebook posts?
  • Are the required domain names available?

At this stage it is also a good idea to consider your offline processes. For example, if you work with external suppliers, how will you respond to enquiries in different languages? You may have a customer service representative for each language, so ensure the integration with your online content is smooth.

Technical considerations

If you are creating a new website from scratch, research CMS systems and their multilingual capabilities. Most providers will happily organise a demonstration to run you through the language features. Check that the technology fits your requirements and processes now and in the future. Once you have decided on the technology that will be used, map out both the initial and the ongoing localization process. Chances are that the website needs to be created in your main language first, ensuring that all development issues have been resolved, before rolling the site out for all territories.

Include the following considerations in the technical brief:

  • The language code must be set for each language version, so that software such as screen readers can identify the language and interpret the content.
  • Ensure it's clear to search engines what version of your site they are looking at, utilising Google Webmaster Tools and Hreflang attributes.
  • Keep the content for each language on separate URLs. Don’t use cookies to show translated versions of the page.
  • Consider cross-linking each language version of a page. That way, a French user who lands on the German version of your page can get to the right language version with a single click. Linking content in one language, to the equivalent content in a different language helps Google know what your pages are about. However, setting this up may take more development than having one button for each language which takes you to each translated version of the homepage, and it is unlikely that users will want to change their preferred language frequently.

Multilingual content creation

  • Your content will need to be translated by native speakers. Think about whether your content will also need to be adapted for different accents, for instance European Portuguese and South American Portuguese, or European French and Canadian French.
  • How will content be added to the site? Will this be done by your translation company or by your internal resources?
  • When choosing a translation agency, make sure they are used to working with your preferred workflow. If you're happy to outsource all of your multilingual content creation, Media Lingo will happily work within your chosen CMS.
  • Ensure that the translators or the translation agency you work with offers multilingual SEO, as you don't want to end up with a site that is not optimized for your intended target market. They should be able to work with your SEO strategy.
  • It is important to consider duplicate content and international sites - Websites that provide content for different regions and in different languages sometimes create content that is the same or similar but available on different URLs. This is generally not a problem as long as the content is for different users in different countries. While it is strongly recommended that you provide unique content for each different group of users, this may not always be possible. There is generally no need to "hide" the duplicates by disallowing crawling in a robots.txt file or by using a "noindex" robots meta tag. However, if you're providing the same content to the same users on different URLs (for instance, if both and show German language content for users in Germany), you should pick a preferred version and redirect (or use therel=canonical link element) appropriately. In addition, you should follow the guidelines onrel-alternate-hreflang to make sure that the correct language or regional URL is served to searchers.

Multilingual SEO strategy

One of the first things you will want to think about is the preferred URL structure. This will depend on your technical setup and your marketing goals. Google offers a wealth of information on the best set up. In short, there are four common approaches to structuring multilingual and multi-regional sites:

  • ccTLDs (country-code top-level domains) e.g
  • Subdomains with gTLDs (generic top-level domain name) e.g.
  • Subdirectories with GTLDs e.g.
  • URL parameters e.g. (not recommended)

Each has its pros and cons and so the approach you choose is down to your preferred server setup, marketing strategy and available resource. If most of your content is focused on a single territory (e.g. .com) and you want to drive SEO authority to that domain, subdirectories are preferable (search engines treat subdomains as separate entities). This is relatively easy to setup and host on a single server and can usually be managed from a single CMS. Whilst ccTLDs have advantages such as clearer geotargeting, Google recommends using subdirectories or subdomains if time and resources are limited. (Read more on


In addition to the standard accessibility requirements for any site, when creating a multilingual site there are a number of additional factors to consider. The most important ones are:

  • Ensure your images have a different Alternative text in each language using the Alt attribute
  • Ensure screen reader software can identify the language by setting the language version correctly
  • When creating a link to content in a different language, you need to let people using assistive technologies know about this by using the ‘hreflang’ tag
  • Make sure the font sizes are appropriate for each language. Depending on the languages used on your site, for example Chinese and Arabic, you may need to increase the font size.


When dealing with different languages or even different scripts, the layout of your pages will need to be flexible. In particular, include the following considerations into your creative brief:

  • The design should allow for right – to –left languages such as Arabic. You may want to mirror the entire design for such languages, this is something the United Nations have done (
  • The design should allow for text expansion and contraction. To find out how much your content is likely to contract or expand by, please read "Will the translated version be longer or shorter than the original document?". Test the layout with varying amounts of text to ensure the content won't break the design.
  • The design should include a clear and intuitive language switcher to allow users to easily switch between languages or regions.
  • Colours may have a different meaning in different markets. Whilst purple suggests royalty and spirituality in the West, it represents mourning in Thailand and sorrow in India. For a full list of colours and their meanings in different cultures, please go to

Social media

  • Subtitling videos: Do you use videos on your site? Consider having these subtitled for your foreign audience. They are an increasingly important marketing tool and a viral video is one of the best ways of driving business.
  • Which media will you be using in which country? Will you have a separate Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest account for each language or territory? Who will be producing multilingual content for these channels and who will post these?
  • It may be worth using country specific social media as well. Research which ones your brand would benefit from.

Media Lingo can help you plan out the design and development of your multilingual website. For more information or to discuss your requirements, please email us on or give us a call on +31 (0)23 - 2024 723.

  Posted by Annemieke, October 21 2013
  Languages, Multilingual SEO, Website Translation



The best WordPress plugins for a multilingual website

Posted by Annemieke, September 17 2013

If you currently have a Wordpress website in one language and are looking to move into foreign markets, it is worth looking into the following plugins which allow you to manage multilingual content. Please note the information offered below is from the Wordpress site and we have not tested these plugins. If you have any suggestions or comments on this list, please get in touch. Email or give us a call on +31 (0)23 - 2024 723.

QTranslate (3.7 out of 5 stars, 816 reviews)

qTranslate was created as an easy to use interface for managing a fully multilingual website. It makes creation of multilingual content as easy as working with a single language. These are some of its features:

  • qTranslate Services – Professional human and automated machine translation with two clicks
  • One-Click-Switching between the languages – Change the language as easy as switching between Visual and HTML
  • Language customizations without changing the .mo files – Use Quick-Tags instead for easy localization
  • Multilingual dates out of the box – Translates dates and time for you
  • Comes with a lot of languages already builtin! – English, German, Simplified Chinese and a lot of others
  • No more juggling with .mo-files! – qTranslate will download them automatically for you
  • Choose one of 3 Modes to make your URLs pretty and SEO-friendly. – The everywhere compatible ?lang=en, simple and beautiful /en/foo/ or nice and neat
  • One language for each URL – Users and SEO will thank you for not mixing multilingual content
  • qTranslate supports infinite languages, which can be easily added/modified/deleted via the comfortable Configuration Page. All you need to do is activate the plugin and start writing the content.

Basic Bilingual (5 out of 5 stars, 2 reviews)

This plugin allows you to set the language of individual posts and pages and to summarize them in other languages.

The excerpts are automatically inserted right before the post content, with the correct language attribute. The correct language attribute is also set on the post titles and original content.

Polylang (4.8 out of 5 stars, 243 reviews)

Polylang allows you to create a bilingual or multilingual WordPress site. You write posts, pages and create categories and post tags as usual, and then define the language for each of them. The translation of a post, whether it is in the default language or not, is optional. These are some of the main features:

  • The translation has to be done by the site editor as Polylang does not integrate with an automatic or professional translation service.
  • You can use as many languages as you want. RTL language scripts are supported.
  • WordPress languages files are automatically downloaded and updated. 
  • You can translate posts, pages, media, categories, post tags, menus, widgets etc. Custom post types, custom taxonomies, sticky posts and post formats, RSS feeds and all default WordPress widgets are supported.
  • The language is either set by the content or by the language code in url (either directory or subdomain), or you can use one different domain per language
  • Categories, post tags as well as some other metas are automatically copied when adding a new post or page translation
  • A customizable language switcher is provided as a widget or in the nav menu
  • The admin interface is of course multilingual too and each user can set the WordPress admin language in its profile

Multilingual Press Free (4.5 out of 5 stars, 20 reviews)

This plugin allows you to connect multiple sites as language alternatives in a multisite. You can use a customizable widget to link to all sites.

It lets you connect an unlimited amount of sites with each other. You set a main language for each site, create relationships (connections), and start writing. A new field will appear to create a linked post on all the connected sites automatically. These are accessible via the post/page editor screen, and you can switch back and forth to translate them.

When you disable this plugin, all sites will still work as separate sites without any data-loss or unwanted output.

Features of the free version

  • Set up unlimited blog relations in the site manager.
  • View the translations for each post or page underneath the post editor.
  • Show a list of links for all translations on each page in a flexible widget.
  • No lock-in: After deactivation, all sites will still work.
  • No free ad hoc support is offered.

Pro Version

The pro-version offers many features to save time and to improve the work flow and user experience:

  • Support for custom post types.
  • Automatically redirect to the user's preferred language version of a post.
  • Edit all translations for a post from the original post editor without the need to switch sites.
  • Duplicate blogs. Use one blog as template for new blogs, copy everything: Posts, attachments, settings for plugins and themes, navigation menus, categories, tags and custom taxonomies.
  • Synchronized trash: move all connected post to trash with one click.
  • Quicklinks. Add links to language alternatives to a post automatically to the post content. This is especially useful when you don't use widgets or a sidebar.
  • User specific language settings for the back-end. Every user can choose a preferred language for the user interface without affecting the output of the front-end.
  • Show posts with incomplete translations in a dashboard widget.

WPLM (5 out of 5 stars, 3 reviews)

WPML makes it possible to turn WordPress blogs multilingual in a few minutes with no knowledge of PHP or WordPress. Its advanced features allow professional web developers to build full multilingual websites.

  • Powerful translation management, allowing teams of translators to work on multilingual sites.
  • Built-in theme localization without .mo files.
  • Comments translation allows you to moderate and reply to comments in your own language.
  • Includes CMS navigation elements for drop down menus, breadcrumbs trail and sidebar navigation.
  • Robust links to posts and pages that never break.
  • WPML is also offering full integration with Gravity Forms, so you can easily translate all the forms on your site as well.
  • ICanLocalize, the creators of WPML, offer commercial support for WPML. This support provides timely and dependable help directly from the developers.

For more information on these and other available plugins to make a multilingual Wordpress site, please go to For comments or suggestions regarding this list, please contact us on or call +31 (0)23 - 2024 723.

  Posted by Annemieke, September 17 2013
  Languages, Multilingual SEO, Website Translation



Why to conduct Multilingual SEO before having your website translated

Posted by Annemieke, June 10 2013

One of our clients recently requested that instead of us doing the Multilingual SEO review at the start of the localisation project, he would prefer to do the translation first. That way, he reasoned, we could have the website translated sooner, see initial SEO results sooner and start monitoring the results and fine-tuning the translated copy gradually over the next year.

Whilst we would certainly recommend monitoring the SEO performance after launching your language sites, investing some time at the start of the translation project to create your multilingual SEO strategy is essential. Without a properly localised SEO strategy, money and effort could be wasted on unsuitable content and tactics.

We always undertake keyword research and competitor analysis as part of our Multilingual SEO activities. The outcome of this research is a guide for translators and transcreators when translating a website as it contains the phrases and keywords they need to focus on. Additionally, this research occasionally dictates a site structure that deviates from the main site in order to reflect the target market's demands.

Doing this research not only speeds up the translation process, it also returns faster SEO results and most importantly, long term relevant search traffic.

  Posted by Annemieke, June 10 2013
  Multilingual SEO



How to boost foreign sales: Multilingual SEO

Posted by Annemieke, December 13 2012

So you have decided to expand your business abroad, and to start by having your website translated. An understandable strategy and one that will certainly get some results.

However, to future-proof your multilingual site and optimise traffic, you need to consider multilingual SEO. Even before starting on the translation of your website, it is essential to research your target market properly to avoid wasting time on having to re-write your copy later on. Conducting Multilingual SEO research ensures that all your copy and link-building efforts support your sales strategy.

Media Lingo generally takes your existing keywords as a starting point for multilingual SEO research. We then determine the goals and objectives for your foreign language site. We then start our research, taking into consideration the following factors when researching the best keywords for your website:

  • Keyword search volumes for similar, alternative and competing terms
  • Long tail keywords vs short tail keywords
  • Expected conversion rates and ROI for each keyword (particularly relevant when tying in with PPC)
  • Competitor keyword strategy

We can then help you implement the identified keyword in the Multilingual SEO strategy in the following areas:

  • Creating multilingual sitemap and navigation structure
  • Creating multilingual URL structure and anchor text for all pages
  • Meta data optimisation targeting keywords as identified in multilingual SEO research including descriptions, keyword strings and page titles
  • Localising source copy in line with multilingual SEO strategy
  • Localising Alt texts for all images
  • We will ensure that landing pages tie in perfectly with PPC campaigns and Organic search results
  • Localisation of blog posts, press releases and articles
  • Submit your blogs and press releases to the relevant directories and companies in your target market.

Media Lingo will supply the list of keywords with their variants and back-translations for future reference.

  Posted by Annemieke, December 13 2012
  Multilingual SEO, Translation, Website Translation



Multilingual SEO & PPC – What you need to know

Posted by Annemieke, October 16 2012

A recent survey suggests that over half of all companies rely on machine or automatic translation to translate their keywords to be used for their PPC campaigns and in their SEO strategy. This is a worrying number, because this strategy is unlikely to get you the results you’re after – if any at all.

Whilst automatically translating your SEO keywords can certainly be a good start to get a feel for search volumes for certain brand terms in foreign languages, it is not a good idea to rely on machine translation to translate your keywords. To give you an example, whilst in English the word Property is a very important keyword for many real estate companies, the direct translation for this word receives little traffic from most other languages.

The trick is to find the best equivalent that correctly translates the services and products you are optimising for, whilst taking into consideration the target market you are aiming at. The best equivalent will also depend on whether you are aiming for “long tail keyword” search traffic or not and what your competitors are optimising for.

Therefore, you need to carry out target market research first and clearly define your goals and objectives within that market. It is important to look at what competitors are offering and optimising for, and to get an overview of the keyword search volumes and ROI for each keyword. Once you know which products or services you want to optimise for, you then need to define the keywords and update your landing pages and onsite copy accordingly. Media Lingo can help you with each of these steps and will ensure you work with a relevant list of keywords that will get you the results you’re after. We can then localise your onsite copy for you as well to really boost your performance abroad.

Give us a call on +31 (0)23 - 2024 723 or email for more information about how we can help you.

  Posted by Annemieke, October 16 2012
  Free Translation, Machine Translation, Multilingual SEO, Translation, Website Translation