More than 1 in 4 people on the planet are online shoppers. That’s a potential market of billions. Multilingual SEO helps businesses in every sector engage with this market and grow. 

But how exactly does it help businesses do that? What is multilingual SEO?  

In short, it’s the process of optimising your website so it ranks highly on search engines in multiple target languages and regions. 

This helps you become much more visible to diverse audiences around the world. That leads to more traffic. It then helps you convert that traffic into sales. 

If you don’t have the right technical expertise, it isn’t easy though. You also need to understand your target markets both linguistically and culturally if you are to get all the benefits multilingual SEO has to offer: 

Understanding multilingual SEO 

Standard SEO targets one language. Multilingual SEO adapts your website (and all of the content on it) to target the different languages spoken in several regions. 

The goal is to ensure you have a website that ranks for the key search terms in every region you target. This builds a competitive advantage and a concomitant sales boost. 

But there is one critical concept that defines effective multilingual SEO: 

This is the fact that most users search for the content they need in their own language. And they do so in the way that is culturally natural to them. 

What’s more, search engines recognise this demand and are increasingly adapting to meet it. This means successful companies need to recognise it too – as well as the challenges between them and that major increase in sales: 

1) Cultural and language barriers 

Understanding that someone speaks another language is one thing. Understanding what this means in reality is quite another. 

It’s the difference between translating the exact words someone uses and localising their message to capture their actual intent. 

This is most obvious in international keyword research. For instance, if you were looking for a Language Service Provider in the UK, you might type in “translation company near me”.  

In France though, you might type in a search term that would more directly translate into English as something like “translation company close to my house”. 

The intent is the same, but a direct translation of the precise words won’t work. 

2) SEO and technical barriers 

Then there’s the technical side of implementing multilingual SEO. This incorporates a whole range of activities that require extensive expertise, including: 

  1. Geotargeting – the act of sending users to the language version of your site that matches their geographical location. This requires expert use of what are called “hreflang tags”. Not something everyone knows how to do. 
  1. Content quality – it takes skills, resources, or partnership with a Language Service Provider with deep knowledge of your target region to create the kind of high-quality content you need to attract traffic and retain your international brand reputation. 
  1. Algorithm updates – Google and other search engines regularly update their ranking factors. Staying on top of these and how they affect multilingual SEO calls for specialists. 

Expand your global reach 

The reason why so many companies are currently adopting and updating their multilingual SEO strategies is the huge potential for expanded global market reach. 

The logic is simple. If your website can be found, accessed, and used naturally in multiple languages, you massively increase your potential audience. 

This is vital for companies that want to trade across borders. Gone are the days when non-English speakers got by in English online. Today, as shown in recent research from the Common Sense Advisory: 

  • Over 75% of people prefer to use websites in their own language 
  • In the EU, this rises to above 90% of people 
  • For around 56% of people, product information in their own language is more important than price 

But making your site “accessible” isn’t enough to drive the top results. If you want users to stay on your site for longer, browse, and eventually buy, you need comprehensive content localisation. 

This is a process that goes beyond straightforward translation (the importance of which we’ve already seen when talking about keywords) to adapt images and imagery, reference points, colours and more – on top of the words on the page. 

Increase organic traffic to your website

Key to how properly implemented multilingual SEO expands your business’s global reach is the way it increases organic search traffic to your website.  

It does this in several ways. Firstly, it ensures you are getting found by more online searches because you are using the search terms your potential buyers actually use. 

Secondly though, it ensures that when a user navigates to your website, they find content that meets their needs: 

  • Linguistically – it must be in the language they prefer to speak, seeming natural and written for them, not awkwardly translated and irrelevant. 
  • Culturally – it must be a natural fit for their norms, habits, and preferences. 
  • Intentionally – it must allow them to fulfil the intent of their search query. 

Achieving these goals is the only way to properly engage with different regional audiences. At least, it is if you want to connect in a way that will boost your brand and build relationships. 

If you want to increase the organic traffic to your website, there are also technical reasons to do this. Chiefly because you minimise bounce rate (users who quickly navigate away from your site after clicking on it and finding it’s not fully in their language or is poorly translated nonsense). 

Engage diverse target markets

The role of international keyword research and content localisation in maximising audience engagement and conversion rates in global markets cannot be undersold. 

Any good marketer knows you need consumers to trust you before they buy from you. You can’t build that trust if you don’t reach out to people where they live (linguistically and culturally). 

The businesses that are truly succeeding and growing in today’s globalised world understand that the time has come for a dramatic shift in their international sales strategy. 

Modern international success is driven by a customer-centric approach. Brands only succeed in selling across borders by identifying markets and researching these key elements in detail: 

  1. Culture – knowledge of local preferences and nuance, market trends, and local consumer behaviour such as preferred payment types and currency can all help businesses tailor their strategies. 
  1. Language – understanding appropriate slang, colloquialisms, preferred local dialects, popular local search terms and the intent behind them as well as what content is popular locally. 

These two key areas need to be considered in relation to all of the content on your website – everything from words to images to colours to web design and user experience. 

Keeping your brand consistent across language versions while doing this is another major challenge when creating multilingual websites that actually deliver results. 

Multilingual SEO case studies

Many companies have achieved excellent results with their multilingual SEO. There are numerous examples of brands boosting their cross-border sales by 200% or more. 

Some brands though, are worth paying closer attention to if we want to learn from both successes and missteps when marketing services internationally: 

1) Amazon Business 

Amazon Business has achieved great success with its multilingual SEO campaign – especially in the Spanish-speaking market. 

Not only did they go so far as localising their brand name (Amazon Business into Amazon Negocios), the international ecommerce site did excellent keyword research and localised all of their content for the Spanish language version of their website to an excellent standard. 

The company also launched a Spanish-language version of Amazon.com to cater to the more than 50 million native Spanish speakers in the US. This was a smart business decision that opened the door to an immense internal market that is now better served by the retail giant. 

2) Netflix 

A contrasting example comes from Netflix. Although the digital streaming platform is often lauded for its multilingual strategy, there is actually one area where it could potentially improve – multilingual keyword research. 

A good example is the site’s Spanish language version. When localising for a Spanish audience, Netflix was clearly aiming for Spanish equivalents of its English-language keywords “watch series online” and “watch movies online”. 

It translated these into Spanish directly, as “ver series en línea” and “ver películas en línea”. These are “correct” translations and make sense. But they’re not the most common way Spanish people search for these things. 

Instead, the preference is for the English “ver series online” and “ver películas online”. It sounds small. But it’s a difference of around 240 000 monthly searches that Netflix misses out on. 

Harness multilingual SEO’s potential impact on global business growth

Multilingual SEO is a tool that helps businesses reach huge and diverse new markets and attract large amounts of organic traffic to their websites. It also lets them convert those browsers into a massive increase in cross-border buyers. 

This is only possible if brands adjust their international SEO strategy to a consumer-first approach. This should take into account both linguistic and cultural norms and preferences in carefully chosen target markets and support them with technical SEO expertise. 

Done incorrectly, the resources required for multilingual SEO are wasted. But done right, the rewards of achieving global market reach continue to be shown by the most successful businesses in almost every sector. 

Would you like to leverage the power of effective multilingual SEO to reach a new global audience? 

Let’s talk . Asian Absolute’s engaging, customer-focused translations are already trusted by some of the UK and the world’s leading brands, including Coca-Cola, Hewlett Packard, and Ikea. 

Reach out for a cost and commitment-free chat about your business’s international goals today.