International SEO: Strategies for Multilingual Websites

The internet has made borders porous, as it allows content to travel worldwide at speeds never witnessed before. Businesses have jumped on this incredible opportunity and developed a truly global customer base. The major element in this shift is multilingual SEO, which lets websites create customized and localized content for various regions. Its effectiveness can be determined from the fact that a website’s content is estimated to reach 75% more customers if it uses a multilingual approach.

Multilingual is much more than your plain old translation. It goes a notch above and engages local audiences by considering their linguistic nuances. However, shifting from your own language to a foreign tongue is never simple on the internet.  

From localizing your content, using the right keywords to avoiding duplication, multilingual SEO needs to be understood in depth, and that’s what we’ll help you do with this guide. We’ll tell you why it’s critical for your website and how to optimize it to gain a truly international audience.

Multilingual SEO: What It Is And Why Is It Needed? 

Before we explore multilingual SEO, knowing what a multilingual website means is crucial. It’s a website that offers content in more than one language. Multilingual website SEO is how content is tailored for an audience that speaks and understands a particular language. It includes meta titles, tags, product or service descriptions, and target keywords. However, it’s not just simple translation; multilingual SEO is also about understanding how people search for a particular service or product, their keywords, and how to optimize it with language SEO.

How Effective Is Multilingual SEO

Multilingual SEO can do wonders for your website, as it allows you to expand your business into areas that were inaccessible before. Here are some of the reasons why you should consider it as an essential strategy:

1. Skyrocketing Financial Productivity 

Driving more traffic to your website through multilingual SEO earns better returns on your investment. Bringing in more people means more conversions and more loyal customers in the long run.

2. Market Expansion 

There was a time when the US and Europe were the concentrated business centers. However, the world has changed, and business has expanded to several other countries, such as China and Japan. Today, English represents 58.8% of the web content, but why would you miss the remaining 41.2% that can help you make some good bucks?

3. Customer Appreciation 

Customers love nothing more than being appreciated and valued by a business. If you present your website in their local language, they’ll feel you genuinely care about them and will likely become loyal brand advocates. 

4. Different Levels of Competition 

The search engine result pages (SERPs) have varying levels of competition for different languages and regions. Using multi-language SEO, you cut through them and ensure you have the upper hand in every area you’re targeting.

Let’s consider the Spanish community, which is 42 million in the US. If you’re an SEO agency that wants to target them, Ranking’ SEO agency’ is a bit more complicated with 76 Keyword Difficulty, categorized by Ahrefs as ‘Super Hard.’ On the other hand, ranking its translation in Spanish, called ‘agencia SEO,’ is classified as ‘Easy’ by Ahrefs with Zero Keyword Difficulty.

It shows that the competition level varies among different keywords, and you should choose carefully when targeting a community that speaks a specific language.

Keyword data of ‘SEO Agency’ in Spanish using Ahrefs

Keyword data of ‘SEO Agency’ in Spanish using Ahrefs

Top 8 Multilingual SEO Tips 

Now that we have addressed the reasons why, it’s time to discuss some multilingual SEO best practices. 

1. Implement Hreflang Tags 

When using language SEO, you want the search engines to show people the content you have translated into their language. That’s when you use Hreflang tags, which help search engines discern different languages. For instance, the Hreflang for English is ‘en,’ and for French, it is ‘fr.’

Another significant reason for using Hreflang tags is to avoid duplicate content. For instance, if your website targets English-speaking users based in the US and UK, Google may flag it as duplicate content based on the similarity in spelling and index only one version. Hreflang tags help Google understand the subtle differences between the two web pages and index them both. 

Here is what a Hreflang tag looks like:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” href=”” /> 

Here’s a simple breakdown:

  • link rel=”alternate” indicates a link to an alternative version of the original page.
  • hreflang=”x” shows the alternative language as ‘x.’
  • href=”” is the URL where the alternative page can be found. 

When implementing Hreflang, it is important to remember that they are bidirectional. If your English page points to a German variant, the Italian one should also point back to the English one. Doing that tells the search engines that both pages are related.

Another rule to remember here is that every page must be self-referential, i.e., with a self-referential hreflang tag pointing towards itself. For instance, if your website has an English and a German page, you must add the following Hreflang tags for an English page:

  • <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”de” href=”” />
  • <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en” href=”” />

As you can see, the first line shows that it’s an alternative version in German, while the second line has a self-referencing hreflang tag.

You must do the same for a German page:

  • <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en” href=”” />
  • <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”de” href=”” />

2. Translate Your Metadata 

Translating metadata is critical to drive traffic to your website using native language. It contains all the elements that users cannot see, such as SEO titles, meta description of each page, tags, image alt text, and more. A well-functioning site has SEO website translation with all the above elements for each page. 

3. URL Structure for Language Focused SEO 

Google indexes sites based on their URL structures, helping users search content in specific languages. Therefore, it’s crucial to use dedicated URLs for multilingual websites. Luckily, you have several options when choosing a URL structure, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. 

1. Separate Domain or Multi Domain Strategy 

This strategy involves one domain per language and is used when you want to target a specific area with well-tailored content. It’s also called Country Top Level Domain Names (ccTLDs) because it’s relevant to the people living in a particular country. 

For instance, it could be ‘’ or ‘.fr,’ targeting the UK and French audiences, respectively. Using it shows visitors that you’re a local business, which gives them a personalized experience and boosts your business. Here’s one more example:


Having separate domains for your website is an effective multilingual SEO strategy but comes with additional costs. You’d need to build links for each domain, and managing multiple domains will require SEO experts.

2. Subfolder 

Subfolder or subdirectory is the most common technique for URL structure in SEO multilingual. It works by locating individual directories on the right side of the domain. 

For instance, targets a German audience. 

Subfolders are easy to implement, and you can always introduce new folders and individual pages. But you can’t use localized hosting.

3. Subdomain 

A subdomain is a URL structure where the language tag comes before other elements. An example in this regard can be However, it’s not highly recommended because it complicates user searches. One primary reason behind it is that sites with this structure are considered separate from the main website and not a part of it.

4. URL Parameters 

Another multilingual SEO strategy while choosing a URL structure is using query strings or URL parameters to determine language and country. For instance, ‘?hl=en’ and ‘?hl=de’ indicate the English and German versions of the article. URL parameters also come with their flaws. Although you can use them for your multilingual approach, it can confuse search engines. It can cause duplicate content issues if not implemented correctly.

Despite these disadvantages, URL parameters are easy to implement. There will be no need to build links for each domain. Above all, you won’t need to manage multiple domains.

While you can use any URL structure, choosing it wisely is highly recommended. You can see the pros and cons listed above and how much cost you can withstand to decide which one to go for your multilingual SEO strategy.

4. Use One Language Per Page 

The most optimal way of doing multilingual SEO is by sticking to one language per page since Google gauges the page’s visible content to determine its language. Moreover, having more than one language on a page can confuse audiences who can easily misinterpret the context.

5. Proper Keyword Usage 

Keywords work as a backbone to any effective SEO strategy. It’s not easy to master the right keywords, as 94.74% of keywords get only 10 or fewer monthly searches. It can get even more daunting when dealing with another language.

Multilingual SEO Tips: Search volume distribution of 4 billion keywords from Ahrefs’ US database

Search volume distribution of 4 billion keywords from Ahrefs’ US database

The right approach is to determine your English content’s most commonly used keywords, which can be a good start. Once you have a list, search for their most appropriate translations in the target language. You can use Google Translate for it, but doing it manually eliminates all mistakes and ensures 100% accuracy. 

6. Attention! Hire Local Writers For Best Results 

Native writers possess an innate understanding of the local culture, idioms, and linguistic nuances, enabling them to create content that resonates authentically with the target audience. This cultural sensitivity enhances the likelihood of engaging users and establishing a genuine connection, a crucial aspect of effective SEO.

Secondly, local writers are well-versed in the specific search trends and keywords relevant to their region. It ensures that your multilingual SEO strategy aligns seamlessly with the algorithms and preferences of diverse markets, enhancing visibility and ranking on regional search results.

Moreover, employing local writers promotes inclusivity by reflecting diversity in content creation. It caters to a broader audience and fosters a sense of inclusiveness and relevance.

7. Use Multilingual SEO Plugins 

Multilingual plugins are essential for websites that intend to reach out to a global audience. They enable website owners to translate their content into multiple languages, making it easier for users to access the information they need in their preferred language. Moreover, it makes life much easier for customers who can automatically translate your web pages with just one click. Hence, you don’t need to manually create different translations of your original content.

8. Boost Rankings With International Link Building 

Links work as votes in Google’s world, meaning the more quality backlinks you have on your website, the higher it will rank. Focus on the word ‘quality’ here, as putting up links from unknown or inauthentic sources is of no use. 

For instance, if you run a skincare website, ensure your backlinks are from high-quality, science-backed, international websites with a good reputation. Today, 66.31% of web pages have no backlinks, adversely affecting the website’s quality and ranking. 

You can also try replacing broken links on other websites with links to your own. It’s a symbiotic relationship that benefits both parties. After all, nobody wants their website filled with broken links that lead to nowhere. Moreover, make sure you use the links in the same language you’re targeting. It will help you in SERP ranking and also give your users a better and more seamless experience.

9. Translate Your Image Alt Text 

Last but not least, you should make it as easy as possible for Google to understand your web pages. Hence, whenever you translate a page, don’t forget to translate image alternative text attributes, too. If you don’t, it becomes harder for Google to determine the primary language of the page. 

Pro Tip: Use a Multilingual SEO Website Template 

Using a well-established and tested website template is crucial to ensure a consistent user experience. You don’t want your users to witness something completely different when they switch languages. A key thing to remember is that you can localize icons, secondary colors, and images, but the fundamental design should remain unchanged.

Once you have created a design, test it in different languages to ensure everything works fine. Sometimes, the space optimization doesn’t function well when you change languages, requiring additional editing. Similarly, the translation can be longer or shorter than the original text, upsetting the whole structure and making it look awkward. 

Conclusion: Multilingual SEO 

You can optimize your multi language website easily with these helpful  multilingual SEO tips. All you need to do is to make sure the content is not duplicated, you’re using the correct URL structure, and building international links effectively. These measures help you improve your website’s SERP ranking and bring in a more diverse and international audience.