Taking It One Step Further: Multilingual SEO

Guest post by Chris Gilchrist from HitReach Web Design in Angus |

The United Nations has six official languages, these are Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), English, French, Russia, and Spanish. When most individuals approach SEO, they naturally focus entirely on the clients which speak the same language as their own. The reasons for which are axiomatic. However, the most essential is that both parties share a common language for which to communicate.
Nevertheless, SEO campaigns need not be orientated around one common language. The potentiality for acquiring even more clients, by widening your reach, is something in which one may be inclined to consider. The statistics, according to Ethnologue, of the most common languages are as follows:

  • Mandarin – 845,234,000;
  • Spanish – 329,000,000;
  • English – 328,000,000;
  • Hindi – 182,000,000 (Urdu – 60,600,0000);
  • Arabic – 221,000,000;
  • Bengali – 181,000,000;
  • Portuguese – 178,000,000;
  • Russian – 144,000,000;
  • Japanese – 122,000,000;

These statistics alone should reveal the potentiality by accommodating for more languages, with an SEO campaign to complement it. Fortunately, in extending your reach, there are no additional requirements, since the implementation of an SEO campaign in a language you do not understand, is actually no different from the SEO campaigns you’re accustomed to in your own language.

The first question that should be asked before beginning anything of this nature is, whether or not users of another country would be happy in corresponding with a company that aren’t based in their country. This would be especially true if phone calls and other forms of correspondence were common. Interestingly, the time difference between the UK and Beijing (China) is 7 hours, and therefore any correspondence would be slow and intermittent. Nevertheless, once you’ve completed your research on the aforementioned problem, and considered every other possibility regarding possible problems in terms of the nature of your business, then you can begin to translate your website to accommodate for these users.

However, it is imperative that you have the necessary means in place to handle clients, where both parties do not share a common language. For this to work effectively, it is advisable to introduce one language at a time. This prevents you from becoming overwhelmed. One might be inclined to translate your website using an automated service, such as Google’s Translator or Yahoo’s Babelfish. This is highly discouraged, and could, in essence, be entirely unhelpful to your SEO campaign. Automated services are rarely reliable, and will produce sentences that, whilst seem logical, are in fact quite nonsensical to a native speaker. For example, if one were introducing English as a second language and Yahoo’s Babelfish informed a Russian speaker that the equivalent in English was, “Optimisation for Search Engines” (…Or worse), as opposed to, “Search Engine Optimisation”, it’s self-evident that the former would be a much less used term.

This is why you need to ensure you have the necessary means in place. Even when you’ve employed somebody to correctly translate your website into the second language — ideally somebody who is well versed in the technical terms used in SEO, then you need to employ full-time who would be able to handle these clients. Needless to say, if somebody found your website on the Mandarin version of Google, then their English is going to be terribly basic, or non-existent.

You should not divert from the techniques you’ve learnt from SEO in English, since the techniques remain quite consistent. The website’s usability should be considered when adding a second language, and any SEO campaign should link to the website in the language the potential customer is going to understand. It should also be quite straight-forward in viewing the English version of the website, and any subsequent versions of the website in other languages. Reassuringly, once you’ve introduced a second language, you will be naturally more confident in implementing additional languages. As they say, the sky’s the limit!