SEO for Foreign Languages

By July 13, 2012 SEO No Comments


Optimising a website in foreign languages uses all the same SEO strategies as optimising a normal site, but sometimes there are slight nuances. There are also some tasks which you will have to complete in addition to your normal ones. Here we cover the most important differences between optimising for your native language and optimising for foreign languages.


Regular Tasks


Keyword Research

Just like we do separate keyword research for each English language country you optimise for (e.g. U.S. searchers looking for ‘fancy dress’ may be more literal than those in Australia), we have to do unique keyword research for any additional language we want to optimise for. It is no good to simply translate your English keywords – these might not be at all related to what users of that language actually search for.  Direct translations rarely work – an English language sign in our Shanghai apartment block politely asked residents “Please do not allow your dog to #&%* on the lawn” – I’m pretty sure they didn’t mean to use that four letter word.


Start your keyword from scratch, focussing on that particular language and a specific location.


Linking Strategies

The technical aspects of link building will not change depending on the language you use, but what will change is the type of places you consider for your links. For example, in China, microblogging and forums are very popular, whereas distributed content is less so. Do thorough research into the market you are optimising for to understand more about how they use the internet. Links using the target language, on sites within your target country, will be the most valuable by far.


Choosing your search engine

Here in Australia,  there is not much problem in putting most of your SEO focus on Google because Bing and Yahoo have such low market shares. However, in the US, the market share is much bigger, and so it is likely worth considering optimising for Bing as well.


When you go to other countries there are even more differences. Baidu grew to be China’s most popular search engine because it’s algorithm better understood the way the Chinese language works. In Korea, the most popular search engine is Naver, and in Russia it is Yandex. Remember to consider search engines other than Google, depending on the country you are optimising for.


Extra Tasks

Targeted Domains

If possible, it is better for your site to have a local domain in the country you are targeting. E.g. a .cn domain in China, rather than using the same domain for all your different countries.


Multilingual Markup

In December last year, Google introduced multilingual markup. The markup will help your user find the most appropriate content for them as well as helping Google understand who the target for each of your pages is.


On each page you can put a new tag

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”target language” href=”the link you want to send them to“>


<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”cn” href=””>


If you need help optimising a site for foreign languages, give us a call for a no obligation discussion on how we could help.


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