How do you manage languages in International SEO?

SEO Optimize 360

How do you manage languages effectively in International SEO?

Through our SEO Agency Optimize 360 

on the theme International SEO


In an increasingly connected world, the management of languages in International SEO is becoming crucial to ensuring an effective online presence and reaching a global audience.

How can you successfully carry out this crucial aspect of SEO in several languages and on different markets? This article offers practical advice on how to optimise your international SEO efforts.

manage languages

Site structure: Choose between subfolder, subdomain or domain for each language

One of the fundamental choices when it comes to managing several languages for SEO purposes is the overall structure of the site. There are three main options for organising multilingual content:

  • Subfolders : exemple.com/fr/ for the French version
  • Sub-domains : fr.exemple.com for the French version
  • Separate areas: exemple.fr for the French version

Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages in terms of cost, ease of implementation and impact on search engine ranking. The choice will depend on the importance attached to each criterion, but the method recommended by Google is to use sub-folders with centralised authority at domain level.

URL management: clarity and consistency are essential

The management of URLs is another important aspect of optimising the online presence of a multilingual site. Here are a few best practices to follow:

  1. Use URLs that are legible and understandable for each language, with relevant keywords in the target language.
  2. Have a consistent URL structure to make it easier for the exploration robots and improve the user-friendliness of the site.
  3. Avoid using URL parameters to manage languages: prefer the sub-folders or sub-domains mentioned above.

Example of good multilingual URL management

  • French version: exemple.com/fr/produits-electroniques/téléphones-mobiles/
  • English version: example.com/en/electronics/mobile-phones/

Strategic plan: determining linguistic and geographical priorities

In any international SEO initiative, it is crucial to establish an action plan that takes into account the multiple markets and their relative importance. This will enable you to define the desired geographical coverage for each language and optimise your resources (time, budget, teams).

  • Identify the countries/regions where your company wants to expand:
    • Where should you start? Which markets have priority in terms of potential revenue, competition or untapped opportunities?
  • Choose the languages to be supported according to these priorities and local demand:
    • Spanish, Chinese, Arabic... Each added language can have an impact on the technical and logistical complexity, as well as on the cost. A well thought-out strategy is therefore essential.

Hreflang tag: a key stage in successful international SEO

The hreflang is one of the essential elements you need to know in order to optimise your multilingual referencing. It is used to indicate to search engines the different language versions of the same page. Although it may seem complicated to implement at first, it is the cornerstone of success in international SEO.

  1. Include the hreflang tag in the header HTML of each page, with the ISO 639-1 code for each language represented (for example, "fr" for French).
  2. Use an online tool or plugin CMS to automatically generate the appropriate hreflang tags.
  3. Watch out for common errors: inverted language/country codes, broken links, poor indexing, etc.

Content and keywords adapted to each language and market

Once the site structure and hreflang tags are in place, the next step is to adapt your content and keywords for each language. The search for relevant keywordsadapted to the local market and search engine requirements, is a fundamental element of international SEO.

  • Use professional translators or linguists to produce accurate, high-quality content in each target language.
  • Adapt the tone, register and cultural expressions to match the expectations of local users.
  • Optimise meta descriptions, titles and other on-page elements in line with good SEO practice for each language.

Performance monitoring and ongoing optimisation

To measure the effectiveness of your international optimisation strategy, you need to use monitoring and analysis tools tailored to different markets and languages (Google AnalyticsSearch Console...).

  1. Identify weaknesses and opportunities for improvement on each of your multilingual sites.
  2. Adjust your marketing campaigns, your content and your backlinks for each language according to the results obtained.
  3. Maintain a competitive intelligence to anticipate changes in the market and remain competitive.

When it comes to international SEO, mastering the different facets of SEO and adapting your approach to the specific characteristics of each language and market are essential. By following this advice, you'll increase your chances of succeeding in your international expansion and reaching an ever-wider audience.

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About the author

Frédéric POULET is the founder of the SEO Agency Optimize 360 After 20 years in large groups, he founded Optimize 360 to put the know-how of large groups to work for SMEs. Now a recognised specialist in SEO and natural referencing in France and Europe
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