Foreign Language SEO: What You Need to Know

Kay / 22nd May 2013 / Comment / Search Engine Optimization

SEOmoz wrote a great article on foreign language SEO back in December. As they mention, only two of the world’s top ten economies (the US and the UK) are predominantly English speaking. While some of the other top tens have a large English-speaking population (India and Germany come to mind), the appeal of one’s native language should not be underestimated—expanding your web presence linguistically has the potential to attract an entirely new subsection of consumers. However, as you might guess, this is not a light undertaking. What should you keep in mind before taking the multilingual plunge?

  1. Do You Have a Savvy Translator?If you want your site to reach a new linguistic market, you’ll need to translate the whole thing into the new language. The advantage of using a native speaker for foreign language SEO cannot be overstated, as they will be able to provide expertise in idiom and marketing culture as well as accurate translations. It’s important to remember that many of the advertising tacks used in America would not fare well everywhere—important differences can even be found between the US and the UK ( Such nuances might be lost on a translator who doesn’t hail from your target country.


Foreign Language SEO
Image Source

  1. Can You Provide Foreign Language Support?
    As SEOmoz points out, a foreign language website without a corresponding customer service option is not very helpful. Make sure that for every language your site uses, you can at least provide email support.


  1. What About Keywords and Analysis Tools?Since 56% of Internet content is in English, keyword competition in foreign languages is comparatively low. Therefore, targeting the right keywords for your translated website can earn you a huge boost in traffic for minimal effort.As for identifying your keywords, there are a few methods to consider. You can simply translate your keywords using your preferred online translator, or you can input the URL of a competitor (whose site is in your target language) into Google AdWords, as suggested by Shimon Sandler. When using the keyword tool, be sure to switch the language to your target language and the country to your target country (if possible—there are currently only 5 choices available). Another option: a quick Google search of “SEO [in “x foreign language”]”, with the bracketed portion in the target language, can reveal some handy foreign language SEO tools. I found the French SEO tool this way.


  1. What If Your Website Is Staying in America?
    Even if your website is exclusively US-based, translation may be of benefit, as 20% of the country speaks a language besides English at home. The largest non-English speaking language market in the US is Spanish, and sites such as MySpace have expanded into this market with positive results.


  1. How to assess if translating your site into Spanish might be worthwhile?
    Translate your keywords into Spanish and use Google AdWords as listed above. If the competition isn’t too stiff and your keywords are being searched regularly, it may be worth considering.


Are you thinking about translating your site? Have you already done it? Leave a comment and share your experience with us!

By Kay