Multilingual Search Engine Optimization

The Internet by definition is global, but are you really reaching the World Wide Web?  Back in the 80’s and early 90’s as the search engines grew from simple directories to powerful global search utilities, everything was based in the USA and primarily in English.  An interesting fact to note is that back in 1995-1996 75% of the web was in English.  Most people outside the US understood that search engines were a thing of the “West” and if they wanted to run a search it had to be done in English.  That is far from true now.

Now only about 25% of the world wide web is in English and about 99% of “foreigners” will first do searches online in their native tung.  Yes, there is a Japanese Yahoo and German Google!  So why is this important from an Internet marketing perspective?

Technology and global commerce have create a “flat” world where we can communicate and trade in real time with anyone anywhere in the world.  For example, I just got off a conference call with a real estate developer in Panama.  I do not speak Spanish so we used translators and had the call using a combination of English and Spanish.

The idea behind multilingual SEO is not to have to try to do business with foreigners in their native langual but to attract them to your site and ask them to do business with you in English.  So how is this accomplished if your site is written all in English?  The great part about this is that you do not need to translate your whole site into every language in order to submit to foreign search engines.

For example, let’s say that you are targeting consumers in Germany.  You do not need to translate the whole site into German, though you could if the site is not too large.  The easiest way to prepare your site for foreign search engine submission is to create one landing page in German that introduces the user to what your site is all about.  The page would include:

  • All content written in German
  • Content using your keywords in German
  • Title tags, meta tags, and H1 tags in German
  • And finally a call to action asking the user to click through to your English site

This will prepare your site to be submitted to the German Google for example and you can simply SEO that page alone to gradually acheive higher rankings for your target keywords.  This page acts as a “landing page” or portal which guides the user to your site.  By the time they get there they understand what your company does and why they should be doing business with you in Engish.  Most people around the world speak multiple languages anyway – except us Americans!  You can find people on the East Coast of Somalia who speak better English than some of us here at home!

It is also interesting to note that only about 10% to 15% of the users in foreign search engines won’t click through to the English site.  That is a pretty good conversion rate!  By utilizing multilingual SEO you can actually reach the global audience and increase your ROI on overall search engine optimization efforts.

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