Multilingual websites are sites that provide content in multiple languages. For products sold internationally, there is a need to create websites that cater to different target markets specifically. For example, companies like YouTube, Google, Amazon and Disney are international sites that serve people of different demographics. These well-known brands are recognized worldwide and to make their products and services accessible around the word they need to create their website in different languages.
It is essential that international websites or any site that has the same website in more than one language have a native writer from that country write the content. If you are converting, for example an English website into Spanish using a translation tool, the translation tool has its limitations and the translated content may not make sense. To a native speaker your site will seem non-authentic and in some cases could be offensive. Translation tools are not able to read language nuances, metaphors or slang and therefore may not create phrases and sentences that read smoothly.
A word for word translation from one language to another is also when you can run into a duplicate content issue. When Google sees a word for word translation they may view your site as low quality and therefore push you down in ranking. Any translation tool used will generate a rough translation that many times is not natural. Always have your multilingual website reviewed or written by a native speaking individual to verify that the content makes sense.
Benj Arriola, Vice President of SEO gives examples of the different country codes, how they can be used to properly code your sites country and suggestions on how to avoid duplicate content. By coding your sites correctly, Google crawlers will know what content to serve for each country. Benj talks about two different ways your site may be structured and the best solution to combat duplicate content for each.