Multilingual SEO for world markets Part 2 

Multilingual on-page optimization

In part 1, we looked at keyword research in foreign languages, such as German, French, Spanish and Italian. In part 2, we will look at the on-page optimization...or what to do with that keyword research.

Actually, the on-page optimization is easy. Just place your search terms in all the right places. Of course, it is not quite that simple.

For instance, German nouns like to merge into incredible conglomerates. An example of where I ran into this was at this Netzwerk überwachung site: Two major search terms were Netzwerküberwachung and Netzwerk überwachung. The first, conglomerate word is actually correct, but people search in funny ways, and the search engines don't generally recognize partial words. In English, a reference to "website monitoring service" would count as a reference for the search term "website monitoring". But the German equivalent, Überwachungsservice für Webseiten, would read literally in English as "monitoringservice for websites".

In other words, you might have to make the translator dance some fancy language steps to deliver a readable message that does not interfere with your search terms.

Multilingual search engine optimization also brings the question of accents. Use them. One well-respected SEO questioned the use of accents when it turned out that more people searched for Montreal than Montréal. Don't you believe it for a second. There simply were more English people searching without the accent, so leave the accents off your English site but keep them on your French, German, Italian or other sites.

There is one exception to the accents rule: if your market is very, um, shall we say "downscale". I think you know what I mean. There is a certain market in English that refuses to capitalize words or use punctuation. The equivalent market in German is unlikely to use an umlaut - you might have to optimize both with and without the accent.

What about file names. Many companies keep the same filenames when they create a translated site. So becomes , a mouthful in any language, but of no SEO help in the German version. On the other hand, keeping the same file name helps the webmaster keep track of what all these otherwise "unintelligible" filenames are all about, without resorting to a wall covered in file name translation tables. This is not a simple decision to make.

One question that often comes up is where to house the translated site on a separate site, in a sub-domain or in a directory on the English site.

The general consensus is that it is preferable to give it its own domain with the appropriate country extension...which is easy for German or Italian, but which country do you choose for Spanish? Spain? Mexico? Argentina? The USA? And have you ever tried to apply for a .fr domain?

Second best is a sub-domain, which at least carries a semblance of being a separate site and allows some directories to consider it a home page for listing purposes (and you want those directory links).

Which brings me to my final point. Don't forget to build the links that are so important to your optimization. Good quality links. Relevant links, both in terms of topics and in terms of the search terms in the language of the site. There are fewer avenues to build links in French or Dutch than in English. Fortunately, you will need fewer links to get good French or Dutch search engine rankings.

Thinking about expanding your market into Europe, Latin America or the rest of Canada? Get your site translated and get it optimized for the multilingual search engine listings.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Leonhardt is a multilingual search engine optimization consultant who offers German language search engine optimization services. Pick up a copy of his SEO tips book.

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