Building a multilingual online presence isn’t easy. From website translations to localizing your social media and advertising—there’s a lot to consider. And when it comes to multilingual website SEO (search engine optimization), things get a little more complicated. 

When setting up a multilingual website, there are a few essential SEO factors to consider. Most importantly, you want to ensure that people find the correct pages for their language and location. 

Let’s take a deeper look into what localization SEO is and why it’s important—plus ten tips for improving your multilingual website SEO.

See also: How to localize your website and why it matters

What is localization SEO?

A multilingual website is any website that offers content in more than one language. Localization SEO is the process of optimizing that website for the different languages. This includes translating website content, meta titles, meta tags, descriptions and targeted keywords.

It’s more than simply translating content. SEO localization also pays attention to how people search for content and the search terms they’re using in the locale you’re targeting. By using these location-based keywords within your content, you’ll increase your organic reach in those specific regions.

“There’s no point in creating brilliant content if no one is going to access it, or no one’s going to consume it.” –

Estefania Veira, London-based marketing campaign manager at Clyde & Co.

Multilingual SEO includes:

  • Building a website in each target language using a logical structure
  • Creating unique and localized multilingual content
  • Catering to the various website development requirements that prevent search engines from penalizing your multi-regional websites
  • Placing different website language versions within an appropriate scheme

See also: Translation vs. localization: What’s the difference and why should you care?

Ready to grow your brand globally

Why is multilingual website SEO important?

If you’re marketing across different countries, you’re likely targeting audiences from many different markets that speak multiple languages.

In this case, basic website translation is not enough—and machine translations don’t always make sense and can be viewed as spam.

While it may be tempting to rely on Google Translate or ChatGPT for non-English speakers to understand the content on your website, you’ll get far better results if you have a dedicated multilingual website SEO strategy. 


Because people tend to first search on Google in their native language. That’s why it’s in your best interest to optimize your SEO strategy according to what your international audience is searching for in their own language.

“I’m Brazilian so I’ll probably Google something in Portuguese before I search something in English, and a lot of people don’t speak English. So in those countries, it’s just easier to search for information in your own language.” – Allan Formigoni, Lisbon-based content and email marketing manager at WeTravel.

Plus, the elements that contribute to effective international SEO also tend to improve your overall user experience—so paying attention to multilingual SEO best practices is a win for both your organic traffic and customer experience. 

See also: 5 ways to ensure a quality localization – even if you don’t speak the language

How does Google handle multilingual searches?

Google Search automatically determines the language of search results based on various factors, including user language settings on different devices. This means that searchers don’t have to constantly change their language settings to get results in the different languages they use.

Google also shows helpful results in multiple languages, even if they don’t match the user’s settings or search query. For example, someone in France can search in French, English or Arabic and expect to get results in the appropriate language. The search engine is continuously improving its language matching systems to provide the most helpful information in the languages that people prefer.

Here’s what Google says content creators should do:

“We encourage publishers in areas where several languages are commonly used to make content in those different languages rather than in just one that is widely understood. People appreciate content written in their preferred languages, and Google itself would like to show it when it is available.”

Two people working on a multilingual localization SEO strategy in front of two screens in an office

10 multilingual SEO best practices

Google has laid out a few best practices for multilingual websites, and there are a few methods to improve your local SEO rankings. 

Here are ten ways to improve your multilingual website to beat the algorithm and bring in more organic traffic.

1. Use dedicated URLs

Your URL is the first part of your website that users see, and it’s also where you should start when doing localization SEO. Each of your language or country pages needs to have its own URL so that Google can effectively crawl, index and rank your sites.

Make sure to include a language indicator in your URLs to help search engines identify the website language. For example, an original page might be, while the French version is 

Where you place the language indicator depends on which URL structure you’re using. There are three structures to choose from:

  1. Top-level domain (e.g.
  2. Subdomain (e.g.
  3. Subdirectory (e.g.

Each of these has its pros and cons, and there is no clear winner in terms of SEO, but subdirectories are probably the easiest to set up and maintain.

2. Don’t forget to apply hreflang tags

Make sure to use hreflang annotations to help Google determine both the language of the page and which region it is intended for. These tags are inserted in the header section of the original page or submitted via a sitemap. Multiple hreflang tags can be added if a page is intended for multiple regions.

The more languages and regions that you have, the more complicated this process gets. It’s best to get the help of a multilingual SEO agency to ensure you get this right!

Adding hreflang attributes is also important for multi-regional websites in the same language, but are slightly different for various regions. For example, you may have localized English US vs UK websites. You’ll need to let Google know the content is “canonical” or risk search engines penalizing your websites for duplicate content. By adding hreflang attributes and markup to your sitemap, Google will be able to understand which website goes with which language and country. For more details, read here.

See also: Top 7 localization tools to optimize your website

3. Stick to one language per page

Google uses the visible content of your page to determine its language—so you need to make the language obvious by sticking to one language for content and navigation. Side-by-side translations are a no-go!

Having more than one language on a page also impacts the user experience, as it can be confusing and the context can be easily misinterpreted. 

When translating a page, make sure to translate all content—including navigation text and user-generated content.

See also: Website translation and localization: 7 key steps

Jake Peterson, SEO specialist at Atiba, shares with Kyler Canastra, head of business development at VeraContent, his best practices for SEO and provides valuable advice for those looking to take their web content to the next level in this interview.

4. Translate the “hidden” parts of your website

SEO incorporates both the content that users see and the content they don’t—and both are equally important.

When creating multilingual websites, it’s easy to forget about your website’s “hidden” parts. This refers to the text that works in the background and the pages that users only see when they perform a certain action.

These include:

  • Metadata descriptions
  • Metatag titles
  • URLS
  • Alt text for images
  • Checkout pages
  • Contact pages
  • Newsletter sign-up forms
  • Error messages

The metadata and metatag titles are particularly important for SEO as they appear in the search results on Google.

Tip: Check if all website metadata has been translated by searching on Google—replacing “” with the name of your domain. This will show you all the pages that Google has indexed on your website. 

Do you work in global marketing? Sign up for our monthly newsletter for real work-related tales from our international team and insights on localization, global content marketing and everything in-between.

A person working on a multilingual website SEO strategy on their laptop

5. Use location-based keywords

Keywords aren’t universal. It’s best to do specific keyword research for each language and region your website is targeting, as simply translating your keywords won’t be good enough.

Location-based keywords don’t just apply to language-specific keywords. Different English-speaking countries use different words for certain things. For example, in the US, they use the word “cookies” to search for cookies, while they’ll search for “biscuits” in the UK. You’ll also find that some keywords have more or less competition or search volume in different languages and regions.

Your keywords form the foundation of your multilingual website SEO strategy, so it’s worth putting in the extra effort to find the best terms for each language and location that you’re targeting.

“There aren’t many websites that target Arabic or Egyptian audiences, so the competition is very low. But when it comes to English, the competition is very high. The same word in English has a lot more bids on it than in Arabic.” – Nermeen Habashy, Egypt-based head of content quality and SEO at B.TECH.

See also: Localization strategy: A guide to growing a global audience

6. Invest in quality translations

Quality translations are essential for multilingual SEO success. Accurate and natural-sounding translations ensure that your content resonates with the target audience, maintaining credibility and engagement.

Avoiding automated and AI translation tools is crucial to prevent inaccuracies and maintain the integrity of your message. Invest in professional translators who understand the nuances of the language and culture to deliver content that effectively communicates your brand’s message across different languages.

See also: Why outsourcing translation services actually saves money

7. Always localize your content

Creating localized content involves tailoring your messaging to specific cultural contexts, preferences and behaviors of different target audiences. This approach goes beyond mere translation, encompassing adaptations that resonate with local customs, traditions and colloquialisms.

By addressing the unique needs of each market, you can establish stronger connections with your audience, drive engagement, and improve SEO performance by providing relevant and valuable content in multiple languages.

VeraContent example:

We offer content creation and localization services to Visable, focusing on optimizing their blogs like Visable 360, Inside Business (wlw) and EUROPAGES. . Typically, Visable sends us German articles to translate into French, English, Italian and Spanish for their Europages blog.

While some articles can be translated without significant alterations, others are too specific to the German market, featuring local data and insights unsuitable for Visable’s wider audience. In such cases, our linguists rework the content, incorporating local examples and findings to better resonate with their respective markets.

For example, in an article discussing the impact of strikes and blockades on the B2B market in Germany, our linguists researched and tailored the content to reflect similar occurrences in their own countries. Check out our full work sample on this example.

The French translation (left) versus the Italian translation (right) for an article for Visable.

8. Consider local hosting

Hosting your website on servers located geographically close to your target audience offers several benefits for multilingual SEO. Local hosting improves website loading speed, which enhances user experience and reduces bounce rates. It also signals to search engines that your website is relevant to users in that region, potentially boosting your rankings in local search results.

Additionally, local hosting can help mitigate issues related to latency and improve website performance, contributing to overall SEO success across different language markets.

9. Cross-link your internal pages

Cross-linking involves strategically linking related pages within your website’s content across different language versions. This practice helps search engines understand the relationship between equivalent pages in different languages, improving the overall structure and crawlability of your website.

By linking relevant content, you can also encourage users to explore more pages on your site, increasing engagement and reducing bounce rates. Effective cross-linking enhances the user experience and strengthens your website’s authority and relevance in search results.

Tip: Be careful not to cross-link between languages! It’s easily done when adapting previously published content in another language. Pay attention to ensure you’re always linking to the right language page.

10. Build local backlinks

Local backlinks signal to search engines that your website is reputable and relevant to users in specific regions, boosting your rankings in local search results. Engage in outreach efforts to relevant local businesses, organizations and influencers to build relationships and earn quality backlinks.

By securing backlinks from authoritative local sources, you can improve your website’s visibility, credibility and trustworthiness in each language market.

Make use of SEO multilingual services

Perfecting SEO for your business is challenging—especially when you’re doing it in multiple languages at once. Since localized SEO plays such a key role in attracting the right audience and providing a strong user experience, it’s worth using professional multilingual SEO services. 

At VeraContent, we specialize in everything content related to help your multi language SEO strategy perform. Reach out to us today to find out if you qualify for a Free Content Consultation.

If you’re entering a new local market, download our practical worksheet to ensure your brand’s content strategy resonates with your target audience.

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