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Translating for SEO — Do you need to?

Yes! You should translate SEO keywords on your website

Today, companies don’t just translate their site content to assist with their market expansion strategies. Many companies go a step further: Localising their website to resonate with their new target audience, while also optimising the website for search engines by translating SEO keywords and metadata.

The first step of the strategy is translating and localising your content. The other part of the plan is to ensure the website is properly indexed and ranked — that is, the company must take into account, and implement, sound SEO in order to boost visibility. There are two ways to do this:

  • Translate and then optimize for SEO, or
  • Incorporate SEO best practices as you translate the web content itself.

Each approach has its merits. However if, for instance, we choose to translate our web content first (before implementing and translating SEO) this could delay the launch date of the website. This seems to reflect an afterthought, and it could also mean getting an extra budget approved to accommodate any additional expenses. Furthermore, you might have to rewrite the metadata, tags and descriptions on your site to incorporate the right keywords.

The second approach — optimising the website as you translate — means you can work SEO into every section of the text as you go along. There wouldn’t be any need to go over the metadata again once you are done. And you can be pretty sure to finish and launch the new website within schedule and budget.

Translating SEO: Try following this framework

  • Identify your core keywords and map them to each page on the site.
  • Translate and localise these identified keywords to the target language.
  • Work from there to uncover new words, related terms, and synonyms in the target language.
  • Use keyword research tools like the free Google Keyword planner to check the search volume of the identified keywords.
  • Finally, set up a spreadsheet to map each keyword with the related English page. This way, you know which keywords are for which page and can easily optimise the page with the appropriate search terms after translation. Keep in mind though, not to keyword stuff the content.

Don’t forget to consider your appeal to the local culture. Further localising your content, by using colour schemes that are relevant to your audience, appropriate formalities (language register) or even incorporating local idioms and slang — will obviously go a long way in warming your target audience to you, boosting user experience, and ultimately impacting positively on your conversion rate.

All these elements play into how Google finally sees and ranks your website. As the ranking algorithms evolve, Google takes into account user behaviours on your site — they longer they spend on your pages, the higher your page’s trust signal grows.

More on this topic: Why you should never use Machine Translation on your website

4 final tips to improve your multilingual SEO


The most significant challenge with multilingual SEO is to duplicate content, without incurring penalties like low ranking, or total removal of contents from Google.

To avoid these penalties, it is strongly advised, by Google, to use language indicators in the URLs. For instance, for a website like “”, to be optimised for France, it should become “”.


Apart from the previous language indicators, Google also recommends the use of hreflang attributes. This helps to clearly indicate the language of the page, and which country it is intended for.

You can insert these hreflang tags in the header part of the page through the sitemap. For example, if we want to make an English page readable for people in France, the hreflang tag could be: <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-fr” href=”” />


You may want to translate some parts of a page while not translating other sections of the original copy. However, different languages on the same page could reduce the user experience. If a user understands the first page, but then gets lost in the next section, it might lead to your content loosing credibility, and your site loosing reader engagement as they become uninterested.


One of best things you can do for your multilingual SEO campaign, and for good SEO in general, is to ensure your website loads well and fast. Website speed contributes to Google ranking. Furthermore, many users will simply get bored of waiting and move on. If your website loads quickly, you will get better results in both traffic and visibility.

Were some of the terms used in this article unfamiliar to you?

We can help: Building a multilingual website? Know the lingo!

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