Multilingual SEO in WordPress – Definition and Best Practices

JavaScript for WordPress

What is Multilingual SEO?

Multilingual SEO is the set of actions you take to get free or organic traffic from search engines to your multilingual website. Yes, it is the SEO you know, but for a website translated into many languages.

Multilingual SEO in WordPress

WordPress is not a multilingual CMS by default. That means you cannot create bilingual or multilingual websites out of the box. But you need a multilingual solution to do the job for you such as WPML, Polylang or Weglot.

Whatever solution you choose, there are few points you need to take care of while you are implementing multilingual SEO for your WordPress site.

1. Content Translation

Never use a machine translation as the permanent translation for your content.
Let me explain, you may use a machine translation service (like Google Translate, Weglot auto translation, etc.) to translate your content but you need to review it, proofread (by yourself, a local translator in your WordPress site or by hiring a professional translator). Once you’re done, you can save and publish it as the permanent translation.

2. SEO Attributes

Make sure to translate all of your SEO attributes. SEO attributes includes:

– Posts and Pages Title and meta description
– Categories and Tags title and description
– Custom Post Types and Custom Taxonomies title and meta description

An example shows how to translate your SEO attributes using WPML and Yoast SEO:

multilingual-seo-attributes-en

multilingual-seo-attributes-fr

3. URL Structure

There are multiple options for the URL format to choose from when you create your multilingual website. When you choose a multilingual plugin, you need to make sure that it provides you with the option you want.

There’s no recommended or preferred structure, you can choose whatever you see it’s better for your business.

1- Language per domain: domain.fr/hello-world

2- Language per subdomain: fr.domain.com/hello-world

3- Language in directory: domain.com/fr/hello-world

4- Language parameter in the URL: domain.com/hello-world/?lang=fr

Taking into consideration, the latter option is not very recommended in terms of SEO.

4. One URL = One Language

If you have a post like ‘Hello World’ and it’s translated into French to ‘Bonjour le monde’, the URL of the English post must be different from the French one. So when you visit domain.com/hello-world, it should display the English post and domain.com/fr/hello-world (in case you did not translate the slug!) it should open the French post.

In other words, don’t use sessions or cookies to set the language because, in such cases, search engines would index only one version of your page.

5. Hreflang Tag

Hreflang tags help Google identifying the available translation for your content. After translating your pages, you will need to tell Google and other search engines to crawl and index your page and its translations too.
You can do this by using hreflang tag by adding something like this in the head section of your site:

hreflang

The good news is that you don’t have to add this to every page of your website, multilingual plugins such as WPML and Weglot do it for you.

6. Multilingual Sitemaps

The other way to tell Google and search engines about the translations of your content along with href tags is sitemaps. You need to submit the different languages sitemaps to search engines such as Google Search Console.

Google Says:

We recommend creating a separate Search Console property for each domain or folder that you want to track separately, as well as the lowest level domain that you own. For example, if you have a travel site with specific subfolders covering Ireland, France, and Spain, you could add the following sites to your Search Console account:

http://www.example.com/
http://www.example.com/france/
http://www.example.com/ireland/
http://www.example.com/spain/

So for each property, you will add the sitemaps just as the same way you add for the main version of your website.
For example, if your English posts sitemap can be accessed by this link http://domain.com/post-sitemap.xml and you already added it to your Google Search Console for your English website, you need to add http://domain.com/fr/post-sitemap.xml as the sitemap for your French property.

Wrapping Up

Multilingual SEO is as important as the regular SEO for your multilingual website. You need to do the SEO optimization for every version of your website. Luckily, solid multilingual plugins do the on-site tasks for you.

Do you have any feedback? Please feel free to use the comments section below and we will be more than happy to help.

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