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How To Make Sure Google Understands Your Multilingual Site

Creating a website that encompasses multiple languages can be a challenge. There are many questions surrounding the topic, like: how does Google understand multilingual sites? How does Google feel about duplicate content in different languages? Read on to learn how to make sure every language version of your site is able to be crawled and understood by Google correctly.

What Is A Multilingual Website?

A multilingual website is a website that is offered in more than one language. For example, a Canadian business might have both an English and French version of their site. It is appropriate to employ a multilingual website when your target audience consists of speakers in different languages.

3 Tips For Running A Multilingual Website

To ensure that Google understands your site, and is showing the correct version of your site to users, here are a few things you’ll want to do:

1. Make sure the language of a page is obvious

Google doesn’t use any code-level language when it is trying to determine the language of a page. To make things nice and simple for Googlebot, avoid using side by side translations, and make sure the visible content & navigation on your website is all in one language. While Google can recognize that a page includes more than one language, having one language will make things easier for everyone.

Another thing to avoid are automated translations. Automated translations don’t always make sense and could be viewed as spam. Automated translations can also hurt your user experience. If the translated copy comes off as hard to understand or artificial, you may lose the trust of your users. If you are using automatic translation, make sure you use robots.txt to block search engines from crawling these pages.

2. Make it easy for Googlebot to crawl all language versions of your site

This can be accomplished by providing links to the pages with the same content but in a different language. This will not only make it easy for Googlebot to crawl all versions, but easier for your user as well.

Automatic redirections based on a user’s perceived language should be avoided. These redirections could A. be wrong, and/or B. prevent users (and search engines) from viewing all versions of your site.

3. Consider your URL

Distinguishing your URL’s based on language gives users a clue about what to expect from the page. For example:


http://example.ca/fr/shoes or http://example.ca/fr/chaussures/

The two URL’s above make it clear to a user what language they can expect when visiting the site. Additionally, this URL structure will make it easier for you to understand and analyze the different sections of your site.

NOTE: If you want to create URLs with nonenglish characters, make sure to use UTF-8 encoding, and remember that you will need to escape the URLs properly before linking to them.

But What About Duplicate Content?

No one wants duplicate content. But what are you supposed to do when you have duplicate content for legitimate reasons, such as the same content in multiple languages? In an ideal world, you would have unique content for each type of user, but Google understands that this isn’t always possible. Don’t fear, there is a solution! To avoid any possible duplicate content problems from Google, simply implement the rel=”alternate” hreflang link element and x-default hreflang annotation.

These few tips will make your website easier to crawl and understand by Google, which means better rankings, and who doesn’t want better rankings?! Do you have a multilingual website? Share your tips and tricks with us in the comments below!