Common Mistakes in Multilingual SEO … and How to Avoid Them
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Common Mistakes in Multilingual SEO … and How to Avoid Them

Common Mistakes in Multilingual SEO … and How to Avoid Them

Common Mistakes in Multilingual SEO ... and How to Avoid Them

Presenter Jon Ritzdorf is Moravia’s Solutions Architect and global SEO expert. He also teaches translation technologies and localization fundamentals at New York University, the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and the University of Chicago. In his webinar, “Steps to Effective Global SEO,” John walked us through some of the current trends in global SEO and how to implement successful multilingual SEO strategies. Here are his top tips on how newbies can avoid common mistakes.

The goals of global SEO are very similar: You want to enhance your site findability and crawlability inside leading search engines. You want to improve your overall organic ranking. You want to bring in more site traffic so you can, potentially, sell more products and services. But, too often, we get stuck thinking about our own language market as if it’s universal. Well, just like English is spoken differently in the UK, Australia, and Ireland — and demands different language strategies — it’s true for other languages as well. For example, when we decide we’re going to do French or Chinese, we can’t just stop there. Is our French-language SEO strategy targeting France or Canada? With Chinese, are we targeting China, Taiwan, or Singapore?

So how can you meet the needs of your audience and make sure they can find your site when your strategy has to be both language- and country specific?

1. Do your homework.

One of the most important factors in tailoring your SEO efforts to your target markets is to really understand your buyers in those markets. That calls for research and, specifically, in three areas:


How we talk about your products and your services in the U.S. is by no means universal. The way people talk about and describe your brand in their home market is the way they are going to search for it online. So to get at their “natural search” behavior ask yourself, What terms and concepts are they using in their markets to describe my brand, my products, and my services there?


Let’s say that, for example, you are currently targeting U.S. hipsters. They know your brand, they know what you’re selling. But maybe the buyers in your target market are older. They might not be your hipsters, but they also have buying power and a need for the products and services you have to offer. To get at the search terminology in your target market ask yourself, What does my target buyer look like in this market and what is their buying behavior?


I live in New York. If I am trying to sell bagels to New Yorkers, no problem, because New Yorkers and bagels go together like peanut butter and jelly. But in Southeast Asia? Not so common. Ask yourself, Are people already familiar with our product or service in this market and what are the related sales strategies that would affect search.

Of course, if you need help in on-the-ground research for market-specific terminology, a good localization partner, Moravia included, provides just these kinds of services.

2. Leave the subjective behind.

Global SEO does not follow the usual rules of translation or localization, in which there is a right way to say something, a wrong way to say something, and a very clear differentiation between those two.

An example: Because I am living in the United States, I believe that localization is spelled with a “z.” But if the search statistics or Google Analytics somehow show that people are spelling it with an “s, my subjective preference means nothing. If the statistics say that I’m going to get much better traffic and I’m going to improve my ranking by using an “s” rather than a “z” when I write about localisation then that’s what I’m going to do. Global SEO oftentimes means that rules have to be broken to answer the needs of search and its users.

3. Follow the (right) leader.

A lot of SEO content sites are always talking about the leader, the leader, the leader. And they are always referring to Google, Google, Google. But when it comes to certain target markets you’ve got to ask yourself, What leader? If we are targeting China, the leading search engine there is Baidu. In fact, if we used Google to analyze statistics about China we would get a very skewed view of how to sell in China. In Korea, Russia, Taiwan, Japan — there are other search leaders than Google. So, to obtain the right search data, make sure you are using both the right keyword tools and the right search engines.

We’ll share more from Jon’s presentations in additional blog posts, so watch this space. Or take a moment to watch the webinar yourself: