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What’s Your Strategy for Multilingual SEO?

December 7th, 2010 by

WPML can put all languages in the same domain, in sub-domains or in completely different domains. What’s the best alternative from SEO point of view?

When search engines go through a multilingual site, they need to understand which parts are in what language. This way, visitors get search results matching their own language.

Google wants to return pages written in the user’s language. When a German reader is looking for something in English, often, Google would prefer to return German pages that talk about the same thing.

For this to happen, search engines need to know how your site’s languages are organized. Google looks at the big picture. It doesn’t care only about individual pages in the site, but how they are organized and the ‘big picture’ of what your site is all about. This includes its languages.

Language Negotiation Options in WPML

WPML allows organizing contents in different languages in several ways:

  • By adding a language parameter to URLs (example.com/?lang=es)
  • By putting different languages in directories (example.com/es/)
  • By putting each language in a different domain or sub-domain (es.example.com or ejemplo.es)

You can control this from WPML->Languages menu.

Language negotiation options in WPML

SEO Implications

From an SEO point of view, the first two alternatives are very similar. All languages will remain on the same domain, separated by either a language argument or language directory. The third option allows to place different languages on different domains. You can use that as either sub-domains (like www.example.com, es.example.com) or as completely different top-level domains.

Some say that Google local search loves localized top-level domains. Others say it doesn’t matter much and Google is intelligent enough not to care.

What are you doing for your site? Take the poll and leave a message with your experience and results you’re seeing.

How do you arrange languages?

View Results

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I’ll be the first to go. On both WPML.org and ICanLocalize.com, we use language directories. E.g., the same domain for all languages. My bet is that the 50,000 Ph.D’s working for Google are smart enough and I cannot manipulate search results with a simple technical change. Hey, I can be wrong!

6 Responses to “What’s Your Strategy for Multilingual SEO?”

  1. Trouffman says:

    I use the same domain and parameter for a simple reason : cheaper (no need to buy localized domain name) and most of the time the languague don’t fit a specific country.

    For example a spanish version could be localized for spain… chile… columbia… etc…
    While asian countries usually don’t care !

  2. uLikmAya says:

    It think the different domain strategy is the best for SEO. But I am using directory strategy because it simpler and also something to do with branding.

    Most directory sites don’t accept domain within directory for submission. Need to consider that.

    If it a blog, then the feed is a big thing for search engine ‘realtime’ indexing. Uisng same domain, WPML will separate the feeds accordingly which is great but very likely the feed for secondary language will not validated proper and could cause feed updates problem in feed reader and seach engine indexing.

    Thus, I think other languages (except the default one) need to take the backseats when considering the strategy.

    In my case (using directory naming), both languages indexing are okay but I have feed updating problem for the secondary language.

    Search engine has so many variables that probably which method to put WPML doesn’t matter much. I hope so.

  3. This domain is different strategy for seo. Some directory sites is not accept domain within directory for submission. Thus, I think other languages (except the default one) need to take the backseats when considering the strategy.

  4. I like this tool is very simple amazing i like this tool. I think the domain seo is the best strategy. I using the directory because it simple strategy. It does not matter Google is intelligent enough not to care.

  5. Hammy Havoc says:

    If I added a language parameter to URLs then would tweets and likes in other languages still count on the English version or would the two be separate?

    • Amir says:

      Yes. Google is pretty robust and manages to understand the language anyway. Today, I think that the URL structure has very little significance for SEO. I would still recommend languages in directories, or domains, but I’m not sure exactly how significant it is for Google.

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