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November 16, 2023

Reaching global audiences starts with a website that speaks multiple languages, both in content and in search. Learn how to do multilingual SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on your WordPress website and ensure it becomes visible to users from all corners of the globe.

Merely translating your website isn’t enough. You need multilingual SEO to ensure people from different parts of the world can find and understand your site. Beyond translations, multilingual SEO includes structuring your URLs, targeting the right keywords, and translating metadata.

Let’s explore how to effectively implement multilingual SEO on your WordPress website.

On This Page:

What is Multilingual SEO?

Multilingual SEO means optimizing your website for multiple languages. This optimization ensures that search engines can find and rank every language version of your site. 

When your site is multilingual SEO-ready, people from different countries can discover it in search results and interact without language barriers.

Step 1: Decide Which Languages to Add

Before you jump into translating your website, decide which languages to add. This simple step can enhance the user experience and expand your site’s reach.

Think about the markets you want to target. If you want to enter English and Spanish-speaking markets, you probably don’t need to translate your website into Japanese.

If your website is already up and running, research where most of your visitors come from. Then, translate your website into the predominantly spoken languages in those regions.

With WPML, you can translate your website into over 65 pre-configured languages. Plus, if you want to add custom or country-specific languages like Mexican Spanish, WPML has got you covered.

WPML lets you add custom country-specific languages

Step 2: Use Dedicated URLs for Each Language

Google recommends a unique URL for each language. Separate URLs help search engines scan and categorize your content.

This then allows search engines to index each language version properly, ensuring that users reach the right language version of your website.

You can structure your URLs in three main ways:

  • Subdirectories: An extension to your main domain, like for a French version. This clean and user-friendly approach keeps all languages under the same domain.
  • Subdomains: A prefix to your main domain, like With this structure, search engines treat each language version slightly differently. It’s worth considering if you want to separate your language versions, for example for region-specific content or design.
  • Different Domains: Entirely separate domains for each language, for instance, While this method requires more management (you need to purchase and manage each domain separately), it offers the most clear-cut separation of languages. 

With WPML, you can choose the format of your language URLs so that it aligns best with your website’s goals and your target audience.

Selecting how to format your site’s URL from the WPML setup wizard

And, regardless of your chosen format, WPML ensures consistency across all your pages. This means that every piece of content, every product page, or any other section of your site will follow the URL format you’ve set.

Step 3: Translate All Website Elements

Every part of your website plays a role in communicating with your audience, from the meta description they see in search results to the URL they click on.

Think about it:

  • Your title & meta descriptions give a snapshot of your page’s content on multilingual search results. 
  • URLs that are descriptive and user-friendly make for intuitive navigation.
  • Page content allows you to communicate effectively with your audience.
  • When internal & external links point to corresponding translated pages, you maintain a cohesive user experience.

With WPML, you can easily translate every element of your site and choose who will translate it. For the perfect combination of speed and affordability, you can opt for automatic translation. Or, you can hand the reins over to a professional translation service or trusted translators.

No matter the option you go with, WPML ensures that all language versions of your content connect seamlessly, providing a smooth user experience.

Default language page

Connected translation of the page

Step 4: Help Google Find Your Translated Website Versions

Google and other search engines need clear signs to find the different language versions of your site. Without them, you risk having your content overlooked or improperly indexed. 

Your website’s HTML markup needs to use hreflang attributes to help search engines easily find, index, and serve your translated content. 

Fortunately, WPML automatically handles this for you. Regardless of how big or complex your website is, WPML organizes your hreflang attributes and makes sure search engines can easily find them. 

Here’s an example of a link tag using a hreflang attribute on the Spanish homepage version of Starbucks:

<link rel="alternate" hreflang="es" href="" />

In this case, the language is “es” (the codename for Español) and the alternate version is located on the URL.

For detailed information about hreflangs, check out our page about adding hreflang to multilingual WordPress sites.

Adding hreflang attributes to your website isn’t complicated but can get messy really fast – especially if you have a big website, or want to offer many languages. If you use WPML, you don’t have to worry about this as it automatically takes care of it.

Step 5: Let Users Switch Between Languages

While search engines play a big role in directing users to the right language version, a great user experience gives control back to people.

When you add a language switcher, you give your site’s visitors the power to pick their preferred language version of your site. 

While it may be tempting, it’s better to avoid automatic redirection based on location, as it can be more disruptive than helpful. In today’s connected world, browsing a website from Japan doesn’t necessarily mean you speak Japanese.

WPML’s language switcher gives users this autonomy without any hassle. You can add the language switcher to different areas of your site, like the menu, above or below post content, the footer, or as a widget. You can also customize the look of the language switcher so that it fits with the style of your site.

Adding and styling the language switcher using the WPML Language Switcher block

Boosting your content’s multilingual SEO goes hand in hand with backlink building. By acquiring links back to your multilingual content, you amplify its visibility in search results.

To do this, think about writing guest articles, teaming up with relevant websites, or joining events in the target region.

As your multilingual website grows with WPML, actively promote and garner backlinks for the translated pages to maximize SEO benefits.

WPML is Compatible with Top WordPress SEO Plugins

WordPress is SEO-friendly by design but you can use one of the WordPress SEO plugins to help you further improve your site for search engines.

Yoast SEO and RankMath are some of the best and most popular SEO plugins for WordPress. WPML is fully compatible with both. All you have to do is install WPML SEO, a free add-on plugin that comes included with WPML.

WPML SEO automatically creates hreflang tags, allows you to translate your global SEO texts, lets you localize breadcrumbs, and more.

Create a Multilingual Website with WPML

Creating a multilingual website goes beyond mere translation. It involves a series of well-thought-out steps:

  • Deciding the right languages
  • Structuring your site for search engines
  • Ensuring comprehensive translations
  • Guiding Google in navigating website content
  • Making language versions accessible for users
  • Fostering global connections through backlinks

With WPML, you get the support and tools to communicate with a global audience. WPML doesn’t just translate – it enhances your website’s multilingual SEO, ensuring you rank well in multiple languages.