More and more companies are choosing the path of internationalisation, which is why today our web agency, Moka Adv, decided to interview a multilingual SEO expert.
Multilingual SEO is the set of techniques and strategies useful for positioning content in multiple languages within search engines (Google above all). Its purpose is to increase organic traffic from international and/or multi-ethnic markets.
It’s a winning strategy for international websites, which are able to reach customers scattered around the world and who speak, indeed, several languages.
To delve into the subject, we asked Andrea Motta, an SEO specialist with extensive experience abroad and currently working for Betsson Group.
Andrea, who has already been a guest of Francesco Margherita, one of Italy’s leading SEO professionals and popularisers, worked for years in the UK as an SEO consultant and has already addressed the topic of multilingual SEO and international SEO for the SEO Tester Online Academy.
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Interview with Andrea Motta, experienced SEO specialist
Hello Andrea and thank you for being here with us. Let’s start with you: tell us a little about how you managed to become an SEO specialist for a listed company.
After spending almost a decade in the United Kingdom I made the decision to return to my native Catania, Italy. At that point, I was faced with two options: look for a job at a local company or use my SEO experience and English language skills to find a remote job opportunity at an international company. I chose the latter option and thus crossed the path of Betsson Group. This company saw me as an ideal candidate for their team, recognising the value of my skills, both in terms of soft skills and hard skills.
A great story. Now, though, let’s talk about SEO. What is it?
SEO is a set of strategies and techniques used to optimise a website, but also any online product or content, so that it’s more attractive to search engines. This translates into optimising various aspects of the site, such as structure, content and backlinks, in order to increase its position in organic search results.
SEO is mainly associated with websites, but it’s important to emphasise that the same techniques can be applied to improve, for example, the ranking of a product on Amazon or the ranking of a video on YouTube.
Very clear. What do you think is the main difference with multilingual SEO?
The key distinction between traditional and multilingual SEO lies in the fact that the former focuses on optimising online content for an audience of uniform language and geographic origin, whereas multilingual SEO is geared towards optimising for an audience that speaks several languages and may belong to different geographic regions, although the latter point is not necessarily a requirement.
What skills does an SEO specialist need to have in order to work on multilingual sites?
To manage multilingual SEO, the technical and analysis skills remain the same. Contrary to what one might think, it’s not mandatory to speak different languages. However, it’s vital to work closely with a native speaker or someone fluent in the language in question. Their linguistic competence is crucial for examining, for example, keyword searches or for accurately verifying the quality of content commissioned from external providers to be placed on the site for SEO purposes.
How do you monitor the data of a multilingual website?
Actually, as far as monitoring a multilingual site is concerned, there are no fundamentally different requirements compared to a traditional site.
Tools such as Google Search Console, Google Analytics 4 and at least one external tool, such as SEMrush or Screaming Frog, to detect technical problems continue to be useful.
A useful tip? When trying to detect errors via Search Console on a multilingual site with numerous sub-domains or sub-folders, filter the pages to display only those that include that specific language in the URL. This approach greatly simplifies the analysis and monitoring of data relating to the different language versions of the site.
We mentioned international SEO earlier. Are there differences with multilingual SEO? If so, what are they?
Multilingual SEO focuses on optimising a website in different languages, but it does not necessarily imply an international focus. For example, a multilingual site targeting Switzerland with content in French, German and Italian is a case where multilingual SEO aims to target several languages within a single country.
On the other hand, international SEO may concern a site with multiple versions in the same language, but with the goal of reaching audiences in different countries. For example, a site with both a British English version and an American English version, although sharing the language, may be an example of international SEO as it targets two different countries. This may require adaptation of the marketing strategy and communication tactics to suit the cultural and linguistic specificities of each region.
Another important aspect of international SEO is the consideration of local search engines. While Google is dominant in many parts of the world, there are alternative search engines, such as Yandex in Russia or Baidu in China, that must be considered when trying to reach certain international markets.
Can you list the benefits of one and the other?
The benefits are similar. Both aim to improve the user experience, which in turn can lead to increased revenue for the company in question. When a user finds the site in theirnative language, they will feel more comfortable and be encouraged to proceed with the purchase. Similarly, if a user finds prices expressed in their country’s currency, such as dollars for an American user instead of pounds for a UK user, they will be more likely to take desired actions, such as purchases or conversions.
How do you implement a multilingual SEO strategy? Would you list the 3 fundamental elements?
The key aspects, from my point of view, mainly concern the architecture of the site:
In your opinion, what is the absolute best multilingual SEO strategy? Or rather, does one exist?
In the field of SEO, there is no universally best multilingual strategy, but rather it depends from project to project. The choice of strategy, in fact, will depend on the needs and objectives of the site. Here are three examples of extremely successful multilingual sites whose strategies differ in their entirety, starting with the basics:
What impact will artificial intelligence have on multilingual SEO?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a valuable ally in all aspects of multilingual SEO, including technical, on-site and off-site aspects.
For example, if we ask an AI assistant such as ChatGPT where to insert the HREFLANG tag, we receive clear instructions on how to generate and where to insert the necessary code.
As far as content creation is concerned, we can turn to tools such as Google’s Bard, Microsoft’s Bing or ChatGPT itself for suggestions on how to organise our content calendar with topic clusters and pillar pages. These IAs often offer valuable ideas that help us save time. Even if they do not completely replace tools such as AnswerThePublic or SEMrush’s Keywords Magic Tool, they can be a great help, especially if we have to meet tight deadlines.
On the off-site side, although I have not experimented directly, I have read about AI-based tools that simplify the outreach process and improve the efficiency of multilingual SEO activities. These tools, including Linkio, BuzzStream and Dibz, could be particularly useful when working with unfamiliar languages or markets because they allow you to identify valuable link building opportunities, automate outreach and monitor results.
Thank you for your time and input, Andrea!
Thank you for having me, guys: see you next time!