Any business would benefit from expanding the online presence and reaching out to an international audience. An international SEO process offers a cost-effective and scalable method to grow the business and reach the target foreign market. It is essentially a process of optimizing the website so that the search engines can identify what languages and countries you want to use for your business. Incorporating multilingual and multinational SEO in your business SEO involves some fundamental steps. The sitemap gets transformed from simple to complex process serving a large number of locations and languages. In this post, we discuss how you can generate multilingual sitemap and get started with international SEO to reach out to a global audience.
Multilingual Sitemap – What You Should Know?
A sitemap is essentially a list of URLs for the WordPress website and is generally made using either HTML or XML format. XML sitemaps include optional information about each URL like its priority, frequency of change, last modification date and images or videos it includes. Sitemaps can also consist of information about alternative language URLs in multilingual websites.
The most important consideration about multilingual sitemap is the successful targeting of the right website version to the specific country so that the users can find the site aimed at them. The solution is the hreflang attribute. It is used by Google to identify the language and country targeting of multilingual websites.
Though search engines are smart at finding sitemaps, it is a good idea to submit the sitemaps to search engines through webmaster tools. Doing this ensures search engines can show you the errors, pages indexed and other information you may find useful.
Multilingual Sitemap Generator
Making an XML sitemap with multiple languages can be done manually by following the Sitemaps XML protocol but it is rather time-consuming. It is better to use WordPress plugins or dedicated software to create sitemaps automatically. There are many plugins in WordPress like XML Multilanguage Sitemap Generator that creates a sitemap following all the Google’s instructions.
There are also numerous third-party tools which can generate your multilingual sitemap automatically. Sitemap Generator is a standalone tool with hreflang in sitemaps. It is a PHP script designed to run on the server hosting your website. It can generate any type of sitemap including HTML, XML, mobile, text-formatted and supports extras like video sitemap, images sitemap, RSS feeds or news sitemap. Though it detects the hreflang from the website automatically, you can even specify the alternative language versions of the pages manually.
Multilingual Sitemap Example
There are two ways to implement multilingual sitemaps – using one global sitemap or having multiple sitemaps for each country-language. Consider http://www.mysite.com. It is important to take care of the URL structure for multilingual sitemaps. Each version of the website should have a language-country code in the URL like:
http://www.mysite.com/en/index.html – English version of the site
http://www.mysite.com/us/en/index.html – United States English version
http://www.mysite.com/be/fe/index.html – French version for Belgium
http://www.mysite.com/de/de/index.html – German version for Germany
One can use the global sitemap approach when all the language versions are the variations of the main website. It is possible to have a single sitemap for all language variations and can be located at the base level http://www.mysite.com/sitemap.xml . It would look like:
<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
The locale country codes are used in the hreflang attribute. Another approach is to create individual sitemaps for each language version of the website. Here, you end up having a number of sitemaps and all of them should be submitted to the search engines.
International SEO – Getting Started
While SEO is tough when you are trying to rank in just one language, it can be a little overwhelming to add a few more languages to the website. But it is not really that hard. International SEO simply involves applying the same SEO principles and following some basic guidelines to ensure that each language benefits from the efforts and ranks in Google. Here are some of the most important things to consider when working with international SEO:
Make Each Language Site Crawlable
It is not possible to rank multilingual site if Google can’t index it. Using translation tools only lets people on your site browse the content in their own preferred language. But if you want to seriously implement international SEO, you should create crawlable versions of your website which means you need a dedicated URL for each language version.
Select the Right URL Structure for Each Language
While search engines are flexible at how the URLs of your multilingual sites are structured, Google recommends choosing the best URL structure from these:
- Subdomain for every language – de.example.com
- Subfolder for every language – example.com/de/
- Country-specific domain – example.de for Germany-based visitors and example.com for English users.
Apart from this, it is important to get the URL slug for each page in the language version. If you don’t translate the URL slug for different pieces of content, it might be difficult to include the keywords in the languages, hurting your SEO.
Add hreflang Attribute
hreflang attribute is a small piece of code which you add to the head section of the website. It helps search engines understand the languages on your website and direct searchers to the version that is most appropriate for them. This attribute is really useful when the website has different variants of a single language. For example, if you have a page for English speakers from America and another for English speakers from United Kingdom, the hreflang attribute ensures that the searchers are served the right localized version of the site.
Create a Multilingual Sitemap
Creating an XML sitemap helps Google find all the content on your website and is a good SEO practice. Generating multilingual sitemap can be a little tricky as every single post or page should be made available in different languages at dedicated URLs. Google has a particular format which you should follow while creating your multilingual sitemap. There are many plugins and standalone tools that you can use to generate a sitemap for your multilingual website.
Tailor the Content to the Target Visitors’ Culture and Language
You should make sure you provide the information which suits the target audience. Use the local language, timezone and currency along with contact information to signal the visitors and search engines that they have landed at the right spot. Also, consider the cultural differences when designing the site and creating content. People from different regions have different ways to look at the layout, style of humor and colors. By ensuring that the page is for them, you increase the chances of getting a positive experience.
We hope this guide to international SEO and multilingual sitemap generation helps you grow your business to reach a global target audience and serve them well. Do share your experiences and suggestions in the comments section below.