Multilingual Website Optimization: How Machine Translation and SEO Work Together

SEO and Machine Translation

In 2020, CSA Research surveyed consumers from 29 different countries about their buying behavior.  According to CSAs Can’t Read, Won’t Buy report, 40% of buyers say if they can’t read information in their own language, they won’t follow through with the sale.

Improving user experience helps to increase customer trust and loyalty and helps build your brand’s reputation, all of which lead to growth in revenue. As businesses expand globally, machine Translation (MT) can help you translate more efficiently, but it’s important to optimize the translated content for search engines.

In this blog post, we’ll explore how MT and search engine optimization (SEO) work together and provide tips for optimizing multilingual websites.

How MT Works for Multilingual Websites

Website translation can be time-consuming, and may not be affordable for small businesses with limited budgets. MT is a cost-effective way to reach a wider audience and improve the customer experience. MT offers businesses many benefits, including:

  • Automatic Translation Using algorithms to automatically translate website content into multiple languages, MT simplifies the process. Various approaches to automatic translation include rule-based, statistical, and neural machine translation.
  • Customizability Many MT systems allow customization to adapt translations to specific industries, domains, or brand guidelines. This helps improve translation accuracy and ensures that the translated content aligns with your brand voice and tone.
  • Speed One of the biggest benefits of MT is the speed at which it can translate large volumes of text. This makes it a great option for large websites and for keeping multilingual websites updated with new content.
  • Consistency MT can provide consistent translations across a multilingual website. Once a machine translation model is trained, it can consistently handle the same text, in the same way, every time it encounters it. This helps maintain consistency in terminology, style, and tone across all translated content.

Tips for Optimizing a Multilingual Website for SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is essential when you want to rank higher in search results and drive organic traffic to your website – no matter what language you use. However, multilingual websites require special consideration to ensure search engines properly index the translated content and make it discoverable to users searching in those languages. Human reviewers may need to fine-tune machine-generated translations to ensure accuracy and SEO effectiveness. But you can also use MT to find keywords, competitive intelligence by rewiewing your competitors website translated in your language, etc. 

Conduct Keyword Research

Regional and cultural differences can impact the keywords users will type into search engines, so using the wrong keywords could mean users don’t find your site. For example, in English, “football” generally refers to American football, whereas in many other countries, “football” refers to what Americans know as soccer.

You might use the keyword “soccer” on your sports website and gain a lot of traffic from North American fans. However, if you want to reach a Spanish-speaking market, the translation for  “football” may be more appropriate. Keyword research in each language helps determine the most relevant and searched-for terms to use in translated content. 

Optimize Meta Data

Ooptimize title tags, meta descriptions, and URLs accordingly, to ensure they reflect page content and include relevant keywords. Consider culturally-specific nuances, idioms, and terminology. That way, users will understand what the web page is about be more likely to click through.

Use Hreflang Tags

Hreflang tags help search engines understand the relationship between different language versions of a webpage and ensure the correct version of a webpage is served to users, based on their language and location preferences.

Ensure Quality Translations

Grammatical errors, awkward phrasing, and inaccurate or irrelevant content erode your website’s credibility. That means high bounce rates, lower engagement metrics, and failure to resonate with the target audience. These factors can negatively impact SEO performance, so it’s important to ensure the translations are accurate, natural-sounding, and reflect the tone and style of the original content.


Best Practices for Multilingual Website Optimization

Use Subdirectories or Subdomains

When translating your website, use subdirectories (e.g. or subdomains (e.g. to organize content by language and region. This will help search engines understand the language targeting of different sections of your website and improve the overall SEO performance.

Avoid Duplicate Content

Some automated translation tools will produce duplicate content, resulting in lower rankings or penalties for your website and reduced visibility in search results. Always use reliable translation tools and ensure that each page has unique content in the target language, even if the general structure or layout is similar across different language versions. 

Regularly Update Content

Keep your multilingual website content up-to-date to maintain SEO performance and improve user experience, as visitors to your website receive accurate and timely information in their preferred language.

Localize Content

Localizing content to reflect cultural and regional differences can improve user engagement and satisfaction. By tailoring meta titles, meta descriptions, and overall content to the language and cultural preferences of the target audience, you’ll create more effective and relevant marketing messages. This can include using language-specific keywords, highlighting local promotions, or addressing specific needs or preferences of the target audience, which can result in higher engagement and conversion rates.

Provide Clear Language Switch Options

Make sure users can easily choose between different language versions of your website to improve overall experience and engagement. You may place language switchers in the website header or footer, or prominently display language options on each webpage. 

 Machine Translation and SEO: Your Partners for Globalized Website Visibility

In today’s globalized world, having a multilingual website can greatly expand your online presence and reach. Machine translation is a convenient and cost-effective option for translating web content, but it must be used also in a digitam marketing approach to ensure it aligns with SEO best practices.

By combining the power of machine translation with SEO best practices, you can create a multilingual website that provides a positive user experience, improves your website’s visibility in search results, and enables you to effectively connect with a global audience.


Julie - Business Solution Specialist
4 Min Read
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