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Does Having a Multilingual Website Affect SEO?

In an increasingly globalized world where multinational corporations reign supreme, multilingual websites have become the norm for many businesses. Although the benefits of multilingual websites have permeated the zeitgeist of the business world, most don’t pay attention to the impact of SEO when adding new languages. In this article, we’ll explore the impact of multilingualism on search engine optimization, traffic, site authority, and then we’ll explore the remedies for the problems and issues you might face as you add new languages to your website. 

Without Taking Special Steps, Multilingual Websites Can be In a Big Disadvantage

Adding support for multilingualism to a website requires a change in the website’s structure, and adding new languages will change the content of the website drastically. These two factors combined can be very risky if you don’t take the necessary precautions. It can have many adverse side effects:

  • Changes to the website structure might reduce how optimized your website is: you always need to be really careful when you make fundamental changes to the structure of your website. As you add new pieces of code and remove existing ones, you might mess up how optimized the pages are. This might make crawling harder or more confusing hurting your website ultimately.  
  • New content in new languages might reduce the quality of the content in the eyes of the search engine bots: if you don’t clearly demarcate the content in the new language and tag it with the current language tag, the search engine bots might think it is badly written English, gibberish, or irrelevant. This is why there are special tags to clearly state what language each page is in, and mixing different languages on a single page is heavily discouraged. 

These are very real and clear dangers when implementing multilingualism and you need to ensure you’re doing it right! If you don’t trust your own coding and SEO skills, you should hire an agency to do it for you! 

Multilingual Websites Have More Long-Term Potential 

Multilinguality isn’t all doom and gloom for SEO however – there’s a lot of potential if you get it right. There are many things only possible through multilingual websites: 

  • The site authority you’ve established through the primary language carries over to the new languages: over time, you establish the site authority through backlinks and organic website visits in the primary language of the site. As you add support for new languages, however, this site authority carries over and you’ll be able to rank for keywords much easier than creating an entirely new website for the new language and market. This initial boost is important in ensuring success. 
  • It enables local SEO targeting new markets in new locations: the only way you’ll be able to target local markets in other regions of the world is by adding support for these localities and languages on your website. Even if you see some downturn in traffic to your website from the primary language and market, the additional traffic and revenue from the new markets more than makes up for it in most instances. This is a powerful force that’s making many businesses add new languages to their websites. 

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