Whether they are expanding into new markets or simply recognizing that their customers speak more than one language, businesses translate websites to better reach their target audiences. Their goals are to ensure that blog posts, product descriptions, landing pages, and other content are both readable and meaningful.

One of the potential drawbacks of all this is loss of SEO and its accompanying benefits. This is because translating a website to make it accessible to new audiences doesn’t automatically mean that the content is searchable. In fact, there are ten specific mistakes that can really screw up SEO after translation.

  • Getting URL Structure Wrong

Once a web page is translated it has to be crawled and indexed in order to be found in search results. The way you choose to structure your URLs can impact this.

You have a few choices. You can create a separate website for each translation. This is the most resource intensive and expensive. The benefit is that it will be indexed upon publishing. A second option is a geo targeted subdomain. It costs significantly less to go this route.

Let’s assume your URL is https://mystore.com. Here’s what a new website would look like: https://mystoregermany.com. Here’s what a geo targeted subdomain would look like: https://germany.mystore.com. In the second version, the geo targeted subdomain is a part of the existing mystore.com website.

While the subdomain is less expensive and requires less support resources, there can be negative SEO impact. When search engines index and rank web pages, they first give ranking juice to the main domain. In this case, that’s Mystore.com. In order to rectify this, you have to spend time publishing content, building traffic, optimizing, and earning backlinks. These are all things you should do anyway, but be aware that you can lose an initial opportunity to build ranking quickly.


  • Not Earning Relevant Backlinks

It’s not enough to understand that you are dealing with new audiences when you translate your web pages. You also have to understand that you are dealing with new publishers, a new pool of potential brand ambassadors, and new influencers.

It isn’t enough to translate your content. You have to begin the process of relationship building with potential customers and influencers. You have to create content that is worthy of sharing and linking by authority websites.


  • Failing to Modify Keywords

Keep in mind that your keywords may not always translate directly. Instead, you will need to identify the keywords you are using, and then determine the best replacements in the translated language. In many cases, the keywords may change significantly.

Imagine you are translating a page on a website that resells smart phones and other devices. You are translating the content to German. The page uses ‘mobile phone’ as one of its keywords. Now, directly translated to German that becomes, ‘mobiltelefon’.

The problem is that if you use that as a keyword, you aren’t going to get much traffic. German’s just don’t use that word when referring to their smartphones. Instead, they would likely search using the term ‘handy’.


  • Not Mitigating Issues Related to Page Loading

Presumably, after you’ve translated your site, people will be accessing it from far away. As you might imagine, that can cause page loading delays. This can lead to frustrated visitors, an increase in bounce rates, and the resulting SEO penalties. It’s important to fix this.

One way to take care of this issue is to use a CDN (content delivery network). By using these you can increase page load speed, and reduce other performance issues. Basically, with a CDN there are cached versions of your website stored in various locations that are closer than your home server. Rather than attempting to reach all the way to your local servers, the CDN serves users the cached versions instead. These load faster and eliminate performance related frustration.

Let’s say your website is hosted in NYC. If you have customers in Thailand attempting to access it, they could experience aggravating delays. This can lead to increased bounce rates that in turn cause search engines to issue rank reducing penalties. That’s something that must be mitigated.


  • Refusal to Focus on The Right Search Engines

If you host your website in the United States or many other countries, Google is probably your gold standard. You likely follow their guidelines when it comes to creating and publishing content to get the best possible search engine rankings.

Just keep in mind that when you target foreign markets, Google may not have the influence you are used to it having. Instead, there may be other search engines that you need to be prepared to work with. For example, if you plan to target countries in Eastern Europe (including Russia), you want to optimize for Yandex. In South Korea, you would use Yandex. Do your research to be sure you are optimizing for the right search engines.


  • Using IP Based Redirects

You might be tempted to rely on IP address to redirect users to the translated content you believe is appropriate for them. There are a few issues with this. First, these language selectors use cookies. Google can’t read these, and further advises web designers not to use them.

Instead of using this technique, set X-default hreflang. This then allows Google to identify theyour site’s default language. With this message, you ensure that users as well as search engines are able to access the entirety of your website. This improves traffic as well as indexing.


  • Failure to focus on Localization

The best SEO results come from simply having web content that is relevant to your audience. If your only focus is translation, there is a good chance that you will lose that relevance along the way. Bear in mind that your new audience doesn’t just speak a different language. If you don’t pay attention to this, at best your message could be confusing. At worst, it could be offensive. Fortunately, the largest translation companies can help with this.

Chances are your target audience has different traditions, needs, preferences. To appeal to them, you may need to reconsider the tone of your content, pop culture references, use of slang and idiomatic speech, etc. Localization takes translated content and ensures that it is meaningful to new audiences.


  • Failing to Crosslink Translated Pages

You probably know that internal linking can boost SEO. This is linking pages within your website to other pages within your website. When you add translated pages to your website, there are no exceptions. You’ll want to link these to other pages within your website.

One very easy way to do this is to simply include links to the same page in other languages. For example, if you have a product page in Spanish and English, include a link to the other page with a note such as: ‘Click here to see this page in Spanish/English’


  • Ignoring The User Experience

This is tangentially related to localization, but important enough to mention on its own. Not only do audiences in foreign markets have different needs that must be addressed through your content, they may also interact with your website differently than you are accustomed to. In fact, the entire customer journey may look much different.

If you don’t take this into consideration and create a user experience that meets their needs, you are sure to lose traffic. After you translate, pay close attention to analytics. The information you gather about on site behavior should help you to modify the user experience to maximize SEO.


  • Turning Off Indexing or Using Robots.txt For Translations

Because they fear being penalized for duplicate content, some people choose to turn off indexing by implementing the NoIndex tag or using a Robots.txt file. As a result, none of the translated content is indexed, and it fails to rank in search engine results.

While the concern for duplicate content is real, there is no need to hide your translated content from search engines. Instead, use the REL=Alternate tags. This will allow you to take advantage of the benefits of indexing without penalties.


If you need to translate your website content into new languages, don’t move forward without referencing this article. By avoiding the mistakes here, you can prevent many SEO related headaches.



Dina Indelicato is a blogger enthusiast and freelance writer. She is always open to research about new topics and gain new experiences to share with her readers. You can find her on Twitter @DinaIndelicato and LinkedIn.


  1. Reply

    changing the URL structure is one of the main problem. Focusing on the right search engines is also very important.

  2. Reply

    I am new to SEO. And after reading most of the blogs on SEO out there, I find your content to be super awesome. I am already learning a lot. Thanks.

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