Separating Multilingual Websites in Google - hreflang #SEO Tuesday #85

Separating Multilingual Websites in Google - hreflang #SEO Tuesday #85

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Multilingual Websites and Language Optimization
  3. Challenges of Multilingual Websites
  4. Strategies for Language Separation
    • 4.1 Country-Specific Domains
    • 4.2 Subdomains for Language Separation
    • 4.3 Subdirectories for Language Separation
  5. Implementing Language Separation
    • 5.1 Hreflang Tags
    • 5.2 Language Annotations with HTTP Headers
    • 5.3 XML Sitemaps
    • 5.4 Language Selection Page
  6. Common Mistakes to Avoid
  7. Using WordPress to Build Multilingual Websites
  8. Tools and Plugins for Language Optimization
  9. Monitoring and Analyzing Multilingual Websites
  10. Conclusion

🔍 Introduction

Building websites that cater to a diverse user base requires language optimization to ensure that content is effectively targeted to each audience. Multilingual websites can attract users from different countries and language backgrounds, but they also pose unique challenges for search engine optimization (SEO). In this article, we will explore strategies for optimizing multilingual websites and discuss best practices for language separation. We will also cover the implementation of language separation using hreflang tags, language annotations, XML sitemaps, and language selection pages. Additionally, we will highlight common mistakes to avoid and provide insights into using WordPress and relevant tools/plugins for language optimization. Finally, we will touch on monitoring and analyzing the performance of multilingual websites.

🌍 Multilingual Websites and Language Optimization

Multilingual websites are designed to appeal to a global audience by providing content in multiple languages. This approach makes it possible to reach users who speak different languages and reside in different countries. Language optimization is a crucial aspect of multilingual website development as it ensures that the right content is presented to the intended audience.

To effectively optimize a multilingual website, it is important to consider the target countries and languages. Understanding the preferences and search behavior of users in different regions helps in crafting localized content and implementing appropriate SEO strategies. By tailoring the website's content and structure to specific languages and countries, it is possible to attract more relevant traffic and improve rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs).

🚩 Challenges of Multilingual Websites

While multilingual websites offer immense potential for reaching a global audience, they come with their own set of challenges. Some of the key challenges faced when optimizing multilingual websites include:

  1. Language Attribution: Search engines may struggle to accurately associate keywords with their corresponding language and country. This can lead to incorrect rankings and mismatches between targeted languages and search results.
  2. Domain and Country Targeting: Websites catering to different countries must ensure that the chosen domain and country targeting settings align with the intended audience. Failure to align these correctly can result in poor rankings and irrelevant traffic.
  3. Language Discrepancies: Differentiating content for specific languages and countries can be complex. It is essential to accurately separate and present content to avoid user confusion and provide a seamless experience.
  4. Multiple Language Relevance: Countries with more than one official language pose an additional challenge. Proper optimization requires considering all languages relevant to the target audience and clearly defining each language's purpose within the website's structure.

Addressing these challenges is essential to successfully optimize a multilingual website and ensure its effectiveness in attracting the right audience.

🛠️ Strategies for Language Separation

Language separation plays a critical role in optimizing multilingual websites. It involves structuring the website in a way that effectively separates different languages and countries. Here are three strategies commonly used for language separation:

4.1 Country-Specific Domains

One approach to language separation is using country-specific top-level domains (TLDs). For example, using "de" for Germany, "" for the United Kingdom, and "ch" for Switzerland. This approach allows search engines to understand the target country for each domain. However, the impact on rankings is minimal, and it primarily serves as a psychological factor for users.


  • Clear association with the target country.
  • Provides a sense of familiarity and trust for users.


  • Limited impact on SEO rankings.
  • Higher costs associated with managing multiple domains.
  • Link building efforts may need to be divided among multiple domains.

4.2 Subdomains for Language Separation

Another strategy involves using subdomains to separate content based on language. For example, "" for English and "" for Spanish. Subdomains allow for clear separation of languages while still utilizing a single main domain.


  • Simpler and more cost-effective than separate domains.
  • Clear separation of languages for users and search engines.
  • Easier to implement in existing website structures.


  • Less impact on SEO compared to separate domains.
  • Subdomain configurations can be technically challenging for some content management systems.

4.3 Subdirectories for Language Separation

Using subdirectories is a common approach for language separation. For instance, "" for English and "" for Spanish. Subdirectories provide a clear hierarchy and allow each language to be organized under a single domain.


  • Simple and effective approach for language separation.
  • Strong impact on SEO due to consolidated backlinks and authority.
  • Easy to manage and implement within existing website structures.


  • Potential keyword cannibalization between languages.
  • Can be confusing for search engines if not properly implemented.

Careful consideration should be given to the chosen strategy based on the specific requirements of the multilingual website.

🔧 Implementing Language Separation

Implementing language separation on a multilingual website involves utilizing various elements and techniques. Here are some key methods for effectively implementing language separation:

5.1 Hreflang Tags

Hreflang tags are HTML tags used to signal to search engines which language and country version of a page should be displayed for specific search queries. These tags inform search engines about the existence of alternative versions and help prevent incorrect ranking and duplication issues.

5.2 Language Annotations with HTTP Headers

Language annotations allow the server to specify the language of a webpage using HTTP headers. This approach helps search engines identify the intended language and country targeting more accurately.

5.3 XML Sitemaps

XML sitemaps provide a way to inform search engines about the structure and content of a website. Including language annotations in XML sitemaps ensures that search engines understand the different language versions available on the website.

5.4 Language Selection Page

A language selection page can be used to allow users to choose the appropriate language for their region. This page serves as an entry point and helps separate users to the most relevant language version of the website.

Implementing these techniques in combination ensures that search engines correctly understand the language and country targeting intended for different sections of the website, helping improve overall SEO performance.

❌ Common Mistakes to Avoid

When optimizing multilingual websites, it is important to avoid common mistakes that can negatively impact search rankings and user experience. Here are five common mistakes to avoid:

  1. Incorrect Language Codes: Ensure that the language codes used in hreflang tags and other language annotations are accurate and correspond to the intended language and country.
  2. Incomplete or Inconsistent Language Separation: Properly segregate content for different languages and implement language separation consistently across all pages and website sections.
  3. Lack of Proper Language Referencing: All language versions of the website should reference each other correctly to provide a seamless user experience and improve search engine understanding.
  4. Improper URL Structure: Ensure that the URL structure accurately reflects the language and country targeting and is consistent across the website.
  5. Not Monitoring and Analyzing Performance: Regularly monitor and analyze the performance of different language versions within the website to identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions.

By avoiding these mistakes, website owners can optimize their multilingual websites for improved search rankings and user experience.

🖥️ Using WordPress to Build Multilingual Websites

WordPress, a popular content management system, offers several plugins and features to simplify the process of building and managing multilingual websites. Plugins like PolyLang and WPML provide functionality for translating content, implementing hreflang tags, and managing language separation within a WordPress website.

Pros of Using WordPress for Multilingual Websites:

  • User-friendly interface for content management and translations.
  • Broad range of plugins available for language optimization and SEO.
  • Easy integration with popular SEO plugins for enhanced optimization.

Cons of Using WordPress for Multilingual Websites:

  • Customization options may be limited without additional development efforts.
  • Performance can be impacted if plugins are not optimized or properly configured.
  • Ongoing maintenance and updates may be required.

Considering the pros and cons, WordPress is a suitable platform for building multilingual websites, especially for those with limited technical expertise.

🛠️ Tools and Plugins for Language Optimization

Several tools and plugins are available to assist with language optimization on multilingual websites. Some notable options include:

  • Sistrix: A comprehensive SEO tool that provides insights and analysis for optimizing language separation and improving search performance across multiple languages.
  • SEMrush: Another powerful SEO tool that offers functionalities for keyword research, competition analysis, and tracking rankings across various languages and countries.
  • Hreflang Generator: A tool that simplifies the generation of hreflang tags for multilingual websites, reducing the risk of errors and ensuring accurate language targeting.
  • Weglot: A WordPress plugin that offers automatic translation, URL optimization, and language switching features, making it easier to manage multilingual websites.

These tools and plugins can significantly streamline the process of language optimization and help website owners achieve better results in search rankings.

🔍 Monitoring and Analyzing Multilingual Websites

Monitoring and analyzing the performance of a multilingual website is crucial to assess the effectiveness of language optimization efforts. Regularly reviewing metrics such as organic traffic, rankings, and user behavior metrics provides insights into the website's visibility and engagement levels across different languages and countries. Tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console can be used to track these metrics and identify areas for improvement.

🏁 Conclusion

Optimizing multilingual websites requires careful consideration of language separation strategies and implementation techniques. By effectively separating languages and countries, website owners can attract targeted traffic and improve rankings in search engines. It is important to choose the most appropriate language separation strategy based on the specific requirements of the website. Utilizing tools, plugins, and monitoring techniques helps in achieving and maintaining success with multilingual website optimization. With proper language optimization, website owners can effectively cater to a diverse global audience and drive meaningful engagement.

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