Pay-per-click management (PPC) advertising and search engine optimisation (SEO) for multilingual websites


Paul C

Technical SEO

1. Optimise the English site then translate it well and it will be optimised in-language.
Multilingual search engine optimization is often ignored because of the belief that if the English site is optimised for search engines, the language sites will be too. This is not the case.

2. For Multilingual PPC Management, simply translate the ad copy and keywords.

Imagine a set of English keywords for a site selling a glass replacement service for cars. The marketing specialist or PPC executive would use their knowledge of the industry and the language to expand out a set of keywords that a user might type in to a search engine. They might come up with terms such as ‘vehicle glass replacement’, ‘car windscreen fixing’, ‘windshield repair’ etc. For this simple service there are a multitude of ways of describing the window, the vehicle and the replacement service that spawn a large number of keyword combinations. A good translator would take each one and translate to the most common, most sensible alternative in their language. Unfortunately, this will lead to a reduction in keywords. Windscreen and windshield may translate to the same common term in French. Replacement and repair may translate to the common term used in French for glass replacement. This is not what is required.

If a site is simply translated with no regard for in country search engines, it will support an English language searcher arriving at the site and then switching to their desired language. However, it will not readily support a user finding your site in their language.

It is these new customers finding your site on foreign search engines that will bring the most incremental business from the localised site.

How to Localise a Site and Remain Search Engine Friendly

Fortunately, there are some simple steps that can be taken to ensure the site remains searchable in language. However, similar to your English site, in order to maximise the return on investment from the localised sites, outside help may be required.

Simple steps

  1. Find a quality localisation company.
    Ensure you ask for examples of websites that they have localised before and have your in country people (if you have them) validate the translations on the reference sites.
  2. Get your page-by-page keyword glossary translated and approved FIRST.
    Much effort went into the generation of keywords for each page of the English site. Your English pages are rich with these keywords. Put the same effort into the translation of these keywords. This should be done first, before any localisation of the pages begins. These translations should be approved by your in-country marketing representatives if you have them, or be double-checked by your translation company (using specialist marketing translators) if not.
  3. Ensure the site is professionally localised.
    The site must be well formed (no broken HTML or other code), be translated well, and must not contain broken links (links to pages that have not been migrated to the language site and therefore throw an error). Quality localisation requires a quality localisation company using specialist tools to protect page code, and to check it once the localisation is complete.
  4. When translating the web site, use the keyword glossary ELECTRONICALLY.
    Do not leave it to chance. Your translation company should be using the translated keyword lists in electronic glossaries so the translators are automatically prompted with the approved language version of the keyword whenever they are translating an English equivalent.

Following these steps will ensure that the site gets the basics right and can be effectively indexed on the correct keywords by the engines. However, to ensure you are getting the correct prominence on the search engines, you need to read on.

Advanced Multilingual Search Marketing

If you want to perform in your foreign markets, and fully capitalise on you localisation investment, you need to consider the following:

  1. Domain
    Geolocating your site in Google’s eyes involves more than changing the language. Changing the language does not guarantee that your site will appear in local searches. You should consider the domain. Some companies build a .com website, with folders or sub domains for several languages (IBM) whereas others build local versions of the site using the top level domain of each country (Nokia). The first option can be cheaper and easier to implement because it means that you can use one content management system for all content on one server. However the top level domain gives Google additional information that will provide weight in the search results.
  2. IP Address
    Google maps the IP address to the country and when looking for relevance in search results, will score locally hosted domains higher than non-locally hosted. In other words, it is better to host the French version of your site in France. This can be awkward and expensive, so you need to consider whether you are able to beat your competition without this. It is not the only factor that Google considers so do not think that this is essential.
  3. Webmaster Tools
    It is now also possible to select the geographic location using Google’s Webmaster Tools. But for now only full sites can be geolocated, not individual folders, although that is promised for the near future.
  4. Links
    In the same way as you build vast numbers of links to your English site, the language version is a rich and often untapped source of links. Local links from local domains in the local language are important. You may need outside help for this, and again, the question is what you need to do to beat your competition. As with English SEO, links are a major part of success.
  5. Engine-Specific Optimisation
    This involves the identification of important engines by country for your target market. Google is not necessarily the dominant player in all countries. In China, for example, at the time of writing, you won’t find Google in the top ten sites. An engine called Baidu is by far the most used site. In order to identify, and then optimise and monitor for these engines you will require support from external specialists.
  6. Multilingual Pay Per Click (PPC) in each locale
    PPC is the fastest method to achieving search engine prominence in any country. Professional multilingual PPC allows you to quickly succeed in a foreign market, but is also a fantastic keyword targeting method so you can discover the most powerful keywords in your target language. Running a PPC campaign may also not require the full localisation of the web site which can be an expensive exercise. It is often effective to localise only a landing page. However, ensure your landing pages are culturally optimised because they are critical to gather conversions.


We hope this article has shown that there are some basic steps that can be taken during the localisation process that will start the search engine optimisation process on the right track. These basic steps will fall easily into place if your localisation company know the details of search engine optimisation. Make sure you test them out.

Search Laboratory can help you:

  • Manage multilingual pay per click campaigns
  • Manage multilingual search engine optimisation
  • Choose a good localisation company
  • Work with the localisation company to ensure the optimisation is correct from the start

Search Laboratory can help you to get this whole process right.

Remember that the cost of getting it right is minimal compared to the lost opportunity of getting it wrong.

About The Author

Ian Harris is the co founder of Search Laboratory. Ian has been programming for the internet since 1995 and has an MSc in internet technologies from the University of Leeds. Prior to starting Search Laboratory he was the C.T.O. at one of the world’s largest translation companies for five years where his focus was web site and software localisation. He has helped many companies with their global content including IBM, Novell and HSBC. Through Search Laboratory he is now applying his experience of web technologies and web site localisation to help clients reach their global audience quickly and effectively.