The most common SEO mistakes in multilingual websites

Brands, especially those with a global market, require at times creating a website with the option to show the content in different languages. If this is not done properly it can become an obstacle for a good SEO ranking. We will now analyse the most common mistakes and problems of these sites:

Same URL for different languages

One of the most popular methods to create a multilingual website is installing automated translation plugins. These complements normally show the same URL with a word-by-word translation of the contents featured on the web.

Although most web pages make use of this, it is not the most accurate. Google likes that you help its robots collect data. Therefore, it is important that the URL of the web pages on each language are different, so they will be easier to identify.

There are several options to make differentiated URLs:

  • Different domains with different ccTLDs: This is by far the most expensive option. It is normally used for big multinational companies. The user has to buy different domains for each of the languages on which it wants to show the site (.es, .de, .com, .cat…).
  • Different subdomains with different gTLDs: This is cheaper than the first one. Here each version of the page is hosted in a subdomain that takes the authority from the main domain. In cases like these we get URLs like es.[example].com, de.[example].com, cat.[example].com…
  • Different subdirectories with different gTLDs: It consists of putting each version of the web page on different subdirectories, like sections of the web. It is the cheapest alternative of the three and the easiest to configure. It also benefits the authority of the main domain.

For more information about which would be better for you, you can visit this post where we explain this in further detail.

Lack of tagging in the pages of each language

As we said before, Google likes a helping hand for analysing the sites. To provide the language ID of each web page it is important to use the tag HREFLANG, so often forgotten.

A vast amount of multilingual websites-some from very important brands-lack these tags, risking in many occasions that their content is wrongly treated as duplicated.

The metatag HREFLANG must be present on all the web pages of the site, and the metatag must specify the selected language as well as all the others which are available, with their corresponding URL.


<link rel="alternate" hreflang="es" href="http://www.[ejemplo].com/es/seccion"/>

<link rel="alternate" hreflang="de" href="http://www.[ejemplo].com/de/seccion"/>

<link rel="alternate" hreflang="cat" href="http://www.[ejemplo].com/cat/seccion"/>

To learn more about how to configure the tag HREFLANG, have a look at this post.

Images with text

One of the most common mistakes, not only for multilingual websites but for web creation in general, is including images with text.

Google robots can read texts, but they are not that good at identifying the contents inside a bitmap file. There are of course the ALT tags, but from a SEO point of view it is always more recommendable to use text.

This kind of contents mean extra work because the translator cannot work with them and, consequently, the contents remain forsaken in just one language or we have to make different versions of the same file for the different languages of the site.

What about the sitemap?

A web with many pages in different languages requires a sitemap featuring the URLs that we want indexed in the search engines. We also want that it simplifies the task of showing the appropriate version depending on the user’s language.

Althoug the crawlers are normally capable of mapping without much difficulty, Google’s Search Console Center recommends using it, especially in multilingual sites.

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