About Multilingual Web Sites and Optimization

I remember about 10 to 12 years ago a very sharp gal had a news letter dedicated mostly to SEO concepts and I learned a number of things from her and her approach to the riddles of what is right, what is white and how not to lose your PR or page or whatever it is we are trying to accomplish. Actually about 18 years ago when I started designing web sites I went to the pages of the Gods, IBM, Microsoft, Norton, Intel, etc. and found they were not worried because they were so famous they didn’t and still don’t have to depend on Search Engines to be found. Therefore, they did whatever they pleased. I came from an orderly background working with UNIX in 1969 and with IBM Mainframes after that. Well the short of the long story is I finally learned what it meant to Optimize a web site for the Search Engines and actually spent a few years teaching Web Design and Optimization at the Universities in South America. I happen to be multilingual and I have a good education in engineering, science and medicine.

Then came the day I realized I did not know how to SEO a multilingual website. Now that was rough on the ego and a page I had just converted from English to Spanish, English, Italian and French dropped its position by 8 pages and went from a PR of 4 to a 0. Therefore, that is how this treatise or blog came about. So here we go, everyone has his or her opinions but in this area, I suggest you read it well, it is the result of nearly a thousand clients with multilingual pages. Ideally, if you are going to have a multilingual site it would be best to have separate domains and completely separate files. Now that’s not always possible but I did separate when I could by using a.com and a.net and when I couldn’t each language has its own folder under the principal language including copies of the Images and all other sub folders. Therefore, each language looks like a different site. Why you ask? Is it necessary to go to that extreme? Well it has to do with two things; first, the spiders or robots are unilingual. They speak the language assigned in the Metas at the head of the page and you had better have the language specified. If you have another language on the page you had better have it in quotes or brackets so the robot will ignore it otherwise when it cannot recognize the words, it stops reading. Meaning the rest of the text is useless. Secondly the SE’s are different for each language. German for example is Google.de not Google.com, each language has its own version of the search engines. Of course, it should be obvious that your keywords in English are meaningless in Spanish and so on, so you have to rewrite the Metas for each language including the Title, Description, Language, Keywords, Key Phrases. I do hope you are starting to see the picture. You cannot merge two languages into one site unless you separate them as I have mentioned. Do not try to use a common Images, PHP, CGI or Java file, a unique one in the folder for its own language. That also saves you from confusing the URL of your site. The sub folder names should be titled as short as possible using a Keyword from that language if possible. Once inside the Metas clearly specify the language and the SE’s and the visitor is at home. This probably a good time to mention canonical links though I am sure you all use one up in the header. Remember we all have the habit these days of not using the www or the http but did you know that Google and other SE’s treat each variation of that URL as a separate URL. It is simple enough to cure and not lose all the good brownie points, just add a canonical link (you have to look it up if you don’t know it, most sites won’t let me include it since it’s HTML code) and now the SE’s know that all variations are in fact the real URL as shown. Took me a while to figure that one out and yes each language page will have its own index and in its header will be its canonical link. Now each language will have its own PR and Page position in the SE’s.

No offense to PHP friends but I still do not suggest that the first page, the Index be a PHP. I hold that it should be a clean HTML5 index and please do use the code to identify which system you are using, even PHP has fun with code from version 4 not working in version 5. Old Java code is not working in the new browsers giving a message of unsigned code. Now of course we have to research our keywords and if you are not proficient in the second languages then get some help and if you or someone else translates the page from English to say Spanish make certain that the person doing it is current with the language. There are many variations of Spanish but there is a universal common form but change is constant. I translated an Andes Mountain climbing web site in German to attract German tourists to South America, I did my search on keywords and grammar checks, and spelling checks, all was perfect. So I sent it to a tour guide friend of mine in Germany for his comments, I had been stationed in Germany for almost two years in Heidelberg and spoke fluent German. My friend called me on the phone, was still laughing, and said there was no way he could put all of his laughs in an email. He said your German is letter perfect for 20 years ago and it is perfect High German but in advertising, we do not use the formal language we have a new version that is more common. This is true for all languages, if I’m speaking to some one I still use the formal version as a sign of respect but when I’m writing I loosen my belt do a draft and run it by someone from there not some one who was there 20 years ago. It is true for all of the languages, believe me I just made a tour 2 years ago and was amazed at the changes and the informality, in advertising they speak to you as if you were a member of their family not as if you are a stranger.

I won’t bother going into a long tirade about correct grammar, spelling and accents. As a French speaker, I am highly annoyed if someone writes to me without accents. We do not demand as much in English as they do in other languages. Proofread and proofread again. There are a number of excellent programs to check spelling and grammar and usage and they are better than Microsoft Word. If you’re going to work multilingual, invest in the tools you need and find some friends overseas. Try LinkedIn.com, I have and have friends around the world. When I do a site in more than one language, I usually change the background colors for each language and often choose different photos for the first page trying to be more in tune with that speakers taste. Don’t know? Go fishing in Google and visit similar sites in other countries it’s amazing how different we are and if you tell time, date or temperature remember to change to the format and style of that language. For heaven’s sake remember to use icons, buttons, and menu tabs in the correct language and don’t use home or back, it is offensive. Yes, sorry about that, it means you have to redo your menu codes and if you have as much text as you should then pay attention to indentation rules in each language. Also, if you’re interested in your copyright statement, it’s different in other languages. E-mail may be a universal word but it’s [correo] in Spanish not Email. Your visitor must feel that you are a neighbor speaking to him, show your best side and go the extra mile. Well now, as we all know there is a lot more to do for the SEO of a website and that I leave in your able hands.

I do not do Sexual, Pornographic, Gambling, Dating or Escort sites; if you do, the language is very special. Now one note about internal links in these sites, do not link to the short address, I suggest the full URL address for each page and graphic and the return links as well. Remember on each index page to offer a link to the other languages titled in their respective language. Getting external links can be very difficult especially in the beginning. We all struggle with obtaining good relevant links. Yes, I use the Text in the Alt of graphics for key messages or key words thinking of the robot. Last but not least, remember a separate sitemap for each language. Using the above guides and general good SEO techniques I have maintained one site on first page of Google with a PR4 since 1998 and suffered no hiccups when Google changes their algorithms. That site is for a small town in Venezuela, South America but it’s a number one site in all of South America for tourism.

Make Website Load Faster

Following are some simple tips which help to make your site load faster.

  • Optimize images: To load your site faster you need to optimize all the images which are the post on your website. This is because if you reduce the size of the image, then it takes less space which helps to boost your site speed. Make sure that your image size matches your usage and try to implement them in a way so it can easily adjust according to the height and width of each page within limited space.
  • Cache is your friend: Always keep in mind that the cache is your friend and this will help to avoid unnecessary HTTP requests on your site which help to accelerate the speed of your overall website.
  • Evaluate your plugins: Yes, it’s a fact that plugins will help to add new functionality to your site, but more plug-ins mean more work which takes lots of space and affects your site speeds. So to increase the speed of your website removes all the plug-ins which is out-dated or which has no use anymore.
  • Combine images into CSS sprites: If you upload, so many images on your site, then it takes so much space which directly affects the load time of your website. So always choose a proper image segment that can be presented because of the CSS background picture and background-arrangement property.
  • Minify JavaScript and CSS: To increase the speed of your website removes all the unnecessary space, comments, code and many other things which cover so much space on your website. And if the size of your site reduces, then it will help to improve its performance.

Refresh or Rebuild Website

When business is going well it is always so easy to remain complacent with a current website but with many businesses having an outdated design, when it is time for a marketing push to bring in new customers the current website will almost certainly let them down.

With increases in technology and the up-surge in users of mobile devices the importance of having a current site using the latest designs will certainly serve a business well. Any site that was designed over a few years ago in addition to outdated technology will almost certainly not be a truly responsive website.

With surfing on tablets and phones rapidly replacing the use of desktops and notebooks it is crucial that your business has a fully responsive website that looks great on any device. In addition to a responsive site being compatible with all devices it has now been publicly stated that Google will start penalising the rankings of sites that are not mobile friendly due to the sheer levels of traffic now being generated by mobiles.

Now that we know the benefits of an updated site the question is should you update your current site or opt for a complete redesign?

There is a lot to be said for ‘out with the old and in with the new’ but obviously your businesses budget needs to be taken into consideration. With the huge volume of affordable, up to date and customisable responsive templates that are compatible with the likes of ‘WordPress’ and ‘Squarespace’ the cost of a high-end designed site has dramatically reduced. One area of consideration that could drive a business to refresh rather than rebuild would be the hindrance of potentially moving CMS platforms and the worry that a move to a new site will negatively hinder the years of Search Engine Optimisation already performed on the site.

Popular opinion is that the positives of a new site build far outweighs adding some new images or updating the current look of an old website to ensure it is mobile friendly and responsive. A new site really gives any business a chance to get really granular and update tired copy, ditch that old series of stock photos and refresh your overall image that you are trying to portray to your customers. SEO can easily be carried from one site to another with fresh content actually boosting your chances of a great ranking.

Benefits of Responsive Web Designing

  • Supper Flexible: Sites with responsive design are very flexible as explained above. The content, images and even videos, loaded in a site can easily adjust to small screens of mobiles and tablets. The images and the grids of such sites are fluid. Just as liquid easily spreads out, the content of such sites also spread easily.
  • Reach to a Vast Range of Audiences: According to a survey, 40% of online users like to browse sites in their tablets or mobiles. It means if your site is not mobile friendly, you are losing a great deal of audiences. Capture them by considering responsive web design. It enhances the site traffic rate by increasing its visibility.
  • Enhancing Offline Browsing Experience: There is no cut in the screen size. It means all content is visible. The HTML5 offline browsing capability of responsive sites allows easy access in one go. Even in the absence of network, it is possible to move the browsed web page to get the best view of it.
  • No Need of Getting an Additional Mobile Friendly Site: It saves your money that you might plan to spend on creating an additional mobile friendly website. It is an old trend to own two types of websites, one for system browsing and another for mobile browsing. Your one site is enough to operate in both the platforms which is a great saving of money as well as time.
  • Valuable SEO Campaign: Maintaining a mobile friendly site and a desktop friendly site, means duplicate content which is hate by Google. Having one responsive site doesn’t promote duplicate content. You can make your SEO campaign successful and effective with it. Google has given a green signal to such type of site creation.
  • Saving Cost and Time in Management of Your Site: It is natural that when you have one website, you can easily manage it. Saving of money as well as time can be possible. A single site management is not lengthy. You can find top quality assistance in website maintenance at an affordable price.