Review of 8 free multilingual SEO tools to define your strategy, identify trends, do keyword research, manage accents, translate content, build backlinks and create multilingual websites.
The internet is a game changer and allows many small business owners to reach an international audience without needing a physical presence on the ground or a fluent multilingual team in-house. As well as helping reach an international audience, modern technology greatly assists with research, translation and a plethora of other supplementary activities.
This article focuses particularly on France but is relevant to all companies considering a multilingual marketing campaign. French is the official language in 29 countries, most obviously France and Canada (in Canada 20% of the population speak French). Many business owners in the UK choose to expand into France as it’s the nearest European country and for similar reasons Canada is an obvious choice for companies in the USA, with both also providing the opportunity to reach a wider audience internationally.
Without further ado, here are the 8 free online SEO tools:
Identifying the best SEO strategy
If you already have an established business in an English speaking country and are considering an international expansion, one of your first questions will be something like:
- Is this going to work?
- Will I make a sufficient return on my investment?
- Will my product or service sell in the target country?
You answer these questions with research and I recommend starting by checking out the overall trend in your target country. Google Trends is a simple tool that helps identify this, by letting you compare different keywords or topics and filter them by country and category, you can see how your product or service compares to others over time.
For example, as the above image shows, content marketing is gaining popularity hugely compared to link building as an SEO strategy.
Once you’ve decided to take the plunge and have decided to set up a French or multilingual website, you will then be faced with questions like:
- How do I create a multilingual website?
- Should I adapt my existing site or do I need a new one?
- Should I use a sub-domain, sub-folder or separate domain name for my new site?
The interactive questionnaire provided by the French SEO Team is a simple way to answer these questions and guide you on the best strategy to follow.
French keyword research
Most free keyword research software doesn’t cover multilingual research unfortunately and despite its flaws the best free tool is Google’s own Keyword Planner. You do need to create an AdWords account for this, however you don’t need to pay for this or actually use AdWords, therefore it’s a bit of hassle, but still free.
A word of warning when using Keyword Planner – to get accurate results it’s essential that you specify both a country and a language. If you only specify the language, this helps Google determine which keywords to show you, but doesn’t affect the search volume at all.
For example, if you choose “hotel Paris” and specify “French” you see that there are 135,000 monthly searches. Specify “English”, you also see 135,000 monthly searches. What about German, Spanish, Japanese? You guessed it, 135,000 monthly searches every time.
If you specify “France”, then you see the search volume for the country – 74,000 monthly searches, which is a more accurate figure. This helps ensure you don’t bias your campaign towards keywords with a false high search count, just because they’re the same word when translated into other languages.
Creating a multilingual website
There are several open source (i.e. free) Content Management Systems that let you create international websites including Drupal and WordPress. PrestaShop is also a popular ecommerce CMS for international sites.
My favourite is Drupal, which allows you to create a multilingual site on different domain names using a shared database and provides an easy to use interface to help you translate a site, without needing to upload images, prices, etc. multiple times.
When you work in foreign languages, you have to deal with accents and unfortunately html doesn’t cope well with them, for example to show é, you have to enter é in html. There are a couple of tools that help with this.
Text Finder’s html character encoder lets you convert html to accented characters and vice-versa:
There are other times when instead of converting accents to html you simply want to remove the accents altogether. This is most useful when you’re creating URLs (web addresses) which display better when copied into emails, etc. without accents. Text Mechanic have created a useful tool that converts accented characters to normal letters.
Google consider automatically translated content to be spam and give automatically translated sites an SEO penalty. If you use an automated translation tool like Google Translate to create your website, it also often produces gibberish, or Googledygook, as I like to call it.
That said there are times when an automatic translation can help, for example if you’re researching something written in a foreign language.
IM Translator lets you choose between 3 different translation tools and has a handy ‘back translation’ option that will translate the translated content back to the starting language again (for example it translates English to French, then takes the translated French content and translates it back to English).
This is helpful in identifying whether the translated content is accurate, or Googledygook.
Building links is an essential part of any SEO campaign, multilingual or otherwise. Backlink Watch is a handy free SEO tool that allows you to enter a competitor’s web address and see what links to it. You can use it to help find sites that link to a competitor who may also link to you, for example:
- Directories you could submit to.
- Relevant blogs who might publish an article or feature story about your site.
- Other link building opportunities.
It’s important that your backlinks are relevant and sufficiently in-depth to be meaningful. Don’t simply email a webmaster and offer a link exchange, that tactic’s long dead!
Achieving the best SEO in France
When used together the tools listed here will all help to ensure that your SEO is focused on the right services or products and the best keywords. They also help you translate and create the website itself and market it by building relevant links.
It’s important to remember that Google has evolved in recent years and Google’s ultimate objective is simple – to provide its customers with the best search experience. As well as looking at keywords and links, it also measures a range of signals that indicate how long visitors spend on your site and whether visitors prefer your website over your competitors.
For the best multilingual or French SEO, it’s therefore essential to keep the customer at the forefront of your mind and in addition to ticking all the boxes from an algorithmic perspective, also focus on your end-user and ask yourself how you can create the best experience for them. This includes tailoring your website to their culture, writing creative content, creating beautiful and responsive websites and offering a high quality product and unique information.
This article was written by team at Indigoextra Ltd. To learn more about multilingual SEO, visit their blog at http://www.indigoextra.com/blog/multilingual-link-building.