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You have a business plan. Your plan includes a website. The website must cater to people who speak different languages based on your research. You believe your product or service can compete against the big guns. If you are planning to cater to an audience in a country like India (which recognizes a122 major languages. Phew!), and you plan to develop content in several of these languages, you will have to approach SEO in a very strategic manner to ensure that your efforts are streamlined.
Setting up and maintaining a multilingual website is an arduous task. So before you begin undertaking the tasks, be sure there is a significant upside to it. The simplest way to decide if you need a multilingual website is to see where your traffic is coming from and what people are searching for when they reach your website. Once you are convinced that you need to develop content in other languages as well, strategize your moves.
Is your product or service going to be largely the same around the world? If it is, translate the content to cater to different audiences. On the other hand, your product or service might be targetted at different countries where people speak different languages. In either case, your website structure will be different.
Depending on the complexity of your website, you can choose one of the four options.
If your business caters to different countries where people speak different languages, it makes sense to have separate websites for each of these countries. In this case, you will be using extensions like .us,.uk,.ca and so on. Using this strategy will give websites the distinct advantage of automatic geolocating, which helps in local SEO.
Many businesses prefer to have a common TLD ending with extensions like .com. Notice that this is a single website which caters to different audiences. Such businesses add sub-directories under which they add content in different languages. These sub-directories inherit the properties of the main domain. The advantage of using this strategy is that traffic from all sources is channelised to one domain. Consequently, the domain authority increases.
Some websites prefer to append country extensions to the beginning of their domain names and use common a common TLD. Websites like these might look like en.xyz.com where xyz is the parent domain name. The main drawback of this method is that the subdomain does not benefit from the domain authority of the root domain.
You might mistakenly create duplicate content while creating content in different languages. While the content itself might be distinct on translated pages, problems might arise when the bots notice that images and links are the same on many pages. Use hreflang and alternate tags to avoid confusing bots. By doing so, you tell them that this is another version of the same page in a different language.
eg: <link rel="alternate" href="http://www.semlypro.com/in/faqs" hreflang="en-in".
One last thing to note. After you have decided the languages you need on your website and its structure, do please use a human translator to develop content. Although translating software has developed significantly in the last few years, it still does not match up to the professional work of a native speaker. With that out of the way, we are sure your business will flourish!