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Multiple language pages on one site?

How can my English site rank high for German/French/Spanish queries?

1:38 pm on Sep 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Can anyone give me some help regarding the following: I am building a site for a hotel. The site will be in English. But the hotel also wants to be found by Germans, French, and Spanish tourists who might search the web in their own language.
I was thinking of including a German page, a French page, and a Spanish page in order to be found for certain keywords in these languages. And then to link from the German introduction page to the homepage of the site, etc.
Will this work? Or does anyone have better ideas? Thanks
1:45 pm on Sept 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Welcome to WebmasterWorld, snail.

My preference would always be to do full translations, but it depends on your client's wishes, I suppose. Full translations are far more customer-friendly, normally give the hotel an immediately more professional appearance than their competitors, and are immensely more successful with various national and international directories and thus eventually search engines.

At a minimum I would do enough to ensure a directory listing in each language. How much is enough, you ask? I'm not sure what to tell you, but I know it when I see it...(probably enough so that it is a functioning, if limited, site in that language).

2:01 pm on Sept 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for your reply, Stever.
Yes, I can see that a full translation of the site would be best. But the resources for this are lacking. One or two pages in Ger/Fr/Sp is possible, but a full site probably not. Especially because it is difficult to keep it up to date when you don't master these languages yourself.

Somewhere I read that having one german page on an English site is doomed to fail. Is this true? Why?

2:05 pm on Sept 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I am in a similar situation where there are only a few pages here and there that are translated into different languages. After spending hours researching the issue, I found my answer at the W3C...

Primary Language in HTML [w3.org]

<meta http-equiv="content-language" content="sv">

Here is a listing of two letter language codes...

ISO 639 Language Codes [w3.org]

2:30 pm on Sept 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hi Snail, welcome to WebmasterWorld!

First lets lay out some basics.
Across Europe the websearch market is owned by the same three or four players you know from the US, or UK. What formerly had been a complex landscape of local engines is for the most part a nearly monocultural environment now.

Those engines operate with indexing all the web.

Now nearly all people in the online world, with the exception of people from english speaking countries, are presented with options, when searching the web. Those options are:
- search all the web
- search in documents in local language.

Now usually the second option is the default, at least on most huge portals.

What does that mean for you? All users worldwide will be able to find you, since they easily can change to worldwide results.
However many people won't change default settings, and the majority prefers results in their native tongue anyway.

IOW: translations are the way to go.

Now searchengines use automatic language detection. Therefore a page in, say, french in a otherwise swedish language site should come up in a search restricted to french language documents.
So far so good.

From now on we have two aspects to look at:
- ranking
- usability/conversion

Lets look at ranking matters first. If you have one page in french in a site with swedish navigation, swedish internal linking, swedish anchortext in external links, what are the chances that page ranks well in any todays search engines? Actually, the situation with hotel sites is special, because the word hotel is the same across several major languages. You might therefore get the french page rank well for two keyword combos: hotel + destination name
hotelname + destination
in searches restricted to french lanuage documents.
Now that's not bad. But it's only this combo, none of the countless important qualified keywords you are targeting, like cheap + hotel + destinatio, or central + hotel + destination etc.

The other point to consider is the user. A user finds your page in a search engine results page, which was restricted to french results. He clicks, gets on the page, clicks further, see swedish text - and leaves faster than you can say hej.
Okay, in your case it's an english site, which more people are likely to understand. Still, an initial page in their native language has set expectations which are not fulfilled. Most users will click back to the search engine results page - which after all presents them with 9 or more alternatives, which ARE in their language.

There are many more issues with both ranking and user satisfaction. This however should be enough to show that your solution will not do much to help you achieving your goals.

We have in this forum discussed alternatives to your approach, which, while more costly, are likely to give you much better results.


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