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Does Google use Language as a Ranking Factor?

3 min read

In the realm of SEO ranking factors, we often emphasize the importance of quality content, authoritative websites, and various prominent tactics. However, language is a crucial factor that warrants consideration. Websites that cater to multiple languages enable you to target audiences based on their language preferences, creating a sense of familiarity with the content.

Let’s illustrate this with a straightforward example: Imagine a website owner looking to promote a service in a region where the primary language is regional, and English serves as a secondary language.

While content in English may extend the reach to a broader audience, a version of the same content in the regional language will precisely target the intended audience. If your goal is to engage with English-speaking individuals, then content in English is the way to go.

However, this same English content may perform poorly in markets dominated by Chinese, Arabic, or Spanish speakers. Businesses aiming to connect with customers in diverse language-speaking nations can achieve this by generating content in multiple languages.

But if you need more clarification about the potential impact on your organic rankings, read on to discover how to optimize your website for such scenarios in 2023.

Optimizing Your Site for Multiple Languages and Regions:

If your website provides diverse content tailored to users in different languages, countries, or regions, you can optimize your Google Search results effectively. Here’s what you need to know:

Background:

A multilingual website encompasses any site offering content in more than one language, such as a Canadian business with both English and French versions. Google Search endeavors to deliver pages that match the searcher’s language.

A multi-regional website explicitly targets users in various countries, such as a product manufacturer serving both Canada and the United States. Google Search aims to find the appropriate locale-based page for each searcher.

Some websites fall into both categories, being both multi-regional and multilingual. For instance, a site may have distinct versions for the USA and Canada, offering French and English content for the Canadian audience.

Managing Sites in Different Languages for Enhanced Visibility:

  1. Use Different URLs for Different Language Versions: Google recommends employing distinct URLs for each language version of a page rather than relying on cookies or browser settings to adjust the content language. If you opt for different URLs, implement hreflang annotations to help Google’s search results link to the correct language-specific page.
  2. Inform Google About Your Different Language Versions: Google offers support for various methods to label language or region variants of a page, including hreflang annotations and sitemaps. It’s crucial to mark your pages appropriately to ensure that Google accurately recognizes and indexes the language-specific content.

By strategically managing your multilingual and multi-regional website, you can optimize its performance in Google Search results, effectively reaching and engaging diverse audiences in 2023.

Make sure the page language is obvious

Google relies on the visible content within your webpage to determine its language. This determination doesn’t utilize factors like code-level language information, such as lang attributes or the URL. To assist Google in accurately identifying the language, consider the following practices:

  1. Consistency in Language Usage: Maintain uniformity in language usage for content and navigation across each page. Avoid employing side-by-side translations.
  2. Caution with Boilerplate Translations: Translating only the boilerplate text while retaining most of your content in a single language, often on user-generated content pages, can result in a suboptimal user experience. This is especially true when the same content appears multiple times in search results with varying boilerplate languages.
  3. Blocking Automated Translations: Prevent search engines from crawling automatically translated pages on your site using robots.txt. Automated translations may only sometimes make sense and could be perceived as spam. Poorly executed or unnatural translations can tarnish your site’s reputation.
  4. User-Friendly Language Switching: If your website has multiple versions in different languages, consider providing hyperlinks to other language versions of a page. This enables users to select their preferred language version easily. Avoid automatic redirection based on the user’s language; such redirections may hinder users (and search engines) from accessing all versions of your site.
  5. Language-Specific URLs: While it’s acceptable to incorporate localized words or Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) in your URLs, ensure that UTF-8 encoding is used throughout the URL. UTF-8 is recommended wherever possible. Be diligent in properly escaping URLs when linking to them.
  6. Geotargeting for Specific Countries: You can target your website or specific sections to users in a particular country that predominantly speaks a specific language. This could enhance your page rankings in the targeted country. However, remember that this approach may come at the expense of visibility in other regions or languages.

To delve deeper into this topic, refer to the “Advanced SEO” article.

Sarkar’s Perspective

 

In Google’s documentation detailing the functionality of search algorithms, language is a crucial consideration. Additionally, language is prominently featured in Google Search Central’s Advanced SEO resources.

Although Google has not officially confirmed that language and country settings directly impact rankings, their influence on search visibility for users selecting specific languages and regions is undeniable.

Consequently, in 2023, language plays a significant role as a ranking factor in Google’s algorithms.