Multilingual SEO and link-building

This question came up on forum recently (I can’t recall which forum, sorry) and it interests me because multilingual SEO is something I quite enjoy.

 The question as I recall it is whether on-topic links in various languages or from various language websites is helpful for SEO purposes.  The answer is not clear-cut.

First, any link is a good link…almost.  That is, unless the linking website is truly despicable (Did I spell that right, Sylvester?), the link carries some value.

Second, in many niches Anglicisms creap intot he lingo.  For example, SEO is a word used in Spanish and therefore a link on a Spanish page about SEO would be keyword relevant for this blog.

Third, you can always include a bilingual link, so a link on a French page to an English page about restaurant jobs could read “Emplois Restaurant Jobs”.

Fourth, it is possible that the search engines can relate some cross language themes.  There are plenty of carpet websites with sections in several languages.  There are plenty of car accessory websites with sections in several languages.  There are plenty of hotel websites with sections in several languages.  The major search engines are smart enough to recognize patterns, such as that very often English sections of a website themed around “carpets” and “rugs” also have French sections themed around “tapis” and Spanish sections themed around “alfombras” and “tapetes”.  I am not saying that Google and Yahoo actually do this, just that they can.  They can probably also tell which sites of various languages might be similarly themed by their link profiles, for instance if the websites were both linked from a lot of directories or blogs in the same niche.

Fifth, keep in mind that there are a lot of multilingual people out there.  There are many people in my neck of the woods who would click on a link whether it is in French or in English. 

Your best bet – the most sure thing – is to seek links from websites in the same language.  But if you see a good opportunity to get a relevant link from another website in another language, don’t feel you have to pass it by.


  1. This is exactly the type of issue we’re dealing with right now for a client. They want to expand their area rugs website to ship to Mexico and Central America, but they didn’t realize the scope of the project in terms of website content for Spanish-speaking customers. Not to mention the entirely new set of keywords they would need to optimize for.

  2. David, I agree with most of your points although I take a different spin to the issue. Although, cross lingual information retrieval is in its infancy there are several university groups studying the possibility of assesing relevance between documents in different languages and the way to assess that relevance would be to look at linking patterns and the semantic relationship on the anchor text regardless of the language. Search Engines are also working on it, a former Yahoo engineer confirmed to me a few months ago. This doesn't mean that the technology is already here but it is something to consider in the future.

    Additionally, from my experience, International sites that cater for different target languages benefit from cross linking between the pages. As a spanish native if query in English and land in a page that gives me the option of reading the content in Spanish the link is good for my user experience and the anchor text in Spanish will give me an idea of what page I am going to find on the other end. Since Search Engines tend to reward sites that take user experience into account I wouldn't be surprised if that is an additional metric to consider in the algorithm.