Today, more and more Finnish business sites are also translated into other languages. Of course, the most common languages are Swedish and English. The different language versions create opportunities to expand the customer base beyond Finland’s borders. At the same time, the traffic volumes of the site can also be multiplied by obtaining new keywords to which the content can be targeted.

What are the things it takes to optimize search engines for a multilingual site? It can get surprisingly complicated, especially if it is a large site with a lot of functionalities. In this post, let’s go over a few important points that need to be taken into account in the implementation of the multilingual site.

Before you create new language versions

Before your company gets excited about expanding the site to 10 different languages, it is a good idea to think a little about the resources needed to maintain multiple language versions. Does the company have the following resources?

  • Create a site tailored to each country
  • Produce content for all different languages
  • Serve customers in all different languages

It is essential that the content of the site is tailored to the target audience in that country. The content of the page should therefore address people from the culture of the target country. It is also worth noting that not in all countries, Google is the most popular search engine.

Keyword research

It should go without saying that the text content should also be translated into the local language. If you want to get search traffic from Sweden, write your content in Swedish. To know what things and in what terms people in that country are looking, you need to do keyword research in the local language and produce content targeted at those words.

How to help Google understand which country’s audience the content on the site is for?

In order to rise high on Google with just the right search queries in the right country, we need to help Google understand as clearly as possible which country we want our site content to target. Google uses the following signals to infer location:

  • Country code in the URL. For example, an address ending in .fi binds the domain to Finland, .se to Sweden, thus providing a strong signal to Google of the destination country.
  • If your top-level domain is generic (e.g. .com or .org), you can use the > International Targeting tool in the Google Search Console to determine which country the site content is targeted to.
  • Server location can also be a single signal to Google, although not as important today as it used to be. That is, if the server is located in Sweden, Google may consider it a signal that the content is intended for those who Google in Sweden.
  • Content. If the content is written in the local language, or if the content uses local addresses and phone numbers, as well as currency, etc. they are strong signals to Google of the site’s target audience.
  • External factors of the site. Essentially, whether the site receives a lot of links from local sites.

Structure of URLs

It is a good idea to design the URL structure of a multilingual site before implementation. In practice, there are three smart options, each with its own pros and cons:

Add a top-level domain for different languages

One way to implement a multilingual site is to reserve a web address with your country code for each required language..

That is, for example: -> Finnish website -> Swedish website


  • User-friendly, people prefer to click on Google on a site with their own country code.
  • Helps with search visibility in the target country. For example, sites ending in .fi have a small advantage in search results with Finnish search queries, because the domain suffix is in Finnish.


  • External linking does not help all domains. For example, external links to a Finnish-language site do not help to make the Swedish-language site visible.
  • Expensive to maintain
  • Not all addresses may be available

Add subdomains to different languages

Another way to implement a URL structure is to use a generic top-level web address and split the language versions into your own country-specific subdomains: ->-Finnish website ->-Swedish website


  • Easier to implement
  • Requires fewer resources
  • Access to multiple network servers, i.e. you can use a server that is located on a Finnish-language site in Finland and a server located on a Swedish-language site in Sweden.


  • A subdomain may not always get all the link power of the main domain.
  • User-friendliness, people prefer to click on a site with their own country code in the top-level domain.
  • Does not serve as strong a signal to search engines about a site’s location as a country-specific address.

Subfolders for different language versions

The third option is to use a generic top-level domain and divide the language versions into its own subfolders: ->-Finnish website ->-Swedish wedsite


  • The best solution for external linking and domain authority verification. All language versions are on the same domain, and when one section receives links, the entire domain is strengthened.
  • Easy to implement.
  • Cheap to maintain.


  • User friendliness: people prefer to click on a site with their own country code.
  • Does not serve as strong a signal to search engines about a site’s location as a country-specific address.
  • All language versions must be hosted on the same network server.

Href-lang tags

Google uses rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” html attributes as a signal of which page should be displayed in which language search query.

It is a good idea to use the flag if the content on the pages is practically the same, but only translated into a different language. This allows Google to better understand the relationship between pages and the fact that the pages are matching in different languages.

This can be done in three ways:

  1. HTML as a link element to the < the >head section. For example, the source code for could be marked as to indicate the address of the Swedish page.
  2. http header. Google also indexes files that are not based on HTML, e.g. PDF documents, and of course there may be different language versions of these. In this case, language versions can be revealed in the HTTP header in this way: Link: <>; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”se”
  3. Sitemap. Instructions for the structure of the site map can be found on Google Search Central.

Who does search engine optimization?

SEO is a continuous development of a site consisting of many pieces, such as:

  • Technical maintenance
  • Mapping keywords and creating the right kind of content
  • Get links

These already have something to do with a monolingual site, let alone if you expand into new languages and really want to invest in the site’s visibility in new markets as well. So, is it worth doing everything yourself, or is it worth buying SEO services from a local service provider, for example?

If you are leaning toward the latter, find out the backgrounds of a potential partner and make sure they do search engine optimization without compromising your site’s reputation in search engines.

Here are some essential points to keep in mind when searching for a multilingual site. For more information, see Google’s own blog. If you want more free tips on digital marketing and search engine optimization, join our email list from the right.


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