Here are three search engine optimisation (SEO) practices that won’t serve you well on a Welsh-language website.
As if SEO weren’t complicated enough, these three techniques can be positively harmful in a Welsh context. Proceed with caution.
1. Avoid geo-targeting
Most advice in this area assumes that the different languages on your website correspond to different countries. However, in Wales, as in other multi-lingual countries such as Canada and Switzerland, things are more complicated.
(This is partly why web best practices urge designers not to use flags to represent languages – an easy mistake to make until you actually stop to think about it.)
On the scale of Canada though, at least size is on your side. IP-based “geo-targeting” (determining the language based on the users location in the world) can be helpful but it is simply not accurate enough on a country the size of Wales. For instance, if I try it from Cardiff on my smartphone it tells me I am in London and although the Visit Cardiff people love to remind everyone how close our lovely capital city is to London, it isn’t that close.
2. Avoid language detection
It is also possible and maybe even desirable in some countries to detect the language setting of the user’s operating system and use that to drive the language choice on your website – the logic being, if my operating system is set to French, I probably want the French version of your website. Although this may seem helpful, Google doesn’t recommend it because doing it too aggressively (i.e. not giving users an active choice) may prevent them from getting to the content they actually want.
In a Welsh context, where only 11% of the population are fluent in Welsh and a good proportion are learning, any reliance on operating system settings (on mobile or desktop) is going to be hit and miss at best. According to Wikipedia, the percentage of Welsh speakers in different regions of Wales ranges from 8% to 64%. In this context, automated language detection is more likely to frustrate users than enthuse them.
3. Avoid separate domains
This may be controversial given the new .wales and .cymru top-level domains but it’s important to keep your content on one domain. Search engines don’t understand that mysite.wales and mysite.cymru are two versions of the same site. You’ll combine and amplify your search rankings by keeping both languages on one site and may even avoid duplicate content penalties which could occur if your translation efforts are not 100%.