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Note : Please note that I am not taking about multi language website. This website used only Sinhala language, but it possible to use English for all titles in the website. And target keywords are high competitive.

I need to build a website in my mother language (Sinhala Language). The site does not need the English language.

But people in my country generally do not search on Google in their mother language(Sinhala Language). They always (at least 90% time) use English when searching.

My client needs search traffic too. So what can I do to support English search queries even if the site is built with Sinhala Language?

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First off, I want to address the decision over language - as I initially thought that you would want to use both languages on your website... but the more I researched, the more I realized that it is not as straightforward as, for example, debating whether or not to use English or Spanish for a website. The more I learned, the more I realized that answering this question requires one to be maniacally focused on their qualified customer, and how to give each visitor the best possible online experience, which can come in the form of information, offering relevant goods/services for sale - all while establishing trust and simultaneously taking steps to mitigate friction and anxiety, which may be unique for any underlying culture or group of peoples.

That all should sound familiar, right? The difference here is that the individual who asked the question (who, btw, is not stupid)) is on to something. In the United States, we typically target English queries without ever having to give it any further thought.

Let's step back and look at the history of the Sinhala language: - the primary language of 70% of Sri Lankans, representing the largest ethnic group on the island - For those who need numbers, this is approx: 70%+/- of the population, or roughly 13M people - additionally, Sinhala is spoken as a second language among other ethnic groups on the island - therefore making it the most widely spoken language in Sri Lanka

This is where it get's interesting: Centuries of colonial rule has given rise to a melting pot or mixture of “loanwords” from several languages. These “loanwords” are borrowed from French, Portuguese, Dutch, and English Languages, to name a few. To make this even more complicated, Most of Sri Lankans are conversational in English. and begin learning English as the age that one would attend primary school.

In search of more data, I read through many travel sites, all which noted that it would be unlikely to face communication barriers should I visit. (BTW they are offering 5% off for Black Friday if anyone feels like booking a trip). Read more about Sinhala & Languages in Sri Lanka.

The individual who asked the question is facing a serious problem. Check out Google Trends for Sri Lanka & ask yourself how much sense this makes:

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Look at those search terms. We are not dealing with a multilingual situation, nor is he targeting numerous countries. This is clearly the result of hundreds of years of outside influence, as mentioned earlier in this post.

This website, which is a dedicated directory of news sources and contains publications for each of their 3 main languages spoken (either independently, or mixed together, or .. you get the point.

Lanka Business Online said it best in a 2014 article:

Sri Lanka is home to over 20 million mobile phone subscribers and close to 20 percent of the country’s population uses the internet. With the embrace of technology more and more Sri Lankans are seen engaging both domestic and international firms through e-business channels in the pursuit of securing their day-to-day needs....

Local business can also be seen increasingly embracing online e-business channels to cater to the growing base of digital consumers. Sri Lankan mobile telecommunications service providers have been seen introducing new contactless payment system to exploit the emerging opportunities in the e-commerce sector.

By 2016, the number of internet users nearly doubled, reaching 29.3% of the population. Why all this extra information? To prove that the considerations of an online business are no different in the USA, nor Sri Lanka, regardless of how many languages are spoken.

  1. Research must be done, and we must strive to understand intent behind search queries
  2. Create a Google AdWords Account (regardless of you plan on advertising) and use Google's Free Keywords Tool to determine relative demand for the wide variety of keywords which may represent an individual who is searching for a product/service which your local business offers, or the "googler" is researching a problem that your local business can solve. Either way, the unfortuntate part about the long post is that you, my friend, must do your due diligence. I believe you when you say 90% of searches are in English. All good. But you still must write your content to appeal to your audience if you want to even have a chance at ranking (just don't use the wrong ccTLD).

If I were in your shoes, You must take a step back and identify exactly who your target market is. Are they a specific age group? Do they live in specific areas? Are they affluent? Middle class? Part of any affinity groups? Once you understand your customer, which more often than not is a process of trial & error + paying attention to your analytics, the data will uncover everything that you need to know to optimize your organic visibility and even improve your sales.

Before we go there, write the website for exactly who it's intended for. After all, you know best. And trust that Google is far ahead of the curve.

Wish you the best, please message me if you would like greater clarity about my suggestions/advice included above.

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    I'm struggling to see what the underlying answer is here? ...Do more research on keywords/customers, and then what? Be prepared to change the language (and structure?) of the site or not? Your other "answer" ("with one language") appears to suggest not? (Unless you are suggesting it should be changed to English?) I'm failing to see how this answer actually addresses the question... the website is in one language (eg. Sinhala) - which appears to be a requirement - and search phrases are in another language (eg. English) - so how do you combine the two? – DocRoot Nov 29 '17 at 12:55
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    "Look at those search terms. We are not dealing with a multilingual situation" - If it's not a "multilingual situation" (because the search terms are monolingual) then are you suggesting the site should be in English, because the search terms are in English? But the fact that the website is in another language (Sinhala) would seem to be what makes this a "multilingual situation"? – DocRoot Dec 3 '17 at 16:43
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@BenoitLussier If you read my answer, English is (to some degree) naturally integrated into the Sinhala Language. Not to mention, Google understands the user's language based on their interface settings. I never suggested the use of any additional code. Google knows the role of English in Sinhala.

This ultimately comes down to a judgment call. Much of being a webmaster is learning, trial, error, and the occasional mistake. It's not that I don't agree with you, it's that I wanted to provide an answer as requested - with one language. If we are talking about page titles, Google is known to change those as well depending on the nature of the query. Trust me, I love quoting Google too:

Google's generation of page titles and descriptions (or "snippets") is completely automated and takes into account both the content of a page as well as references to it that appear on the web. The goal of the snippet and title is to best represent and describe each result and explain how it relates to the user's query.

Source: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35624?hl=en

Lastly, at the end of the day, we build websites for users, not for Google. We do, however, have to follow rules - but do you foresee this creating a manual action? I think he is smart (despite username) for thinking outside the box. The rules are meant for user experience, and this is a very difficult situation he is trying to navigate.

And here is Mr Cutt's explaining if video is preferred.:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vS1Mw1Adrk0&feature=youtu.be

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    "English is (to some degree) naturally integrated into the Sinhala Language" - Sinhala contains a bunch of (English, and... Dutch, Portuguese) "loanwords" (as many languages do) - this is very far from being "naturally integrated"!? Sinhala uses a completely different alphabet, so whilst these (relatively few) "loanwords" might sound similar(?), they are certainly spelt very differently. – DocRoot Nov 28 '17 at 0:51
  • @DocRoot In no way was it my intention to convey that I know anything about the Sinhala Language, that is, other than the data available through Google Trends. And to your point exactly - let's say any number of languages use a different alphabet, and words that appear similar to recognizable English words - it still does not change the most important rule of content creation, which is to write for your audience - location and native language aside - I believe that by understanding how this group utilizes technology & the internet, one can create a basis of how to effectively communicate. – Josh Salganik Dec 4 '17 at 22:18
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I understand that you mention it is not a multi language website, but that would actually be the solution. The basic rule of good SEO is that you want Google to determine that your page is pertinent and matches the search query. If a user searches in english, Google will return pages that are in English.

Google uses only the visible content of your page to determine its language. We don’t use any code-level language information such as lang attributes.

Source: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/182192?hl=en

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