Since the internet connected the world virtually, multilingual website optimization has become the standard for any business aiming to expand its global audience online via its website. Localization strategy and search engine optimization (SEO) become intertwined as soon as you decide to market to a worldwide audience. When you’re debuting different language versions of your website, it is important to keep localized search engine optimization in mind. There’s no point in putting time and labor into the language conversion process if users are unable to find your website.
Website localization is necessary in order to engage with your audience in the global network; great localization is a combination of data-driven analysis and cultural adaptation.
The relationship between search engine optimization and localization cannot be exaggerated – there is no international SEO without localization. Failure to consider aspects such as local keywords will inevitably backfire. A successful localization strategy consists of far more than basic translation. You will need to consider the format of the website and mobile optimization as well as software localization.
Localization that is done well is focused on ensuring your content connects with people across languages and cultures, as well as delivering a high standard of user experience. These localization tips will help your website reach its fullest potential.
The need for a multilingual website is paramount. According to the Common Sense Advisory, 59 percent of online shoppers rarely or never buy from English-only websites. Though it may be tempting to auto-translate your website, doing so is guaranteed to produce inaccurate messaging; running your website through Google Translate is not enough.
Effective localization goes beyond simple translation. Even handing your content over to a translator may not have optimal results. Word-for-word translation is not the best practice for your website because connotation can become distorted between languages. In the worst-case scenario, an unfortunate translation can result in bad press for your business.
Think about it this way: You already know that English keywords in the United States won’t be received the same way in the United Kingdom. For example, “tabling” a discussion in the U.S. means you’ll stop talking about it, whereas in the U.K. it means you’ll propose it. The exact same term has opposite meanings depending on the audience.
The same principle can be applied to Spanish in Mexico and Spain. Your various audiences will search for your website differently and you’ll want to take all search terms into consideration; different geographical regions will require separate research. You should take into account regional dialects and local colloquialisms. Unless you aspire to have a website that is accessible to only one region, you’ll need to make the effort to localize for each target audience.
Take time to identify keywords that will resonate with audiences in each target region. This includes countries that speak the same language and regions with multiple dialects. This localization will require extra effort, but your hard work will be rewarded in the long run.
As mentioned above, your keywords should differ depending on language and dialect. A popular search term in the United States might not hold the same popularity in Japan. If you hire an outside service to translate, keep in mind that they should not be choosing your target keywords. The responsibility to choose effective keywords should not fall on the translator; they likely don’t know your target market as intimately as you do.
Create a list of keywords you’d like to translate for each page of your website. Perform multi-dimensional keyword research and add relevant topics in the target language to the source-language terms. Consider factors such as search volume, keyword competitiveness and keyword density when choosing the most effective keywords for each target region. You can also hire a global SEO expert to help with this process. Trilyon Services, Inc. is proud to provide top-notch localization professionals who can help maximize your business’ international exposure.
Once you’ve chosen the best terms, weave them throughout your website in a natural way. Make sure to include them in the website’s metadata and organize all of the keywords into a global glossary for your own records. Share this glossary with everyone involved in the website to ensure each contributor can access the correct global terms. Taking this extra step of precaution decreases the likelihood of inconsistent messaging.
A completely appropriate phrase in English may have a negative connotation in another culture. For example, Swedish vacuum company Electrolux attempted to market their vacuums in the US in the early 1970s with the catchphrase “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.” The jingle was entirely inoffensive in their native language, but it didn’t go over well with their American consumer base. Something as innocent as a vacuum jingle turned Electrolux into a laughing stock and they quickly pulled the ad from circulation.
The moral of the story: Double-check your content to make sure it is culturally sound. Keep in mind that cultural sensitivity extends beyond the copy. The same sensitivity principles apply to other elements on your website, such as pictures and videos. The last thing you need is a public relations crisis due to an ill-informed translation.
Evaluate your content from the perspective of a consumer in each of your target regions. Ask yourself a few questions, such as:
The goal of these questions is to ensure the multilingual content is as compelling and appropriate as the original copy, confirming the localization is done well. Take the time to research your new audience and your consumers are sure to appreciate the effort.
An XML sitemap is one of the most beneficial features to guarantee strong SEO. The goal of an XML sitemap is to alert search engines which pages are meant for each region or language. The organization of the sitemap will depend on the size of your website; a smaller website with no more than 5 languages can be organized by placing the alternative language page below the source language page in the sitemap. Organize each URL on your website into language categories in the XML sitemap.
If your website is larger than 50 URLs or translated into more than 5 languages, it would be better to organize your site in a sitemap index. A sitemap index allows you to sort web pages based on language and category. Large websites, like online retailers, often use the sitemap index as an organizational tool. After you have organized the XML sitemap, submit it directly to each search engine’s version of webmaster tools. You can monitor the crawl from the master toolkit and edit any issues from there.
Search engines penalize duplicate content, so you want to avoid any instance of duplicate pages on your site. Pages that are the same language but localized for different regions should be considered separately. You can solve this issue of duplication with the ‘hreflang’ tag. This tag is used by Google to denote a web page that has been translated into another language and helps you avoid unnecessary penalties by allowing Google to recognize the pages as regionally optimized.
Perhaps you have a page in English that appears on the American, Australian and Canadian versions of your website. Ensure this content does not ding as duplicate by setting hreflang tags: EN-US, EN-AU, EN-CA, etc. The tag tells the search engine that each version is intended for a specific audience. Using this tag as part of your localization also helps Google guide consumers to the appropriate version of your website. Companies with intensive global structures should prioritize the use of these tags.
If there is a web page that is truly duplicate content (that has not been translated or regionalized), use a canonical tag on the duplicate page that refers to the original page. In doing so, the search engine will only index the original page, thus avoiding a penalty. It is important to note that content that is translated into multiple languages does not ding as duplicate content. Therefore, you should not put a canonical tag on the translated page, or the search engine will ignore it completely.
Global SEO localization strategy is an integral aspect of any successful business website. Mastering localized SEO takes time and practice, but by making the effort required to create a seamless global user experience, your business communicates a standard of excellence to your international audience. Trilyon Services is eager to help you start the localization process. Please contact us for more information.
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