Starting a website can be a massive undertaking, and even after it's up, getting people to find it online can be even harder. In an ever-evolving online landscape, search engine optimization (SEO) has emerged as one of the strongest methodologies to get visitors to your site. But beyond just a few techniques to drive traffic, few people realize that localization can greatly enhance the effectiveness of SEO and your site's overall visibility online.
In its simplest form, SEO is the process of growing website traffic by increasing the visibility of your website through search engine results (such as Google or Bing, etc.), though it's important to note that SEO is the improvement of unpaid results and excludes direct traffic and paid placements.
By using SEO best practices to structure website content so that it is found and indexed more easily by search engines, organizations can establish a stronger online presence, thereby allowing them to reach a wider global audience. If, for example, your website is based in the United States and you want web traffic from Singapore or Thailand, optimizing your content for international SEO can facilitate that. International SEO helps penetrate new markets while breaking multi-linguistic barriers and cultural differences.
Optimizing at this level is essential for global businesses as it allows greater access to your web content, expanding user access without going through the expensive process of recreating your site for different locales. In this way, you can be assured that the right content is reaching the right audience in the most effective way possible.
Five important elements to international search engine optimization
1. Decide what locales to target
Who is your audience? Are you going to need to translate content? Are you going to need to redesign your website for easier access in different locales? Additionally, it’s also important to consider costs, not only for translation, but also for potential site updates and adjustments (adaptive structural design for longer text, page navigation changes for languages read right to left, etc.).
2. Determine the website structure
Your website structure is key to successfully ranking on search engines like Google. On Google’s end, they send a ‘search engine crawler’ across the internet that reads every websites’ content through its back-end HTML or XML sitemap. The crawler looks through the top-level domains, subdomains and subfolders, assessing the quality of design, content and SEO suitability.
- Country-code top-level domains (ccTLD): www.example.com
- Subdomains: www.de.example.com
- Subfolders: www.example.com/de
3. Localize content
When preparing your site for the international plunge, you may find that some pages may be irrelevant outside of your primary market; some content won’t need to be translated or is in such high volume it is too costly or time consuming to do so, such as blogs and articles. In such cases, automated translation solutions like Machine Translation in combination with human editing (MTPE) may be a viable option for translating large-scale SEO-focused content which is lower down in the content value chain. Some content may need to be replaced altogether, such as contact information for a local office. This will be especially true if your website is promoting local services to specific locales.
That said, highly visible keywords that generate organic traffic are just as important in the new locale as they are for your home-base. You will likely need the assistance of native-language speakers or a translation and localization agency to help you identify and translate your most effective keywords for use on your satellite site. This holds true even if the language is the same but the country is different. For example, in the UK versus the US, many words are spelled differently or have different meanings altogether. For example, if you’re selling erasers in the US, you wouldn’t use the keyword “rubber”, the colloquial term for erasers in the UK.
4. Let search engines know
Search engines have formulas to associate certain language criteria with certain locales. By placing specific elements of content on your site, you ping the search engine to recognize the relevance of particular locales, allowing them to redirect the appropriate web traffic to the appropriate version of your website.
5. Help it rank well
Locale pages will inherit some of the value of your primary site (called a backline). By adding specific keywords, local advertising and backlines, along with social media promotion, you can help keep your website up-to-date and relevant to search engines.
Determining the target audience, locale and language
When defining your target audience, the most important thing to consider is your return on investment (ROI). This is the percentage of your profit compared to the cost of your investment. By viewing analytical data from your website, you can determine from what locale or what language your web traffic is from, to determine if it’s worth making a localized version of your site for that specific audience. Marketing Maven, Neil Patel suggests Google Analytics, using the “Geo” reports under the “Audience” section.
When defining your target audience, it should answer the who, where, what and why:
- Who is your target audience (age, interests, habits, social class, cultural background and spoken language)?
- Where are they?
- What are their pain points (what are you offering your target market)?
- Why is your product the best solution?
Knowing your target audience will tell you how you can position your product. Not everyone is your target market; knowing yours will help you achieve a higher ROI.
If you are expanding globally, knowing how to speak and tailor fit your online content to audiences speaking disparate languages will make your business more relatable, thus increasing the conversion.
Localization, internationalization and translation
The difference between locale and language is important to understand. Take for example Mexico versus Spain. Both countries speak Spanish (language) yet are obviously in different locations (locale). If your analytics show that your web traffic is from Spain and Mexico, you can choose to create a sub-site that either references language, meaning that the content is simply translated to a more generic form of Spanish to cater to both markets (not recommended), or a series of local sites, meaning that one sub-site will target Mexico and another will target Spain. Both will have a backlink to your primary website for reference and ranking.
Localization and translation certainly comes hand in hand, as curating a product for a specific locale will often require the use of a different language. Yet localization and internationalization takes it a step further by adapting to local customs, cultures and language conventions.
For example, as well as differing colloquial terms and phrases which occur between different dialects of the same language, at a more extreme level and in certain languages, text is displayed entirely differently; left to right (for example, in European languages) and right to left (for example, in Arabic). In addition, voltage, date format or currency may differ and require internationalization. By using international SEO, you guarantee that your product is properly presented to your target market, ensuring ease and clarity of use.
Andovar solutions and services
Andovar is a one-stop shop for all your localization projects regardless of language, size or type. We are a global provider of multilingual content solutions to help organizations around the world reach new heights.
Let us give you the tools, education and support to reach your full potential. International SEO takes product translation and streamlines it for better access to local markets. Andovar is here to help your company succeed and achieve optimal success. Get in touch with us today to see how we can help you!
Find out more about website translation and multilingual SEO strategy in our Website Translation Ultimate Guide.