When you’re localizing content for international customers there are a few things you need to bear in mind. Language is always a little bit more quirky than translation software can handle – it goes to show that content is for humans and therefore involving humans in its creation will help you get content that works.
International Search Engine Optimization or Multilingual SEO is the backbone of any global search marketing campaign. Often referred to as “natural” or “organic” search, SEO is the process used to improve website rankings in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS).
Not everyone will search for the product or service they need in English and your content needs to catch the terms that people are really searching for. To complicate things further, people sometimes search using a combination of their own language and others or use a dialect specific to their region.
The aim of Multilingual SEO practice is to make websites more visible in search engines across the world and to ensure they are relevant and appropriate for the specific market they are targeting.
Although English is the language most commonly used by internet users it’s followed by Chinese, Spanish, Japanese and Portuguese, according to Internet World Stats.
Research by the Common Sense Advisory also shows that people are more likely to buy a product or service if information about it is available in their native language.
Using machine translation software will give you a basic translation but it won’t take into account the popular terms that foreign language searchers are actually using. If you analyze the top-performing keywords in particular countries you’ll find that they’re sometimes a direct translation but other times they’re a colloquialism or a word borrowed from English or some other language.
Take Italy, for example; keyword analysis shows that one of the top searches for cheap flights is “voli low cost”. Translation software could never give you this information but if you were a business targeting people who need cheap flights you’d definitely lose out to competitors by not using it.
The best way to get this essential information is to work with a native speaker and to analyze search term data to find the most popular terms that are actually being used in the SERPs.
Watch out for Dialects
Dialect quirks can also throw your searchers off track. Take France and Switzerland, for example. Both use the common language of French but some terms are different in Switzerland to France.
If a keyword is translated into the wrong local word, even if the translation is technically correct, you could miss out on traffic. Just as an example – a cheese dealer in France is a “fromager” but in Switzerland it’s a “fruiterer”. There are also dialectal differences in the French spoken in Belgium, Africa and Switzerland.
There are other examples of this too: in Spain, for example, ‘coche’ means car, but in Latin American Spanish it is often used to describe a baby stroller. Similarly, what you’d call a ‘baby stroller’ in America is a ‘pram’ in the UK. These quirks can mean the difference between using a correct and high traffic keyword, and a rarely searched term.
Ask the Linguistic Experts
Make sure the source you liaise with is a true expert, preferably residing in the country you’re localizing your content for. They will be fully on top of the key language developments and quirks that you need to know about.
Ideally the expert that you work with will also be knowledgeable in the business sector you work in and have a good and up-to-date knowledge of SEO.
Guest author: Christian Arno is the founder of Lingo24, a top translation agency in the USA. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over 150 employees spanning three continents and clients in over sixty countries. In the past twelve months, they have translated over forty million words for businesses in every industry sector, including the likes of MTV, World Bank and American Express. Follow Lingo24 on Twitter: @Lingo24.