Multilingual and International Search Engine Optimization: A Hot Topic These Days

In a recently released report, independent research company Common Sense Advisory notes that half of the world’s population is now online and that the global digital economic opportunity has reached US$58.9 Trillion. Their research also finds that 75% of Internet users would decide to purchase a product only if the description is in their native language.

No doubt about it, multilingual and international search engine optimization (SEO) is a hot topic these days. I now teach digital marketing and SEO for the University of Strasbourg, France and I frequently speak about the topic at conferences around the globe.

Shockingly, a large number of Fortune 500 companies have not yet translated and localized their website into multiple languages. And even more surprising, many of the translated websites are not properly optimized for online search.

Optimizing a website for online search can very lucrative and help boost a company’s bottom line to unexpected levels. Yet, many companies lack the knowledge, resources or time to implement and maintain a successful SEO strategy.

ISEO = Don’t Miss this “Low-hanging Fruit” Opportunity to Boost Global Sales

Just translating your website isn’t enough for potential buyers of your products or services to find the site through a search engine in the new target market. The website will have to compete with hundreds if not thousands of other websites that already exist in the new market.

Reality check: Oftentimes, companies will spend thousands of dollars optimizing their source language website. When it comes time to also optimize their newly translated multilingual website for online search, they simply don’t do it because they don’t know how to do it, nobody thought about it, there’s no budget, or they don’t understand the value in it.

Don’t Shoot from the Hips: Develop an SEO Strategy

To begin, let’s briefly look at the main components of an SEO strategy. For our customers we implement a strategy that I call the five pillars of SEO:

  1. Technical health of a website
  2. The functionality of a website
  3. On-page SEO
  4. Off-page SEO
  5. Social media marketing

The first two pillars are focused on website details and the last three are associated with content marketing, which essentially is the foundation of these pillars. There is no SEO without a high-quality content marketing strategy.

If you have some technical or functional issues with your website, it may not matter how nice your website is or how great your content is because these issues could be preventing you from ranking higher or ranking at all on Google and other search engines. As a starting point, I invite you to use our free SEO website audit tool to get an 8-10 page report as a PDF within less than one minute.

The three content marketing pillars are intertwined. If you establish a good content marketing machine, you eventually will attract more customers to your website since search engine algorithms will view you more favorably for a variety of reasons. Multilingual content marketing is just as important for reaching global customers and I’ll cover this in my workshop.

The Foundation of SEO and Content Marketing: Keyword Research

Using the right keywords, which are words and phrases that customers use to search for things online, to produce and promote high-quality content, is the heart of content marketing. You can’t make assumptions about what the keywords are or you may miss the boat completely.

SEO keyword research is such an important part of SEO that during the workshop, we’ll walk through how to do keyword research using real examples. You’ll also get access to our project and quoting templates that I’ve created and I’ll share tools you can use to report metrics to your clients.

Transcreating, Not Just Translating, Keywords

Once you have your list of source language keywords, you can’t just translate them word for word and move on, you have to transcreate the words.

Let’s say the keyword “cell phone” is one of your target keywords and you want to target Germany and Switzerland. Using Google’s Keyword Planner tool, you can see that “handy” is a common term for “cell phone” in Germany.

You’ll also see that a small percentage of people use “natel.” So “handy” is definitely a term you’d want to use for Germany.

When we research Switzerland, however, it’s a much closer split in the German-speaking area of Switzerland between “handy” and “natel.”

In this case, you’d definitely want to use both “handy” and “natel” throughout your multilingual SEO strategy. If you didn’t follow the transcreation process and just used “natel” based on translating the word, your client wouldn’t know to also use “natel” and would be missing out on part of the market.

Getting your multilingual keywords right from the beginning is key to success but it’s only one of the many steps involved in an ISEO project.

PS: The upcoming April 10, 2018, workshop in London is also a great fit for language service providers (LSP). LSPs can’t just offer website translation services anymore. They also need to be able to advise their customers and be able to offer multilingual and international SEO services as part of their overall website localization solutions.

Questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

About the Author

SEO Training Expert Chris RaulfHi- My name is Chris Raulf and I’m the founder of Boulder SEO Marketing, an SEO training and consulting agency located in beautiful Boulder and Denver, Colorado. We recently expanded into Europe and we’re now also a London SEO agency.

My team and I assist local, national as well as international clients with all of their digital marketing needs. My international background makes me one of the few professionals in the industry who truly live and breath international and multilingual search engine optimization on a daily basis.

I invite you to learn more about Boulder SEO Marketing and me by following me on Twitter and by connecting with me on LinkedIn.


[PS: I initially authored a similar article for the GALA (Globalization & Localization Association) website.]

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