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SEO Needs to Be Part of Your Translation Process

It’s been standard practice to implement search engine optimization (SEO) strategies AFTER a website has been built, but is that the most effective approach? Read on to find out why it may be a classic case of putting the cart before the horse.

No matter what their product, location, or market share, companies need a local language website when targeting new markets. A Common Sense Advisory report from 2014 noted that 75% of web visitors prefer to buy products in their native language, and 60% rarely or never buy from English-only websites. Competing against local business in global markets with a non-translated website is a non-starter, plain and simple.

The standard approach has been to focus on getting a quality translation, but it’s an approach that’s rapidly changing as companies begin to see the benefits of localizing their content and websites for their target markets, adapting marketing messages to different cultures and languages while maintaining the original context and intent of the messaging – a process known as transcreation.

As crucial as transcreation and localization are, there’s a third ingredient to global success. A beautifully transcreated website won’t do anyone any good if customers can’t find it, and the only way to make sure they can is to increase your online visibility. That’s where integrating SEO into translation workflows comes in.

To  maximize the visibility of your products or services and succeed in new markets, SEO needs to be woven into the translation process from the beginning, instead of being treated as an afterthought. And when you’ve decided on the wisdom of that approach, there are three key elements to consider – localized keyword research, site structure, and using hreflang.

Localized keyword research

Any local keyword research should always be conducted as the first step of a localization project. Using the right word during the localization process will help you better connect with local audiences, which will impact the success of your business in any market you enter. The key is to remember that the “right” word is not necessarily the word with the most search volume, but rather the word that is most common in the local market for your target audience. There is only one foolproof way to make sure you are targeting the right relevant keywords, and that is partnering with a translation vendor that employs native SEO linguists who also understand the process of keyword research.

Site structure

There are a few URL structures webmasters can employ to target a particular country with their websites. They include a country code top-level domain (ccTLD), a subdomain, a subdirectory or subfolder, a gTLD with language parameters, or using a different domain name entirely.

  • ccTLDs use two-letter codes to tell users and search engines the country, sovereign state, or dependent territory a website is registered in. “example.uk” is a good example of a ccTLD.
  • In a subdomain, internationalized content is placed on a separate “third-level domain” that may or may not pass or receive link equity from the root domain. “uk.example.com” is an example of a subdomain.
  • In a subdirectory such as “example.com/uk” internationalized content is placed in a specific subdirectory (or subfolder) of a root domain.
  • A general top-level domain (like .com, .net, or .org) can be targeted to speakers of a specific language by appending a URL parameter, like “example.com/?lang=en-uk.”
  • Internationalized content can also be placed on an entirely different root domain than the non-internationalized site, such as “exampleuksite.com.”

Search engines interpret each URL structure differently, so each technique has its pros and cons, including the resources required to implement and maintain them. Whichever structure you choose, Google recommends that you organize your hierarchy in a similar way in each section of your site, so that it’s intuitive and easy for search engine bots to find and revisit content (crawlability).

Using hreflang

Hreflang is not a clumsy typo – it’s the term for an HTML tag that you can add directly to the source code of a page when you have duplicate content in multiple languages. It makes sure your localized websites are properly ranked by helping search engines understand the language of a piece of content and making sure it gets to the right users in the right market. A key element to consider is how to implement hreflang correctly for two bits of same-language content that target two different countries, such as Portuguese for Portugal versus Portuguese for Brazil. The following example would tell Google that an alternate version of the content is available in Portuguese at the link provided:

<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com/pt” hreflang=”pt-pt”/>

The Argos way

When you work with us, you work with a global team of expert translators and SEO experts. Their detailed knowledge of local cultures and markets allows us to help you find the optimal SEO keywords for each market, and we also provide a full range of language services such as SEO copywriting and localization that can be combined to help your company open new markets and attract a worldwide audience. Visit our website to learn more.

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