You are aware that your business must transcreate its message as you broaden your digital horizons. Multilingual SEO is an essential component of any global marketing program. The nuances of this process are truly an art form, but there is a certain science to it as well.
The first step to international SEO is keyword translation (90 percent of all Internet searches are done in the mother tongue of the searcher), but there is so much more that goes into the process! Let’s take a look at what successful multilingual SEO looks like.
Google Translate is Not Enough
The technology may get there one day, but it is not there yet: Google Translate is not your go-to for translating your message. There are cultural implications and colloquialisms that this relatively obtuse translation tool cannot currently touch. Keeping in mind that Google Translate is by far the best translation tool on the Internet, you should understand that there will be no shortcuts here.
Keep in mind that Google is not the end all be all in every country, either. For instance, in China, Baidu is number one. Google is completely blocked in China. Yandex is king in Russia. Other search engines either compete or outclass Google in other countries, and their algorithms are completely different and geared to the mother tongue of those countries.
New Long Tail Opportunities
The secret to great keyword research in any language is the long tail keyword. However, there may be opportunities in one linguistic culture that do not exist in another. You will not know this unless you know how to really speak the language. After all, it is the human visitors who are creating queries out of their real typed questions. They are the ones providing the initial data for the search engine algorithms to build around, so it makes sense that a foreign search engine is going to prefer a native speaker and punish a pretender to the throne.
This is the first reason to invest in a local translator – you sound like a third grader to the local search engine otherwise. Think of it this way: If you write your content in broken, second grade English to Google, then Google is going to punish your website. In the same way, if you are writing in broken Cantonese to Baidu, that website is going to distrust and punish you.
Learning How Users Search Overseas
Cultural differences show themselves in more ways than one. Your target market may search for products and services in a vastly different way in different markets. Overlook this detail at your peril. You may even walk into an inappropriate phrasing or two if you are not very careful.
Images and videos are even worse if you do not fully understand the nuances of a language. When you add misplaced visuals to misplaced text, you exponentially increase the opportunity to offend someone in a foreign culture.
Now that we have alerted you to some of the pitfalls, let’s take a look at some of the best practices that you should take heed of before investing in a multilingual SEO program for your business.
Best Practices for Multilingual SEO:
Your Site Map
You can tell Google and the rest of the major search engines which language your website is actually targeting. This command is in your XML site map and is known as the hreflang attribute. Make sure that you set the target country as well as the target language directly in the code if you can. This helps search engines direct users to your localized website, even if you have multiple versions.
Localized Inbound Links
Inbound links are a very important aspect of your website ranking in all locations around the world. However, search engines will prioritize inbound links from localized websites. You need to be sure that these are not just any websites – quality websites are the only ones who can raise your ranking. In short, build links for your international campaign in the same way as you build them for your domestic campaign.
Many experts debate the significance of local hosting in your search engine optimization. Google claims that it does not discriminate based on the location of your servers. Although this cannot be proven, it is less of a factor than you may realize. Remember that Google is not the number one search engine in many countries around the world. Make sure that you conduct research to figure out engine that local users are searching on. Find out if that search engine has the same policy as Google when it comes to local hosting.
Your ccTLD is your country code top-level domain, a distinction that indicates your website’s targeted country. For instance, if your website has an .in suffix, most search engines will be able to tell that you are targeting users in India. Many experts actually argue that Baidu, Yandex and Naver actually favor ccTLD that resides outside of America.
As you expand your international campaign, you may create multiple sites for localized areas with duplicate content. For instance, if you are localizing to the United States and United Kingdom, you may duplicate the website in many areas because the main language in both countries is English. In this case, use the rel=”canonical” link so that the search engines will not punish you for duplicate content.
All of these steps may seem like a bit much, but they will make all the difference as you expand your campaign beyond international waters. Honestly, you should not try to take on this process by yourself. The investment in an international search engine optimization specialist will keep you from flipping your lid and will probably result in a faster time to market for your international websites.