Branding is critical — we can all agree to that. It’s one thing to focus on branding in your native language market, but how are you representing your business in a global environment?
Many companies think that providing a translated website is good enough but it’s just the first step. Yes, it is a significant step in reaching global audiences, but it doesn’t help you truly represent who you are as a brand. According to Advanced Web Ranking, the top three Google organic search results achieve a click-through-rate (CTR) of over 56%. So if you’re looking to boost lead generation and sales from your multilingual website, your brand needs to be found in the top three organic search results.
So, to represent who you are in a global market, you’ll want the appropriate search engines, such as Google, Yandex, Baidu, and Naver, to find those translated websites and place them on the first page of their search engine results.
How do you make this happen?
By implementing an international search engine optimization (ISEO) strategy. This article will discuss four steps to getting started with your multilingual SEO to support your internationally operating brand.
1. Optimize the Source Language Website
Many businesses have multilingual websites, and they just check off this box when they’re done with the translations. However, companies are missing out on a massive opportunity if that’s all they do. How are potential global customers going to recognize and find your brand if you haven’t optimized, only translated your website? How are you going to compete with local markets and brands that are already well established? If you’re going to spend the money and time to localize your original website, you need to optimize it as well. And optimizing means:
- Performing keyword research using tools such as Google Keyword Planner
- Mapping three target SEO keywords to every page on the website
- Creating optimized metatags and making sure to include keywords throughout the content
However, just as you can’t localize a website until the source language content is finalized, you can’t optimize these new versions of the site until the source language website is optimized. Why? You could end up replicating whatever mistakes are in the source language website in all the multiple languages, which will cost you money and time. If you aren’t sure if these tasks have been done, reach out to those who are responsible for your website.
2. Verify that Your Website Has Been Localized—Not Just Translated
So what’s the difference?
- Translation = taking words from one language directly and converting them to another language
- Localization = taking those same words and applying context, language variations and cultural factors into place before translating the words
Anyone can translate words if they know a language, right? But without taking the elements described into account, the words won’t be meaningful and represent your brand correctly. For example, when Kentucky Fried Chicken entered the Chinese market, their slogan “Finger Lickin’ Good” was translated into “Eat Your Fingers.” It could’ve been because of cultural differences or the nuances of Mandarin, but in any case, a misrepresentation like this can be really harmful to your brand trying to enter a new market.
Another example of pure translation is machine translation, such as Google Translate. Now, machine translation can be used appropriately in some use cases, but it just can’t incorporate brand and cultural nuances. If you only rely on pure and machine translation, your global SEO efforts will fail. Google will detect the poor quality of the translation, and you’ll dramatically decrease the chance of ranking on top of their search engine results pages (SERPs). Think about it like this: poorly translated content has to compete with content that was created by a native speaker in the target country. Guess who will win?
3. Keyword Research on Your Source Language Site
After steps 1 and 2 have been implemented, the next task is to define your keywords, which is one of the essential parts of your overall SEO strategy. Performing source language keyword research for SEO is crucial to the success of your international SEO strategy. Just like optimizing your source language site before your multilingual sites, you must make sure that your keywords are correct and adequately mapped to each page on your original website.
This step is so important to nail. A lot of companies *think* that they know what their keywords are, but after a quick search, you often find that the data shows a different picture. One of the biggest misconceptions is that potential customers know your specific product names. Unless you’re a large company like Coca Cola, there’s a good chance that people don’t have that level of brand awareness yet. So someone may be searching for “running shoes for women” instead of “Brand X running shoes.” That’s why you need to use the data from keyword research to optimize all the different versions of your site.
4. Transcreate Your Target SEO Keywords
Once you have a list of source language keywords, and you’ve correctly mapped the keywords to every page on your website, you can start the keyword transcreation process. Transcreation is the process of translating words combined with using data to make decisions about which translated terms to use. Why is this step necessary? A keyword can be correctly translated, but if not very many people are searching for it in the target language, it won’t be nearly as successful from an SEO standpoint as an alternative term that generates more hits.
For example, imagine a Swiss native moving to the US back in the 90s and asking for a “natel” in an electronics store. Back then, “natel” was the term that German-speaking people in Switzerland used for what was known as a cell phone. Language evolves constantly, and the term “smartphone” is the term that’s widely used in the US. Let’s look at the image below showing how many people per month search for smartphone-related German keywords in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria:
Although the same language, it’s interesting to see that the search volumes and keyword preferences differ vastly. This is where the transcreation process comes in.
To get your ISEO keywords right, professional, native-speaking linguists who are trained in the art of global SEO must be involved in the process. These professionals should be intimately familiar with the culture of the targeted locale, as language evolves. This is a skill set that many language service companies don’t have right now, so be sure to do your research.
Represent Your Global Brand Correctly
The last thing you want to do is to represent your brand incorrectly in a market you are keen to succeed in. You simply must take the time and effort to go through the steps outlined in this article or you are already on course to fail. You don’t want your customers to eat their fingers, do you?
About the Author
Chris Raulf is the founder of Boulder SEO Marketing and CR Global Digital Marketing. The full-service digital marketing agencies assist local, national, and international customers with all of their search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, content marketing, web design, and video marketing needs. Chris enjoys speaking about online marketing around the globe, and his international background makes him one of the few professionals in the industry who truly live and breathe multilingual search engine optimization daily. To learn more about Chris, connect with him on LinkedIn, and follow him on Twitter.