Interested in knowing how you can get the maximum returns on your website localisation and foreign internet marketing? Here are my top tips to help ensure the best return for your efforts.
1. Professionally translate your content
Both search engines and (more importantly) users can tell if your content is of low quality. If you’re willing to spend time and effort on your source copy (be it English or whatever native language) why scrimp on effort with the target language. A poorly translated website (or any marketing material for that matter) can be more harmful than just leaving your text in the source language. It is easy to identify a poor translation and can create a very negative impression of your brand, product or service.
2. Plan to be multilingual from the start
This is a difficult one as often you’ll find that when a website is in its initial stages, localisation isn’t always a consideration let alone multilingual SEO. Websites tend to evolve and develop as companies' offerings change and grow. Providing a multilingual version of your website can have a massive impact on your site architecture (layout for example might be affected by word growth of the translated text) and sometimes it can mean a complete redesign or rethink of how you want your site to look. Rather than realise your site is not suitable for localisation once you have a well established site, it is far better to integrate the possibility of localisation into the site design from the start.
3. Research your target market
Research which platforms you want to optimise your site for and which search engines are important to rank on. Ask yourself where your target market spends most of their time online. In the UK and US Google is the market leader but in other countries, China for example this isn’t the case were Baidu is number one. Consider what sites are popular in your target market.
4. Be culturally aware
Digital marketing is all about investigating what works, testing to make sure it does (if it doesn’t try something else) and if it does try and replicate it again tenfold. Multilingual SEO should be the same. During a well planned and executed SEO campaign different aspects of the available digital material (landing pages, ads, profiles etc) will be tested to see which brings in the best results. Testing shouldn’t be in a vacuum but done within the constraints of a specific market. Again multilingual SEO should be the same. Developing a multilingual SEO campaign is all about understanding and testing the actions of a specific geographical market and then adapting to fit the preference of that market. A landing page that is designed well and has a fantastic conversion rate in the UK may not, for example, do as well in Japan, where website layout and site architecture typically is busier. Also don’t take it for granted that site visitor behaviour will be the same for all countries that speak the same language – you need to test and optimise on a per country basis rather than a per language basis.
5. Flags don’t always work for navigation
When building a localised version of your website be aware that using flags to navigate between international versions of a website can be a little confusing as a flag represents countries and not languages. A far better approach is to use a drop down list with the name of that language in that specific language i.e. Français for French, Deutsch for German etc.
6. Make it easy for search engines to pick up which geographical region your site is targeting
Ensure your website architecture and use of domains and sub-domains makes it easy for users and engines to pinpoint the target market for that site. As a general rule wherever possible I recommend using a sub folder within your main root domain so your URLs follow the following pattern:
http://mysite.co.uk/fr/my-great-contenet.html (for the French version of this site)
http://mysite.co.uk/es/my-great-contenet.html (for the Spanish version of this site)
http://mysite.co.uk/en/my-great-contenet.html (for the English version of this site)
If you want to create URLs with non-English characters, make sure to use UTF-8 encoding.
7. Localise your social media
Social media and having a presence on social media sites has become more and more important and plays a big part of most SEO campaigns. Quite often we come across a site that that been translated into numerous languages but has social media profiles left in English (or whatever source language the site was originally built in). If you’re going to the trouble of localising your website why stop there? I appreciate that there may be a considerable investment to be made in managing multiple social media profiles but by not translating you’re reducing the number platforms you have for engaging with potential customers that you’re currently trying to reach. When localising and translating your social media profile you need to be aware that what works in one geographical location may not for another. Facebook may be the platform of choice for many parts of the world but in Brazil and India for example Orkut is also very popular.
Don’t just translate your keywords
Companies who just translate their keywords quickly discover the limitation of this approach. Keyword research should be at the cornerstone of any successful SEO project. One of the principle factors of selecting your keywords is based on what your customers (potential and current) are using to define your offering when they try and find you. Just because a phrase works well in your home market doesn’t necessarily mean a direct translation of it will work (or even make sense) in a foreign market. It might be a common cultural practice to use a misspelling of the keywords or phrases used to find your service offering – the details of which may only be discovered by undertaking keyword research. For maximum ROI, the best approach is to use your translated keywords as a starting block and like any good SEO campaign, develop new relevant and targeted keywords from there. Working with an SEO savvy translator or transcreation professional can be a great help here. Let SEO and translation be two complementary but separate parts in the localisation process.