Multilingual SEO strategy tips

When you look at the huge growth of the internet users in countries like China, Brazil and Russia and comparative lack of content in these languages why not optimize your website for a different market or region? Here are some tips to consider before translating your website into another language.

Secure a local domain name (ccTLD)

Using the country code top level domain (ccTLD) for your target market is an immediate advantage against using subdomains for your main site. Search engines prioritize in-country domain names such as “.co.uk”’ or “.fr”. For example, let’s say you are looking to expand your products to a Russian market. Consider securing the “.ru” domain name or a Cyrillic domain .рф (Russian Federation).

The research shows that at the moment the competition for local domain names is not high, so there is a high chance you can secure a name with the best performing keywords for your products or services.

Try to host in-country

Although Google stated that you don’t have to host Geo website in each country, in-country hosting provides multiple advantages including faster downloads for the end user. If you are targeting countries where Google is not the market leader like Russia and China, having the right ccTLD and hosting in country often prove to be a great investment.

Don’t just translate your keywords – Research them  

In most cases, keywords cannot be translated directly and if you take this approach you will simply target keywords which are not searched for by your target audience.

Without wishing to delve too deeply into the technical aspects just yet, keywords should appear in a header (H1, H2, etc.), in the body text, url and lastly the keywords and description meta tags.

Researching the keywords for a specific country/region is the most important part of your SEO and in the past we have found that clients tend to fall into four groups:

1) The No keywords group

2) The machine translation group

It is actually debatable which is worse. Machine translating your keywords or not having keywords at all. In most cases, keywords cannot be translated directly and if you take this approach you will simply target keywords with are not searched by your target audience.

3) The professional translation group

Marginally better than using machine translation, clients directly translate their keywords, however often simply a waste of time as you end up optimising keywords which your target audience is not searching for.

4) The research and trends group

The correct way. Perform keyword research carried out by experienced analysts living in your target country. Start by providing a list of top keywords to your localization partner to be used as reference only. Remember that the keywords people use in one country to find a product or service may be completely different from what people use in another country. We recommend investing into a research of keywords for a particular market/region.

Let’s take Russia as an example, if you are planning to expand your products or services into the Russian you will need to research your keywords using not just the Google Keyword Planner, but also Yandex Wordstat. Yandex is the largest search engine in Russian with about 62% market share in that country. It was created specifically for a Russian market and is able to handle the complexity of the Russian language. It is ranked 4th largest search engine worldwide and has more than 50 million visitors a day.

Localize your content

Once you have a solid list of keywords, localize your website into your target language basing it around these keywords. Be sure to ask your translation or localization partner to incorporate this list of keywords into the translation.

Tight budgets should go mini

If you are on a tight budget we recommend localizing only a part of your website into a different language choosing information on products or services which you plan to sell in this country. In case of success you may later consider translating the whole website.

Choose your partner carefully

Is your partner technical?

With basic tools, almost any translation agency can translate HTML with little to no knowledge of coding. But chances are your site is a using a CMS (Drupal, WordPress , ModX), dynamic pages (PHP, aspx, etc.) or at the very least some JavaScript.

Translation or transcreation

Translation of website content is not as straightforward as it first might seem. Even when translating the most technical content it is important to bear in mind that the final product should read as if it was created in the target language. Remember that search engines can recognize poor content containing week grammar structures and spelling mistakes. This can result in your website being penalized by search engines.

Location rules and be careful with quality standards

Always use a partner who uses resources who live in the country which you are targeting.

Although we are certified to ISO 9001:2008 and EN 15038, don’t rely on the translation quality standard to as the deciding factor for selecting your provider. There is no stipulation for translators to be native speaking  nor living in country , both of which are essential for SEO.

Avoid duplicate content penalties

If you have the same content for different regions and different languages available on different URLs, use the rel=canonical link element.

The rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-GB” annotation is used to help search engines identify which URLs should be served to which visitors based on language and geographic location, in this case English (UK). This is useful when you have multiple versions of the same content that has been translated or otherwise adjusted to target users in a specific region.

This can be implemented in the tags

e.g.  <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es” href=” http://example.com/us-es” />

or in the sitemap

<url>

 <loc>http://www.example.com/english/</loc>

 <xhtml:link

 rel=”alternate”

 hreflang=”fr”

 href=”http://www.example.com/francais/”

 />

 <xhtml:link

 rel=”alternate”

 hreflang=”ru-ru”

 href=”http://www.example.ru”

 />

 <xhtml:link

 rel=”alternate”

 hreflang=”lv-lv”

 href=”http://www.example.lv”

 />

 </url>

Summary and key points for your multilingual SEO

With careful planning and choosing the right partner, the process of translating, localizing and optimising your foreign language web sites to address new markets need not be a painful or ridiculously costly experience. Do you homework and allow plenty of time to plan and research and test your SEO before you even start to translate.

  1. Consider local domain names and hosting
  2. Research your keywords
  3. Translate your content around these keywords
  4. Choose a localization partner with both linguistic and technical capabilities
  5. Understand that Google is not king in every country. Prepare to optimise for Yahoo, Baidu and Yandex for some markets.
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