You probably already have a couple of web pages that you’d like potential customers and business partners to find. And the chances are that they will indeed find them… when they’re looking for them in English. But what happens when you decide to expand to other language markets? Well, that depends on how you tackle Multilingual SEO (MSEO).
Typical approaches to reaching new local markets run the gamut from completely ignoring MSEO to having an elaborate plan of targeted campaigns and customized messaging. Although ignoring MSEO seems to be free, it actually isn’t budget friendly — your investment in the translation of web pages without an investment in MSEO will result in pages that most people won’t be able to find and, hence, a financial loss. On the other end of the spectrum, there are the quite comprehensive endeavors of local marketing and SEO agencies that know their respective markets.
Somewhere in between these two positions stands the Basic MSEO approach that I will reveal below. Let’s get one thing straight though: you shouldn’t expect Basic MSEO to boost your traffic sky-high. The reason is simple — in its basic form, MSEO deals with so called on-site factors that may contribute less and less to the overall ranking of your content. Nevertheless, if you ignore the basics, the advanced methods won’t work.
That’s also why it makes sense to do Basic MSEO as a part of the localization process — the two can be very naturally integrated. Yes, it will cost you more than just translation, but taking care of the fundamentals will prepare you for the future without bleeding your localization budget dry.
1. Focus on the Details
First of all, make sure that your page is technically sound. There are plenty of free tools with which you can check your code and identify areas for improvement. Of course, you can leave this to the company doing the SEO/MSEO for you.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but those 10 minutes you decide to not spend on fixing an image’s alt text in the source code now will become three hours fixing it in 30 localized pages later. Trust us — we’ve seen some long faces from clients who didn’t understand this. Simply put, investing in source review will save you lots of effort later.
2. Deliver the Goods
At the heart of SEO is the content people actually want to find. If you don’t have something people are looking for, then you can spend a fortune on SEO only to watch your web marketing campaigns miserably fail. You’ve probably clicked on one of those sites that seem to promise the content you’re looking for but deliver nothing but ads, ads, and more ads.
It’s an extreme example, yes, but irrelevant content will frustrate any web site visitor. And that’s the point, really: in the turmoil of quick international expansion you may forget that what works perfectly for your domestic audience may be pretty irrelevant for people in foreign markets. A sophisticated locale-specific campaign will succeed in this regard, but even a couple of translated pages must pass the same relevancy test. A good multi-language vendor should be able to help you with this without too much hassle.
3. Let Them Care
At this point your pages are in good technical shape and you know what content is best for what countries. Now we’re getting to the point where you can get more bang for your localization buck.
The translator rendering your precious content into his or her language knows it through and through. In fact, translation can be close to copywriting, if you give the translator the freedom to unleash his or her creativity. You’ll want some boundaries on that creativity, of course. For example, the SEO search terms and keywords from your original content should be researched, translated, and incorporated into the MSEO content for the target language.
Keyword usage doesn’t pose much of a problem for a regular translator because, in most projects, they are required to use certain terminology. That makes keywords a very familiar concept. The only difference is that in the case of translating keywords translators actually create their own terminology.
And there is another benefit if you decide to go down this road: when you update your content and its keywords, it is then very simple to pinpoint their local equivalents, re-run the research if necessary, and have the updated local text ready for all local crawler bots without much extra effort.
Basic MSEO alone won’t guarantee higher traffic, but it is vital to the more advanced techniques that will — and all without straining your localization budget. Making a smart investment now is why you should seriously consider including Basic MSEO in your localization process.
Let us know what you think about that!