MSEO: Why Glossary Terms Don’t Work For Keyword Localization
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MSEO: Why Glossary Terms Don’t Work For Keyword Localization

MSEO: Why Glossary Terms Don’t Work For Keyword Localization

Building out multilingual versions of a global website almost always requires a multilingual Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy. Multilingual SEO ensures each localized site ranks highly in the target market’s dominant search engines under relevant search terms, or keywords.

The industry-standard term “keyword” can be confusing for localization managers who have deeper experience working with glossaries. Since glossaries already contain key terms and their translations, can’t they serve as keywords for multilingual SEO?

Glossaries are termbases containing an English (source) term and its target language equivalents. It’s true that glossaries and keywords both deal with terminology specific for each target market, but let’s examine a few reasons why glossaries are no substitute for multilingual keywords.

Relationship to Source

A glossary term has a direct relationship with one other term. But an SEO keyword can have a group of words mapped to a single source concept. The whole purpose of SEO is to make your content relevant to a qualified prospect at the moment your content would be useful, which means you have to anticipate the myriad ways they might phrase the search engine query. The relationship is one to many, or several to several. That group of words should contain a translation, synonyms and even common misspellings.

Here is an example:keywordtable

Linguistic Process

SEO keyword localization involves research, brainstorming and creative translation (transcreation) which takes more time than straightforward glossary term translation. When a linguist specializing in SEO is performing keyword localization, the work involves generating as many variations as possible based on in-country linguistic knowledge and research, ultimately selecting the most relevant and commonly-searched terms to emphasize in the SEO program.

Developing the list of keywords starts with researching search terms already used in-market. The linguist may also translate the source terms, especially when a product is new in the market, or involves a concept that is nuanced or narrow. The linguist sometimes prioritizes a keyword that isn’t precise, or linguistically perfect, because the term is easier for the client to dominate in search rankings, or because the term is more commonly queried, resulting in better client exposure. 

Using the Results

After the keywords are identified and prioritized, they must be included in the content of pages that ought to rank highly under the given search terms. Search engine spiders examine each page’s meta tags (HTML code that is not displayed in the browser, but which is visible if you “view source” under the browser menu), as well as the actual UI content that site visitors read.

That means an SEO linguist must review the localized page content looking for places to “seed” the keywords, in essence, pepper them into the body text without altering the content’s meaning, style, or syntactical quality.

There’s certainly some crossover between glossary terms/equivalents and multilingual keywords, and a glossary may be a useful asset for the SEO linguist to consult, but under no circumstances should you think your glossary will eliminate the need for keyword localization.

Multilingual SEO is an interesting challenge because it’s half technical/engineering and half linguistic/creative. What other multilingual SEO concepts are confusing for globalization managers? Have you found glossaries helpful in jumpstarting keyword localization?