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SEO Localisation: How to Get the Most from Your Localised Content

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It often takes significant effort and resources to develop a localised version of an existing website, social media presence, or Google AdWords campaign. And having invested so much time and effort into appealing to new audiences, it’s hugely frustrating if the campaign or site fails to generate significant volumes of traffic. Yet this sort of wasted endeavour is a recurring theme among businesses – and it’s often due to the absence of one crucial element…

Introducing SEO localisation

Often, localisation projects are executed by translators and marketers, without the support of search engine optimisation (SEO) specialists. This is a major mistake. By working collaboratively with SEOs, those responsible for localising content can ensure that the copy is written and structured to rank highly in overseas search results.

There are crucial differences between normal localisation and SEO localisation. Foremost among these is the importance of verifying keywords and search terms, rather than simply translating them. If foreign nationals use a different term to describe a product or service, that’s the word which needs to achieve a high ranking result. The direct translation of the English word is irrelevant if users wouldn’t think to search for it. This even happens in English-speaking countries; for instance, cola is referred to as pop in America’s Midwestern states, yet it’s called soda in New England. The value of local awareness is hard to overstate.

Identifying relevant terms in foreign languages is a specialist skill, but it follows similar principles to SEO work in English. Monthly search rates should be investigated alongside competitor analysis, so budgets are directed towards high-ranking search terms. Few companies can afford to squander advertising budgets on low-value results, or allow competitors to dominate the market. It’s often surprising how many irrelevant terms SEO advertising appears alongside, but stripping out these negative keywords will gradually make any campaign more focused and cost-effective.

Global focus, local markets

To achieve successful SEO localisation, try to conduct keyword research in all target languages before the original ‘source’ content is written. This helps to establish a consistent global focus, simplifying the job of adapting copy to reflect individual markets. It identifies issues with brand names or key terms in foreign languages, recognising cultural differences and pre-emptively avoiding embarrassment or offence. Algorithm-based software won’t meet these objectives, whereas native speakers will understand such nuances. Plus, poorly-written machine translation may be dismissed as spam by search engines.

Talented writers will be able to retrospectively change keywords and sentence/paragraph construction, but it’s easier if they’re involved in content production from the outset. It’s also simpler to change non-visible page elements like title tags and meta descriptions to suit foreign audiences if translation is planned from day one. If you’re only translating content into one other language, consider bilingual image captions and placeholder text.

Always follow the green Yoast code

In recent years, SEO tools like Yoast have simplified the job of optimising content. Yoast’s traffic light rating system flags up common issues, such as the overuse of keywords.

A decade ago, SEO practitioners favoured keyword stuffing – inserting the same word or long tail phrase into every sentence. However, websites written for algorithms rather than people are heavily penalised by search engines. And, speaking of search engines, don’t assume Google dominates overseas markets as it does here. Yandex is Russia’s go-to platform, while Baidu leads the way in China.

Like any online content, localised websites will have their rankings lowered if they contain broken links. The same is true of links from low-grade copy farms sporting dubious top level domains (.men, .club, etc.). Slow loading times hinder rankings, underlining the importance of always choosing a web hosting company with plentiful bandwidth and responsive server architecture.

Some SEO issues are unique to localised content, however. Without a hidden HTML tag informing Google and Bing that web copy has been translated, duplicated text may be penalised for plagiarism. Search engines champion domestic top level domains, downgrading foreign country code TLDs as less relevant. A com./ccTLD structure represents one workaround for a business trading in multiple territories, though dedicated ccTLD sites in each nation are even better. This supports news stories and blog posts in every target language, and pages which are regularly updated score more highly for SEO.

Famous last words

SEO localisation is simply an extension of the principles underpinning all good localisation content. It adapts content to the needs of distinct target audiences and different cultures, increasing engagement and conversion rates. It’s a service Language Connect has offered for many years, and we’d be delighted to assist with your company’s SEO localisation needs. Reach out to us here to speak to one of our experts today.


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