Anyone working in any form of business that has an online presence is likely to be familiar with the term SEO. And if you are carefully building an online reputation in one language, surely you must have thought about expanding your client base. This is when translation for multilingual SEO (MSEO) comes into action.
SEO stands for search engine optimization and is the skill of making sure your business appears high up in website, search engine rankings, when your potential customers are searching for phrases relevant to your work. For example, if you run a travel company specializing in family holidays and a potential customer Googles “best family holidays”, then you would hope your website would appear in the top 5 results. Imagine if you spoke to translation company and asked them for English to Spanish translation services so the website could also be used by Spanish speakers. What do you think would happen? What if you also asked for Japanese translations of your website, or German translations to make your website multilingual?
The art, or science, to achieving a high ranking is continually evolving mainly thanks to the many good people at Google, who use top secret algorithms to decide which websites rank most highly. Most of time the changes have a lot to do evolving searching techniques and the search for knowledge. Little is known about how these algorithms actually work but one aspect is generally agreed, that websites with the most relevant content, key words and key phrases will appear the highest in the search engine rankings. It is also a fact that multilingual websites have a certain advantage as their content is multiplied by the number of translations they provide. Translation for multilingual SEO or MSEO for short, works because you are publishing knowledge and making this knowledge known in several languages. Nobody spends money in high quality German translation services, for example, to translate trashy content. You might as well copy-paste machine translation output – but do not be tempted. Google, Bing, Yahoo! have ways of detecting machine translated content. You will be penalized.
If you want to provide a translated version of your website, it is vital that you get the translations right. Simply using an app, like Google Translate, will not take into account slang or different cultural references. It is also highly unlikely to identify the key phrases and key words you need to include in order to boost your rankings on search engines, such as Google.
So, for example, our imaginary travel company should appear high up the rankings for people searching for “best family holidays” if the website contains this phrase multiple times and devotes a lot of content to this subject.
But, what if your business is also targeting non-English speaking markets too? Then the travel company would need the same results to appear for both “best family holidays” in English and “bon vacances en famille” in French, for example. This is when a good translation agency comes into action, not providing a direct French translation services, or unchecked versions, but checking with Google Analytics, Google Keywords search or at least Google Trends which are the terms most often search for in each country.
Using professional translation services for your online presence may be more expensive than doing it for free via Google Translate or Bing Translator – but this will be a false economy. If you care enough about a market to bother translating your website in the first place, then it is worth investing in a proper translation. As a customer there is nothing worse than clicking on a website to find a poor translation, which is likely to mean your customers immediately click off your website and click on one of your competitors. If you cared so little about your image in a language by providing unintelligible Japanese translations, how do you expect a Japanese audience to spend their money on your “mulitilingual” eCommerce site?
There is a well-known urban myth that during a speech in Berlin when the US president, John F Kennedy declared “ich bin ein Berliner”, he accidentally said he was a jelly doughnut rather than a Berliner, as he intended. This has been largely discredited by translation experts since but it does stress the importance of not relying on literal translations.
So here are our top 3 tips for making sure your multilingual website is SEO-friendly.
- Do your research. Make sure you are targeting the right countries and the right key words and phrases. Key words and phrases that work in the USA, for example, might not be the same as those in China. People search differently in different countries, even though they may be searching for the same thing.
- Never ask for a literal translation. Ask your translator to use their local knowledge of culture and slang to rewrite your website copy so it is appealing to your potential customers.
- Update frequently. We know it may seem an un-necessary expense but a static website, which does not update its information is likely to fall down the rankings of Google, or other search engines. Make sure at least some of the content is updated frequently to ensure you stay high in the rankings.