Tag: design


Nine multilingual SEO mistakes and how to avoid them

Localization, Multimedia Translation, Technology

Building an international and multilingual presence online isn’t the easiest thing to do, and there are plenty of ways to mess up. That’s why it’s worth reviewing these nine common multilingual SEO errors that can trip up any company looking to expand abroad.

1. Using the same URL for each of your multilingual web versions

Each of your language or country pages must be shown through its own specific and accessible URL (web address) so that Google can effectively crawl, index and rank your sites. This is much better for your Google rank than locale-adaptive crawling, which attempts to determine a visitor’s language or country via their location information and shows them a version of content on the same URL for all languages.

Google’s search engine doesn’t use cookies, and therefore if you have a multilingual website and control your URL with cookies only, it will literally be impossible for Google to index the foreign versions of your website. Anything after a hashtag (#) also counts as the same URL to search engines, so it’s essential that the language determinant is before any hashtags used in the URL.

Thus, it’s imperative that you set up an individual web structure for each international version of your website. If you are targeting multilingual clients/customers, this means using country specific domain names, sub-directories or sub-domains. There are advantages and disadvantages to all of these options and no clear winner in terms of SEO. My personal preference is to use separate country domain names and it’s simple to configure different domains to use the same database with CMS systems like WordPress, PrestaShop or Drupal.

2. Redirecting users automatically to an international version of your website without giving them a choice

Obviously, you want to make sure that a visitor is seeing the right version of your site, especially after you put so much effort into making separate versions. Automatic redirection based on country or browser language is a problem because:

  1. Automatic redirects can confuse users, especially those who might mistake it for some kind of virus or scam.
  2. They might genuinely want to view the version of your site that they clicked on because the country-specific website is not written in their language (if they’re expats or tourists) or they may want to compare your services by country.
  3. Websites get most of their visits from search engines and, except for brand name searches, it’s likely that someone will have found a page by going to the version of Google they want and entering a language specific keyword to find your site.
  4. You’ll also redirect the Googlebot because its crawlers are only in a select number of countries (mainly the US). This means that Google may only see and index a limited number of your sites.

Most importantly, if users can’t easily change back to the version of your site that they want, they may very well choose your competitor instead. So instead of automatically redirecting a used, show a pop-up message giving them the option to click through to the site you think they should be on.

3. Using automated translation alone

It can be an expensive endeavor to create international versions of your website, so many people will choose to cut corners by using machine translation. After all, it’s quick, easy and cheap.

The downside, however, is massive. Machine translation is not known for its nuance, and it normally just does a straight word-for-word translation. This can cause all manner of problems as a quick online search for ‘marketing translation fails’ will show you. (A personal favorite is the KFC slogan “Finger-Lickin’ Good” translated to “Eat Your Fingers Off” in China.)

The only way to avoid this and ensure your website is fully comprehensible to an international audience is to hire professional translators. You don’t want your content to be misinterpreted. You can, however, use Google Analytics to find which pages on your site get the most visits and consider not translating pages that receive very little traffic (and that aren’t important for legal reasons).

4. Forgetting to translate “hidden” parts of the website

When you’re translating your website into multiple languages, you’re going to remember to translate body text, page titles, blogs, captions and things that are easily seen by any visitor to your website. That’s great.

However, there is plenty of text that may easily go unseen (and therefore untranslated) when you merely focus on the pages you see when checking the site yourself. This could be text that works in the background to increase traffic to your site, or it could be pages that only pop up when the visitor performs a certain action, like clicking through to buy a product. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Metatag titles
  • Meta descriptions
  • URLs
  • Alt text for images
  • Checkout pages
  • Newsletter sign-up forms
  • Error messages

You need to do a deep dive into the background of your website and try to use the site as a potential client/customer would. The metatag title and description appear in the search results and are particularly important to translate for any multilingual SEO project. One way to check if these have been translated is to do a search in Google for site:example.com. Replacing “example.com” with the name of your domain, with no space after “site:” will show you all the pages that Google has indexed of your site.

5. Not considering product availability in foreign markets

A major challenge that you will face when setting up a company in international markets is product shipping. When you are planning your SEO strategy, you need to figure out how to reflect your new warehouse situation on each international version of your website as some products, due to differing regulations or other concerns, may not be available in all countries.

Decide whether you’ll redirect them to a different product based on their IP settings or bring up a “Not available in your area” message. This will provide you with a seamless user experience and increase your conversions.

6. Not using specific keyword research for each different market

Keywords are not universal. One that works perfectly and drives massive conversion among consumers in England might fail for English-speaking people across Europe or in other English-speaking countries. This is why you can’t just translate your existing keywords and hope for the best. It will create huge gaps, which your competitors will take advantage of.

Instead, do keyword research in each separate language and by country. We all know that English-speakers in different countries have different words for the same thing (such as cookie and biscuit), so you don’t want to fall into that trap.

It is a lot of work, but it is the foundation for your multilingual SEO strategy, so it’s worth the effort to build your site on a solid foundation. For some terms, particularly technological terms, it’s possible that foreign speakers will still search for the English version of a keyword, even if a local translation exists and keyword research is the only way to reliably identify which version is most used in any given country.

7. Opting to translate rather than transcreate

Going back on our previous discussions of why machine translation is tricky, you should know that mere translation alone can create problems for your business. Often, this translation won’t be adequate for foreign markets, because copying content word-for-word may mean duplicating content that doesn’t really work in other countries.

The solution to this is transcreation. Simply put, transcreation is creating marketing content that resonates in local markets and delivers the same impact as the content on the original site. Often, it uses the original idea as a base but localizes it to create quality content that will increase the impact on consumers.

For example, if you’re in the tech sphere and you had a blog post about earning money through recycling your old phone on your UK website, this would need major alterations for a Spanish site where the rules around recycling are different.

Some phrases are particularly difficult to translate and this is where transcreation is essential. See examples of these in German and Spanish, plus a guide on adapting to the French culture as part of French SEO.

8. Forgetting to localize content on your websites for different countries

In a similar vein, don’t automatically assume that you can reuse content for websites that are in the same language, but developed for different countries (i.e. the UK and the US). There are numerous examples of linguistic and cultural differences between countries with the same official language that we don’t make enough allowances for.

For example, if a page on your UK site talks about rainy days, it may not be relevant in some parts of the US or in Australia. You need to localize the content to target your audience in each specific country, which will mean different idioms, references, and content styles.

Again, this is another example of why keyword research using native speakers is so important. Look at the different words that English speakers in the UK, the US and Australia use to mean the same thing.

UK US Australia
Chemist/Pharmacy Drugstore Chemist/Pharmacy
Sweets Candy Lollies
Toilet Restroom/Bathroom Bathroom/Dunnie
Plane Airplane Aeroplane
Rucksack Backpack Matilda
Fancy Dress Costume Togs

9. Failing to engage in local link building

Link building is an important tool for any company or website, but too many businesses will leave this until much later in their multilingual SEO strategy. If you have a well-established site it can be easy to assume that a high quality translation with good on-page SEO will be sufficient for the newly translated site to rank well with Google. This isn’t always the case, as your existing site may have lots of quality backlinks going to it, and your new site won’t, and backlinks are half the story when it comes to SEO.

You’ll attain a higher Google rank by making sure that your local site is being linked to by local and regional websites. You can do this in a range of different ways:

  • Writing engaging articles that include a relevant backlink to your site and asking bloggers to add it to their site.
  • Submitting your site to country specific directories — ideally ones focusing just on the service you offer, or similar products/services.
  • Engaging with a local audience on social media.

For optimal multilingual SEO, it’s important that links go to the correct language version of your site (so French content links to your French pages, German content links to your German pages and so on). You can also read more on how to implement a successful multilingual link building strategy.


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Martin Woods is the SEO director of Indigoextra Ltd, a multilingual marketing company. He has 17 years of experience in web design, translation and SEO. He was raised in the UK and live in Montpellier, South France, where he homeschools two boys.


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SDL Tados 2021

Conversational UI Language Design at LocWorld35

Language in Business, Language in the News, Personalization and Design, Translation Technology

Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) team member (and Microsoft Alum) Karen Scipi (@karenscipi) presented on the subject of Conversational UI in the Enterprise at #LocWorld35 Silicon Valley. Karen covered the central importance of  language design for chatbots and other conversational user interfaces (CUIs) for global work use cases.

Karen Scipi presenting on Conversational UIs in the Enterprise at Localization World in Silicon Valley 2017 (Image credit: Olga)

Karen Scipi presenting on Conversational UIs in the Enterprise at Localization World in Silicon Valley 2017 (Image credit: Olga)

Karen even developed two chatbot integrations for Slack introducing her topic. One was in English, the other was in Italian.

Italian LocWorld Chatbot Conversation Example

Italian LocWorld Chatbot Conversation Example (Source: Karen Scipi)

What’s a Conversational UI?

Chatbots and the alike are a very hot topic, wrapped up in the artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), and robotics part of technology’s evolution. However, user experience design insight and an empathy for how people interact with each other through technology in work, at play, or in everyday life makes the difference when creating a great user experience in any language.What could be more 'natural' than talking to a computer? Click To Tweet

CUI means we moved from a “user”-centric concept of design to a human-centric one. After all, what could be more “natural” that talking to a computer? Both humans and computers “converse” in dialog, and it’s the language design knowledge for such a conversation that’s critical to delivering a natural, human-like interaction between the two.

Examples of CUIs include Facebook Messenger, Slack bots, TelegramAmazon Echo and Alexa devices, and so on. Interaction can be via voice, SMS messaging, typing text on a keyboard, and so on.

In the enterprise there are a broad range of considerations and stakeholders that localization and UX pros must to consider. Fundamentally though, enterprise CUIs are about increasing participation in the user experience of work, making things simpler.


Oracle Conversational UI image showing the interaction and participation of humans and the cloud - in any language! (Source: OAUX)

Oracle Conversational UI image showing the interaction and participation of humans and the cloud – in any language! (Source: OAUX)

Localization of Conversational UIs

To an extent, the localization or language part of the CUI interaction is determined by the NLP support of the chatbot or other platform used: what languages it supports, how good the AI and ML parts are, and so on. However, language skills are at the heart of the conversational UI design, whether it’s composing that  user storyline for design flows or creating the prompts and messages seen by the human involved.

This kind of communication skill is much in-demand: It is a special type of talent: a mix of technical writing, film script or creative writing, transcreation, and interpreting. It’s a domain insight that gets right down to the nitty-gritty of replicating and handling how humans really speak and write: slang, errors, typos, warts and all. CUI language designers must even decide how emoji and personality can or should be localized in different versions of a chatbot.

Where’s the Conversation Headed?

The conversational UI market is growing globally as messenger apps take over. Localization and language pros cannot ignore the conversational UI space.

Karen will be speaking next at the Seattle Localization User Group (SLUG) in December (2017) about Conversational UIs in the Enterprise.Localization and language pros cannot ignore the conversational UI space. Click To Tweet


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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Unicode Jewels: Ogham Alphabet Made Personal

Language, Personalization and Design

I’ve just had a super new ring made for me by Irish designer Breda Haugh. It’s in sterling silver with a single pink sapphire stone set around Ogham symbols.

Silver Sapphire Ogham ring by Breda Haugh

Silver pink sapphire Ogham ring by Breda Haugh. Breda specializes in design based on historical and cultural themes.

Wikipedia tells us that Ogham is “an Early Medieval alphabet used to write the early Irish language (in the so-called “orthodox” inscriptions, 1st to 6th centuries AD), and later the Old Irish language (so-called scholastic ogham, 6th to 9th centuries)”, and that “according to the High Medieval Bríatharogam, names of various trees can be ascribed to individual letters.”

Here are the Ogham inscriptions on my ring explained in terms of the trees and their personal significance (I was born in September and my son’s name is Fionn by the way):

Ogham meanings on my ring explained

Ogham inscriptions on my ring explained.

And guess what? Thanks to Unicode you can digitally create your own story in Ogham too. Here is the Ogham Unicode block (via Wikipedia):

Ogham Unicode block (via Wikipedia)

Ogham Unicode block (via Wikipedia)

Evertype even offers a Unicode Ogham script font for you to use: Everson Mono Ogham.

I love it when the old meets the new in a different, stylish way that resonates personally, culturally and historically with our roots.

And, if there’s a digital way to make that experience easier for you to create, then all the better!

More information on Ogham

To find out more about the historical origins of Ogham and the relationship with trees, check out these sources:

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Visual Composer makes Citizen Developer a Citoyen du Monde

Personalization and Design

Interesting to see that Facebook has announced the launch of a multilingual composer tool that enables users to post their status updates in different languages so that their friends and followers can see the update in only their preferred language. 

This notion of composers is not new, of course. They’ve been around for a while and often encountered in the e-commerce and SaaS spaceAmazon lets sellers create, customize, and brand their own online stores for example. What is interesting from a user experience perspective is that composers are part of the emergence of a global citizen developer role, a role that now finds itself responsible for tailoring the language in the UI of cloud applications.

Oracle SaaS Release 10 in Dutch. Language changes can be made with a visual composer tool.

Oracle SaaS Release 10 in Dutch. Language changes can be made with a visual composer tool.

Oracle SaaS Release 10 in Dutch. Language changes can be made with composer tools.

The term citizen developer itself presents some difficulty and in many ways is a contradiction in terms. Nobody seriously expects governments, multinational corporations, and bodies of that nature to hand over their implementation or SaaS customization to “citizens” with basic “Hello, World” programming chops.

Instead, think of citizen developers as more about the empowerment of software owners themselves to make their own modifications, be they branding, extensions, localisation, or translation changes. It’s all about enabling customers to take real ownership of their cloud software, without resorting to making source code changes or needing any real software development skills. It’s a low-code or no-code approach, if you like. In other words, citizen development abstracts away the complexity of programming and integration so that user experience can be tailored to your heart’s desire as if by magic. The tool du jour for the job of making your own digital world? Composers. The very word has an element of artistry to it.

Composers are more vital tools than ever now with the advent of SaaS, be they in the hands of the customers, implementation partners, user experience specialists, or design consultancies who don’t usually have, or need, deep-drive software development skills yet know what the desired result should be.

Sandbox-based composers enable Oracle partners, for example, to make SaaS user experience changes quickly and safely for customers, freeing up their own development resources for more critical tasks. Given that 80% of enterprise software applications require customization of some sort, composers are a key part of the partner world’s implementation and maintenance toolkit.

In the multilingual enterprise space, for example, a partner might be asked by a customer to make language changes across their suite of applications quickly and securely, ensuring that the changes are made in just the right places. That’s what’s happened in one case where Oracle PartnerNetwork member and UX champ central Certus Solutions was asked to change the out of the box German translation for performance to another word shown in Oracle’s simplified UI for SaaS. The customer wanted to use the English word instead. Language is a critical part of the UX; like everything else it must be designed.

German Simplified UI customization done using a visual cloud composer

German Simplified UI customization done using a visual cloud composer

If you need the word Performance for your user experience; then so be it! German simplified UI SaaS customization by Certus Solutions (now Accenture) using a visual composer tool.

Other examples might be the desire to change all those U.S. English spellings to the U.K. variant; or to make changes in language that reflect how customers actually structure and run their business. For example, employee might be changed to partner. The label My Team is often changed to My Department, a language change that doesn’t even require a composer right away but can be done at the personalization level with just a click and overtype if you have the right security settings! Some previous translations for the word worker have proven problematic in Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, and French, requiring modification for certain customers (let’s not go there). There are lots of examples where composers could be used to change the language of an application or service.

Autumn? Fall? Who cares! Change the language in the SaaS simplified UI easily with a sandbox-safe visual composer.Autumn? Fall? Who cares! Change the language in the SaaS simplified UI easily with a sandbox-safe visual composer.

What is of interest is that very few of these composer tools use localization industry standard procedures or formats and yet seem the better for it. For example, although language changes are made directly into resource bundles or XLIFF files, they are done so at run-time, eliminating context problems. Composer tools rarely have any complex terminology look-up capability, offer TBX support, have language QA features other than spell checkers, and nor do they use translation memory or support TMX. Why not? Well, these things aren’t needed by customers or partners right now and probably would just complicate things.

Perhaps as composers evolve this kind of “traditional translation” functionality might appear. But only if the customers and partners demand it.

Allowing business users to make a language change themselves is more cost-effective, faster, and more secure solution than doing a retranslation or taking a UX hit by deciding to leave the language as is. The result is a better customer experience, faster.

Will translators find themselves out of a job as a result?


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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Thumbs Up to International Design Considerations?

Localization Culture, Personalization and Design

I’ve been reading Designing Social Interfaces by Christian Crumlish and Erin Malone. It’s a fine book written by two respected experts and provides more than 100 user experience design patterns, principles and best practices to use when designing social websites. Recommended!

Facebook Like Button. A Thumbs Up to Global Cultural Design Considerations?

Facebook 'Like' Button. A Thumbs Up to Global Cultural Design Considerations?

I was drawn to the “international considerations” section for the Thumbs Up/Down Ratings pattern. This pattern, it says, might present issues for some countries or locales, because:

  • Raised thumbs can be problematic in some cultures. Users may not understand the symbolism, or worse, the gesture may even be offensive.
  • There are cultures that don’t see things in binary terms as a thumbs up or thumbs down response, and may prefer some nuance that’s in between, and less absolute.
  • Some cultures may not like to criticize openly, or maybe only a thumbs-up option is best.

All a bit vague really in terms of identifying cultures might have issues, don’t you think? Plus, I am immediately prompted to ask: what is Facebook doing in such countries or regions? In Thailand, for example?

Plus, I am not sure if such culturally-based recommendations are always as black and white (oh, the irony) as claimed,  given the nature of internet technology, globalization, and especially without any knowledge of the user and context of use. The only way to find out is to do some usability testing, taking into account context of use.

That said, it’s always great to see international considerations included in UX design guidance, and we do with more!

The comments are open if you agree or disagree.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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