Tag: SEO

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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

How to localize your eCommerce listings in a way that sells

Localization

eCommerce localization is a complicated process that entails much more than just finding the right word in a dictionary. It may demand a much broader understanding of the culture, along with a strong knowledge of the niche the eCommerce operates in. This requires proficiency in brands, categories, conversion tables and a host of other aspects.

Let’s look at the things you need to take into account when localizing your eCommerce listings to increase your sales.

Why localize in the first place?

Localization is absolutely imperative if you’re considering expanding your eCommerce overseas. With the rise of more global eCommerce sites, the issue of international language awareness is gradually becoming more pertinent. Unfortunately, you can’t simply rely on an English copy of your site anymore and expect a sizable market share. It matters greatly to know how the customer speaks in these remote locations.

According to a report published by eMarketer, the international eCommerce industry will see a 20.7% growth in the current year. It is projected that the market will reach $3.535 trillion. The same report indicates that by 2021, eCommerce should reach the $5 trillion mark. This type of retail is experiencing significant growth, and it’s expected that this trend will be sustained for the years to come.

More importantly, the now-famous “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy” study, published by CSA Research, has made it clear how disengaged non-English speakers are with marketplaces that do not in feature their native languages. Here are some essential takeaways from the study:

  • Approximately 70% of consumers browse sites in their native languages.
  • Well over 70% of consumers indicate they choose to buy products advertised in their native language, almost 100% of the time.
  • Over half of the respondents care more about the language the product is advertised in than about the price of the product.

That is why it is a good idea to find an expert in your area for your foreign language matters. Localization is a fairly lengthy process and demands considerable effort, investment and meticulous care. Proper localization is an industry standard in the global business ecosystem.

Localization over translation

To illustrate the difference between translation and localization, if you translate “low cost” to Italian, you’ll end up with “a basso costo.” Let’s say you have a travel blog, and you’re trying to advertise or sell inexpensive flights to an Italian audience.

Optimizing your content by including a few iterations of “voli (flights) a basso costo,” you’ll end up losing a considerable amount of traffic and engagement from your target audience. The reason? While the above syntagm is grammatically correct, Italians don’t Google low-cost flights by searching for “voli a basso costo,” but rather “voli low cost.”

The same can be said about the listings on your website. Sometimes, we’re just dissuaded from purchasing products that are worded unnaturally.

Tip 1: Think like a buyer, not a dictionary

As we mentioned previously, there is an essential difference between localization and translation — the canons they follow. Translation is a process that is somewhat preoccupied with satisfying linguistic standards, whereas localization is more focused on the speakers, their culture, and their habits. When localizing names and descriptions for your eCommerce listings, think about what the buyer would find appealing.

If you’re localizing a product description that has a set of unusual features, focus on the things that you’d like you your buyers to notice. Yet, at the same time, don’t forget that it’s imperative to make your product’s value clear.

Tip 2: Take SEO into account

While many countries around the globe share languages, they still refer to them differently. For instance, while Germans and Austrians speak the same language, the way they look for the same products differs considerably.

When localizing product names, keep your eye on keyword density in both countries, it may reveal the ways the citizens of different nations refer to the same product.

Studies published in the Harvard Business Review, for example, clearly indicate that localized content is superior to generic material because it feels much more personal and appropriate. It can connect to the customer or reader at a much deeper level.

This is something search engines value a lot. To some extent, this is a search engine’s goal — provide the user with high-quality content or products that they’ll meaningfully engage with. If your product names are appealing to your potential customers, the search engine will typically rank higher in search results. As a result, this will lead to greater exposure and visibility.

Tip 3: Take measurement systems into account

Different countries measure things differently. Neighboring countries that speak the same language can often use different measurement units. The US and Canada are a notable example.

When it comes to clothing, localization demands extra care. For example, if your eCommerce focuses on clothing or shoes, besides localizing the interfaces and the copy, you’ll also have to localize a broad spectrum of various measurements, which can often be a daunting, but essential task. What’s considered Size 12 in the United States, may end up being a Size 11 in Mexico, and Size 46 Europe.

Tip 4: Localized messaging and advertising

Your banners and pop-ups that advertise your products should also take cultural norms, pop culture references and idioms into account.

Besides banners, there are also chatbots — a technology that has become very popular with eCommerce platforms and other businesses.

Chatbot interaction can also be localized to a great extent, which will have a considerable impact on the customer experience, and arguably, their engagement with the platform.

By providing a chatbot with the right tone and vocabulary, you’ll be able to humanize it and ensure that your target audience will find it pleasing. A chatbot can take advantage of the lexical peculiarities of a region or country: Texas vs. New York, or Paris vs. Quebec. Similarly, it can tap into the lexical characteristics of a particular age group in a particular part of the world.

Tip 5: Keep an eye on sales and returns

The period after you’ve added the localized version of the listings to the site, there’ll still be a period of calibration and testing. To assess the quality of your localization, keep an eye on the number of sales, and returns immediately after those changes are introduced to the site. Chances are that poorly-localized products can mislead customers and cause them to return their orders — keep an eye on those.

Darryl Adeyemi, localization specialist at Is Accurate and Pick The Writer, says to “Allow your customers to signal that there was a discrepancy between the listing and the actual product that has been delivered. Let them know that you’re working on making your service better for them. Enable them to make improvements and leave feedback when possible.”

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Kristin Savage is pursuing a degree in creative writing and is gaining experience in the publishing industry with expertise in marketing strategy for publishers and authors.

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How to rank well in French SEO

Language in Business, Localization Basics

If you want to reach a wide audience online in France, then it’s essential to incorporate SEO as part of your marketing strategy.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is part art and part science and includes a range of techniques designed to help you rank on the first page with Google for important keywords.If search engines didn’t exist, would it still make sense? Click To Tweet

When considering SEO, it’s essential to follow up-to-date advice. Google now uses an artificial intelligence technology (called RankBrain) as a large factor in determining how to rank websites. This and other updates mean that they penalize sites using keyword stuffing, spammy backlinks or other old fashioned SEO techniques. A good logic test is “if search engines didn’t exist, would this still make sense?”

french seo

Put your visitors first

SEMRush completed a study of Google’s ranking factors in September 2017 and found that factors like the time visitors spend on your site and the number of pages they view are now more important than factors such as how often you include a specific keyword on the page. This reinforces the importance of creating a user-friendly website with a responsive design that considers human factors first.

Accurate and easy-to-read translations, attractive images and a user-friendly layout will therefore help not only when visitors arrive at your site, but will also help you rank higher with Google and therefore drive more visitors to your site.

Write good metatags and URLs

The title and description metatag aren’t visible on your page, but appear in the search results on Google and other search engines. They’re the only information that potential visitors have when they decide whether to visit your site. Therefore, you should prioritize them. A good title metatag should include one or two keywords people search for. For example, if you’re an English teacher in Montpellier, including English, teacher and Montpellier in the meta title of your home page is a must. It should also be well written.

If you’ve translated an English site to French, check to be sure that you or your translators have included the metatags in their translation, asthis is an aspect that’s often overlooked.

Similarly, it helps if the French version of your site has URLs (the web address of each page) that are also written in French. A page called “some-english-keyword” will receive less French traffic than a page called “mot-cle-anglais.” However, it’s normal to remove accents in the URLs, as when you copy them into an email (for example), the software often doesn’t recognize accents in the URL and will convert them to a string of what looks like random characters and % signs, which looks messy (though the link will still work).

Complete a professional translation

Google translation is getting better and better, but is still far behind a professional manual translation and if you use Google translate, parts of your content will be complete gobbledygook (or Googledygook, as I like to call it). This has several disadvantages:

  • You will put off readers and make them less trusting of your company.
  • Google treats automatically translated content differently and tries to either not index it at all, or to rank it far worse than professionally translated content.
  • You risk accidentally including mistakes that could have legal or financial consequences.

Given all the above, completing a professional French translation that also takes into account SEO elements is an essential step when creating a multilingual website.

Do keyword research when translating product names

It’s particularly important for SEO that you use the optimal translations of product names in your French translation. For some products there’s only one possible translation. But for others, there could be three or four possible translations of the product name.

Do keyword research using any of a range of tools (AHREFs or SEMRush are two of the most popular ones) to identify how often each possible translation is searched for each month. If you find one version is searched for 1,000 times a month and another only 30 times a month, then it’s obvious which version will generate the most traffic to your site.

Keyword research is also a good way of establishing which product name will make the most sense to the average native French speaker, as a keyword with a higher search volume will also be the more natural sounding one for your translation.

Consider cultural differences

While it’s important to keep cultural differences in mind in general, the ideal is to consider cultural differences when it comes to your website design and even your business decisions.

If you’re translating a site that has other issues, make sure you talk to the person responsible for the functionality or design, as these all play a role too.

For example:

  • French business correspondence tends to be more formal, and it’s not uncommon to receive emails signing off with long expressions like “Veuillez recevoir, Madame/Monsieur, l’expression de mes salutations distinguées.” Check any automated or template emails to be sure you achieve the right balance, depending on your target audience.
  • The French care more about who has authorized your company and your payment process than clients in the UK or USA might, and you may find that you receive more sales if you have a series of icons of any governing bodies who have approved your products, plus bank and credit card logos at checkout.
  • Leisure time is more valued in France, so if you’re adding your opening hours to your website, don’t be worried about including a decent lunch break!
  • Switch commas and full stops around in numbers. In Britain it’s £1,500.60 (for one thousand five hundred pounds and 60p). In France it’s €1.500,60 (for one thousand five hundred Euros and 60 centimes).
  • Write phone numbers in sets of two digits: 06 02 22 22 22. The French will also read phone numbers like this aloud, so listen for if there’s any pauses when someone says something like “quatre-vingt-dix-neuf” since, depending on the pause or lack thereof, this could either be 80 19 or 99.

Above all, ask French speakers to review your website and give their honest opinion. Overall, they may have different values or color preferences than you, and this is the only way to be sure that you’re appealing to their culture. A short questionnaire really helps facilitate this process, as friends are likely to just say “Yes, it looks good” if they’re not being presented with an actual questionnaire.

In summary, to rank well with Google, ensure that you translate all elements of your site not just the obvious ones. Focus your metatags on well-written titles and descriptions that include important keywords and are written in a way that makes them likely to be clicked. If you’re not a professional translator yourself, then work with one who understands the local culture.

 

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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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