What Is SEO Translation, and Is It Worth It?

SEO Translation
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Struggling in your original market? Looking for some bright new world to expand into? Why not consider opening up a different language to your brand and your product?

It’s not half as hard as you think. If you pick the right language, it can be huge. Some services are still wildly underrepresented in different languages.

Largely, this is an issue due to English having been traditionally overrepresented online. Back in 2003 80% of pages were in English. These days, however, it’s not even a quarter of all published pages on the web.

So, we now have a ton of content available in a range of languages. While that’s an important development, it doesn’t mean that the services offered in said languages are up to par with the services represented fully in English.

After all, offering services and products is a matter of a learning curve. Those of us marketing products and services in English have simply had a lot more time to learn.

For that reason, translating your current content into another language can be a big way to expand your market. Keep in mind, though, that SEO matters as much in other languages as it does with content written in English. Be cognizant of that fact as you manage the translation process.

For that reason, this post will explore how you can ensure your SEO strategy still works in other languages.

Sounds good, right? Let’s jump straight on in.

When Should You Translate Your Website Content?

Rule number one: Only if you’re actually going to do it properly.

This is absolutely vital. If you  mess up how you manage the translations and on-page items, you can do more harm than good for your overall rankings.

For that reason, make sure you have access to the proper resources to translate the content as well as the SEO elements the right way.

Even better, align the translation process with a redesign or relaunch of your English website as a whole.

This approach will help you best focus on the content that needs to be updated. It will also ensure that you’re doing the translations using the latest, most current version of the English content.

And don’t overlook one of the biggest implications of translating your website to a second language: it will double all the work for future updates and modification. You’ll need to create a second, third, etc. version for each language you choose to offer content in.

Run a blog? That will need analternative language version as well.

So make sure you choose the right language.

Also, don’t be afraid to start off with a slightly leaner version of the site, providing only the most important information about your business and offering. You can expand to more in-depth materials over time.

Do the Research

You can’t just translate keywords across and hope that everything will work out alright. Each language has its own approach to communication, including colloquialisms (as opposed to them using exact, literal translations of the same words you’re using).

It is important to sit down and actually do the research for each important page. Aim to figure out which keywords are worth targeting in the new language, and prioritize those during the translation process.

Ideally, you can find a translator or translation service that knows both how to find the right terms for SEO. Someone who also speaks the language fluently. The combination is a must if you want to uncover and weave in the right keywords when translating your content.

If you find someone with this mix of skills, add them to your speed dial list. While you’re in the process of finding the right translator for your needs, don’t be afraid to make use of a translation firm. These offer useful stopgaps.

Is Your Content Management System up to the Task?

Something you’ll also want to consider is if your CMS is going to be suitable to run a multi-language site. Some CMS are built for this. Others are not.

If you’re going to start supporting multiple languages, you should be extra sure that you’ve got the CMS to support that effort. Why you ask? The main reasons you need a multi-language CMS are as follows:

  • If you redesign or redevelop one site, they’ll all be updated as well.
  • It creates the option to administer stock control over multiple websites, so you don’t have to go in and change every single item individually.
  • It can significantly reduce hosting space, which in turn might make it cheaper. (Also worth noting: Google does not care about where your websiteis located when deciding if content is relevant for a search. So don’t worry about that while you decide where to host your CMS and website.)

Not sure what content management system to use? Here are a some good options:

  • Drupal
  • WordPress
  • Joomla
  • Magento

How Will You Separate Your Pages?

You’ve got a number of ways that you can separate out your pages across the various languages you choose to offer.

The best known ways are:

  1. Top-level domains coded by country (for example .de for Germany)
  2. Having one single global top-level domain and then having sub domains with the different languages
  3. URL parameters
  4. Using cookies to control the language
  5. Creation of language or location-specific subfolders to house the various versions

If you have complete freedom to choose which one of those you’d like to use, then it’s probably best to go with creating your own top-level domains as these are given an advantage in the relevant country. [EDITOR’S NOTE: presuming you don’t want to put in the effort to deploy HREFLANG tags as prescribed by Google for subfolder-based location or language targeted content)

Now, obviously that will make things a lot easier if you’re trying to target a specific country with your efforts.

At the same time, it’s not exactly a complete disaster to use the other ways.

Do note, if you want to split things up using cookies, then you will also need to use one of the other methods as Google needs a different location for different languages. Otherwise things will get confused.

Last Words

There are advantages and disadvantages to having your site in multiple languages. If done correctly, the advantages certainly outweigh the disadvantages.

After all, you’re often getting access to another market for only a small portion of the initial work. The thing is, it’s often not done correctly. This can lead to all sorts of problems.

For that reason, don’t just jump in when you want to create a new language. Instead, take the time to really work out what’s going on and what needs to be done.

Even better, update your whole website first so that when things are translated you’re not wasting resources translating things that area already out of date. That just means wasted resources (twice over).


All Images provided by the author under his or her own license.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions stated in this post are that of the author, and Return On Now may or may not agree with any or all of the commentary.

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Dina Indelicato is a blogger enthusiast and freelance writer. She is always open to research about new topics and gain new experiences to share with her readers. You can find her on Twitter @DinaIndelicato and Facebook.

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