Companies with search engine-optimized websites are increasingly awakening to the fact that the language of business is the language of the customer. As a result, they are undertaking the effort and expense of converting their websites, along with their products and literature, into the languages most used by their prospects and clients. They are not just optimizing, they are geo optimizing!
Those seriously targeting international markets can no longer rely on machine translation to communicate with international users. Machine translation did fill the gap by providing international readers the gist of the meaning of web pages. However, it robbed companies of control over not only international content and brand quality, but also international search engine traffic.
Professional website translation does require investing significant resources in the process. This is why companies often wait until they feel that the effort is justified before they embark on it. When they do proceed, many unknowingly neglect a key feature that can drastically improve their website’s success overseas – its organic search ranking!
“True localization, rather than just translation, is essential to international search,” explained Vice President Zia Daniell Wigder, analyst at Jupiter Research. “ Direct translations of a site are unlikely to include the most commonly used search terms, resulting in a site that can be understood by the local audience but may receive little traffic if it fails to appear in search results.”
Here are some considerations to take into account before you engage in your next website globalization effort.
Your international websites should offer your worldwide web visitors a common, consistent, and appealing corporate image and message. The only way you can do that is to allow your corporate group to orchestrate that effort.
Your website infrastructure should also permit easy postings by your international staff, independent of corporate involvement. This will allow your site to progress into a true and complete localized web presence.
It is therefore essential that you create a structure that is conducive to maintaining your message, image, and brand without tying the hands of your international contributors. You can facilitate that by partitioning your website into three distinct parts:
1. Content to be translated
These are your high-level pages about your company:
- Products and services
- Corporate messages
- Worldwide activities
- Thought-leadership content
- Any other material that can benefit international readers
2. Content authored locally
Encourage your international staff to contribute content in their native language that is consistent with your corporate messages, image, and brand, and provide a medium for it. This content could take a variety of forms:
- Success stories
- Press releases
- Local events
- Local job offers
3. Content left in its source language
Content such as local jobs and events as well as old, redundant, or obsolete files (preferably delete), should not be translated. As long as locally authored pages meet your corporate guidelines and standards, they are welcomed additions to your international websites.
It is not sufficient to translate only what the user sees. It is also imperative to correctly translate and maintain the tags that search engines see when they index your website.
Search engine-optimized websites have very specific meta-tag structures that are optimized for high search engine ranking. The <TITLE>, <META>, and header <H1> tags in key pages that are visible to all search engines, local and international, should be correctly maintained in all languages.
Keywords used in meta-tags are also very important and should be optimized based on what is used throughout the page content. We’ll explore this below.
Share Your Terminology
Many companies maintain company-approved glossaries, also referred to as terminology or lexicons. They are usually generated by the tech-pubs group and seldom exposed to all internal and external groups. These glossaries are industry- and company-specific terms intended for use throughout the company’s products and publications.
Companies that localize their products or websites have an additional responsibility to maintain their terminology in all the languages that they localize into. Here, further effort is required to maintain parallel, approved glossaries for each language, and keep them updated and synchronized with their proper source-language terminology.
Here are some of the dividends of an open corporate glossary policy:
- Consistency: With consistent terminology used across your products, literature, and website, you can attain higher clarity in your communications with your prospects, clients, and users.
- Accuracy: When you open your glossaries, you expose your terminology to the scrutiny of the crowd. Inaccurate, inconsistent, or unpopular terms can be identified and corrected before they become entrenched in your website, products, and documentation.
- Image: Making your terminology available to your marketing and sales groups helps to elicit their input, which leads to a more polished image and a more focused brand.
The more open your terminology, the better your brand image and your communications with your clients.
Keep Your DNA Intact!
Websites that are search engine-optimized rely not only on meta-tags and titles but more importantly, on a set of industry-specific keywords (and key-phrases) prominently used throughout the website.
These are typically peppered in key pages, linked to and surrounded by header and strong tags to make them visibly prominent to search engine crawlers. Keywords are the DNA of the website. Their safe preservation during the localization process is crucial.
A company that is mindful of search-engine optimization maintains an approved list of keywords and makes them known to its marketing staff. This ensures that they are used consistently in written and online communications (such as press releases, literature, website development, and blogs).
Once these keywords are identified, it is up to the localization experts not to simply translate them but resourcefully recreate them. They should also be testing their creations with search engine tools to analyze their effectiveness and competitiveness in the target markets. This process is called geo-optimization of keywords.
Keywords should be a prominent part of your corporate terminology. One tool that serves this purpose, can help you effectively manage them.
The goal is therefore not only to translate the website, but also to create a DNA that is just as potent for all target language websites. Your site will then prominently rank on international search engines to draw the sought-after masses.
Geo Optimize Your PPC Campaigns
PPC (Pay-Per-Click) campaigns such as Google AdWords can complement a SEO strategy, particularly with infrequently used keywords or keywords dominated by your competitors. PPC is traditionally used for lead and sales generation. As of late, it is also used for marketing research and analysis.
Over time, increasing competition online for using AdWords has driven bids on keywords sky-high, some reaching the level of $5, $10, and even $50 per click! With heavier competition, companies are paying more and more to attract the same number of visitors.
Fortunately, keywords in languages other than English are not as competitive. Since Google gives you the ability to target any country with a customized AdWords campaign, with strategies such as coupling a Spanish ad group with Spanish landing pages, you can effectively reduce your AdWords budget.
A successful international PPC campaign requires geo-optimization of your PPC keywords along with correct adaptation of their corresponding ads. Direct or machine translation is unreliable and often prone to inaccuracies. It will not generate the maximum interest, clicks, traffic, and sales conversions.
By geo-optimizing your PPC campaign and website, you will optimize your international lead-generation goals.
CMS, Authoring Tools, File Formats, and Platform Independence
The abundance of CMS tools with connectors, XML output, or API interfaces means that your international activities should not limit you from deploying most commercially available solutions. Furthermore, you should not be limited to certain file formats or platforms. As long as the tools, formats, and platforms support the fonts and characters of the target language and provide an in/out interface to access your files and text, you should be in a good shape.
Remaining independent of proprietary tools, file formats, and databases will give you the flexibility to implement a solution to meet your use or budget needs. It will also keep your options open for your choice of vendors supporting you with your international activities.
Achieve True Geo Optimization
There are many factors involved in the localization of search engine-optimized websites. Don’t rely on machine translation, your distributor, or just a translation agency. You will risk the chance of giving up control – not only over the quality of your messages, but also over your website’s search ranking.
Find a translation company that can handle your language needs and simultaneously take care of your website’s international search ranking needs. Considering that an optimal search ranking boosts your international web traffic along with worldwide sales conversions, the return on investment is well worth the cost.
Don’t optimize, geo optimize!
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