Multilingual SEO: Translation is not always enough
Yes, your web site is going global! You have put in place a localization strategy, you have chosen a good LSP, your web site is going to be translated in 5 languages…the excitement is mounting…you have even remembered to send out your list of keywords and your PPC ads to be translated, all neatly compiled in an Excel sheet...it will be a success!
But why is it not working? Why are your Spanish clients not flocking to your web site? Why are the rankings so low? Where are your Brazilian customers? Why are your PPC ads not effective in attracting clients from Italy?
If Francesco in Rome searches for a cell phone on your localized site, which word would he use?
Cellulare? Telefonino? Cell? Much depends on his age…but did your translator know this?
Translation is not always enough, and certainly in the case of keywords and PPC ads there is a lot more to do for successful results. Think of the work you did to create a list of English keywords: you researchedn them, you moved in ever widening circles, from words that are immediately related to your products or services, to ones that are a little more removed but could be useful in a search. You looked at your US audience and determined demographically which would be the words they would use for a search and what kind of ad would attract them. You made sure that the keywords chosen were actually present in the text of the page they would link to.
Yet, when you decided to have the keywords translated, all you did was to simply collect them in an Excel sheet and pass them over to your LSP. The translators, without any guidance, translated them, to the best of their ability and quite correctly, but maybe the words they picked were not what your audience in the various countries would have picked. For instance, the translator did not know that your product speaks to a different demographic classification in France or in Japan, and did not think to suggest alternative, maybe more “hip” or more “conservative”, keywords.
Now, think how you created your PPC ads: the idea was to immediately catch the attention of your US audience and have them click on the ad, go to your web site and hopefully convert them from visitors to buyers. But we all know that a sentence that might be attractive in one culture might not convey the same message in another…or again, an ad that catches the eye of a certain demographic slice of your audience here in the US, might not do the same for a different one in another country. Moreover, it must not be forgotten that the character limitations of PPC ads and the need to wrap the words in a grammatically correct way on two lines pose particular challenges during translation, especially in those languages which have extremely long words, like German or Finnish, or in those where articles must be placed in the sentence to make it flow correctly, like Italian or French.
To avoid all these pitfalls and mitigate these issues, it is best to work in unison with a localization partner that understands the intricacies of multilingual SEO and SEM and can guide and help you. Make your localization partner a player in your complete globalization effort, discuss with them your strategy, ask for cultural guidance… don’t just throw an Excel sheet full of keywords over the wall…here translation is definitely not enough for success.