After having spent a good few years in the translation industry, I have now moved into the fast-moving world of SEO and will soon be getting to grips with the field of multilingual SEO and optimising websites for the world. Essentially, this involves improving sites for specific regions, to increase the volume as well as the quality of traffic from that particular region. And contrary to popular belief, it’s much more than a simple translation process!
Many of you foreign language skeptics may be thinking: “Why bother? English is so omnipresent across the world today, especially on the internet, it’s a waste of time!” (And yes, people do still say this!) Well, not only have you just lived up to the lazy stereotype, you’re also wrong. A recent article revealed that 90% of internet users preferred to search in their native language, and surprisingly, almost half stated that they would never purchase from a website which was not in their native language.
Although it's worth considering that certain Europeans, for example German or Swedish users, may be more inclined to purchase from an English site as a result of the strong influence of English in their education system, this does not take away from the fact that translated, localised content is a must have. After-all, the purpose of multilingual SEO is to provide users with the localised content they want.
When it comes to the first steps of an internationalisation strategy, a frequently asked question is whether to target audiences by language or by country. While many argue approaching this task by language saves so much time, money and effort, setting up country-specific TLDs such as .fr for France or .jp for Japan allows you to tailor your content for your specific local audiences.
A strategy which combines both these approaches is to create sub-domains from your .com domain for each new country and add a folder structure for each of your languages. Within each country-specific sub-domain, for example .de for Germany, you can then create content in whatever languages are required, i.e. Austrian German, Swiss German or High German.
This solution allows the ranking power and value that your .com domain has built up to spread throughout the sub-domains. In turn, this means you don't have two spend months creating brand new backlink profiles for new domains. And what's more, as one country-specific sub-domain starts to gain ground, this will have a knock-on effect on the rest of your territories. You can also use Google Webmaster Tools to localise each territory by sub-domain.This key element of localisation must also be tackled from a linguistic perspective. It must be reflected in your content, so don't just use High German for both Austria and Germany, for example. It's important to give users content they'll feel familiar with, vocabulary they can relate to and most importantly, the tone they expect. Don't get your “Abitur” mixed up with your “Matura” or your “Semmeln” mixed up with your “Brötchen”!
Accurate translations of your keywords and keyphrases is a priority. And no, Google Translate is definitely not an option here! Reliable, natural translations can only be guaranteed by using qualified and experienced, mother-tongue translators, preferably living in your target country to ensure they are up-to-date with the local terminology of the market.