The case for SEO is quite a simple one
really. If a business ranks highly on Google for its industry's most
popular key search terms, then they are far more likely to succeed than
if they have a poor ranking. This is reflected in research conducted
by the European Interactive Advertising Association (EIAA) which found
that two-thirds of marketers planned to increase their SEO resources
But we don't want to preach to the
converted here. Most of you will already be aware of the power that
SEO holds in terms of targeting domestic markets, which is why you're
here reading this.
However, many small businesses could
be missing a trick by limiting their SEO scope to domestic shores -
the world is a big place and 75% of the earth's population speaks
no English at all. Furthermore, whilst English may well be the most
widely spoken 'second language' across the globe, people simply
prefer to do business in their own tongue.
In Europe, there are over 200 indigenous
languages, 23 of which are spoken in the 27 European Union (EU) member
states (some of the languages are spoken in more than one country, hence
Figure 2: Top five European Languages
English is spoken to some degree by over
half the population of the European Union. But from a native-speaking
point of view, German has plurality with almost 20% of the EU population
speaking it as a mother tongue, followed by English and Italian each
with 13% and French with 12%.
Which languages you work in naturally
depends on which markets you intend to target, a decision based on the
nature of your business and where you feel there is a gap in the market
which your business can exploit. But consider that if your business
was targeting a sector in the South American market, having your website
available in Spanish opens your business up to a potential 350 million
native speakers around the world; expanding further into the burgeoning
Brazilian economy and a Portuguese website opens up an extra 200 million
Of course, it also pays to be wary of
the linguistic differences that exist between, say, the Spanish in Spain
and the Spanish in many Latin American countries. For example, the word
carro in Spain is a cart that you push or pull to transport things,
whereas in Latin America it is an actual car that you can drive around
in. A car in Spain is a coche, whereas a coche in Latin
America is a baby stroller.
Similarly, dejeuner is 'lunch'
in France, but 'breakfast' in French-speaking Switzerland and Belgium.
And whilst France often import Anglicisms directly into their language,
French-speaking Canada tend to translate the English terms directly:
e.g. 'Weekend' is le weekend in France, but fin de semaine
in Canada (literally: 'end of the week).
There are many dialectal differences
within languages that help to highlight the importance of adopting a
fully localized marketing strategy. And the only way of ensuring your
message is properly localized, is to use a professionally qualified
translator who is native to the target country. Furthermore, the linguist
should ideally live in the country too, as language is constantly evolving
and they must be up-to-date on the latest local lingo.
So how does all this fit in with SEO,
the issue you're all here to read about? Well, keywords are the cornerstone
of any SEO campaign...domestic and international. However, it's important
that you DON'T translate your keywords directly from English...they
too should be localized.
The correct dictionary translation of
a keyword or phrase may NOT be what people use to search for the desired
product or service locally, they may use abbreviations, colloquialisms
or a different word that means the same thing.
To help illustrate this point, consider
this scenario. A US car insurance company that has dedicated a considerable
amount of resources to ensure it ranks highly on Google.com for the
search term 'car insurance' decides it wants to launch a campaign
to target French markets.
A literal and not-incorrect translation
of 'car insurance' into French would be 'l'assurance automobile'.
However, Google's keyword tool indicates that this term yields very
few results. A little research into the key search terms actually used
in French search engines reveal that people tend to use variations of
this term, such as 'assurance auto' or 'assurance voiture'.
By taking just a few minutes to research
the keywords that consumers actively use to search for car insurance
abroad, a major problem can be averted.
Similarly, in some markets it won't
be necessary to translate some of the key search terms at all. In Germany,
for example, English terminology is often used, especially with technical
and web-related subjects. So a website design company that ranks highly
in the US for the term 'web design' would be fine to incorporate
the English phrase into its German-language website.
So in the same way as you identify your
industry's highest ranking keywords for the English market, such as
via Google's free keyword
finder, you have to research
the keywords for each target country, to ensure your foreign language
website is properly optimized.
Once you have your keywords identified
for each country, you can then incorporate these into a professionally
translated website. It's important that native speakers are used to
translate your website as it must exude professionalism in all your
English may still be the dominant language
in terms of content on the Web, but the majority of the world's internet
users' first language isn't English. And this disparity creates
a rather lucrative opportunity for those seeking to enter new markets:
the competition for key search terms is much less on the non-English
language internet, therefore it's possible to achieve high search
engine rankings far easier than in English.
The importance of localizing your website
for the target market can't be over-emphasized as there is a myriad
of cultural and linguistic complexities that must be addressed - this
applies to your international SEO initiatives too.