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by Aleyda Solis on 11th July 2012
Aleyda Solis literally talks the talk when it comes to SEO in different languages, having given SEO talks in both English and Spanish. Today she explores the challenges of optimising websites when you don’t know the language, with six ways to bridge the language barrier.
I’ve had the opportunity to be involved as an SEO specialist as well as an SEO manager in international search engine optimization processes where I didn’t speak some of the languages we were optimizing for.
This is actually a much more straightforward process when the unknown language is similar to your native one; for example, since I’m a native Spanish speaker, for me it has been much easier to optimize for Italian and Portuguese than for very different languages like German, Polish, and now, even for Russian which has an entirely different alphabet.
Nonetheless, it’s possible to do it with a little bit of language support, good organization and by keeping focused on the final purpose of the SEO process.
Here I share some tips that can save you time in this type of situation:
1. Fully understand the product and business
This is something you need to do in any SEO process of course, but here is even more fundamental since you won’t be able to deduce many things easily by taking a look at your clients’ site or web presence because you don’t speak the language.
So make sure to effectively identify your clients’ goals, requirements, business model, target market, product or services characteristics and unique selling proposition.
Someone from the client side (a plus if it’s the product or marketing manager along with the developer in charge) needs to explain to you the current site structure and organization, the criteria and purpose behind everything, so you can develop your own “translated” site map.
2. Have native language support
You will need continuous language support during the process: From the validation of keyword research, to help with on-page analysis and optimizing content.
I have received language support before from native interns and freelancers when I was working from the agency side and also writers / editors or Web managers of the site I was optimizing for when I was working as an in-house SEO.
As you can imagine, this is much easier when the person who supports you from a language perspective is also a web marketer who understands the process you’re following and will save you the training time you may need to invest with interns – if they are just starting to work with you – or a freelancer.
3. Use translation tools carefully
It’s also fundamental to use an effective translator to help you work with foreign languages you don’t understand; but always keep in mind that this is not a substitute of native language support. A good translator is great to give you some work independence and help you to advance quicker, with more confidence; nonetheless, the real meaning of a phrase or paragraph can easily get lost, so be careful.
To consume and analyze Web information I would recommend Chrome’s built-in translation bar, which is the most useful option I’ve found.
To translate specific information, I’ve also used free online solutions such as the Google Translator or Promt Translator and the paid standard version of Promt that integrates within the Office suite and lets you directly translate the documents there.
If you speak many languages you’re likely to also have an advantage, even if the languages you speak are not among the ones you’re doing the SEO process for.
You’ll likely get better results translating between languages that belong to the same family, for example, Germanic languages. So in my case, when working for a German site, instead of translating from German to Spanish I translate from German to English.
4. Identify keywords usage patterns and behavior
In your site
In search engines
Besides using the own search engine’s keyword tools such as, Google AdWords, Google Insights for Search or Yandex Keyword stats to identify the relevant, competitive keywords to target, I would also recommend:
5. Have a cheat sheet with translation support
Create a translated visual “cheat sheet” site map. Once I have identified the site’s most relevant and popular keywords, content and product types I always do a “cheat sheet” with them, by mapping each keyword to a topic or product type and its relevant site area and URL, along with a translation of each one of them. I’m a visual person so I try to do this as visual as possible with graphics and have it with me at all times.
This facilitates my everyday work a lot –especially at the beginning-, when I do the on-page analysis, analyze the site’s rankings and traffic, report the activities or even speak with the client.
6. Don’t assume anything, always verify everything
If misunderstandings can happen speaking the same language imagine when you give recommendations to be implemented in a language you don’t understand. To avoid them you need on-going communication and validation.
When providing any content, technical or promotion recommendations you need to always verify that:
They have been correctly understood
They have been correctly implemented
I hope that these tips help you to not get lost in translation! Also, if you have developed an SEO process in a language you didn’t understand… feel free to share and leave your own tips
The views expressed in this post are those of the author so may not represent those of the Koozai team.