Aleyda Solis

How To Do International SEO When You Don’t Speak The Language

11th Jul 2012 SEO Blog 6 minutes to read

Koozai > Blog > How To Do International SEO When You Don’t Speak The Language

International SEOAleyda 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 optimisation processes where I didn’t speak some of the languages we were optimising 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 optimise 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 organisation 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 organisation, 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 optimising 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 optimising 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.

Google Keyword Tool

To consume and analyse 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 behaviour

In your site

Dive into your Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools data to identify present user behaviour with keywords and pages of the 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:

  • KeywordSpy
    Gives you the keyword search volume, related or similar keywords, along with competitors’ information and additional CPC data for Germany, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Italy, France, Poland, The Netherlands, India, Japan, besides the US, Canada, UK and also other countries.
Keyword Spy
  • SEMRush
    Provides keywords usage volume and trends – along with CPC metrics – for the US, UK, Canada, Russia, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Brazil and Australia.
SEM Rush

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

  • Provide a couple of examples in English, if this is the language both – you and the specialist in charge of implementing the recommendations – share.
  • Ask for a sample of the first implementation, so you can verify from the beginning that your recommendations have been correctly understood and they have started to be effectively implemented from the start, instead of waiting until the end to verify and maybe see that they’re all wrong.

They have been correctly implemented

  • Verify at the beginning the first sample – as described before – and also all of the work done at the end.
  • In order to effectively validate the work you need to do it from: An SEO perspective: The implementation is achieving what you looked for in order to enhance the site rankings in search engines. A language perspective: The implementation is not only grammatically correct but also attractive and transmitting the right information in the desired way. In order to do this you will need the language support that has been mentioned before. A product perspective: Verify with the product owner (marketing manager, brand manager, product manager, etc.) that the content or the functionality you’re optimising is aligned with the product goals.

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.

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