Combining SEO with the Localization Process

SEO localization using the expertise of native, professional translators is vital for successful market penetration.


This article was written by Hemi Avraham who is a senior Localization Project Manager and QA manager at Hever Localization, a translation and localization service provider for more than 60 languages.

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Every organization understands the importance of website promotion and internet marketing, but not everyone is aware of the influence SEO localization has on that process. I often see organizations who believe that it is sufficient to complete the SEO process in the source language (which is mostly English), and then translate the targeted keywords into other languages. This is a common mistake that can do more harm than good to your business.


What is localization SEO?

Localization SEO refers to the use of local search engines in order to find international clients by using specific keywords.

Hemi Avraham
Hemi Avraham

Why it is so important to localize these keywords, and not just translate them?

The equation is quite simple – a good position in local search engines is a key to increase referrals. More referrals mean more potential conversions, which ultimately lead to increased revenue. All of this is possible by building a strategy for each language and each location. However, expanding potential clients by being rated highly in search engines is only one side of SEO. The main goal is providing the user a relevant, high-quality experience regardless of the language they speak or where they are located. User experience and content reliability are means to an end, which is increasing your client pool.


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Think cultural adaptation


While translation usually means sticking to the original content, localization aims to adapt the culture of the target language, and paying attention to issues such as dialects and local expressions.

The localization SEO process is comprised of several steps of market research and analysis, translating the content while putting emphasis on cultural and lingual suitability, and performing QA after the translated text has been implemented.

Don’t presume to think you know what is relevant for a certain country just because you have been there a couple of times

SEO is a key factor of the marketing process, and it requires many resources – keyword research, content writing and distribution, link building, building or updating websites, improving the code and more. The problem starts when the entire SEO process – from the market and keyword research, to building a website and writing content (a process that can take weeks, and even months, depending on the complexity of the website) – is source oriented. What happens when you want to localize your product to several languages? How do you make sure that the SEO process will not be affected during the localization process?

This is a complex issue, as translating keywords to different languages along with the content is just not enough. Some expressions may be suitable in one language but not in another, regarding both search volume and cultural suitability.

Here are a few examples of translations of keywords that didn’t go so well in the target language:

  • Mitsubishi had to change the name of their new Rover vehicle “Pajero 4WD” in Spain to “Montero” after they realized “pajero” means “jerk” in Spanish.
  • American Airlines changed their slogan “Fly in Leather” for the new leather first-class seats for the Mexican market after they realized it was wrongly translated as “Fly Naked”.

In order to perform SEO localization there is a need to devise a controlled and separate strategy for each intended language, and not just for the source language. For each geographical and lingual combination you need to check:

  • What are the relevant keywords?
  • Is the search volume high enough for these keywords?
  • Can you use Long Tail keywords?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Can these searches be translated into conversions?
  • Is it possible to combine keywords in the target language in existing content, or is it necessary to write new content?
  • Do you have more than one website? How do you combine the SEO content, and on which website?
  • Do you have control over the CMS (content management system)?

Of course, these are only a few of the questions to think about before starting the process. SEO takes time and resources, but this is a vital stage, on which the entire content strategy and ability to penetrate global markets successfully and efficiently is based on. Don’t presume to think you know what is relevant for a certain country just because you have been there a couple of times… use the expertise of native, professional translators, that can make sure your content fits with the local nuances. This way you’ll be able to build a strong brand worldwide, and increase your ROI while doing so.

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