How to localize translations for SEO impact
Some tourists are easy to spot from a mile away, aren’t they?
You know what we mean:
- They dress differently.
- They seem unfamiliar with the area.
- They also speak in a different language or accent.
It’s laughably obvious. It only takes a quick glance to know they’re not from here.
Search engines see your website the same way, especially when you try to rank it for local search engine results pages (SERPs) before adapting it to the local context.
Google, for example, would know right away in this situation that your website is different from websites that already fulfill your target audience’s search intent. From that criterion alone, Google would conclude that your website isn’t nearly as relevant for local searchers as your competitors.
Google would then rank your website lower, prioritizing competing websites over yours.
In this case, forget about making an impact in the SERPs. Your website barely made a dent.
The smarter approach when seeking to capture organic traffic from new markets is to localize your website content for the local audience.
Doing so not only increases your site’s chance of ranking well but it’s a much better way to market your offerings to your target market.
Read on as we share what content localization is, the search engine optimization (SEO) benefits it can have, and our five-step guide to localizing your website content for SEO impact.
What is content localization?
Content localization is the process of tailoring your content to suit your local audience’s preferences. It can involve localizing your:
- Text: If your target audience speaks a different language than you, begin by translating your text to their native language. After that, tweak your translations to include cultural nuances and local jargon (more on this later).
- Images: Any text in images will need to be localized, as just discussed. Alternatively, consider modifying or entirely replacing your images for a better cultural fit.
- User interfaces: Some languages, like Arabic, are read from right to left instead of the conventional left-to-right approach. In this case, redesign your user interface to accommodate the display of text from right to left.
- Voiceovers: Rerunning your radio or TV ads in another country? Hire local voice actors to dub over your ads’ original dialogue with voiceovers in the local language and accent.
Even though localization and translation work in tandem with each other, they aren’t the same thing. Whereas translating content involves the literal “word-for-word” transformation of text from one language to the other, localization is more nuanced and far reaching. Localizing means adapting the text so your audience understands it on a cultural level.
To put this into perspective, let’s pretend we’re writing content for a Spanish speaking audience located in Spain. We’ll begin by translating the text below from English to Spanish:
The Nasrid Palace is approximately 2,430 ft in length and 670 ft at it’s greatest width.
When translated directly from English to Spanish, it looks like this:
El Palacio Nazarí tiene aproximadamente 2,430 pies de largo y 670 pies en su parte más ancha.
This sentence is a localization disaster for two reasons:
- Pies literally means “human (or animal) feet” in Spanish. It’s not recognized as a measurement.
- In Spain, they use the metric system, so the measurements have to be converted.
Here’s how this sentence would look if it was translated and localized correctly.
El Palacio Nazarí tiene aproximadamente 740 metros de largo y 200 metros en su parte más ancha.
Now, Spanish residents will not only understand what this sentence means on a literal level (translation) but also on a contextual level relative to their culture (localization).
Another concept to consider when creating content for an audience in a different country is internationalization, which helps your offerings appeal to more market segments around the world.
How does localized content fit within an international marketing strategy?
Localizing your content can increase local receptiveness to it. That’s because it helps your new market understand the cultural meaning behind your words. Granted, your audience must understand what you mean before they can evaluate what you have to offer. They won’t buy anything from you if they think you’re culturally out of touch.
You can enhance your international marketing efforts by:
- Reaching new markets. By localizing your content to cater to different audiences, you help people in new markets better appreciate your offerings so they can decide whether to patronize your business.
- Improving the user experience. When your content is written in your target audience’s native language, they can easily grasp what you are communicating to them.
- Increasing your website’s international search rankings. Search engine users want to find information that is relevant to their search and in a language they understand. By localizing your website content to cater to these two needs, you improve your website’s chances of ranking higher in the SERPs. This can also boost your website’s organic traffic!
What are the challenges associated with localized content?
While the benefits of localizing your content—as discussed above—are fantastic, there are some challenges to this process. We’re not saying this to scare you, but to prepare you for any content localization-related roadblocks ahead.
Here are some tricky localization issues that could pop up:
- Resource constraints: Due to limited budget, time, and/or staff, you may have trouble localizing your content for all your markets at once. If so, localize key content for the most important markets first, then gradually localize more of your content as you gain resources.
- Maintaining localization accuracy: When localizing content, your target language may not be able to fully express certain nuances in your content’s source language (or vice versa). For example, while there is only one word for “love” in English, the same emotion can be expressed in at least 20 different words in Tamil! Consider engaging with linguists for advice on how to retain your content’s original meaning while adapting it to your new audience’s local context.
- Content length discrepancies: Different languages take up different amounts of space on pages and convey information with differing degrees of efficiency. Take Chinese, for instance. It’s a compact language that can communicate information in fewer characters than English. If you find that your localized content occupies much less page space, you may need to expand it while still catering to your Chinese audience’s search intent. (The opposite applies to localized content that takes up significantly more space than the untranslated/localized version.)
5 steps for localizing your website content for SEO impact
1. Do your research
Before starting any localization work, take steps to get to know your website’s target audience. This includes the:
- Searchers who may encounter your web pages on the SERPs.
- Visitors who land on and browse your website.
Get answers to questions such as:
- What are the general likes, dislikes, desires, and pain points of people in your target audience?
- To which demographics do they belong?
- Which languages do they speak?
- What is their local culture like? Are there unique cultural quirks, preferences, or taboos you should take note of?
- What do people in your target audience think of your products and services? Are they aware of your offerings in the first place?
Conducting in-depth market research on these issues will help you better plan how to localize your content.
If you discover that your target audience speaks French, for example, you’ll naturally want to translate your content to French.
At the same time, research the communication channels popular with your local audience and strategize how to use them to your advantage.
For example, people in Japan especially favor the LINE app for messaging friends and family members. But apart from being a chat app, LINE also provides a LINE Pay feature for users to send and receive payments.
So if you’re localizing your website for a Japanese audience, consider letting your visitors make online payments using LINE Pay.
2. Translate your website content
After identifying your target audience’s native languages, proceed to translate your website content—both its text and media.
For website text, one option is to outsource the work to professional translators. Instead of attempting to translate it on your own, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your text is accurately translated. You’ll also free up time for yourself for other responsibilities.
However, expert translation services don’t come cheap. These services might not be worth their high price if you have a lot of text to translate and/or need to translate your text into many languages.
Another option would be to use a website localization tool like Weglot.
With the help of advanced machine learning technology, these tools can quickly translate large volumes of text with a high degree of accuracy. They also have features for collaborating with team members and external agencies as you refine your translations (more on this in the next step).
Separately, media translation involves swapping images, videos, and other media with alternative versions that better fit the local context.
For example, you replace an image of your country’s flag with an image of the flag of your local audience’s country.
3. Refine your translations for nuances and jargon
With different languages having differences in jargon and colloquialisms, you’ll need to refine your website translations to include cultural nuances. You can do so by having cultural consultants review your translations and advise you on adjustments for the local context.
Don’t skip this step even if you haven’t translated your website text into other languages. That’s because cultural differences can exist even among audiences from different countries, towns, states, and even regions that speak the same language.
Just take the word “barbie,” which typically refers to the popular doll brand produced by Mattel. In Australia, however, the same word is common slang for “barbecue”!
If you were localizing your barbecue store website for an Australian audience, it would be appropriate to use the word “barbie” instead of “barbecue” in your website text.
4. Optimize your localized website for multilingual searches
To improve your localized website’s search rankings, optimize your localized content for the keywords that your local audience uses to search for information.
You can start off by doing international SEO keyword research to discover the kinds of keywords mentioned above, and localizing your existing keyword list. A keyword research tool like SE Ranking can help you analyze core keyword parameters such as:
- Keyword difficulty
- Search volume
- Cost-per-click data
Pay close attention to these parameters when deciding whether or not to target certain keywords:
SE Ranking’s databases cover the whole world, which means you’ll be able to get essential keyword data no matter which market you target.
Also, check if your localized content meets the local search intent. If it doesn’t, look into modifying your content to better fulfill searchers’ needs.
For example, let’s say your content is informational in nature but it appears that searchers are conducting commercial investigations. In this case, you could update your content to help readers make a more informed purchase decision.
Apart from optimizing your website content, you should also take care of technical SEO issues.
One major issue involves implementing hreflang tags. This helps search engines serve the right language versions of your web pages to searchers with certain language and regional browser settings.
Hreflang tags can be tricky to set up, but you can use SE Ranking’s Website Audit feature to verify if you’ve done it correctly.
5. Monitor and update your localized website content over time
Finished localizing your website content?
The last step is to conduct localization testing to confirm that you’ve localized your website correctly—in terms of translation accuracy, user interface design, hreflang tag implementation, and more.
Steps involved in localization testing include:
- Testing your website’s user interface.
- Double-checking your translations for accuracy and cultural appropriateness.
- Analyzing the results.
When you’re happy with your localized website content, it’s time to make it live!
With localization being a continuous process—societies and cultures evolve over time, after all—you’ll need to regularly review your website content to make sure it’s a cultural fit.
Gather feedback on your localized content and update it as needed so that your content continues to serve and appeal to your target audience.
Start localizing your website translations for SEO impact!
While getting website content localization right is no walk in the park, it can result in higher international search rankings, greater market reach, and more website traffic and sales.
The key is to first do a thorough job of localizing your website content, including your text and images. You’ll also need to optimize your website for multilingual searches by carrying out tasks such as hreflang tag implementation.
To speed up and increase the effectiveness of your localization efforts, use tools such as Weglot to translate your website content at scale. Also, consider using SE Ranking to assess the viability of your localized keywords.
Finally, conduct localization testing to ensure your website has been localized correctly. If everything looks good, go ahead and launch your localized website.
With some luck, your website will eventually make a splash in the SERPs and bring in more local traffic. But don’t rest on your laurels: keep monitoring and refining your localized content to keep your rankings and organic traffic high!