Multilingual marketing, localisation and SEO
English has emerged as the global language of commerce and the lingua franca of the internet, but it’s worth pointing out that three quarters of the world’s population speaks no English whatsoever.
So the need for businesses to speak to international consumers in their own tongue can’t be overemphasised. Even though English is the most widely spoken second language, the fact remains that most consumers will search for services/products in their mother tongue first.
So for any business looking to go global, the need to ‘think local’ means you should consider the multitude of cultural and linguistic complexities that you will face when entering new, emerging markets.
For example, the French in France and the French in Canada (Québéquois) is largely the same, but there are enough dialectal distinctions between the two forms of French to mean that separate marketing strategies are essential when targeting each market.
By way of illustration, ‘email’ is simply email in France, but in Canadian French it is courrier électronique (literally, ‘electronic mail’). And déjeuner means ‘lunch’ in France, but ‘breakfast’ in Switzerland and Belgium.
There are many such differences between the French dialects in France, Canada, Switzerland and Belgium which help to highlight the importance of properly localizing your services for each specific target market. The same can also be said for German (Germany)/Swiss German, Portuguese (Portugal)/Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish (Spain)/Latin American Spanish and, closer to home, US/UK English.
How to localize your SEO
So assuming you intend to properly localize your website for international markets, there are a number of issues you must consider when optimizing the content so that you gain as high a position on search engines as possible.
Firstly, there is the domain name. Your choice of name is entirely up to you, though you may want to consider something that is suitable for the country that you’re targeting – your brand name may work just as well abroad, but you are best using the services of a specialist translation/localisation company who can research any potential negative connotations of your name in your target market.
Equally important is your choice of web host as the server they use should be located in your target country – Google considers the IP address of the server in its algorithms, so make sure you ask where their server is based before committing to using their services.
Then there is the issue of keywords. There is a strong argument that says you should NEVER translate keywords, simply because even a direct dictionary translation may not be what people use to search for a service or product locally. They may use colloquialisms, abbreviations or acronyms instead.
In the same way as you would use something like Google’s keyword tool when identifying the most popular industry keywords in English, you should thoroughly research the key search phrases that are incorporated into your new foreign language website too.
Localisation and SEO should underpin any international online marketing strategy, as it will not only help ensure linguistic and cultural nuances don’t impede your entry into new markets, but also your visibility is maximized on foreign search engines.
Registration for the Plug in SEO Beta trial started on Monday. Not too many bugs later we're inviting you, our blog readers, in too. We like to think we've built a different kind of SEO tool: one that allows you discover keywords, unearth insights using keyword groups (more on that in our next instalment) and then do something about it.
Real keyword searches that drive traffic to your site arrive in Plug in SEO Keyword Suggestions fed from our real-time Analytics tracking.
Unearth insights using a keyword groups hierarchy
My Keywords is the heart of Plug in SEO. Here you can easily build a keyword hierarchy containing hundreds (or even thousands if you like) of keywords from Keyword Suggestions or entered by you.
Within My Keywords learn what are your best, worst and flat performing individual keywords and, more insightfully, keyword groups. Check individual and aggregate organic rank, visits and conversions to discern where to focus your SEO efforts.
Do something about it
Once you've determined the keywords and keyword groups to target, Business Blog with Link Suggestions enables you to create internal links in your blog post with a single click. When one of your My Keywords is found in the blog text, Link Suggestions will highlight it along with the relevant URL. One click and the keyword anchor text becomes a link. Simple.
We're just getting started
This is our initial beta but already we've built something a bit special that we hope you'll find useful in improving your search engine optimization.
To get instant access to Keyword Suggestions, My Keywords and Business Blog with Link Suggestions, not to mention real-time Analytics, Twitter monitor, Descriptive URIs, Dashboard, an extensive API plus software updates every week simply create an account for the inaugural Plug in SEO Beta.
We'd appreciate your good and bad feedback which you can easily give us using the feedback tab on every page. Subscribe to the Plug in SEO Blog to catch our upcoming post "Be Surprised with Keyword Groups".
Chris Sherman, Executive Editor of SearchEngineLand.com talks to Plug in SEO at SMX London
Read the transcript or watch the Plug in SEO video interview
How's SMX London 2009 gone so far?
Today's gone really well. We're very pleased at the turnout. With the economic turmoil we've been having we weren't sure how it was going to be impacted, and it turns out search seems to be still thriving and doing really really well.
Why do you think search is thriving in these economic situations?
I think basically, it was interesting in the keynote today, we had an observation that search is still not getting the mind share that it deserves among the Global 1000 Chief Marketing Officers. A very, very interesting statistic: something like just one or two percent of the people who are CMOs that control budgets are still allocating money towards search. So that suggests that we're still very, very early on.
The other thing that is obvious is that search is very accountable. It's measurable. It's something where people can actually say we know what out ROI is.
We're not, in the classic old Wanamaker sense, knowing that half of our advertising bill is being wasted, and so on.
So I think that's why. And I think we're actually going to see that trend accelerate. A lot of people have said that search is plateaued, Google's growth is slowing and can't grow any more, but if we still have the majority of CMOs, globally, not giving much attention to it, then it's the exact opposite conclusion: we're just getting started.
Why isn't search marketing getting the attention it deserves?
The primary reason I think is that traditional marketers have grown up with things that they've been comfortable with: television, print, radio, and there's just a natural inertia to stay with what you're familiar with.
But what's happened now with the economic dislocation that we've had is that there's lots of challenges being made to assumptions to find what works best.
To get or keep that competitive edge so many industries are so threatened right now with everything that's going on in the world that search is actually emerging as a really viable alternative- it's just going to take time.
How do you think the UK differs, if any, from the US?
This is a really good question. I've been programming shows in the UK for I guess seven or eight years now and in the past there has been a gap in terms of knowledge and skills, and I think that gap is largely closed.
I really think that the level of sophistication that we're seeing here, the quality of the presentations, the approaches that the search marketers who've been speaking are taking, and so on is really world class. It's really quite interesting.
In terms of perception of the industry, do you think that differs any between continents?
The perception definitely varies. I think what we're starting to see is that search marketing is evolving in a way where the people in different countries expect certain things from search marketing.
So in other words there's an example with China who have no problem at all with including sponsored search listings in organic results- they don't see that as any kind of problem.
Paid search in China is not as big as it is elsewhere in world, but I think that's primarily because most people in China don't have a credit card either: they're not looking to buy online, they don't have that trust or the mechanisms in place.
So it's really the cultural differences I think have to do with it as much as what's going on in a particular country as much as anything else. It's not really a generic thing with search marketing.
What have been your highlights from SMX London?
This panel that we've just had- multivariate testing of landing pages panel- I thought was fantastic. What you saw there was really concrete examples of how applying search first of all is very cost-effective and profitable but also how you can have continual improvement to even increase the effectiveness. I came away quite impressed by that.
Anything in tomorrow's session you have your eye on?
We've got lots of different content, all through the show. It's been fun. It's always fun to programme these. I have an idea in my head of what I think is important, and what I think should be discussed, but then it goes to the individual speakers who can really add their point of view, their experience and knowledge.