Research shows that customers strongly prefer buying products or services on websites written in their own language. For companies venturing into new markets, website translation is therefore a must. But simply translating your existing content isn’t enough: your translated website needs to perform well in terms of SEO, something that isn’t a given, even if the original website is ranking high on Google. In this article, we discuss 5 insider tips for an SEO-friendly website translation:
1. Invest in a quality, manual translation
The quality of your website translation impacts your SEO ranking in a number of significant ways. First, an important factor in SEO ranking is visitor experience, measured by how much time visitors spend on your website and how many pages they visit. On average, visitors spend a mere 15 seconds on a website, so the first impression is crucial. A poor translation will make the website come across as less trustworthy, leading visitors to search for alternative websites. Second, automatic translations, while improving in quality, still leave much to be desired: Google Translate has been known to leave out entire parts of a sentence, change figures for no reason and make significant errors. Mistakes in your product descriptions, terms & conditions or on your checkout page can cost you money and customers. Finally, Google punishes automatically translated content by ranking it lower. Automatic translations will therefore have a direct negative impact on your SEO ranking.
2. Translate image names and include keywords
When translating your website, there are some elements you’ll probably know to translate – Meta tags, Meta titles, etc. – but there is one thing that almost everyone forgets. Images uploaded to your website (pictures to accompany blogs, product images, etc.) appear in search engine results, and their names are used by Google to assess the relevance of your website for a particular search. Translating image names (including localised keywords, of course!) before uploading them is therefore essential.
3. Localise keywords
Never simply translate keywords! What is a common search term in one language may be an unpopular search term in another. Conduct localised keyword research and a competition analysis for each country to gauge a keyword’s popularity and competition before committing to anything else.
4. Tailor your content to suit your market
The content of your website can’t simply be translated; it needs to be localised to suit the target market. In some cases, that can mean rewriting blogs (or writing new ones) to keep your content relevant. It also means carefully checking smaller things, like your brand name – does it have a meaning in other languages? Do the colors of your website have a specific political significance in a different cultural setting?
5. Keep your links in the same language
If you link to external pages – anything from research to news and entertaining content – it’s important to make sure that the links are kept in the same language. This affects a search engine’s ranking of your relevance: links in other languages will decrease the relevance of your site. So if you’re linking to an authority news source like The Times for your English article, find the equivalent story on Le Monde for your French translation of it.
Bonus tip: consider the payment options you offer
Once you’re reaching your target audience, make sure you don’t lose them! Each country has different online payment preferences, and if you don’t offer the right options, all your efforts may have been in vain. While Visa and PayPal are popular across Europe, customers in the Netherlands strongly prefer Ideal as a payment method, as this links directly to Dutch mobile banking applications. In Germany, customers prefer an invoice or digital wallets, followed by direct bank transfers. This website gives an overview of preferred payment methods in Europe.
Multilingual SEO requires more than just a good translation: you need to move your whole SEO strategy into a new language. By following these 5 insider tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating an effective website in a new language!