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Four essential elements for international SEO

by John Saunders
13th Jan 21 2:14 pm

With all the recent and upcoming updates of the Google algorithm it has become increasingly clear that good SEO practice focuses on the experience of a website’s users, rather than on exploiting quick ways of ranking better for Google’s sake. When doing international SEO, there are some additional elements that determine whether or not your site is providing the optimal user experience. One of the principal elements when doing international SEO is therefore the correct translation of an existing site or page into another language.

In the case of many European languages, other than English, a cultural adaptation needs to be included as part of the translation. Here are three elements that are important to focus on for any business that has decided to take on international SEO:

1. Ranking high internationally is easier

Generally speaking, it’s easier to rank high with a website in any language than English. The reason for this is that there’s simply much more competition in English, with countless websites competing for a slice of the pie, than there is in any other European language. As a high Google rank will lead to greater traffic, this can be a real benefit. As this situation is not likely to continue existing forever it seems that now is the time for translating your website and taking your chances on the European market.

2. Weak synonym-matching requires exact match keyword targeting

When executing a search in English, Google will automatically include synonyms that you may not have thought of using but that are likely to get you the information you were looking for. When doing a search for “grey coat” in Google, for example, jackets will also be included. When doing a similar search in French, the results focus more on the exact keyword “manteau gris”. The special characters that other languages than English use further complicate matters, as they add parameters that the Google algorithm doesn’t necessarily take into account. For a German speaker, for example, the u and ü are not at all the same letters. For this reason it’s extra important to do good keyword research and actually use the exact terms that people search for when looking for your product or service, after correcting it for any common typos or grammatical mistakes.

3. On non-English language sites focus on the localisation of content

As there are many languages, countries and cultures in Europe, you can’t simply translate in a vacuum, cross your fingers and hope for the best. Your English text directly translated into German, Italian or French will not take the cultural differences into consideration. Even though you may perfectly translate the word into another language, that language may prefer another term altogether when doing a search online. And as exact keyword targeting is particularly important for non-English sites, failing to do this can lead you to miss out on many customers. Another possibility is that the keywords you use are similar, but that a different tone is needed to appeal to customers in a different language/culture.

As the number of websites in different languages increase (and with that the competition), now is a good opportunity to translate your website into a different language and conquer a share of the market. Since focusing on exact keywords and localisation of content are important, it’s crucial to use a native speaker, that knows the culture as well as the language, for your translation. Needless to say, that automatic translators will just not cut it, so leave them for the occasional e-mail or song lyric translations.

If working with multiple translators, then decide on whether you will write in a formal or informal tone. Specifically, for languages with multiple ways to translate “you”, choose which one you will use and keep this consistent throughout the site.

Start by mapping out what keywords you’ll be targeting, and then what English content from your existing website fits those keywords. It’s entirely possible (and good practice) to add some unique content to the new website, so make sure you work with a translator that knows how to create on-page optimized content, or work with an international SEO company, such as Indigoextra Ltd., that has the knowledge and the contacts to make this work.

Once your new site is in place, make sure to do a survey of at least 10 native speakers, to see if the site is as appealing to their eyes as it is to yours. You may come up with little tweaks that are easy to implement but that can make a real difference to the user experience.

As you can see, it takes more than simply translating your website to step onto a new playing field (or market) but with a little preparation you’re bound to score big!

4. Build language specific backlinks to your translated site

Once a translated site is live company owners are often surprised that it doesn’t immediately rank as well as their original site.

The reason for this is two-fold:

  • Google takes time to measure how long visitors spend on the site. Sites where visitors spend a long time and read multiple pages slowly go up in the rankings. Conversely, sites where visitors quickly leave go down in the rankings. It therefore takes time to rank well, even for sites with a great UX.
  • Backlinks from specific countries are essential to rank well in that country. Even if you use a sub-folder or sub-domain for your translated site, the links will be predominantly from English speaking countries (for a site originally in English).

To improve your ranking, you therefore need to build backlinks from each specific country. Neil Patel has put together an in-depth guide on building backlinks on a budget, and the strategy for local SEO is similar to that for international SEO.

A professional international SEO agency will also be able to help build backlinks to your site.

If you go with this option, then it’s essential that you focus on a few high-quality links, rather than mass link building strategies, which are now defunct. Look for a company who can create links that are:

  • From relevant websites to your niche.
  • Written by qualified native speakers – each link should include unique content like guest posts or infographics.
  • On high-quality sites. This is best measured by using quality metrics like Domain Authority, Trust Flow, and/or monthly traffic.

Summary

To rank high with Google internationally requires a similar approach to ranking locally, however translations must include a cultural adaptation and keywords that lots of people search for each month. Once you’ve translated your site, build high quality links from the specific country in order to rank well in that country.

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