Updated: Mar 10
When it comes to translation, web content presents its own unique challenges. You not only need to adapt the message into another language, but the page also needs to rank highly in various search engines. Here’s where SEO translation comes in.
Okay, let’s back up. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a technique to increase the quality and quantity of web traffic by increasing a website’s visibility in a search engine. This includes using relevant keywords and phrases in your web content to let the search engine know your web page gives visitors the information they want.
What Is SEO Translation?
SEO translation is a technique that not only involves translating content, but optimizing it in another language. This process typically includes:
Translating keywords based on how highly they rank in the target language.
Translating title tags, script messages, and other attributes of a website.
Ensuring a translated version of the website will rank highly in search engines due to SEO and high-quality content.
Say, for example, you want to translate a web page about a new accounting tool you’re launching. You’ve picked strong keywords, come up with a clever headline, and now the web traffic is rolling in. The next step is to prepare another version of website to launch the tool in China.
To translate that same page in Chinese will involve:
Adapting the message in a culturally appropriate way, and
Choosing keywords in Chinese that rank highly
Since English and Chinese are so linguistically and culturally different, a title that sounds fun and playful may be offensive or nonsensical in Chinese. At the same time, Chinese visitors will use keywords and phrases to search for an accounting tool that may or may to have a close equivalent in English.
A good SEO translator will need to write well in Chinese, understand the Chinese market, and determine which Chinese keywords will drive the most traffic. In a case like this, the translator will likely need to make several changes to the content—instead of a providing direct translation.
How to Prepare for an SEO Translation
Now that you know what SEO translators are up against. There are a few ways to ensure you get better results.
First, decide whether you’re targeting visitors in your own country who search in another language or visitors in another country. If you want to launch in another country, you’ll also need to consider factors such url structure and domain names.
Next, optimize your original website. If you haven’t refreshed your content in a while, this is a good time to do so. Make sure it’s up-to-date and follows best practices, not only for SEO but marketing overall.
Then, make a list of keywords your site ranks well for and which keywords you’d like to rank for. This will help the translator determine which keywords to in use the target language.
Finally, decide which content needs to be translated for SEO. Keywords and tags are the most obvious. But did you remember to include image descriptions, in case an image doesn’t render? What about script messages or 404 error pages that could pop up?
If you have an SEO specialist on staff or work with an SEO company, consult with them on best practices for International SEO. That way, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect when you start working with a translator.
Choosing an SEO Translator
Since SEO adds another layer of complexity to your translation, you need a translator who is up-to-date on best practices. (How many updates has Google announced in recent years?) And in addition to SEO, you need someone who understands marketing and transcreation, copywriting, and the target language.
Whew, that’s a tall order! However, SEO translation is a necessary step if you want to drive traffic in an increasingly crowded market.