SEO Translation Guide
Since 2015 I have worked with tens of marketing agencies, LSPs and direct clients providing SEO services in Spanish and English and delivering great results.
The truth is that my knowledge of SEO back then was limited, and I did not know much about things such as cannibalisation, hreflangs, accessibility, 301 redirects or Google Analytics.
If you are a translator taking his or her first steps into the world of SEO, it can be a great idea to start your journey by reading a Beginners guide, but you do not need to be an SEO expert to provide SEO translation.
Every week I get messages and come across posts of translators wanting to learn SEO, the most recurrent question being 'How can I start learning about SEO translation?'.
There are indeed many free resources online to learn SEO, but as a translator or copywriter you will play a very specific role in the wider SEO strategy of a website, usually limited to the tasks below:
The three points mentioned above revolve around content optimisation, which consists of (1) selecting the right keywords to help Google understand what a website offers, and (2) creating a well-structured and optimised text that helps convert visitors and "inform" Google.
If you want to know how to perform these tasks, keep reading!
5 Skills an SEO Translator Needs to Learn
1. Keyword Research
When doing keyword research, you will be provided with a list of URLs for which you need to perform this task.
You will need tools such as the Keyword Magic Tool (on SEMrush), or Ahrefs, to conduct your research. These tools gather data about search terms used online and provides information for each keyword such as average monthly search volume and keyword difficulty.
How do you do keyword research?
Here are some basic steps:
Identify the main theme of each specific URL of the website, for example, 'holidays in the Netherlands', which will be your 'seed keyword'.
Enter this 'seed keyword' into the keyword tool.
Analyse the results and pick up the keywords that you think are most useful. *
If you don't find any relevant keywords, use a different seed keyword, for example 'holidays in Amsterdam' and repeat the process.
* The criteria for keyword selection is
relevance to the specific URL
average monthly search volume
2. Keyword Localisation
When doing keyword localisation, you will be provided with a list of keywords in the source language.
Usually, you will be asked to provide a "literal translation" of such keywords, as well as two related alternative keywords (Keyword 1 and Keyword 2) that you will find out by using a keyword research tool.
The criteria for keyword selection are the same as mentioned in the previous section for keyword research.
3. SEO Translation
You will be provided with keywords to use in the SEO translation (someone else may do the keyword research or keyword localisation or you will do it before you start the translation).
The list of keywords will include the specific URLs and the corresponding keywords:
Once you have a list of keywords (very similar to a traditional glossary), you will use the terms in a natural way, without stuffing the website with unnecessary repetitions that will put off Internet users.
How do you do SEO Translation?
First, you need to identify one primary keyword for each URL and use this keyword to help Google understand that the specific URL is about that particular keyword.
This is how you use a primary keyword:
In the H1 (the H1 is usually the heading of the page)
In the first paragraph if possible
In the rest of the text, but without forcing it
Secondly, you may select other keywords (related to the primary keyword) that you may use as the secondary or tertiary keyword.
This is how you use a secondary or tertiary keyword:
In the H2(s) (the H2s are usually the subheadings of the page)
In the paragraph(s) below the corresponding H2(s)
4. Meta Titles, Meta Descriptions and URLs
The meta title, meta description and URL of a webpage are usually referred to as metadata: the information that describes what a webpage is about on the search results of search engines like Google.
How do you translate or write metadata?
The most common approach is to select one different primary keyword for each specific page of a website, and use it in the meta title, the meta description and URL.
Including the keywords in the metadata will help Internet users know that they are on the right path to find what they are looking for, so it is more likely that they will click on it and visit the website.
Tips when creating metadata
It is as relevant as possible for the page.
It contains 40-60 characters including spaces.
It describes the landing page well.
It includes a CTA.
It contains 140-156 characters including spaces.
It is concise and describes the main topic of the page
Clients usually provide the metadata in the source language and translators need to translate and adapt it to include the relevant keywords.
5. Alt Tags
An Alt tag is the information that describes the image of a webpage, and it is used for people who cannot view the image.
Since images usually represent relevant things that the content talks about, translators just need to describe what the image is about.
If the description (up to 60 characters) includes a relevant keyword for the page, even better.
A valid Alt tag for the image above will be "The 5 skills of an SEO translator".
How to Become an SEO Translator
Optimizing your own website can be a great place to start practising what you learn online. For example, you can make sure that you are not targeting the same keyword on all your pages or using the same keyword in the metadata of all your pages.
Well-known LSPs usually have an SEO expert in-house, so if you are providing SEO services for the first time that person should be able to resolve your doubts along the way. And do not feel you need to know everything: If you do not have previous experience, you will not be asked to implement hreflangs or do technical stuff, you just need to know the basics.
If you want to have access to organised materials, get expert feedback on simulated real-life tasks and ask as many questions as you want, you are welcome to join my SEO Translation course (in Spanish) at Aulasic.
Here's to a great SEO journey!