SEO website translation: Tips and how to avoid common mistakes
You understand the value of a multilingual website: a better experience for your international customers, a more familiar feel, and better conversion rates. But your international success will be limited unless people can find your website organically.
SEO website translation allows you to translate your site using the most popular keywords in each market while ensuring your content is optimised for local search engines. Simply put, when you translate your website with Internet users and search engines in mind, you will have more chances of your clients finding your website.
In this guide, I will share the steps you should take to ensure your website is SEO-friendly in any language.
What is SEO translation?
SEO translation or SEO website translation focuses on translating your website content from one language into another by 1) making sure you use the keywords your customers are using when searching online and 2) following the best On-page SEO practices.
Doing SEO translation is similar to doing SEO content creation. This usually means paying attention to some key elements, including:
Suppose you do not have an SEO strategy for your website yet (or it isn’t optimised at all). In that case, I recommend you do this before translating it because you will get better results (SEO translators will be able to follow to some extent what you have done in the original language).
Are SEO website translation and multilingual SEO the same?
SEO website translation is part of a larger multilingual SEO strategy. A multilingual or international SEO strategy considers several technical considerations, such as deciding the URL structure or implementing hreflang tags to increase your chances of ranking well.
Most times, SEO translators cannot advise you about these technical aspects. The good news is that many website translation plugins are available that take care of the most important technical SEO aspects, automatically creating hreflang tags and subdirectories or subdomains when translating your site.
Now that you hopefully understand better what SEO translation is, let’s dive into the things you need to get right before and during the translation process.
Keywords: keyword research or keyword localisation?
People do not search for the exact same things in all languages. This means that if you translate a keyword from one language to another, no one may use that exact keyword.
A crucial part of SEO translation is finding keywords for each language. The process of researching and identifying language-equivalent keywords that are relevant to a specific local market is known as multilingual keyword research, although you can also do keyword localisation.
Keyword research consists of identifying the most relevant keyword(s) for a particular webpage. An SEO translator will perform keyword research in their native language in the same way an SEO specialist will do in their local language. Simply translating your existing local keywords would be a mistake!
When doing keyword research, it is key to match the search intent (the goal of users when they enter a query in a search engine) of a particular keyword. Are people looking for information, or are they using keywords with a commercial or transactional search intent?
I have seen many cases when translators with little experience in SEO picked keywords just because they had a high search volume and forgot about the search intent behind the keyword. Let’s use an example to explain it a bit better.
If you are translating a page about “Best CRMs for Hotels”, the keywords in the target language will include terms such as “best, comparison, test or list”, to name a few, in their respective language. If a translator suggests targeting a keyword such as “CRM for Hotels”, the chances are they don't know anything about search intent.
When optimising your website in its original language, you should have done Keyword mapping - the process of assigning a keyword to each page. This keyword mapping will be the starting point of your keyword localisation: your seo translator will use this keyword mapping as a list of keywords they will localise.
Most times translators will provide 2 o 3 alternatives for each keyword in the keyword list, so you have better chances of targeting the right keywords. However, keyword localisation has limitations because translators do not have access to the webpage where the keyword lives, and they can miss vital information.
Copy for people (and search engines)
After performing keyword research or keyword localisation in the target language, you should have a list of keywords (similar to a traditional glossary) for your text.
It is now when the (SEO) translation will take place. Your SEO translator will use one main or primary keyword on each page, as well as other keywords that may be related. Those keywords should be used in the body of the text, as well as in other specific parts of your website, which takes us to the next point: On-page SEO.
On-page SEO is the process of optimising parts of your page to help Google and users understand your content. And since your SEO translator is the one creating your content, they will need to make sure that they use the correct keywords in the:
Heading tag or H1
Subheadings H2 - H3
Do you want to learn about the best On-page SEO practices a translator should follow? Check out my SEO Translator Beginner's Guide.
4 common mistakes when doing SEO website translation and how to avoid them
Now that you know how SEO Translation works, I want to share some of the common mistakes you will want to avoid when investing in SEO translation services.
1. Machine translation
Machine translation is not always correct, in particular, if you are planning to translate keywords without any type of context. Seriously, I am not lying when I say that machine translation is not always good. Have a look at what DeepL does here:
At first glance, it may seem okay.
Now compare these search engine results and you will see it is NOT okay.
Solution: Hire a professional SEO translator
2. Direct translation
It may be a good idea to begin by translating keywords, in particular, if you opt for conducting keyword localisation instead of keyword research, but it's important not to stop there. Some keywords may not have an exact equivalent in the target language, or people may refer to that concept in a different way.
Solution: Doing keyword research or Keyword localisation
3. Regional languages
Do not make the mistake of using one regional language for all the countries where that language is spoken. The English spoken in the United Kingdom is different from American English. The German spoken in Switzerland is different from the one spoken in Germany. Take Spanish for example, and you will be surprised to know that the language spoken in Argentina, Mexico and Spain are VERY different.
Solution: keyword research or Keyword localisation in regional languages
4. Do not only look at search volume
15% of all Google searches have never been done before. Therefore, contrary to popular belief, it is worth optimising for keywords with 0 search volume. Especially if your site is new, you will have more chances of ranking for long tail keywords. But that isn’t the full story.
Remember we spoke about the importance of matching the search intent of a keyword? Making sure a keyword is relevant to the specific page is more important than search volume. Because if your page does not match the search intent of the keyword, it is not going to rank.
Solution: Consider search intent and search volume
What are the benefits of SEO website translation?
If you translate your site without thinking about SEO, you won't rank on page one of Google or other search engines. The benefits of SEO Translation are:
Successful expansion in the new market: keyword translation and keyword localisation allow you to use the same keywords that your audience uses and therefore help you speak the same language. This means your message resonates better with them, increasing brand loyalty.
Organic search growth in local markets: people will be able to find you when looking for information related to your business.
Better user experience: Did you know that 65% of consumers prefer content in their native language and 40% of consumers will not buy a product if the content is written in another language? SEO Translation will help you improve the user experience and consequently your conversion rates.
Work with qualified SEO Translators
Here's my final thought: Work with language experts who know how to do SEO translation. If you have a project in mind and would like to discuss it, get in touch!