International marketing

From SEO Translation to SEO Localization

From SEO Translation to SEO Localization
Veruska Anconitano
Written by
Veruska Anconitano
Veruska Anconitano
Written by
Veruska Anconitano
Reviewed
Veruska Anconitano
Reviewed by
Updated on
May 20, 2024

If your business operates in multiple languages, you may consider investing in SEO translation or SEO localization services to increase your website’s visibility in different countries. Although both strategies aim to expand your audience, they have distinct approaches and results. As a result, it’s vital to understand the differences between SEO translation and SEO localization and determine which is the most suitable for your business to achieve optimal results.

This article aims to clarify the distinction between SEO translation and SEO localization and offer some insights to assist you in making an informed decision. After reading this piece, you will have a better understanding of the benefits and limitations of each approach and be able to determine which one aligns with your business’s marketing goals.

What is SEO Translation?

SEO translation involves translating the content on your website into another language to reach a wider audience. Typically, this process involves minimal adjustments to ensure the text reads naturally in the target language while staying true to the source language. However, unlike traditional translation work, SEO translation incorporates SEO optimization techniques such as incorporating specific keywords and following SEO guidelines to improve the page or site’s ranking on search engines.

The primary goal of SEO translation is to make your website’s content accessible to users who speak a different language and simultaneously enhance the site’s search rankings in that language. This process usually involves translating keywords using a 1:1 translation approach, often utilizing machine translation, followed by volume checks. Finally, the on-page elements and content are translated using a similar 1:1 approach while considering SEO optimization.

Look at this English-to-Spanish SEO sentence translation example:

  • English: “Best Italian restaurant in town with authentic pasta dishes and delicious wines.”
  • Spanish SEO translation: “El mejor restaurante italiano de la ciudad con auténticos platos de pasta y deliciosos vinos.”

In this case, we have translated the sentence and also included Spanish keywords that relate to the restaurant’s cuisine, such as “restaurante italiano” and “platos de pasta.” By doing so, the translated sentence follows SEO best practices by being relevant, unique, and utilizing targeted keywords. This approach helps the website rank higher on Spanish search engines for Italian cuisine-related queries, potentially leading to increased traffic and engagement.

Is this the right choice? On a high level, it’s a relatively good and, most of all, easy choice. But it can be improved. And that’s what SEO localization does.

What is SEO Localization?

SEO localization involves more than just translating website content; it aims to adapt the content to the local culture and customs. This process includes customized keyword research, removal of jargon, metaphors, or context that may not make sense in the target language, and replacement with culturally appropriate versions. Additionally, SEO localization considers local currency, images, and colors that resonate with the target audience to create a personalized, localized experience while improving the website’s search rankings in a specific region or country and language variant.

Understanding cultural and linguistic nuances is critical to achieving success in SEO localization. Localization requires adapting content to the target language’s cultural and linguistic nuances beyond a mere translation. Neglecting these nuances can result in cultural misunderstandings or inappropriate content, damaging your brand’s reputation.

Cultural nuances may include differences in customs, traditions, idioms, or humor that may require input from local experts or native speakers to identify. Linguistic nuances may include grammar, syntax, and word choice variations, which can sound awkward or incorrect if not addressed.

To better understand the concept of SEO localization, let’s refer again to the example above:

  • English: “Best Italian restaurant in town with authentic pasta dishes and delicious wines.”
  • Spanish SEO translation: “El mejor restaurante italiano de la ciudad con auténticos platos de pasta y deliciosos vinos.”
  • Spanish SEO localization: “El mejor restaurante italiano de la ciudad con auténtica comida italiana.”

This example shows that the SEO localization process involves making additional changes beyond the translation to tailor the content to the target audience. We have replaced “auténticos platos de pasta y deliciosos vinos” with “auténtica comida italiana,” which has higher search volumes, conveys the same meaning, and is more relevant to the Spanish-speaking audience.

Using a culturally appropriate term, SEO localization has successfully adapted the content to the local audience and improved the website’s visibility on Spanish search engines. This approach ensures the website’s content resonates with the local audience, increasing engagement and conversions.

What’s the Difference Between SEO Translation and SEO Localization?

Based on the above, we can summarize the difference between SEO translation and SEO localization:

SEO translation and SEO localization involve optimizing your website for search engines in the target country. 

But

SEO translation aims to improve searchability, while SEO localization aims to improve searchability and make you more relatable to your audience.

The key difference between SEO translation and SEO localization is that you don’t just translate your content word for word in SEO localization. You adapt it to the target culture, perhaps changing wording if it doesn’t resonate with your audience. To be as close to your target as possible, consider other collateral and cultural elements: stereotypes, idioms, cultural references, etc.

SEO-wise, localizing also means finding keywords that people are searching for and that can deviate from the source despite having the same meaning. 

The table below illustrates that a highly searched term in English may not have the same search volume in Spanish. Therefore, it’s crucial to avoid simple translations and, instead, focus on localization to identify the best options that resonate with the local audience:

A table of a source keyphrase and the SEO translations and localizations in Spanish.

SEO Translation vs. SEO Localization: What’s Best for Your Business?

Consider your goals and budget to determine the best approach for your international SEO strategy. If you want to expand your reach and have a limited budget, SEO translation may be a suitable option, as it enables you to quickly and easily translate your content. However, if you aim to create a more relevant and user-friendly website for the target country, SEO localization is a better option.

Free webinar: How to build an effective international SEO strategy

Adapting your international SEO strategy to local cultures is crucial to ensuring a positive user experience. By considering cultural nuances, values, and user habits, you can connect your company, product, or service with the target audience and effectively communicate information. This, in turn, can lead to improved engagement, conversions, and overall success in the target market.

1. Do Your Research

Before starting to localize your website, it’s essential to research and understands the target market. This includes understanding the local culture, customs, traditions, and taboos. In addition to researching local culture, it’s also essential to understand the local language and dialects and the search behavior of the target audience. This information can help you optimize your website content and improve your website’s visibility on local search engines.

2. Find the Right Keywords

One of the essential parts of localization is finding the keywords that people in the target country are searching for. Independent keyword research for each language is imperative. What works in one market may not work in another, and if proper locale-based keyword research is not carried on, the chances of missing out on opportunities are very high. 

For example, the phrase “sustainable fashion” in French is directly translated as “Mode durable,” which receives around 320 monthly searches in France. While this search volume isn’t bad, what if we could approach the concept differently and still convey the same message? This is where SEO localization becomes relevant and conducting international SEO keyword research is particularly relevant.

By researching and analyzing the local market, we may find that the term “mode éthique,” which means “ethical fashion” in English, is a better keyword choice for the French-speaking audience. This term receives around 1000 monthly searches in France and communicates the same concept. Using this keyword ensures that the website’s content is culturally and linguistically appropriate, increasing engagement and improving search engine rankings for French search queries related to ethical fashion.

Source keyword: Sustainable fashion, the French keyword, and corresponding volumes

3. Create Locally-Relevant Content

Creating locally-relevant content requires a profound understanding of the target audience and their preferences. This includes understanding their cultural values, language, and browsing habits. Conducting research and gathering feedback from local experts or native speakers can help ensure the content is relevant, accurate, and effective.

Localizing content can include adapting the language and images, videos, and other multimedia to fit the target audience’s preferences. For example, images or videos featuring local landmarks or cultural traditions can help build trust and credibility with the target audience.

4. Tailor Metadata and Tags for Local Markets

Tailoring metadata and tags for local markets involves incorporating relevant keywords, phrases, and cultural and linguistic nuances into the metadata and tags for better multilingual SEO optimization. This can include using local spellings, dialects, and synonyms to ensure the content is optimized for the local language and culture.

For example, if you target a market in Portugal, using Portugal spellings and synonyms in your metadata and tags can help improve your website’s search engine visibility and drive more traffic from that region. Similarly, using culturally relevant phrases or idioms can help your website resonate with the local audience and build trust and credibility.

The following example demonstrates the importance of SEO localization in creating compelling Page Titles:

  • English: “Buy eco-friendly cleaning products for your home today.”
  • Brazilian Portuguese SEO translation: “Compre produtos de limpeza ecológicos para a sua casa hoje.”

To better resonate with the local audience, we can localize the sentence for Brazilian Portuguese by replacing “produtos de limpeza ecológicos” with “produtos de limpeza sustentáveis.” The resulting localized Page Title would be:

  • Brazilian Portuguese SEO localization: “Compre produtos de limpeza sustentáveis para a sua casa hoje.”

By using culturally appropriate language and adapting the content to the local audience, SEO localization can significantly improve the effectiveness of Page Titles in reaching the target audience and increasing conversions and brand awareness.

Weglot provides various options for replacing or editing automatic translations with manual translations across your website, including your metadata. As a result, you can easily update and replace metadata and ALT translations with more accurate localizations. 

Furthermore, Weglot allows you to invite your SEO experts, content team, and translators to your website translation project and work together to enhance your multilingual SEO strategy, including editing critical elements necessary for search engine rankings.

5. Build Local Backlinks

Backlinks are links from other websites that point to your website, and they are an important ranking factor for search engines. Building local backlinks involves getting links from websites based in the target region or language, which can help improve your website’s search engine visibility in that market.

To build local backlinks, you can start by identifying local websites or directories that are relevant to your business and reach out to them to request a link. This can include local news outlets, directories, or industry-specific websites. You can also consider guest blogging on local websites or partnering with other regional businesses to create content and link to each other’s websites. An international SEO agency can also identify prime backlinking opportunities for you.

How to Implement SEO Localization

Transitioning from SEO translation to SEO localization is a significant step toward expanding your business’s online reach. However, there are several considerations to remember before embarking on this journey. 

  • Budget: When considering SEO localization, evaluating the budget is essential. Understanding how much you can spend on and invest in the project is crucial. If the budget is tight but you still want to expand, SEO translation might be the easiest way.
  • Sustainability: Evaluating the sustainability of an SEO localization program on a long-term basis is essential. You should determine the project’s scalability and identify how many stakeholders must be involved.
  • Risk: Adapting content for SEO localization means moving away from the source content, which can pose a risk if the approach is not agreed upon with PR and Brand teams to avoid damaging the company’s image. Educating the entire company on the benefits of tailoring content is also essential while moving slowly.
  • Local regulations: Different regions and countries have laws and regulations that may impact your SEO localization strategy. Research and understand these regulations to avoid any potential legal issues.
  • Local competition: Research and analyze the local competition to identify their marketing strategies and understand what works and what doesn’t in the target market. This can help you tailor your SEO localization strategy for better results.
  • Website design and user experience: Consider adapting your website design and user experience to the local audience’s preferences. This can include colors, layout, and navigation, impacting how users interact with your website. And on a more high level, it also includes local customer support, which is a big help for SEO localization since it can help build trust and credibility with the local audience. 

What are the Best Resources for SEO Localization?

Implementing SEO localization can be a complex process that requires careful planning and execution. Here are some of the best resources available for SEO localization:

  • Translation memory: translation memory can significantly improve the efficiency and accuracy of the translation process. Using a translation memory can also ensure consistency in the localized content as it can ensure that key terms and phrases are SEO localized accurately and consistently across all projects. Translation memory can also reduce the risk of errors or inconsistencies caused by human error or differences in style among translators. Additionally, translation memory can help reduce translation costs over time. By storing previously translated content, you can avoid paying for the same content to be translated again;
  • SEO tools: having access to an SEO tool is essential to start SEO localizing content and pages. SEO tools can help you identify the most relevant keywords for your website based on search volume, competition, and relevance to your business in a specific market and language. They can also help analyze your website’s content and provide suggestions for improving on-page optimization, such as meta tags, titles, headings, and internal linking while suggesting strategies for acquiring external backlinks.
  • Localized content creation services: Consider partnering with a professional content creation service that specializes in creating locally-relevant content localized content creation services work with local writers and translators who are familiar with the language, culture, and customs of the target market. This ensures that the content is accurate and correct SEO-wise, resonates with the local audience, and meets their preferences.
  • Local SEO consultants: Working with a local SEO consultant with expertise in the target market can help you develop and execute an effective SEO localization strategy. They can identify the most relevant keywords for their target market and optimize their website’s metadata and content accordingly. Additionally, they can also help businesses build high-quality backlinks from local directories, forums, and other relevant websites to improve their search engine ranking. You’ll also be given insights into the local market, cultural nuances, and regulations and help you tailor your approach accordingly. They can also regularly monitor and analyze the website’s performance, providing data-driven insights and recommendations for improving online visibility and driving growth.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Overall, SEO localization is an essential strategy for businesses looking to expand their online reach and establish themselves as trusted brand in different regions and countries. By leveraging the benefits of SEO localization, you can improve their online visibility, engagement, and revenue and ultimately drive growth in the global market. Here is a summary of the key benefits of SEO localization:

  • Improved online visibility: Optimizing your website for local search engines and creating locally-relevant content can improve your online visibility in the target market and reach a wider audience.
  • Better engagement: Creating content that resonates with the local audience and meets their cultural and linguistic preferences can improve engagement and build brand loyalty in the target market.
  • Higher search engine ranking: Optimizing your website for local keywords and building high-quality backlinks from local websites can improve your search engine ranking and drive more organic traffic to your website.
  • Competitive advantage: By leveraging the expertise of local SEO consultants and other resources, you can gain a competitive advantage in the target market and establish yourself as a trusted brand.
  • Increased revenue: By improving your online visibility, engagement, and search engine ranking in the target market, you can ultimately drive growth and revenue for your business.

SEO localization can be a complex process, but it is an essential strategy for businesses looking to expand their online reach in different regions and countries. Here are some final thoughts and recommendations for those considering SEO localization:

  • Plan carefully: Before embarking on an SEO localization program, it’s important to plan carefully and evaluate your budget, sustainability, and risk factors. Consider partnering with a local SEO consultant with expertise in the target market to develop a comprehensive plan that meets your business’s unique needs.
  • Invest in localized content: Creating locally-relevant content is crucial for SEO localization. Consider partnering with a professional content creation service specializing in creating culturally sensitive and linguistically accurate content for the target market.
  • Leverage SEO tools: SEO tools can help you identify local keywords, analyze your competitors, and optimize your website’s content and structure for better search engine ranking.
  • Work with local partners: Building relationships with local partners can help you build high-quality backlinks and improve your website’s search engine ranking.
  • Monitor and analyze performance: Regularly monitoring and analyzing your website’s performance is essential for identifying areas for improvement and making data-driven decisions to drive growth and revenue.
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