When expanding your business internationally, there is a common misconception that optimization, particularly technical SEO optimization, should be done as soon as the site is online. However, by implementing any SEO recommendations after the website has been translated, a massive readjustment can occur, slowing down the website’s launch and impacting budgets. Some aspects of site infrastructure also need to be optimized ahead of time to avoid extensive changes later. So, what’s the best way of building this into the translation process?

The old approach to translation

For some time now, companies have been aware of the need to create a website in the local language when entering new global markets. Back in 2014, the Common Sense Advisory reported that “75% of [web visitors] prefer to buy products in their native language. In addition, 60% rarely or never buy from English-only sites.” Competing in global markets with an untranslated site is no longer viable if a company wants to compete with local businesses.

The traditional approach has been to focus only on translation, the conversation being primarily about whether to use a human translator or to rely on machine translation, such as Google Translate.

This approach is now changing as companies are beginning to realize the benefits of localizing their content and website for target markets. Instead of translating a piece of content word for word, companies are now tailoring content to resonate and engage, which allows them to compete more effectively with local companies. This is known as transcreation – marketing messages are adapted to different cultures and languages while still retaining the original context and intent of the message.

However, localization and transcreation alone are not enough to succeed on a global scale. Customers need to be able to find your site, and the only way to do that is to increase your online visibility. And this is where integration of SEO into translation comes in.

A new approach to global success

To succeed in new markets, you need to maximize the visibility of your products or services. To achieve this, SEO needs to be built into the translation process while also being adapted to the specific market. Local keyword research, site structure, and the hreflang tag are key elements that need special attention.

Local Keyword Research

Many companies simply translate their local keywords in hopes of ranking well in new markets. The problem with this strategy is that it doesn’t take into account search volume across markets or country-specific keywords that may have high search volume but don’t have equivalent terminology in certain places/languages.

The only way to make sure you’re targeting relevant keywords is to use local contractor linguists who understand the keyword research process. However, many believe that keyword research should be enough to rank in new markets. This process should go hand in hand with technical SEO; we’ll discuss two elements of that below.

Structure of the Site – what domain to pick?

When it comes to site structure, it’s important to consider future expansion plans and make sure the option you choose now stands the test of time.

There are three main options to consider:

1. ccTLD – national top-level domain (example.UK)

This is usually the preferred domain option when going international. By using a ccTLD, you not only send a powerful signal to search engines that you are targeting a specific country, but you also gain user trust, which will result in a better clickthrough rate from the search results. For instance, web users in France tend to choose. FR websites and are more likely to click on them than on generic domains like .com

The downside of ccTLDs is the inability to share the authority of the parent top-level domain. Ultimately, you will be building links to these sites from scratch, which can make it difficult to rank. There is also the possibility that your domain won’t be available in new markets.

2. Subfolder (example.com/UK)

The main benefit of using a subfolder is sharing top-level domain authority. Building links to the site in any country will be useful for each folder since this array of links belongs to the top-level domain. This can give you a significant ranking advantage for all of your regional sites, including the relatively new ones.

The downside is that this is less trustworthy than using the ccTLD structure and, as a result, may affect the clickthrough rate. The location signal to searchers will also be weaker compared to using ccTLDs and subdomain structures.

3. Subdomain (uk.example.com)

This approach is somewhere in between the two previous ones, in terms of pros and cons. First, a location signal is sent to search engines, as you can host individual subdomains in different countries, potentially causing a country ranking spike. The authority of the main domain is also divided between subdomains, but, of course, it won’t result in as much as in the situation with a subfolder.

The downside is that some link-building activity will still be required because the full authority of the ccTLD can’t be exploited. The location signal is also not as strong as it would be with a unique ccTLD.

Choosing a domain structure that suits your business and future expansion plans is essential. A ccTLD is the ideal structure but may not be available for some companies, or you may decide that shared link authority is more important and opt for the subfolder structure. Whichever option you choose, it’s crucial to think about the structure of your site before you create it, not after.

Hreflang tag

Hreflang is an HTML tag that can be added directly to a page’s source code when you have duplicate content in multiple languages. This helps search engines understand the language of the content and, therefore, ensure it is shown to the right audience in the right market. Proper use of Hreflang is essential to ensure that your localized sites rank correctly.

An important point to pay attention to is correctly implementing Hreflang for two blocks of content in the same language, intended for two different countries – for instance, French for France and French for Canada. By implementing the Hreflang code incorrectly, you can not only affect your chances of ranking organically across the entire market but also affect your source and other related sites.

One contractor or two?

When it comes to integrating SEO and translation into one workflow, a lot of consideration should be given to whether to hire one contractor who specializes in translational search engine optimization or two contractors: one SEO specialist and another representing a professional translation company.

If you already have SEO agency support as part of an integrated digital marketing strategy, the decision to only outsource translation may seem like the better option. However, dealing with two contractors can be tricky, and can make the process of building SEO into translation a challenge. On top of that, some digital agencies may be SEO experts but not have the same experience when it comes to international site structures or international keyword research. Finally, every time you update your content, there is a chance that previous SEO work will need to be rewritten; this can be costly, as rewriting previous SEO work can affect both project costs and your site’s search traffic.

Hiring a single contractor allows you to easily manage the whole process. The translator’s workflow should be fine-tuned to weave SEO into it, and there should be one upfront SEO cost that will save you money in the long run. Having one contractor also helps ensure that research has been done on keywords relevant to the new market, and not just a translation of your local keywфыords.

So, what next?

The translation industry has changed drastically over the past few years, moving from simply translating content accurately to localizing it to get a response. Now, content is being optimized locally for increased organic visibility. While adding SEO is a big step in the right direction, there is still more to be done to increase the chances of succeeding in new markets. The next step for companies will be to consider cultural elements when expanding globally. This includes the best payment methods, shipping options, and trusted signals for these markets. By combining all of this with SEO, you will improve your online presence, conversion rate, and ultimately, overall ROI.

How To Boost Your SEO with Website Localization?
If you’re selling across the globe, you already know that website localization can help you reach new audiences and grow your business. Localization can enhance your local presence, increase sales and allow you to grow your market share globally. It can also boost your SEO.

Alexander Safonov