SEO Localization - A Step-By-Step Guide To Boosting Your Global Brand Presence
Are you looking to enter new international markets through SEO Localization? Do you want to expand your localization department but need more resources, time, and budget?
These are typical challenges businesses are faced when building out their multilingual content strategy. If you want your web pages, blog posts, online ads, and other copy translated and optimized for local search engines efficiently and cost-effectively, you need to implement a successful localization program.
But how do you do that?
Below you’ll learn all about SEO Localization as well as a step-by-step guide to boosting your global brand presence. Additionally, we’ll discuss whether hiring in-house or outsourcing your localization is the right option for your business needs.
What Is SEO
For those of you who don’t know what SEO is, here’s a brief explanation. If you already know what these terms mean, skip this section using the table of contents above.
What Is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is the process of optimizing your website for search (Google, Firefox, Bing, Baidu, Yandex, etc). What that means is improving your website’s organic ranking so it displays at the top of SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) for your targeted keywords.
For example, if you type “Undertow Languages” into Google you’ll see us ranked as the number 1 position in SERPs. That’s because we’ve optimized our homepage (Metadata, URLs, Keyword Distribution, Images, etc) to rank organically (as opposed to paying) for the keywords: “Undertow Languages”.
However, the more competitive the keyword, the harder it is to rank for it. (In the context of Google Ads, the higher the competition the more expensive the keyword.)
For example, if you were to type the word “Undertow” alone, you wouldn’t find us.
Well, you might, but you’d have to click through more SERPs, and according to an analysis of 4 million Google search results, only 0.63% of people click on the second page of Google search results (Backlinko, 2022).
People are more likely to change their query than search the second page.
So, you can clearly see now why keyword research is so important and why ranking on the first page is so powerful. For most businesses, it is an integral part of their global marketing strategy.
There are many other aspects to SEO such as on-page, off-page, and technical SEO. In this article, we’ve simply outlined the core principles of what SEO is in relation to SEO Localization to help you further understand.
If you’re interested in learning more about Search Engine Optimization and how to implement it yourself, we recommend you do your own research and check out content from platforms such as Neil Patel, Moz, or Search Engine Land for a ton of fantastic, free resources.
What Is SEO Localization?
So, we’ve explained briefly what SEO is, but what is SEO Localization?
You need SEO Localization if you want to enter new international markets successfully. Localization is using the correct keywords from your desired language, taking into account grammar, slang, cultural nuances, etc.
You cannot simply translate keywords from your source language into your target language and hope for the best.
For starters, that would be a huge waste of resources and funds and could affect your brand identity negatively. There are too many variables that could impact the product or translation. (See examples below of translations gone wrong.) Sometimes you have to change whole paragraphs or add new ones, it's not just translation, it also involves content creation and transcreation skills too.
“SEO localization differs from marketing translation and transcreation, yet somehow encompasses all of them.” - Alfonso Gonzalez, Senior Localization Manager at Sinch.
SEO Localization is not just SEO in another language, it’s making the international consumer feel like your content was made for them.
Examples Of Ad Translations Gone Wrong:
"Come alive with Pepsi!"
Chinese translation: "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead!"
The American Dairy Association:
Mexican Spanish translation: "Are You Lactating?"
"Every car has a high-quality body"
Belgian translation: "Every car has a high-quality corpse"
Types Of Content You Would Need SEO Localization For:
FAQs (Google loves it when you ask and answer questions!)
There’s no need to use SEO Localization on social posts as their life spans are too short to warrant optimizing them. Equally, you wouldn’t need it for PDFs, white papers or case studies, etc. unless they were going to be published online.
You only need SEO Localization for the content you wish to rank for.
“I think it’s important to stress with SEO localization that it really depends on the kind of content, because maybe for some kind of content, you don't need to do SEO localization. But for others, it is actually quite important.” - Alfonso Gonzalez, Senior Localization Manager at Sinch.
How Does SEO Localization Differ From Regular SEO?
One way it varies is market maturity.
Before you start your localization journey you must first analyze the target market to see how people are talking about the topic to learn what keywords they use for your product.
Are there direct translations for your keywords with similar meanings or do they use a completely different terminology? Sometimes they can be very similar while other times they can be completely different. Again, it all depends on the market's maturity.
For example, is your desired market well-versed in your product or do they have no idea what it does? Do you need to educate the market about your product’s values first? Or does the consumer already find it valuable?
These are all questions you have to ask yourself before considering entering into new markets and starting your SEO Localization journey. Keep scrolling to read a full breakdown of the steps your business should take to increase your global brand presence.
The Value Of SEO Localization
According to Harvard Business Review:“72.4% of consumers said they would be more likely to buy a product with information in their own language.”
This means consumers are willing to pay more if you are willing to give them information in their own languages.
According to Statista: “As of January 2023, the number of internet users worldwide was 5.16 billion.”
Furthermore, 59% of those were English speakers, leaving 41% (2115.6 million users) as potentially untapped customers. These statistics are only likely to grow as more of the world gains access to the internet.
At Undertow, we are your allies when it comes to all things language, localization, and digital marketing. You can have the best product in the world, but it’s no use if nobody knows about it.
By implementing effective SEO Localization you will increase engagement and conversion rates (The first position in Google has a click-through rate of 28.5%). The more markets you have access to the higher the revenue.
Be seen at the top of SERPs worldwide, boost traffic to your website, and get your product in front of new audiences with Undertow. Get in touch with us.
The Steps Your Business Should Take To Increase Your Global Brand Presence
If you want to translate your website into other languages and boost its global brand presence, there are many preliminary steps you have to take.
It’s important to watch out for the pitfalls in SEO Localization. For different markets, you may need to add extra paragraphs or change hyperlinks.
Why? Because you may need to provide more information than you would in your source language. This is why the first step is imperative to your overall strategy.
If you want to manage your localization project efficiently and cost-effectively you need to analyze the market you wish to enter. Start by asking yourself these questions:
How does your product work in your desired market?
Have people heard of it or are they completely unaware?
Who are your competitors?
Is there an opportunity there or not?
What pages do you want to translate first? (You don’t have to translate everything at once, you can start with batches to see which generates more traffic, opportunity, leads, sales, etc.)
A product that is well-known in one market may not be well-known in another. This impacts the buyer's journey and sales funnel and is what we mean by market maturity.
You have to analyze how mature your desired market is and adapt your content accordingly. Do they have a need for your product? Do they already know what it is or do they need to be educated about it? These are all things to consider when implementing your SEO Localization program.
2. Market Research
After analyzing your market you will want to do further research into their preferences and understand how they think. For example:
Do they prefer mobile devices or desktops?
Does content appear differently to them?
How mature is the market? What do you need to do to fill the gaps?
What’s the best way to interact with them? Is it the same way as your source market?
“I think it's important sometimes to stress that you don't need to have the same strategy for every single market. It makes sense to differentiate because there might be a different level of maturity.
For example, it might be that the full range of your products is not all relevant to a specific market. It doesn't make sense to spend money and translate all the pages referring to products that aren’t relevant. Maybe there are markets that you might want to invest more in because you will get a better ROI.” - Alfonso Gonzalez, Senior Localization Manager at Sinch.
How does that market pay for your services?
If you go to a new market, it’s extremely important to know how they pay for goods. Do they use bank wires, credit cards, or cash? What types of credit cards do they use? Not all cards work the same way globally. Pricing varies and some technologies aren’t available in some parts of the world.
Do you charge the same for your services everywhere or does the price adapt according to the market?
Sometimes the same price is used for all markets. While other times you can have a higher price for specific markets, eg, the Nordics. Realistically, you will need to have lower prices for some markets because it will mean more profit in the long run.
Are people talking about your product?
Thanks to SEO tools, this is made easy. Nowadays you can do simple keyword research to find out what people are talking about and the keyword terms people are using to rank. If people are talking about it, you will see where the opportunity lies.
If you discover that not many people are looking for your product, there could still be a chance, but you'll need to adjust your sales approach based on how developed the market is. This means you'll have to modify all your content to educate them about something new. Doing this takes longer and requires more resources compared to a market that's already established. That's why it's crucial to study the market carefully before you start trying to introduce your product there.
SEO Keyword Tools you can use:
Moz Keyword Explorer (An all-around keyword tool)
Google Keyword Planner (For researching paid keywords - you will have to create an account first before being able to use the tool)
Ahrefs (For simple SEO tools)
Semrush (For advanced SEO professionals)
3. Content Strategy
Once you’ve done the analysis, and market research, and confirmed which market you wish to enter. You then have to figure out whether translating your blog content and website over will be sufficient or if you have to create new content based on that market.
Creating a content strategy allows you to structure and better manage the project from start to finish. You have to decide:
What is the goal of your content? (Is it for sales or is it for marketing? Is it to inform or to sell?)
What are you going to talk about? (What information do you want to share? What information do they need to know?)
Does there need to be different sub-topics? (Where in the sales funnel are your buyer's personas and what do each of them need to know?)
Which types of content should you create?
Do you need to create pilot content?
These are all questions you have to consider before hiring and onboarding your content writer or localization specialist.
It doesn’t make sense to start translating with anyone, they need to clearly understand your brand identity and tone of voice, which leads us to our next point…
Onboarding is arguably the second most important step after analysis. If you don't carry out this step properly, it will lead to a lot more problems for you in the future.
If you don't properly onboard and educate the writers or agencies responsible for creating content, they will likely have many questions due to their unfamiliarity with your brand. Without a strong grasp of your brand's identity, their content might not accurately represent it. Furthermore, you won't be certain if they are conveying the correct message using the tone and language you want.
This is where hiring a Localization Partner or Manager may benefit your team over managing it yourself.
What To Include In An Onboarding Brief:
The briefing will depend on the type of content you wish to translate and localize. However, below we’ve outlined the typical information you would include to give a comprehensive briefing for a blog article:
Include your brand book and content guidelines.
Provide any guidelines you have for SEO, Translation, or Localization such as words to avoid, spellings, etc.
Prepare any resources to help with their understanding of the content.
Include the original content to translate if you have it.
Supply specific instructions on the keywords you wish to rank for.
Include the analysis and market research you already did.
Outline who the target audience is and the pain points you’re planning to solve.
Describe the intention of the text ie. Is it to sell or is it to inform?
Deadlines and a schedule of the project if you are limited in time..
This, of course, all depends on the type of content you wish to create. However, it’s certain that without comprehensive onboarding, whoever you hire won’t do a good job.
The Different Roles of an SEO Localization Team
To successfully pull off your Localization Program, you will need a team with proven experience in using SEO tools as well as International SEO. You can either hire an agency that hires the team for you and/or implements the work, or hire a team in-house yourself.
However, whether you hire in-house or outsource, these are the following roles you would need to consider hiring for your SEO Localization team.
Localization Manager / Expert
If you’re a Content Manager or Marketing Manager, you already have your hands full with other aspects of the business, and you may not be an expert in SEO Localization.
That’s where a Localization Partner or Manager with previous experience becomes an integral part of your team.
The idea here is: they create the strategy, do all the research, hire the right team, and manage the project in its entirety, freeing up valuable space, time, and energy for you to do your job.
Equally, an agency as your Localization Partner could fulfill this role, removing the need to find and hire individuals yourself. The perk to this is you could start your localization project instantly without being weighed down by the hiring process. Not only that, but you can scale the project effortlessly because you won’t be relying on just one single person, but rather a team of people. Agencies also tend to cost less than hiring people in-house, which makes it easier to approve budget.
If you’re creating content from scratch in multiple languages then you will need to hire copywriters (Preferably ones that speak both the source language and the desired language) for each market. If you’re outsourcing you may need to engage with multiple linguists for the same market to make sure you’re covered during holiday periods or emergencies.
However, without clear content guidelines and skillful coordination, the quality of the copy written can vary drastically between freelancers. That’s why hiring a localization agency can be an excellent solution for large projects with multiple markets, as they guarantee the tone of voice and writing style is consistent no matter the writer or language.
If you have copywriters then you’ll need proofreaders. You may be tempted to ditch this role since the writer may be good enough without the need for a proofreader. Or you may use tools such as Grammarly to save resources and decrease costs.
However, the perk to having a proofreader is you always have a second pair of eyes to go through and check your copy. Your brand will never be perceived as careless over a simple typo. They guarantee quality control over brand identity and free up the time you would be spent reading through the content yourself.
If you’re already a company that produces a lot of professional content, you will already have an editor. If you want to convey that same level of professionalism in your desired market language, then you will need an editor for every market too. A thorough editor will help improve the readability, clarity, and tone of the text, improving your SEO Localization.
Marketing and Sales Team
You will probably already have a sales and marketing team in place, so you will need their help localizing the content to make sure it has the desired impact.
If they’re the ones who created your web pages or ad copy in the first place, it makes sense to involve them again with this project so everything is consistent. They will also help bring new perspectives on what should be localized and why in the content strategy phase.
Multiple Translators (Per language)
If you’re changing your website from your source language to another language, then you’ll need translators, preferably with SEO Localization experience.
The amount of content you wish to translate will decide how many translators you need. However, things start to get tricky when you have to work with multiple translators at once. You will need to implement some form of Quality Assurance process to ensure translations are consistent. Briefing and onboarding thoroughly should help, but hiring a localization partner or agency would be the best solution for ensuring quality and consistency for large projects. They become responsible for handling all the complexities associated with hiring, managing, and maintaining your localization project, giving you the time to focus on your own workload.
Translation tools only go so far. If you want to be sure your content has been translated and transcreated so it sounds natural, then you will need a professional translator. If you speak more than one language, you will know that some phrases or words don’t directly translate.
If you’re building paid adverts, landing pages, or any creative then you will need a designer. You may already work with one which means you don’t have to hire someone new, assuming they’re briefed well and know exactly what translated content they should include in their designs. Your Localization Partner will help manage the briefing for your designers.
Developers / UX Designers
You may need a team of developers to upload the new copy to the site or help build the new site depending on your localization goals. Having a developer on hand will also help with the technical aspects of SEO, assuming they have experience with it. Even if they don’t, they should have enough technical knowledge of the website itself such as the robots.txt file and metatags, etc. to follow instructions well.
You may also need UX Designers to help redesign and localize your website. Does your target market read content in the same way your source language does? For example, if you create a website in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Urdu, Kashmiri, Pashto, Uighur, Sorani Kurdish, Punjabi, or Sindhi, you will have to switch the direction of your site, as all these languages read from right to left instead of left to right. If you want your localization to be successful in these markets, this would need to be done site-wide.
Have you checked the quality of your content once it’s been uploaded? Has anything slipped through the cracks after uploading? Does your intention read clearly to your consumers? Have all the guidelines been followed? This is the last check to conclude the project.
It’s true that your translator can probably do this to save costs, however, it is always better to get a fresh pair of eyes on it. Preferably someone who knows nothing about your product to see if they understand everything.
In-house VS Outsourcing Your SEO Localization
If you’re a Content or Marketing Manager, one of the biggest decisions you will have to make is whether to hire in-house, outsource, or adopt a hybrid model.
Here we discuss the different models of outsourcing vs in-house multilingual content production in detail with plenty of tips and tricks to help you make the best decision for your business.
However, you can find the brief pros and cons of both below.
Easier management and communication when everyone is under the same roof.
A better understanding of the product. (Your employees should know your product best and therefore the branding and tone of voice should be consistent no matter the language.)
Easier to collaborate with others efficiently. (If your translator needs to check understanding with your copywriter they can easily go and ask.)
More control over availability and timetables. (Holiday periods and sick days are always covered.)
High costs. (Hiring, Benefits, Insurance, etc.)
Hard to prove it’s a worthy investment to investors when costs are so high.
There are many team members to consider and this can be risky during low-volume periods. (What do they do when there is no more work? Or once the project has finished?)
A need for hybrid roles to avoid idle time.
Time-consuming to hire the right team. (It's a job in itself to find, hire and train all the team members, not to mention very costly if it backfires.)
Doing everything in-house requires purchasing and managing software tools for translation and localization, integrating them with the system, and setting up processes.
There’s no guarantee it will lead to the highest-quality content production.
“There is a very big misconception that if you have in-house people, you have the best quality, while if you go with an agency, that is not the case. And I can tell you that that's not true, at least in my experience.” - Valeria Nanni, Head of Localization at Skyscanner.
Outsourcing To An SEO Localization Agency
More cost-effective, and therefore easier to prove to investors.
Can provide access to a wider range of expertise and hire for you as necessary.
Can scale up or down easily.
Can help with time zone coverage.
Quality and consistency can be ensured through service-level agreements.
Can take care of everything language-related, reducing the workload of in-house staff.
A speedy solution if you need to start immediately.
Management and training are easier with agency-provided tooling. (Sometimes it’s provided for free, which is an extra bonus.)
Requires building trust and efficient onboarding and briefing.
Potential for cultural differences and misalignment with branding and tone of voice if different copywriters are utilized all the time.
Managing external partner relations can be difficult at times.
It’s a possibility the agency isn’t transparent with its processes.
If you cannot speak to the freelancers directly, you will always have to go through the agency first, which can create a bottleneck and slow down all processes.
Agencies may be platform agnostic or provide their own tooling, but it heavily depends on whether the platform can integrate well with the in-house content management systems that are often highly customized.
It is important to have a good internal process system set up to transfer information to the agency promptly, to avoid prejudicing quality - especially for ongoing projects.
For marketing campaigns or creative work, a detailed brief is essential, and it may require ad-hoc meetings with the agency which can be time-consuming and complicated when communicating your vision.
Why Undertow Is The Right Localization Partner For Your Company
At Undertow, we are a young and dynamic boutique agency that can adapt to your requirements. We handle all things language-related with full transparency.
We help you assess the maturity of each target market and localize the content to fit the linguistic and cultural nuances while providing localized customer support.
We assemble bespoke teams of selected freelancers, specific to your business needs, and train them as if they were your own in-house team. We also create tone of voice and localization guidelines for each market, ensuring your brand is communicated consistently and effectively across touchpoints worldwide.
We are experts in the language service industry. We have experience working with many different technologies and can help you decide which one works best for you to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
What makes us unique is our human factor. When working with us, you will always know who’s handling what and the professionals you need to get in touch with directly. We aim to be approachable and easy to work with.
At Undertow, we take care of everything language-related. We multiply your SEO efforts for different markets and turn your business goals into results. Get in touch with us.