The pitfalls to watch out for in SEO Localization
Specific considerations to take into account when you are localizing a website for different languages and cultures
SEO Localization is the way forward if you’re looking to drive traffic and increase audience engagement by entering into new international markets.
However, as with any strategy, there are certain traps that are easy to fall into. That’s why to help you on your journey, below we take a look at the pitfalls to watch out for in SEO Localization.
From a localization standpoint, it’s extremely important to understand the personas of your target market in order to build your web pages, blog articles, ads, etc. You need to understand your target’s culture, the kinds of language they use, and what they talk about.
SEO Localization is not just translating words into another language, but adapting the content, and localizing or transcreating it in order to make it meaningful to your target audience and improve your page ranking.
You need to know the preferences of your new audience, the best ways to interact with them, and how mature the market is before starting your multilingual content strategy.
We suggest you first read the article: SEO Localization - A step-by-step guide to boosting your global brand presence, where we take a deep dive into what SEO Localization is, how it benefits your business, and the step-by-step process you should follow to increase your brand presence worldwide.
Cultural Differences VS Market Maturity
Cultural differences and market maturity both play a huge part in your international content strategy. Before investing your time, effort, and resources in a new market, you need to decide first whether it’s worth entering it.
You need to analyze and research the market to understand the cultural differences and how mature it is. Begin by asking yourself these questions:
How does your product work in your desired market?
Have people heard of it or are they completely unaware of its existence? What do you need to do to fill the gaps?
Who are your competitors? Is there an opportunity there or not?
What pages do you want to translate first?
Do they prefer mobile devices or desktops?
Does content appear differently to them?
What’s the best way to interact with them? Is it the same way as your source market?
How does that market pay for your services?
Maybe in some markets your product is very well known, and there's already a need for it. Meanwhile, in other markets, it might be considered a very new product, i.e. your potential customers don’t even know they have a need for the service or product yet.
How does that impact the localization from an SEO point of view?
It could change things dramatically.
Let’s take a look at Microsoft as an example.
Comparing the British Homepage to the Vietnamese Homepage you can see that Microsoft is marketing two very different products. The UK market is far more mature than the Vietnamese market by comparison.
That’s why on the Vietnamese page you can see Microsoft introducing the new Bing as a free Search Engine and informing readers of its value. On the UK page, you can see that Microsoft is instead marketing its latest Surface Pro and trying to sell the product by utilizing discounts.
This is why knowing the market maturity and doing your research is so important. You may find you can’t localize your content at all because you have to create everything from scratch. If your new market knows nothing about your product, you’re going to find that on an SEO level, the keywords are completely different from your source language. Therefore you’ll need to create new content that will educate, inform, and sell according to your new sales funnel.
Sometimes you will have to use new foreign words in your target language which makes your text more difficult to read. (This later impacts the SEO on voice devices.) From an SEO perspective, it’s very important to choose the correct equivalent keywords for your target market.
Equally, you must pay attention to the UX design. Is the user experience intuitive for that market, ie. do they find the information they need easily? Is the layout created according to that culture's preferences? Are the calls to action relevant to them and in the right place? These are all the questions you must ask yourself before jumping into your SEO Localization journey.
Let’s check out Duolingo, as a fine example of UX Localization. You can see when the language is in Italian, everything reads from left to right. But when you switch the language over to Arabic, the site design reads from right to left.
To be clear, something that works in your source language may not work or be familiar in the target language. That will often imply changing images to make them more relatable to the target audience. It may seem obsolete, but it’s important to recognize cultural differences and what is familiar to your market in order to drive sales.
According to CSA Research, up to 60% of non-native English speakers rarely or never buy from English-only websites, and 64% of buyers say they specifically value localized content.
Have you created buyers' personas for your desired market? Do you know their age, gender, and race? Maybe your target is male in your source language, but for another market your target is female. It could vary totally from one place to another, which is why you must do a thorough analysis as well as research the market to lay out the foundation for your content strategy.
Let’s take a look at the Disney Toy Store as an example. On the British page, you can see the images are geared more toward little girls with dresses, dolls, and references from Toy Story. (A widely recognized movie among children in the UK.)
Meanwhile, the Asian version has more images referencing male superheroes and Star Wars, as well as Disney’s signature characters such as Mickey Mouse who is more widely recognizable.
Links and Case Studies
It’s no surprise that the references and case studies you use need to be relevant to the people reading your content. Say your source market is the USA and you’re talking about everyday shopping brands the average American citizen would recognize. If you wanted to adapt your content to Chinese, then it’s likely your readers will have never heard of those brands.
Let’s take a look at Samsung as an example. If you take a look at the Singapore and Vietnamese sites you will find the same marketing campaigns selling their latest products at the top. However, if you scroll down and take a closer look at the latest offers and innovations section you will notice the thumbnails vary greatly. On the Vietnamese site, there are rabbits, flowers, and bubbled icons shaped like cakes. That’s because these screenshots were taken during the Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam (honoring the moon and the autumn harvest) whereas in Singapore this holiday isn’t celebrated.
So it’s not just the copy you have to localize, but the links, examples, cultural references, and case studies too.
For example, you may need to add links, that support or explain more in-depth what your service is or the product you sell. However, if your source market is more mature than your target, then you may need to create a whole new content strategy accommodating that gap in knowledge.
Sometimes you may need to add hyperlinks for legal reasons that you might not need in your source language. Or maybe your target market prefers video content over long text, so instead of creating a new blog article, you would create an introductory video explaining your product.
Localization goes beyond simply translating your website. That’s why it’s important to hire a localization manager or localization team that can propose the right strategy for your business goals and target market.
Updating your content
You can’t implement an SEO strategy and then just leave it alone, it’s always going to be an ongoing project. From a content perspective, you need to continue tracking the performance and continue reiterating if you want the best results.
For starters, you don’t want the content to go stale. You should always update your content to keep it fresh as Search Engines will only show the most relevant content. That’s why you will regularly need to revamp your content and keep it as up-to-date as possible with all the relevant information, keywords, links, images, etc. for your desired market especially if you want to be seen at the top of Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
As we mentioned before, when we talk about SEO localization, it's not something that’s going to be done just once. You should be constantly monitoring how your content is performing every month and the amount of traffic it pushes to your site. Some content will be seasonal.
For example, you may launch seasonal campaigns for holidays such as Black Friday or Christmas. Or maybe the summer season is your busiest time of the year in the northern hemisphere but you’re busy all year round in the southern hemisphere. That’s why you have to consider carefully the market you plan on entering and do your due diligence in researching it to know how your product or service will be received and what you can do to leverage your marketing campaigns.
It goes without saying that the localization of your target language needs to be considered. You need to decide how to talk to your customers, and how you want to be perceived by them.
Do you want to come across as witty and funny? Or do you want to sound professional and informative? Different countries have different degrees of formality, and this needs to be carefully considered and included within your voice guidelines so your brand identity is consistent globally.
“If you want to be the expert in the target market, then you need to talk and sound like an expert. This means the degree of formality will be higher.” - Alfonso Gonzalez Bartolessis, Senior Localization Manager at Sinch.
Let’s take a look at Apple’s ‘Back-to-School’ Seasonal Campaign as an example.
From June to August, many people across the globe prepare for the school year to begin again in August / September.
If you look at the American site you will see they use the word “College” for the campaign. However, for the British site, they use localization effectively to change the word to “Uni” (short for “University”) because “College” means something different in British English.
The fact that they shorten the word “University” to “Uni” makes it less formal and uses the language a student would actually use in the UK making it more familiar and easier to resonate with.
It’s important to note that even if the languages are the same, cultural differences play a huge part in Localization. That’s why you must do your market research. American English is different from British English, and the SEO should reflect that, otherwise, you won’t achieve the desired results.
There are also the various elements of on-page SEO you need to take into account such as the slug of the URL, the meta description, and all the metadata in general that will contribute towards your page ranking. All of this needs to be adapted to your target language too.
Again, it's not just translating words, but understanding whom you're writing to, and implementing processes that allow you to constantly review and improve your translations.
You or the company needs to have an understanding of SEO
To implement a good localization strategy it’s imperative that you or your Localization Partner has at least a basic understanding of on-page SEO.
Make sure you know how to utilize your keywords in the:
Title tags (Taking into account character limitations and best practices.)
Metadata (Meta descriptions should be no longer than 155-160 characters.)
Page structure (H1 / H2 / H3 Headers)
Alt tags (For image search)
Slugs (Using your keyword)
“It's very important that the people working on SEO Localization know how pages are structured, and the different parts of a page where the keywords need to go. They need to also know about keyword stuffing. SEO is not just putting lots of keywords and saying, hey, well, yeah, we are going to drive a lot of traffic. No, actually Google will penalize that. So it's not just about putting a lot of keywords but creating content that truly speaks about the title - about the idea that you want to develop. So you have to be faithful with what you are and honest with what you are talking about.” - Alfonso Gonzalez Bartolessis, Senior Localization Manager at Sinch.
Whichever localization partner you choose, whether it be in-house, outsourced, or a hybrid of the two, they should be fully qualified and trained in SEO Localization. Otherwise, it’s going to be a complete failure.
They need to know how SEO works, and then how to localize your SEO content. This may seem obvious, but it is imperative to your success. Especially if don’t have a project manager or expert on your side to manage the ins and outs of the Localization hiring process and implementation.
Let’s use Undertow as an example. The keywords here are Undertow and Localization.
Title Tag - Undertow: Scale Up Your Marketing with Localization
Meta Description - Undertow helps international brands translate and create multilingual content to increase engagement, conversion rates, and customer retention worldwide.
Page Structure -
<H1> Translate your Content into Results with Undertow <H1>
<H2> Increase your revenue with multilingual content that converts. Scale up your marketing with localization. <H2>
Alt Tags - Scale Up Your Marketing with Localization | Undertow
Homepage (No slug because it is the homepage link): https://www.undertowlanguages.com/
SEO Localization (The slug is highlighted in yellow.): https://www.undertowlanguages.com/seo-localization
Depending on the system you use to translate your content, it’s more than likely that you will need to include a comprehensive brief. Whether it’s a blog article or landing page, if you want your brand to be perceived the same globally, then you need to include as much information in your brief as possible.
If you want to know what to include in an onboarding brief, head to the article SEO Localization - A step-by-step guide to boosting your global brand presence.
SEO Localization Roles and SEO Tools
With SEO Localization, there are so many aspects to it that it’s important you collaborate with all the departments of your company. Working in silos won’t get you the best results.
These are all the potential roles you would need in your localization team for it to be successful.
Localization Manager / Expert
Marketing and Sales Team
Multiple Translators (Per language)
This is where things get tricky.
If you want a smooth transition between teams in your SEO Localization project, then you need to purchase translation management systems and CAT tools. Specifically, ones that can integrate with your CMS seamlessly while fulfilling all your teams’ needs.
This is where a translation platform can help eliminate a lot of admin, like copy-paste, moving files around, sending emails, etc.
Tools you’ll need for SEO Localization
Free Search Engine Tools:
Google Trends (Google Trends is a website by Google that analyzes the popularity of top search queries in Google Search across various regions and languages.)
Google Adwords Keyword Finder (To find keyword terms for paid search. You will need to create a Google Ads account first.)
Google Search Console (Search Console tools and reports help you measure your site's search traffic and performance, fix issues and make your site shine in Google search results.)
Bing Webmaster Tools (The equivalent as above but for Bing / Internet Explorer.)
Paid SEO Tools:
All of the platforms below have a wide range of SEO tools and resources to choose from, at varying prices. Some tools are free but limited while others are more comprehensive. We suggest you do your own research to see which one suits your business needs best.
Moz (Free SEO resources and tools.)
Semrush (For more than just SEO.)
Ahrefs (All-in-one SEO platform)
Yoast (Website plugin for SEO.)
Screaming Frog (SEO Spider tool - more for SEO Businesses than individual use, but a very powerful tool.)
Majestic (Backlink checker.)
TMS (Translation Management System) Tools:
A translation management system removes a lot of the manual labor involved in managing translations and can streamline your project and communications within your teams. Again, we recommend you find the ones that suit your business needs best.
Phrase (A suite of products for software, website, and documentation localization with intuitive user interface, automation and integration capabilities.)
XTM Cloud (A cloud-based TMS with a focus on automation and AI-driven translation technologies.)
MemoQ (A popular translation management system that caters to translators, translation teams, and enterprises.)
Important Metrics and KPIs to measure for
The goal for each piece of content you want to rank for needs to be defined beforehand. You can’t expect to sell more just because you’ve created content or localized your website. You need to define what you want to achieve before setting up your strategy.
Say you localize a web page and you just want to generate organic traffic, ie. traffic that’s not paid. If you're generating more traffic, that's a sign of success. Great!
However, in other cases, your goal will be to generate leads. Leads are your prospective customers, people who are willing to buy your product or services. Ask yourself: How many leads do you want this piece of content to generate?
Then there are sales. Let’s take a look at the gaming industry as an example. Inside the game, there could be add-ons users can buy to improve their gameplay. With localization, you can improve sales by making the customer feel like they really need to buy those extras.
It all depends on the industry your company belongs to. Remember, not all pieces of content need to bring you more traffic or more sales, or more leads. It depends on the goal of that piece of content and its position in the sales funnel.
For example, in the awareness stage (prospective lead), it would be unrealistic (especially in a B2B scenario) to expect people to convert just because they saw one blog post from your company. You have to consider where your content belongs in the sales cycle; if it’s just at the beginning of their journey or at the end.
To make it less complicated, think about the customer’s journey on your website. This can be defined as the sales funnel.
First, they get to know the brand or product, so they become more interested. Then there are different stages. In each of these stages, you can provide different content to your customers and different ways to attract them depending on which stage they are in the funnel.
If you need help defining your KPIs we suggest you follow the S.M.A.R.T method.
Make your objectives as specific as possible so they’re easy to measure. Don’t set unrealistic goals, make them achievable. Ensure what you’re measuring is relevant, don’t add unnecessary KPIs for the sake of it because it will just become time-consuming and pointless. Finally, give yourself a deadline, and stick to it.
Examples of bad KPIs:
Boost traffic to the website. - Too generic.
Increase conversion rate by 90% on the website. - Unrealistic.
Improve session duration on all blog posts. - No deadline.
Boost engagement on social media. - Not relevant.
Examples of good KPIs:
Boost traffic by 10% to all content pillars in the target market by the end of Q1. - Specific.
Increase conversion rate in the target market by 2% by the end of Q2. - Achievable.
Improve average session duration by 1 minute for each content pillar in 6 months. - Time-bound.
Increase traffic to the blog through social media channels by 10% by the end of the year. - Relevant.
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 specialists, 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.