Search Targeting And Multiple Languages

A lot of websites who optimise their pages for multinational search often struggle with translation problems. They’ll often find that the traffic figures from these foreign language countries are disproportionally lower.

The cultural nuances which often affect translations can be a real complication. Just because a keyword does technically translate into a corresponding foreign language keyword, it doesn’t mean that the word is grammatically appropriate in that context, or even commonly used by people in that country.

One fairly common method of planning for this is to create a keyword translation spreadsheet, with a column for all the home language keywords and their direct foreign language equivalent in other columns.

Below, I’ll touch on some potential issues that can arise.

Alternate Spelling

Some languages use a variety of different ways to spell certain words. Often they just change a specific letter or add an accent, depending on either the way they’re being used or personal preference.

Keep in mind then that any keyword may have multiple spelling variations.

Direct Translations

Your website may have a primary keyword around which it is well optimised and which drives the majority of your traffic. However, there may be a variety of corresponding keywords of similar popularity.

Of course, optimising for a variety of keywords is going to be harder than optimising for just one popular one.

Grammatical Nuances

The rules which dictate the structure of grammar in English can be very different in other languages. The problem is that SEOs tend to use these grammar rules to establish their keyword strategies.

For instance, plurals can indicate that the searcher is looking for a list of products. This is rather simple exercise for those writing in English, as often the spelling of the word isn’t greatly affected.

In other languages though, these differences can be more pronounced. And to make it worse, a casual search query may not necessarily abide by those rules.

Broad Terms

Words, particularly broad concepts or objects, can have completely different sources of influence in other. Members of a culture often create language based on the factors and symbols in their lives.

Colloquialisms and slang, for example, can become more commonly used than the dictionary terms. For instance, much of Brazil’s Portuguese dialect is based on slang, making its use quite different from the way it is used by people living in Portugal.

Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords, in other words, keywords which are longer or more specific than generic terms, may drive less business than your primary keywords but they still have a lot of value and are often less competed for. These can be hard to translate effectively, particularly based on direct translation.

In Conclusion

For many of the above issues, making use of a local translator who has in depth cultural knowledge can be a lot more useful than automated translation, particularly to control your website’s message. They can translate keywords to convey the actual meaning behind them, rather than just their literal equivalent.

If you can’t find or afford a translator like this, it’s a good idea to be careful with multi-lingual search marketing, whether it’s for Google Ads, or SEO.