A guide to blog content localization strategies for SEO
Localizing content is an essential part of targeting international markets, and in this article, we will explore strategies for localizing your blog content for the best results.
Your company blog is an important SEO asset, and is often the home for content marketing efforts, company updates, and important informational content. This makes it a prime target for localization as it contributes to capturing upper funnel queries that improve brand awareness and conversions.
Tackling content localization can be daunting, especially if your company blog has grown to a significant size in your primary language, but establishing a clear workflow based on your priorities is the best way to get results.
Localization vs translation: what is the difference?
Translation takes the original text and converts it into the target language, which can be done in a variety of different ways. You may decide to use automated translation which is often problematic, or work with translation specialists who ensure the translated copy is representative of the source text. A skilled translator can produce excellent content suitable for the target locale, but identifying the right translator or translation agency can be an early barrier.
Localization goes one step further and essentially crafts the messaging to target the local market. This involves factoring in cultural knowledge and references, and removing anything from the source text that would not resonate in the target market (terminology, idioms, metaphors etc.). Localization is much more targeted and often involves not only a team of language specialists, but also regional managers who live and breathe their local markets.
With unlimited budget and resources, the optimal solution for an international content strategy would likely consist of a regional SEO team and a content production team in each language or locale.
Realistically, however, most companies use the content they already have in English (or their primary language) and localize and or translate it in some capacity into different target languages. This approach makes it easier to implement hreflang correctly and can be managed centrally with input from a smaller group of specialists from each locale.
How to prioritize blog content for localization
Different companies have specific metrics that matter the most when it comes to prioritising content for localization; these may include rankings, traffic, brand visibility, conversions, and quality of conversions etc.
We would generally recommend prioritizing your blog content based on conversions and revenue.
However, if you have a large blog that covers a lot of different subject matter, you may wish to focus on particular topics that support your commercial pages.
A good way to decide which subject matters to focus on when localizing content is to look at your product pages or commercial pages by language/locale.
For example, you may find that your best-selling product in the US, may not be your best-selling product in Germany or Japan. Use your internal data to look at which products perform well in which geographical areas.
If you are a clothing retailer and you know that, in Germany, your top converting products are jackets and boots, utilize this information when prioritizing which content to translate into German.
In this case, you should focus on any great content you have about jackets and/or boots. However, in Japan, if your top-selling products are coats and outerwear, you may wish to prioritize your Japanese content accordingly.
Remember that you do not necessarily have to localize the same content across all languages. You can customize your workflow to prioritize different areas to maximize growth, while still maintaining technical best practices.
Identifying quick wins for your budget
Often, budgets can be defined by the number of words and/or cost of the specific language. Some languages are more expensive to translate than others, and sometimes you may have internal language specialists that can cut down costs.
In this case, for the quickest wins, you should choose your best performing content, and balance that against ease of localization. For example, if you have two different URLs driving a similar number of conversions, but one is 2000 words, and the other is 5000, you are likely to prioritize the shorter article to maximize your budget.
A simple way to identify the best opportunities would be to collate multiple data sources into one spreadsheet. You could then combine blog URLs with relevant conversion data and organic clicks/impressions, before pulling crawl data that includes word count information.
You can use this sheet to identify articles that perform well for your target metrics. You will need to select all articles with more than X number of conversions in the last X days, and then sort them in descending order by word count. It is simple but effective and budget-friendly, and this way you are localizing the quickest wins first.
Deciding on how many languages to choose (based on your budget)
If within your market research you have identified multiple priority languages and locales, there may be a question on how many languages to start with at once.
Is it better to translate lots of articles in one language, or translate fewer articles and spread them across all your priority languages?
This is a good question and the answer is that it depends on your budget and your internal targets. As a rule, if you have a more limited budget in mind, it can be beneficial to produce more pieces of content in a smaller number of languages, so you can build relevance within your locale for your subject matter.
You can also use these blog posts to improve internal linking, drive traffic to your commercial landing pages, and potentially benefit from categorizing the content and ranking the category pages. It also means that when you start driving traffic to your blog, you can provide further CTAs such as ‘read more’ or drive newsletter sign up (which you will have local content for).
However, if you have a larger budget and you want to target multiple markets at once, prioritize it by converting content for the individual locale. Either way, it is important to commit to a productive workflow and a publishing schedule, which will build results over time.
Minimum SEO requirements for content localization
Even if you are working within a minimal budget, invest in targeted keyword research for your target search engine by a language specialist with SEO expertise. This may be as simple as a small number of keywords per page, with metadata that includes those keywords.
This way, you are optimizing for the best opportunity, rather than going with a direct translation that does not factor in how people search in your target language.
For example, when translating ‘Remote Work’ into French, the translation for ‘Telework’ has a much higher recorded search volume than the direct translation of ‘Remote Work’. If you are producing content on remote work for French speakers, you need to factor this in.
If you are using a translator to localize your content, often these specialists are happy to receive keyword research to be factored into their work. This is a good way of establishing SEO into your localization workflow early on, and the translator knows which variants of words are the best opportunities.
Considerations for keyword tools
Keyword research tools will be different based on which search engine or locales you are targeting.
Does your keyword tool have a good-sized database of keywords in your target language? If you are doing Chinese, Japanese, or Korean keyword research, for example, you may wish to use a specialist database.
Some keyword tools, such as Mangools, allow you to specify language and location, which is great for languages used across different countries, such as Spanish and English.
This type of tool is also useful for identifying the search volume of English keywords in different locales, for example, when performing keyword research in German, sometimes industry-specific terms will have a much higher volume in English than their German-language equivalents.
This is often the case when working with niche products or subject matters. Having this information available to you means you can make an informed decision on which variant of the keyword to choose.
Why you need a language specialist for keyword research (and not Google Translate)
There are many reasons why you need a specialist that is not Google Translate, but here are a few examples.
Different types of alphabets and writing scripts
Depending on the alphabet/writing script used by the searcher, the search volume can be completely different. This is one of the reasons why keyword research should be undertaken by a language specialist.
As explained by Dan Taylor, in Japanese, there are four different writing scripts:
- Kanji: Chinese Characters, used for everything
- Hiragana: Japanese phonetic alphabet used for conjugation and spelling out words
- Katakana: Phonetic alphabet used to spell out ‘loan’ words and brands
- Romanji: Roman/Latin characters
The same keywords, in the different writing scripts, have different search volumes.
Diacritics and accented terms
Accented terms or letters with diacritics (symbols above or below) can cause issues if not considered by a language specialist.
Diacritics vary across languages but are important parts of the writing system. There are countless diacritics but some of the most common ones include diaeresis/tréma and umlaut (ü, ë), acute accent (é), grave accent (è), tilde (ñ), circumflex (ê), and the cedilla (ç).
Generally, diacritics serve the purpose of informing the pronunciation of certain words, and therefore people can remove them when quickly typing in Google and they do not change their meaning too much.
However, some diacritics do change the meaning of words, some examples from German include:
- schon means “already” or “very” and schön means “beautiful”
- bar means “bar” or “pub” and bär means “bear”
Deciding on grammatical accuracy over search volume
There can be a disconnect between the most grammatically accurate term and the search volume. For example, sometimes an unaccented term can have a higher search volume than the unaccented term (see above), or a shortened/slang version of a term may have a higher search volume than the formal term.
This disconnect can mean that the grammatically accurate term can have minimal search volume compared to the inaccurate term.
The simple rule of thumb here is to always use the grammatically accurate term in the copy, even if the accented term does not have any search volume within your keyword tool. It could be an issue with the keyword database, or it could be because searchers omit the accent.
It could also be that there is no volume at all for that subject, but you should be able to make a judgement call based on related terms and it is always best to discuss this with your language specialist who can make a judgement for you.
Dos and don’ts for blog content localization
- DO undertake keyword research in the target language by a language specialist
- DO use this keyword research to inform any translation
- DO have your language specialist check the terminology related to your subject matter
- DO use Google Translate only to *check* the work of your specialist and clarify understanding
- DO localize your categories and tags, use them as you would in English (or your primary language)
- DO use pixel width over character count when checking title tags that do not use the Latin Alphabet (eg. Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean).
- DO implement international SEO best practices to support your content efforts
- DO provide English keywords to your language specialist for inspiration (but DO NOT just translate a list of keywords)
- DO NOT just Google Translate the entirety of the content and upload it
- DO NOT ignore the keyword research – let the searchers guide your phrasing choices
- DO NOT forget to update the references/internal links within your content
- DO NOT just start translating from top to bottom, prioritise the best growth opportunities
If you could benefit from consultancy for your international SEO or multilingual content strategy, please reach out to the SALT team here.