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Multilingual SEO for global markets Part 1

So you've translated your website into every language imaginable - German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, French, Arabic, Portuguese and Chinese. What next?

Now you have to draw traffic to the newly translated sites. There are many ways to draw traffic, but the search engines are just as important in German or Spanish as they are in English.

Surprisingly, SEO in Spanish, French, English, German...or any Roman alphabet language is not that different. In this article, we will be dealing only with Roman alphabet languages.

The main thing is to be able to move around in the language...and if you are not fluent, make sure a translator cleans up any text edits without undoing the changes key to your multilingual SEO efforts.

Let's assume the original site is in English, the translation into French, for example, is already complete and you have a list of English search terms (keywords).

The first step is to identify equivalent French search terms. This might not give you the same number of search terms. For instance, if you start with the 10 search terms around the word "socks" (buy socks, buy socks online, glow-in-the-dark socks, etc.), you will most likely end up with twice as many search terms in French, as there are two common words for socks in French ("bas" and "chaussettes"). This might mean that you need to create additional landing pages for French search engine surfers.

Note: be wary of using official translations for keyword research. Your translator probably used the very best vocabulary and grammar possible, including words and conjugations that your target market might never even have heard of, let alone be searching for.

You can get ideas through free translation services - which absolutely butcher the language, so don't use them for translation, please! that can give you some quick ideas to work with. Two such services I use for just such a purpose are Free Translation Dot Com and Free Translation at Paralink.

The next step, of course, is to find out which of the search terms are worth pursuing. Of course, you could try all of them, since it will take almost no effort to get top rankings for little searched French or Spanish terms. But you might also miss out on some related terms that are well-searched. Two pay-per-click search engines that offer search suggestion tools in a variety of languages are Overture and Miva (formerly Espotting).

The third step is to group the search terms together into natural groupings and assign each group to a page on the website, just as one would do in English, so that the terms that complement each other are grouped onto the same web page.

You see, it's really not that different from English, but you do have to be able to move through the other language. Please note: fluency is not required, but being able to understand what you read and come up with related search terms is required.

In part 2, we will look at the on-page optimization.

About the Author: David Leonhardt is a multilingual SEO consultant who offers French SEO optimization services and English - French translation services.

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