Written on October 15, 2012 by  /  with no comments  /  in the Guest Posts category.

SEO in foreign languages: what’s the best approach?

SEO helps make your website more visible – and it’s just as essential in foreign languages as in English. You might be taking the big step of growing your business into new markets and reaching new audiences. In the current age it’s as important to have a digital and online profile as it is to have a physical presence. Therefore you might be thinking about having your website in different languages to help you talk to these new customers. But how do you go about it?

Search engines use a series of algorithms, or mathematical codes, which make some websites, seem more relevant and attractive than others. SEO is the science of using techniques to make your website fit in with these algorithms. These include keywords (words that sum up you and your product, essentially), building links (getting other sites to link to you) and creating original, regular new content. It’s important to know the latest techniques. Search engine algorithms change frequently, to ensure the most relevant sites are getting to the top of the search lists, not just the ones who know how to stay one step ahead of the pack.

Knowing the techniques is all well and good if you’re only working on one market. If you’re operating in several different countries, however, you have to work in different languages, as well as different search engines.

English might be the lingua franca of the internet but consumers tend to make most internet searches in their native language. If you’re looking to build your international customer base then you need to start translating and localizing not just your website but also the SEO techniques you’re using to make you as visible, on a global stage, as you can be.

The most important decision is to decide whether to target your SEO by language or by country.

Target by country

Taking this approach involves narrowing your target market down to one or more countries, and choosing the language spoken by the majority of inhabitants. For example, if you’re targeting Spain, you’ll need to know the best keywords to use to work with the Spanish consumer as well as the most popular search engines – Google Español is the number one choice.

The “SEO by country” strategy means you can set up a top-level domain for the country – which would be .es – and develop links with local sites and directories. This makes the website much more attractive to search engines and thus improves your SEO. You’re able to give your target customers in Spain a much more localized experience and it’s ‘appreciated’ by the search engine and given a higher ranking because it’s considered more relevant.

You’re also removing the risk of language barriers. Spain might be the one of the most commonly spoken and written languages in the world but the Spanish spoken in Spain is very different from, that in Latin America. This will impact not only on the keywords used for search terms but also how you translate any blogs or written content on the site.

It is, however, a more expensive way of doing it. If you decide to expand to other Spanish-speaking countries, you’ll have to set up more individual websites. You have to employ a translator to localize all your text as well as researching individual keywords and search engine etiquette in each country. It’s time-consuming and means you need to wait a while before you can roll it out. There’s little chance of cross-over as well. If you’ve spent a lot of time and resources localizing your web experience for Spanish consumers, it’s unlikely to entice Argentinian or Mexican browsers, for example.

Target by language

The alternative is to target by language. Languages are shared by a number of different countries and geographical boundaries are not a problem. If you want to target Spanish speakers in Mexico, Spain and Argentina, then this reduces the amount of time you need to spend researching individual keywords. Your site will also appeal to more consumers and companies.

The downside to targeting by language is just that, language. Vocabulary and phraseology changes from country to country. This affects SEO in particular as it might reduce the impact of your keywords, or mean that you have to pay for more keywords to try to encompass as many language variations as you can.

SEO is an increasingly important feature of a marketing campaign. Although it’s more expensive, targeting by country is more effective in terms of improving search rankings. Search engines regularly change how they rank and filter websites which affects who appears on the front page. That means that it isn’t a job you do once and then dismiss. Currently, most search engines around the world are moving away from inbound links and purely keywords and focusing instead on regular, original content. That usually means a blog. Targeting by country, adding the use and links with directories and country-specific domain names and you’re able to provide more localized content throughout the site, which helps you reach more consumers and businesses.

About the author

is the Managing Director of Lingo24, Inc. Visit Christian’s website at www.lingo24us.com. Follow Lingo24, Inc. on Twitter.