There are approximately 1.67 billion internet users worldwide (Miniwatts Marketing Group). Given the apparent dominance of English on the web, I was surprised therefore to learn that of these 1.67 billion users, only 30% actually have English as their first language.
Research shows that buyers are 10 times more likely to buy from a site which is in their own language and companies are becoming increasingly aware of the necessity of having a multilingual website in order to compete in the global marketplace. However, many find that once they’ve invested in getting their website translated, their product doesn’t prove to be as popular overseas as they had hoped.
Sound familiar? You may have experienced this yourself and it might be down to the fact that there’s no real market for your product or services outside of the UK but it’s more likely to be because potential customers aren’t finding your website easily, and this is usually because you haven’t thought about your multilingual SEO strategy.
In Google, more than 60% of web searchers will click on one of the top three listings.
It is therefore crucial for a website to rank as highly as possible on the first page of search engine results and by choosing the right keywords, you’ll see a great improvement in your rankings which will in turn result in more traffic to your website. When it comes to multilingual web pages however, things get a bit trickier.
Through experience, I’ve come to realise that a successful global multilingual SEO campaign is not about simply translating your English keywords into Chinese or any other relevant languages and hoping for the best. When it comes to internet search, each language and culture has very different search patterns. Online shoppers in the UK and China may be searching for the same product or service but what may prove to be a popular and lucrative keyword in English may not have desired effect when translated directly into Chinese.
In order for your global campaign to be a hit, you need to take the time to research local competition and user behaviour in each of the markets you are trying to crack, creating localised keyword lists based on your findings. You also need to be aware that whilst Google remains king of the search engines, many country-specific search engines are growing in popularity since they offer better country-based search options and results. In some countries, such as China (Baidu) and Russia (Yandex), these local search engines have actually surpassed Google in terms of popularity.
I mention this because in order to obtain those vital top rankings in local search engines, your site must conform to their algorithms and these algorithms vary from search engine to search engine. The easiest way to produce search engine friendly content is to start right from the start and build your site from the ground up, bearing in mind your global SEO campaign and ensuring that your site’s web architecture and coding strategy conform to the algorithms of the local search engine in question but for many companies with existing multilingual websites, it’s too late for that.
Whether you’re starting from scratch or dealing with an existing site, the most effective way to develop your SEO strategy and understand just how a particular local search engine ticks is by employing native speakers in your target countries who have a good knowledge of online marketing and SEO best practises in their cultures. Finding qualified in-country specialists can often prove to be a challenge, particularly when you are dealing with numerous languages but it really will pay off in the long term. Enlisting the help of a specialist multilingual SEO company can often prove beneficial as they will have the necessary resources and experience to help, saving you a lot of time and effort.
When it comes to multilingual SEO, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of other factors to consider for a successful international SEO strategy, including the possibility of buying a local domain (as some search engines express regional favouritism) and multilingual link building campaigns but we’ll save all that for another time…