The Importance of SEO When Translating your Website into German
What is SEO?
SEO refers to a number of techniques that are used to maximize the search engine ranking of a website, thereby improving the volume and quality of traffic referred by those search engines. SEO is a subset of search engine marketing and requires the user to have a clear understanding of how search engines work and the ways that people tend to use them to conduct an internet search.
Know Your Search Engines
In order to successfully optimise your webpage, it is useful to know how search engines work. Every search engine constantly ‘crawls’ the internet to fetch all the web pages related to each website. The search engines then create a database of webpages by a process known as indexing. This involves identifying the words and phrases that best represent each page and logging the page with selected keywords. As each search request is received, the search engine compares the request with the indexed pages in its database by an action referred to as processing. Finally, the search engine calculates the relevancy of the results, then retrieves the best matches and presents them to the searcher in his or her browser. Whilst the general principles by which the major search engines, such as Google and Yahoo!, operate are well known, all of them adjust their relevancy algorithms on a regular basis in order to counter any deliberate manipulation by websites.
How Does SEO Copywriting Work?
SEO copywriting focuses on the viewable content of a webpage and prioritises creating a positive reading experience for the visitor. The technique also targets specific search terms with the aim of maximizing the site’s search engine ranking for those particular terms. In addition, SEO copywriting embraces other on-page components such as the page’s description, title, headings, keyword tags and alternative text. Genuine SEO copywriting concentrates on providing the web-surfer with quality content and avoids misleading him or her with a ‘doorway’ page or any other form of ‘cloaking’.
Keyword Research before Writing Copy
A lot of copywriters create their website content first and then conduct their keyword research afterwards. Unfortunately, this is the wrong way round and risks ending up with content that sounds forced or unnatural because keywords have been shoe-horned into it after it has been written. It can also lead to choosing keywords that are too competitive to rank for or that are not relevant to your audience. By starting the process with your keyword research, on the other hand, you provide yourself with a framework for writing your piece and make it easier to insert your keywords naturally.
Many keyword searches will come up with variations on a basic word or phrase. It is invariably good practice to try to incorporate these variations into your copy because it will broaden your base of people searching for your product or service. Also, repeating the same keyword again and again tends to sound unnatural and forced, whereas the use of variations allows your copy to flow more coherently.
Once you have identified your keywords, you should list them in rank order and then work through this list from the top to include some or all of them into your text. The keywords should be incorporated into the body of your text, and your title should include one of your primary keywords. In order to keep track of their keywords when they are composing a piece, many copywriters highlight them in a different colour from the main body of text. To produce readable copy, it is a good idea to use subheadings. This is also another place to incorporate keywords.
The Importance of Thinking about SEO When Translating Copy for Your Website
Whilst your copy may initially be written in English, it is important to remember that, for an international or multi-language website, it will need to be translated into at least one other language. The reasons for ensuring you obtain a top-quality translation are obvious; a clumsy translation will undermine the credibility of your website, turn off readers and will ultimately mean you lose business.
Google Translate is an extremely useful tool, and using it to translate your webpage may appear to be a cheap option. However, while it may occasionally add to the comic value of your page, a poor translation will certainly undermine any other value your site offers. Readers in all countries expect your copy to be clear, precise and grammatically correct. A professional translation is therefore not just a sensible investment, but an essential one. Should your marketing budget be very limited, however, you may be forced to consider paying for only your key webpages to be professionally translated and then use a free application such as Google Translate for any others. This is not an ideal solution, however.
It is just as important when you are considering translation to ensure that your SEO keywords will work in another language too. A direct and literal translation of your English keywords into German, for instance, may not necessarily be effective with a German audience. In such a case, you would instead need to research the actual keywords German speakers would search for. In Italy, for example, locals tend to use the hybrid phrase ‘voli low cost’ to search for cheap flights rather than the direct translation into Italian. Similarly, ‘l’assurance automobile’ is the direct French translation of ‘car insurance’, but most French speakers will search for car insurance using the phrase ‘auto assurance’.
You also need to be aware of variations arising from local dialects. A ‘coche’ in Spain, for instance, is a car, but in Spanish-speaking Latin America this is the word people would use for a baby-buggy. The advanced options on Google’s keyword tool can help you with identifying suitable keywords in other languages.
Given that English these days is something of an international language in the world of business, many internet users whose native language is not English will nonetheless still use the English word or phrase in their internet search. For example, the German translation of the English phrase ‘contract for difference’ is ‘differenzkontrakt’. However, research suggests that more Germans search using the English term than do so using the one in their native language.
But even if you are using selected English keywords on the German version of your web page, you still need to be sure that your English word works correctly within the grammatical structure of your German sentence. For instance, the word ‘contract’ from the example phrase we referred to earlier is generally a noun, but it can also sometimes be used as a verb. Before you drop your English keyword phrase into a German sentence, you will need to take the guidance of a translator to ensure that your sentence is grammatically correct in German and still conveys the meaning you wish it to convey. As with English, the keyword research for your translated websites is an ongoing process: search engines will frequently change their algorithms and your competitors will sometimes find ways to up their SEO game.
Other Things You Can Overlook When Translating Your Website into German
Duplicate Copy – if your organisation is going international for the first time, you may worry that translating your content into another language may be wrongly identified by search engines as a duplicate web page, which may then lead to some form of penalty against your website’s ranking. Fortunately, you can relax on this point, Google and others do not regard translations as duplicate content.
Neglecting Your Google Webmaster Settings – using Google Webmaster, you are able to create individual sitemaps for each region or country your website is targeting. This is much more efficient and easy to maintain than sticking with the default setting of a single sitemap for the whole website. However, if you are not using subdirectories for your locale-based sites, then it is not necessary to create sitemaps for each of them.
Making Your Different Locale Sites Hard to Find – most visitors will automatically arrive at the appropriate website for the native language of the location in which they are based; auto-detection of their location will ensure that this occurs. However, there are a number of circumstances in which this will fail to happen, and the surfer will end up at the main .com site: when people are travelling, for instance, or when they are based in a country with more than one principle language. For this reason, it is important to make the different language versions of your website easy to find. One simple but effective step is to provide clear national-flag icons on the home page of the main website to lead visitors to the appropriate language site. You can also add links of this type to your site-wide footer area.
Adding Multiple Languages to a Single Web Page – it is easy to assume that by including text in several languages on your web page visitors will be convinced that your website caters for users in several languages, thereby encouraging him or her to engage with the site. In reality, however, readers find this kind of web page confusing, and it often results in them moving on elsewhere. A far better option is to design your website along the lines described in the previous paragraph. In other words, it is far better to create duplicate versions of your website in more than one language and to provide easy navigation options from your main website to these alternatives. This step also helps with the search engine ranking of your alternative language webpages.
Forgetting to Take Local Competition into Account – if your main website is based, for instance, in the United Kingdom you will be well aware of who are your local competitors and your organisation’s SEO strategy will be shaped accordingly. One common error companies make once they start to operate globally is to assume that their chief competitors are the same everywhere. This is incorrect: whilst your global competitors, by their very nature, may indeed have a presence in most countries, you may also be competing with a range of local organisations in these other domains. This is yet another reason, as we discussed earlier, to research appropriate keywords for each country in which you operate. If you intend to address a German-speaking audience, for example, it is important to be aware of the keywords local competitors are using for the kind of product or service you offer. This will enable you to compete for a strong search engine ranking position.
Language Markup – language markup is an element within a webpage’s HTML coding that tells the search engine what language the page is written in and where to find other language versions of the same page. This is something of a ‘belt and braces’ step, as Google and other search engines can often work this out for themselves.
Focus on the Right Search Engine – it will come as no surprise to learn that Google is the world’s most popular search. But it is by no means the only one, nor is it the biggest one in every territory. Yahoo! It is the market leader in Japan, while the South Koreans favour a local search engine called Naver. The majority of Chinese internet users prefer the Baidu search engine. Baidu has achieved a stunning rate of growth and recently achieved fourth place in Alexa’s world rankings. It is important to know which search engine prevails in the country whose market you are targeting, as they all have slight differences in the way in which they operate. Yahoo! Japan, for instance, prefers a slightly higher keyword density than search engines elsewhere, while Baidu favours meta-tags but pays less heed to inbound-links than other search engines.
Cultural Sensitivity – most of us are familiar with the tale of the Rolls Royce Silver Mist which did not sell very well in Germany as the word ‘mist’ has a very earthy meaning in the German language. Similarly, certain words, phrases, images and even colours can be interpreted in a very negative way in other cultures. As well as translating your content into the local language, therefore, you will need to exercise some degree of awareness of the cultural sensitivities of the domain which you are targeting.
Making SEO Work for You in German and Other Languages
Optimize Your Keyword Density
This is just as important in your translated copy as it is in the original. You should make sure that your keyword density is still in the optimum two percent to five percent range on your newly-translated webpage. Anything significantly more or less than this risks triggering Google’s penalty filters. A number of keyword density-checking tools are available to download.
Translate Image Titles
You will probably be aware that applying an appropriate name to the images you use on your website can help to improve your search engine ranking. When you translate your website into another language, you also need to translate all of your image titles into a language that matches that used on your new webpage. This seems like such an obvious piece of advice, but in practice too many people fail to follow it.
Remember Your Meta Titles
Assuming you have optimized your meta titles, meta descriptions and anchor text in your primary language, it is important that you also do so in your translated language.
Localizing the Code
Using the same search terms in two different countries, say Germany and France, may produce different results in each. It is, therefore, important when you are translating a webpage to put the correct site code settings in place. The Google webmaster tool can help you achieve this by setting the correct geo-targeting and the appropriate language code.
Local Link Building
As well as translating your content for a foreign language webpage, you need to adapt your link building to fit the conditions in the country whose audience you are targeting. For example, while you may advise French readers to make use of eBay as you would in the UK, you should refer people in the Netherlands to the local version known as Marktplaats. Similarly, other commercial and cultural references should be appropriate to the country at which you are aiming your attention. In general terms, it is better to build local links. By preference, these should have the appropriate ccTLD, such as .de links on your German language pages and .fr links on those in the French language.
Avoid Thin, Low-quality Content on your Localized Websites
It is not enough to have good quality content on your main website; this principle also needs to be applied to the translated versions of your foreign language webpages. Anything less than this may mean that your site falls foul of Google’s strictures. In fact, Google’s recent Panda 4.0 update specifically targets thin, low quality copy and this includes poorly translated content that does not appear to have been written by a native speaker.
Incorporate Localized Videos into Each Version of Your Website
The importance of user-generated copy is now widely recognised in internet marketing circles, with social media feeds and reviews playing an important part in people getting to know about a product or service. You can increase the reach and credibility of the translated version of your website by ensuring that your user-generated content is also localized.
Social Media Profile
Despite Google’s recent suggestion that it does not take social media activity into account when calculating search engine rankings, a presence on social media should still be part of your internet marketing strategy. Your organisation’s social media profile is an increasingly important factor in driving traffic to your website, and this is as true for your websites in other languages as it is for your main one.
But it would be a mistake to assume that the social media channels you use in your own country are necessarily the right ones to use elsewhere. Facebook, for instance, is especially popular in India and Brazil, whereas people in China are particularly keen on video and photo-sharing platforms. Most Western social media is still restricted in China, but the local variant Sina Weibo is extremely popular. It is vital that you understand the full gamut of these national variations and preferences before launching your newly-translated website into the social media scene in another country.
Why Bother with Translation?
We all know that internet usage and online business is expanding at a phenomenal rate. What most of us forget is that most of that expansion is among non-English speakers. Less than twenty-seven percent of internet users speak English, and more than fifty percent of Google searches are conducted in other languages.
Few businesses that wish to grow internationally can ignore Germany: the Germans have the largest economy in Europe and the fifth largest by GDP in the world. Germany is also the leading economic power in the European Union and the Eurozone.
Germans, like people in most other nations, are more likely to purchase goods or engage with services online if they can read about them in their own language. Translation will bring your content to a German audience, while SEO will make it much more likely that they will find your webpages.
Looking for a reputable SEO company?
RegisterCompass recommends Vision64 GmbH & Co KG. Vision64 is a company that is based in Germany and that services both English and German projects. They have a bilingual team and have been in business since 2008. Vision64 is the best place to start for SEO projects in German