Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on October 18th, 2010

Five Strategies for Successful I-SEO

Did you know that 78% of people who use the Internet are located in non-English speaking, global markets? With American businesses leaning on their websites more and more for generating leads and sales, it would just seem like common sense that they would want to go after the whole pie, not just 22% of it.

Some very good news is that there are relatively few players in most industries that are aggressively pursuing international markets with their search engine strategies. And there are tons of benefits for being first to market. You get more elbow room to define yourself as a brand leader and enjoy early success while your competitors scramble to keep up.

But establishing a successful website in international markets consists of more than being “there” first. You need to localize your site, make sure it is linguistically and culturally relevant. This involves optimizing your site for the search engines in the language of the targeted audience.

Whether your site is just entering an international market or it’s been there for years, in order to be successful you need to implement strategies for international search engine optimization (I-SEO).

What is I-SEO?

Obviously, Internet users prefer to read, browse, and convert on websites in their own languages. Businesses who customize their websites in the language of each targeted market can experience significant increases in brand awareness, web traffic, leads, sales, conversions, and increased spend per order. But merely translating an English-based website into another language in not enough. In order to take advantage of your expansion into international markets, apply these five I-SEO strategies that have proven successful to the innovators and early adopters.

I-SEO Strategy #1: Optimize From Day Numero Uno

This strategy is successful no matter what language you are using. There is little value in launching a website that is not optimized for search engines. Don’t be tempted to start translating and then optimize later just to cut costs because it can actually get more expensive in the long run.

I-SEO, just like any SEO campaign, is the tail that wags the dog. Or, in English, best practices for I-SEO should guide the website’s entire content development and site architecture strategy. Only when design and SEO are compliment each other can a website truly excel in international markets.

When developing your website for an international market, optimize your content from Day “Numero Uno”. While you translate, research for the best keywords possible. More on that later.

I-SEO Strategy #2: Find a Balance Between Humans & Robots

While it is tempting in I-SEO to optimize the “shuckins” out of your site with keywords for search engine robots, keep in mind that humans are reading your content as well. You need to find a balance between human readers and search engine robots that crawl your site. Use SEO best practices when injecting keyword into your on-page content, page titles, URLs, and H1 tags.

There is another balance you must strike between humans and robots when it comes to the actual translation. Don’t rely solely on translation software for your localization efforts. To maintain your message, look, and feel in your new site from the original language site, you need to get some humans involved. Software and machines cannot support all the details involved for capturing the correct linguistic and cultural subtleties. When websites rely solely on translation software and exclude human input, your messaging, branding, and content run a real risk of falling short with customer communications. This can and will break a campaign.

#3: Choose Your Keywords Wisely

Proper keyword selection and on-page optimization is essential for I-SEO. Making a list of possible keywords in the language you are translating to and optimizing for should be done very early in campaign efforts. It is also absolutely vital that you validate your keyword choices before going live in other languages. Choose the keywords that best convey who you are, what you do, and why customers should care, while maintaining that they are excellent choices for search success.

Localizing your communications should be handled very carefully by professional translation experts who understand not only the nuance of your keyword choices but also the connotation in the language in question. If you don’t choose your keywords wisely, you could be putting your entire campaign, and international website, at risk for utter failure.

#4: Offer Linguistic Options

Depending on the international market you are targeting, any given visitor may prefer Spanish over French, Castilian Spanish over Latin American Spanish, Italian over German, etc. There are tons of possibilities. Don’t just slap up a language-based website and let your traffic deal with it. This could be a huge mistake.

If you have I-SEO’d your website in more than two languages, give your visitor an option with a sweet drop-down box menu for the reader to choose for themselves. This will immediately reduce reader frustration and increase your site’s overall effectiveness.

#5: Translate More Than Just Words

Content is more than just words, it consists of images, videos, PDFs, etc. – so your translations should stretch beyond words as well. Not only should you be renaming these files and video content for the language in question, but also their meaning. Did you choose a photo of a professional that may resemble a controversial actress in said country? What if the picture you used on your “contact us” page symbolizes corruption or failure in their particular culture? While this might not happen in most cases, it is something you need to keep in mind when developing the message you want to convey with your peripheral content.

Whether you already offer your site in multiple languages, or you are just entering the planning stages of an I-SEO campaign, these five strategies for international search engine optimization will help you conquer your market and establish your website’s brand awareness and positioning in the international search engines.

With professional I-SEO services, you can set a strong foundation for your website to properly communicate across international borders, reach your intended target audience, and convey the correct messaging. As international competition grows online, you need to take your website to a global level in order to truly take advantage of more than 22% of Internet users.

Thank You For Reading!

No one likes people who don’t share, especially Keanu Reeves and his gang of crazy dogs, giant flying cats, and magical monocle. So if you liked what you read, please share my post with any of our socially-labeled buttons, or we’ll sick the whole gang after you! Please subscribe to our RSS feed as well so you can receive daily fodder from our blog.