Surprise! English-speaking places aren’t the only ones with search engines. If you’ve been focusing on English-only SEO, you’re missing out on delivering your brand’s message to, well, most of the world.

Maybe you don’t think of your target market being in Papua New Guinea, but why not? The canned meat aficionados at SPAM probably didn’t know that one of their biggest markets would turn out to be South Korea. Who knows what overseas demographic is hungry for your product?

To maximize the reach of your message, the solution is a single and increasingly important process: localization.

Localization carries your marketing message to another culture.

But localization has another purpose. Even if nobody overseas ever buys your product, simply by turning up searches for it they are enhancing your SEO power.

A Word on Localization

Localization is the process of repurposing your marketing material (or your app, or website) so that it carries the same emotional impact in a different cultural context.

It can include, but is not limited to, the translation of text. It also includes the translation of images to be location- and culture-specific, and in many cases the rewriting of slogans and ad material altogether.

Consider the following example: a classic of American daytime television was localized for Italian audiences.

Literal translation only:

  • English: Murder, She Wrote
  • Translated Italian: Omicidio, Ha Scritto

Inoffensive (which is a good start, honestly), but kind of clunky. Compare it to the localized version that they ended up using:

  • English: Murder, She Wrote
  • Localized Italian: La Signora in Giallo (The Lady in Yellow)

The localized version references giallo, both a slasher subgenre of Italian cinema, and a tradition of yellow-covered pulp fiction Italian crime novels.

The giallo reference is important specifically to the local market. It adds cultural impact to let Italian audiences know what the show is about, and even suggests that it continues Italian traditions in the entertainment industry.

Of course, these elegantly interwoven cultural cues would mostly be lost on audiences outside of Italy.

Localization makes your brand relevant to regional demographics.

But the stakes are higher than that. A direct translation–especially a cheap or machine translated job–opens your company to the potential for monumental embarrassment.

So when dealing in foreign markets, do yourself a favor and find a quality, human powered localization services provider.

Why Localization Matters to You

Localization is a critical stage in global marketing. And 86 percent of localized ad campaigns out-perform English-only ones for clickthroughs and conversions.

But here’s the thing. Even if you’re only marketing domestically, localization is important. Because localization isn’t just an international, translinguistic process. It’s a cross-cultural one, and there are many domestic cultures.

If you’re a California company, how are you going to reach Bostonians, or Southerners? If your shop is in Greenpoint, how do you find your customers on the Upper East Side?

Localization is important at any scale.

So remember, when you’re optimizing your content for SEO purposes, you’re optimizing from a local perspective. You can ramp up the power of your results by localizing your SEO efforts.

Here’s a simple example.

Let’s say you’re a Colorado-based health and wellness mag, and you release a well researched article on new findings about the negative effects of drinking commercial colas.

You optimize for the target keyphrase ‘health effects of pop.’ But you’ll miss your target audience of nutrition freaks and foodies in the San Francisco Bay Area if you don’t also optimize for ‘health effects of soda.’ Not only that, but your SERP ranking could suffer for it.

More searches turning up traffic from more places, on the other hand, means a more favorable appraisal from the almighty, all seeing eyes of Google.

In addition to ‘pop’ and ‘soda,’ optimizing for ‘gaseosa’ will go a long way to expand your Stateside audience–and will even extend your reach to searches originating in Latin America.

More searches means more clickthroughs, more traffic, and suddenly you have more credibility and SEO authority (if only it were so automatic!). Whether you’re a domestic or international company, localizing will boost your SEO results.

Are you starting to see the sales and SEO power of localization?

How to Localize Your Content for SEO

If you haven’t already gathered, the main point in localizing for SEO is to do away with generic keywords and terms, and replace them with regionally-specific keywords and terms.

That said, the basics of localized SEO are otherwise the same as for the SEO you’ve been doing. And that said, every country or region is different, so the localization process will never be the same twice.

Start With One Region

There are a lot of places in the world. Start small, and choose a region where you’re likely to have a market base. Certain little hideaways like China and India might have a few people who are interested in your product. If you localize for them, you could be reaching 2.6 billion new people. That’s over a quarter of the world!

Where have you been getting a lot of traffic from? Who’s interested in your company? The results are sometimes surprising, so do your research before picking a starting point.

Get to Know Your Audience There

SEO starts with keyword research, but localized SEO starts with knowing your regional audience. If you can, send someone to or hire someone from your target region. If you have a person on the ground there, you’ll gain rapid insights into the cultural nuances necessary to localize successfully.

Find out the following:

  • What language do they speak (literally and figuratively)?
  • What are their highest values and priorities?
  • How and where are they interacting with your product?
  • What do they call it, and what are they saying or writing about it?
  • What are some key cultural differences or sensitivities that you need to be aware of?
  • What kinds of marketing campaigns are active and successful there?
  • How are your competitors marketing to them?

When you can answer all these questions with some level of comfort and authority, you’re getting well acquainted with your regional audience. Only then do you start to delve into keyword research.

Do Your Keyword Research

What do locals call your product? How, when and why do they use it? This will give you a jumping off point for major local keywords to pursue. But don’t forget about longtail keywords. Here are several keyword research tools you should use to find out long-tail keywords.

Longtail keywords are just as important for localized SEO as they are for your at-home SEO. A search using long tail keywords indicates a customer’s readiness to buy.

Coming up with keywords, especially on the long tail end, and especially especially when localizing, is a time consuming process. Don’t cut corners here! As with all SEO, the research will pay off later.

Site Structure and On Page SEO

When a user clicks through, they should land on a page that’s localized for them. Structure your site in a way that recieves users based on their location, not their language.

Instead of homepage.com/fr for all French speaking customers, they should be hitting homepage.com/ca (for French Canadians) or homepage.com/sz for (for francophone Swiss customers).

Remember, the emphasis of localization is on culture, not just language.

Your localizations for Swiss and Canadian customers will be dramatically different from each other–not to mention your pages for francophone African demographics!

Also keep a close eye on online reviews left by your customers. Those matter for local SEO as well.

Success, and Repeat!

When your localized SEO campaign launches, congratulations! You’ve just extended your marketing reach, and you’ve boosted your credibility with search engines considerably.

But that’s only the beginning! Now you can look forward to serving clients and customers from your new target demographic, and you can begin the process all over again for a new one!

There are a lot of different cultures to serve. So with localized SEO, the sky’s the limit.

What new region is your company ready to serve first?

Brian Oaster

Brian Oaster, content writer at Day Translations, has worked all over the world as an arts educator, English teacher, basket exporter, rare book dealer, fortune teller, and as the first mate of a private sailing yacht.
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