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Understand Multilingual Search Engine Optimization

Posted by: Today's Tip Contributor on September 1, 2010

You have a small business. That certainly doesn’t mean you think small. Nor does it mean your customers reside in a small geographic area. Global business is for everyone these days, and for the company that makes smart decisions about multilingual search engine optimization (MSEO), the Web can deliver a potentially endless stream of revenue opportunity from customers around the world.

Hurried translation efforts and hastily constructed websites, however, do more harm than good when it comes to bottom-line results. For those contemplating a move into overseas markets, there are four key points to keep in mind:

1. Word choice counts. Before your company goes live with a website in another language, make sure your copy is optimized and relies on proper keyword selection. Your translation should convey who you are, what you do, and why customers should care.

2. Machine translation might be cheap, and you’ll learn why if you make the mistake of using it. Localizing copy requires knowledge not only of vocabulary, but also of nuance and regional connotation.

3. Don’t assume a visitor’s locale dictates her language choice. Perhaps your customer is in Quebec. She might speak French, but it is just as likely she’d rather see information in English or possibly even another language. Offer her a choice of languages via a drop-down menu.

4. SEO is not an add-on feature. Some companies translate their websites and optimize them later to phase in resource investments, but this phased approach can cost more money in the long term. MSEO should guide your content development and site-architecture strategy to ensure you have launched a website that will attract customers.

Phil Shawe
CEO and co-founder
New York

Reader Comments

Richard Gronbach

September 2, 2010 12:24 AM

Agreed! Since this article is in fact geared towards a small business ("You have a small business"), I might add a #5. Focus on just one language with the greatest weighted-financial-return-opportunity for your business and "cut your teeth." Then, with what you have learned, move on to more languages.

Good luck!

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