Content Localization in International SEO: How It Differs From Translation and Why It Matters

Launching offerings in foreign markets without investing in international SEO might be tempting. However, cutting corners in such a way can come back to bite you. Why isn’t it a worthwhile strategy? In short, it fails to adapt the content to the needs of your target audience. Increasing search engine visibility is necessary for building […]

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Launching offerings in foreign markets without investing in international SEO might be tempting. However, cutting corners in such a way can come back to bite you.

Why isn’t it a worthwhile strategy?

In short, it fails to adapt the content to the needs of your target audience.

Increasing search engine visibility is necessary for building brand recognition and attracting customers. Nevertheless, the SEO process includes not only technical efforts but also content strategy.

If you want to establish a strong position for your brand abroad, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, you will learn about:

  • the importance of optimizing text in different languages,
  • the differences between translation and localization,
  • the impact of content localization on international SEO efforts.

Why Translate Your Website Into the Local Language?

If you target a foreign market, you shouldn’t forgo translating your content to the local language. Engaging with your content in a native tongue is very important to your potential customers.

According to the study by CSA Research, which was conducted on 4 continents (Asia, Europe, North America, and South America), in 29 countries, and among 8709 consumers:

  • 76% of them will choose a product described in their native language — if they have two similar ones to choose from,
  • 40% of them do not want to buy from sites with content in a language foreign to them,
  • 65% of them prefer content in their own language, even if it is of low quality.

All this data shows that the availability of content in the native language influences buying decisions — it can discourage or help action.

Still, preparing several language versions of a site by translating the text is not enough. If foreign domain positioning is to be effective, and you want to reach customers and build recognition for your company, content localization will be necessary.

Localization of Content on the Site — How Is It Different From Translation?

Localization is the adaptation of a product or service to a particular region

It includes adjusting the sorting function to local alphabetical order, as well as the graphics, design, and layout of the content so that it displays correctly. In addition, it involves changing date, address, or currency formats.

Finally, it includes converting content to suit the needs of the target audience. Translation is part of this process (definition by The Globalization and Localization Association). 

Localization takes into account:

  • the language of the region (e.g., differences in British and American English),
  • the cultural context (e.g., holidays, symbols),
  • social norms of the country,
  • purchasing preferences, 
  • legal regulations.

Choosing this approach requires adapting colors, signs, and symbols to the specifics of the country and language. It is much more complex than translation, which only involves changing the text.

On top of that, adapting content to a particular market helps maintain a consistent brand message that otherwise would be disrupted by cultural differences.

The importance of this approach is demonstrated by how many companies are adapting in their marketing efforts:

  • images (48%),
  • specific brand terminology (47%),
  • the tone of voice of the brand (36%),
  • SEO strategies for all (41%) and specific (40%) markets.

The data comes from the Global Trends in Marketing Localization 2023 report by Unbabel.

Content Localization in International SEO

Positioning websites for non-Polish markets is a process that involves technical aspects of SEO, such as the use of the hreflang tag and the choice of URL structure, SEO auditing, and adjusting analytical tools.

As with positioning for the Polish market, appropriate keywords, content optimization, and backlink building are crucial in increasing visibility in search results in another country.

Keyword Research

Keyword analysis is essential in the process of positioning a website abroad.

The potential and relevance of keywords and phrases, even if they relate to the same products and services, can vary from country to country.

A good example is how people from different parts of the world would describe their time off work. A British person will say: “holiday,” while an American will use the word “vacation.”

By studying popular phrases in foreign markets, you can select those that match the search intent of your target audience.

The most common categories of search intent are:

  • informational, meaning a search for information on a particular topic, e.g., what is local positioning,
  • transactional, meaning a willingness to buy or take advantage of an offer, e.g., English-Polish price list translation,
  • navigational, meaning a desire to get to a particular page, e.g. Google privacy policy,
  • commercial, meaning research before buying, e.g., SEO agency reviews.

You will also get to know the phrases used by the local competition that can help you achieve high positions in search results.

This information will help you find article ideas that resonate with potential customers who are at different stages of the purchase funnel and choose the format of the content.

  1. The beginning of the path (Top of the Funnel) — At this point in the sales funnel, users learn about the company, so the goal is to build brand awareness. The better you match the keywords to the search intent (informational) at the initial stage of brand familiarization, the greater the chance the user will consider a purchase in the future. This is where, for example, guide articles will work well.
  2. Middle of the Path (Middle of the Funnel) — Users are familiar with the brand but need more reasons (e.g., reviews, listings) to consider it as one of the options.
  3. Last stage (Bottom of the Funnel) — At this stage, users are ready to buy but still need arguments (e.g., reviews, case studies) to make a final decision.

Why is content corresponding to the intent and stages of the sales funnel valuable for SEO in the local market? Because it engages users and makes them spend more time on the website.

Moreover, if these content pieces are interesting, users are more likely to share them, and the site will get an external link.

In view of this, when conducting SEO activities abroad, it is worth working with translators and native speakers.

See also  ToFu, MoFu, BoFu Explored: A Guide to SEO-Friendly Sales Funnel

In this article, you will find a table that will help you choose the type of intent for the stage of the funnel.

External Linking

Links are one of the most important ranking factors. High-quality local links from other sites will support the domain’s authority and build its credibility. Valuable content that conforms to regional standards and communication practices will facilitate link acquisition.

Optimization for Different Search Engines

International SEO takes into account the popularity of search engines in different regions.

For example, in the United States, more than 7% of users use Bing. Considering the US population (333 million in 2022), this gives a sizable number of potential users.

In China, on the other hand, it’s hard to find Google among the most used search engines (source). We have Baidu in first place (52% search engine market share, July 2024), followed by Bing (25.5%).

See also  If Not Google, Then What? Modern Search Engines

Hreflang Tags

The hreflang attribute added to the HTML code informs the search engine (Google and Yandex) about the different language versions of the main domain content, which it then displays to users in the results. Hreflang can be placed in the HTML code, in HTTP headers, or in the site map.

In what cases is it worth pointing out alternative versions of a page to Google? Such situations are, for example, when the site has been translated entirely into several languages or when we have multiple sites with minor regional differences occurring in the same language.

The Impact of Localization on International SEO

Localizing content for the purposes of international SEO will help:

  1. Build visibility in search results, which will translate into brand recognition.
  2. Increase the brand’s reach among speakers of the language. 
  3. Improve conversions, as users are more likely to purchase from sites in a language they know.
  4. Achieve better results from marketing campaigns that address the motivations, choices, and needs of consumers in a given market. 

Marketers confirm the localization of marketing messages has an impact on business goals. They observe benefits in the form of:

  • Increased revenue (84%)
  • Improved brand recognition (86%)
  • More new customers (85%)
  • Customer retention (79%)
  • Competitive differentiation (77%)

The referenced data comes from the aforementioned report by Unbabel.

Summary

A global expansion is a bold move for any organization. After all, it puts the company’s brand recognition, conversions, revenue, and many other aspects at stake.

This is why it only makes sense when the business is visible in search engines.

Successful SEO for foreign markets should include both technical SEO optimization and content efforts.

Content translation is an integral part of international SEO and the localization process. Adapting content to the specific region where you want to attract and retain customers while competing with unique brand values should become an essential part of your international SEO strategy.

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