No machines allowed: Four tips for great global SEO

In a time when most people find new products and services online, search engine optimization (SEO) is critical to great marketing.

Marketers often pour immense resources into SEO, from targeting great keywords down to structuring solid URLs. What most overlook, however, is that great global SEO does this carefully for each language and locale. Without good translation, even the best strategies can fall to pieces. With that in mind, here are four things to consider for global SEO.

The keyword game

What are target users typing into search engines? Are they searching for t-shirts or blouses? When you speak your target language, it’s easy to fine-tune nuances in keywords, but with foreign languages, it’s best to leave this task up to a professional translator and not a machine.

Another reason for this has to do with long-tail keywords. Keywords are grouped by popularity. The least popular, niche search terms fall under the long tail—instead of “t-shirt,” maybe “cheap t-shirts in Harajuku.” These terms are more specific but actually have higher, more relevant traffic, so they’re important to get right in different languages.

A final point on global keywords: machines aren’t great at navigating dialects. A search term in Argentina won’t necessarily be the same term in Spain due to regional differences. There’s a lot more to keyword research and tracking than just translation, but it starts with having good terms to test in the first place.

Spam alert!

Search engine algorithms have changed quite a bit from their experimental early days almost two decades ago. Because Google has advanced how it crawls the web and actively fights bad content and spam, users can more easily find useful, quality information. In other words, Google hates machine translation. With all of its grammatical inconsistencies, it looks spammy.

Ariel Hochstadt at Search Engine Land recently explored how Google interprets auto-translated text as spam. Machine translation is for any marketing content, for reasons beyond SEO—it’s inconsistent and terrible for branded content. If you’re translating website content with machines, it may seem cost-effective but in the end is actually more expensive.

(Multilingual) content is king

In marketer Lee Odden’s words, “Content is the reason search began in the first place.” Without content, there’s nothing to search for. Content comprises everything from your marketing website down to blogs and product reviews.

While SEO practices are bound to change as search engine algorithms evolve, there is no downside to making quality content available to multilingual users. Great multilingual marketing projects boost search rankings and encourage inbound links for users worldwide, whether white papers or blogs. Remember that search engines like fresh, relevant content, so after you spend time crafting it in your language, translate it well for multilingual users, too.

Also, don’t underestimate the value of translating all of your dynamic content. This high-volume, super fresh content includes user-generated content like reviews and comments, social posts and product descriptions. Like keywords, this has traditionally been too expensive and slow to professionally translate, but it’s also crawled by search engines. Translating your entire site experience down to the bits and pieces keeps both search engines and users happy.

Global Google?

When you look at how the world searches for information, not everyone uses Google. Around 70% of South Korean searchers favor Naver and unlike in the States, Yahoo! is popular in Japan. Yandex (Russia) and Baidu (China) are other search giants. Search engines all rank content differently, so keep in mind that what works for Google may not work elsewhere. Know your audience.

This list is just a primer—we encourage you to go and explore with these key points in mind. Moz does a great job of reviewing SEO basics, and sites like Search Engine Journal and Search Engine Land report frequently on the latest trends. If all else fails, experiment!

Go global with Gengo’s people-powered translation platform.

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Sarah Siwak

The author

Sarah Siwak

Sarah manages content production for Gengo's marketing team. A native Detroiter and fluent trilingual, she's passionate about finding creative ways to communicate ideas across different media and languages. She spends her free time exploring digital worlds and whipping up late-night omelettes.

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