E.g., 11/15/2019
E.g., 11/15/2019

Where does Web Localization End and SEO Begin?

By: Tom Robinson, Digital Marketing and Communications Executive - translate plus

09 May 2017

Most online businesses know they need search engine optimization (SEO) to reach a wider audience. Web localization, on the other hand, isn’t always such an obvious requirement for companies that want to maximize their reach.

This is strange for two reasons. First of all, web localization is essential for engaging with audiences in a connected world and, second, the line between web localization and SEO is rapidly fading away. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to know where website localization ends and SEO begins in modern marketing.

As language companies, we can look at this situation from two positions. We ourselves must ensure our websites are properly positioned so that our target audiences find us, and we also have the opportunity to consult with and help customers prepare their websites for a broader reach.

Web Localization Becomes a Core Element of Marketing

While businesses worldwide have become obsessed with digital marketing over the last decade, it’s fair to say website localization remained a more specialist practice. Just about every company on the face of the earth has jumped on the digital marketing bandwagon.

Meanwhile, website localization and language services in general have been more popular in specific industries – like online gaming, healthcare, law and various others. The simple fact is many businesses, particularly the smaller ones, have been slow to pick up on the importance of localization in building relationships with audiences.

However, things are changing. Brands that are looking to secure their future in an increasingly global market realize localization needs to be a core part of their marketing strategy. 

Web Localization and SEO Overlap

As digital marketing became more sophisticated it kind of gobbled up every other part of creating and maintaining a website. Now the design, development, and optimization of a website is very much part of the marketing process – as is localization.

These practices overlap so much now that it can be hard to separate them and this is certainly the case for web localization and SEO. Take a look at this list of localization tasks and see how many of them overlap with search optimization:

  • Audience research
  • Choose domain and URL structure
  • Choose web hosting
  • Create language selector
  • Use UFT-8 character set (HTML)
  • Optimize/localize code for maintenance
  • Declare language for each version of site (HTML)
  • Optimize titles and meta data for each language (HTML)
  • Localize visual content
  • Optimize visuals for each language – eg: alt descriptions, file names, etc. (HTML)
  • Identify (and translate) keywords
  • Localize currencies, measurements, dates, etc.
  • Localize landing pages
  • Multilingual content

That’s not a complete website localization checklist but you can see every one of those tasks could be considered SEO. In fact, this “international SEO” checklist contains 56 tasks and every one of them could be considered website localization respectively.

There is No International SEO without Localization

As soon as you start marketing to international audiences there is no SEO without web localization. Language selectors, regional domains, multilingual content strategies, multilingual SEO and everything else you do to reach foreign-speaking audiences ties localization and search optimization together.

In fact, unless you plan to keep your business operating in one country only – and you happen to live in a very non-multicultural one – you’ll never maximize your reach without localization guiding your search marketing efforts.

It’s not simply a question of languages and website translation services either. It’s as much about formatting your website, mobile applications, and other owned platforms correctly. Get the coding (ie: software localization wrong) and you’ll have serious problems ranking in search engines, app stores, and other places people need to discover your brand.

Web localization is about far more than translating the content on your pages. It’s about making sure your digital assets connect with audiences from all linguistic backgrounds and cultures, while maintaining performance across all of them.

So just as mobile optimization, for example, is an essential part of SEO, programming and marketing in general, it’s key to web localization once you open your site to foreign-speaking users.

We’re not trying to say website localization and SEO are the same thing here – it’s a more complicated relationship than that. As with most things in marketing a modern business the overlap between different strategies means you can’t do one without the other. So don’t expect to get the most from search optimization without localization being a fundamental part of your marketing efforts – or vice versa.

Tom Robinson

Tom is a Digital Marketing and Communications Executive at translate plus, a leading language services company offering translation, interpreting, DTP, transcription, voiceover and website localisation, in over 200 languages.