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Developing an SEO Strategy for Translated Content

If your organization requires the translation of content to languages other than English, it means that your audience is multicultural, multilingual, and diverse.

Translating content from English to any other language presents challenges that go beyond the selection of accurate words. Translations need to be culturally adapted and written in compliance with plain language best practices so they can be truly useful for your target audiences.

Culturally adapting translated content includes correctly interpreting idioms and expressions from the original English materials, with the ultimate goal of accurately representing the ideas, guidance, advice, and calls to action in the content. This requires deep knowledge of your target audience and the language they use in particular contexts. For example, Spanish speakers from different countries might use different idioms to express the same idea. So it’s important to know how to translate for specific audiences and how to translate in such a way that it will resonate more broadly.

But it’s not enough to just provide accurate and clear translations; you also must create strategies to promote those translated materials so they can be found and used.

Within our very competitive digital market, all published content needs to be backed with a solid promotion strategy. This fact becomes more pressing when the content is translated from English, because the targeted audience probably has different online behaviors, responds to different calls to action, or has distinctive priorities when it comes to searching and using content. Therefore a unique and robust search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is required for non-English content. 

The best time to think about how to promote translated content is at the moment of translating, by adding SEO elements into the content that make it easier to find.

A step-by-step guide to mastering SEO for translated content

Understand your multicultural audiences

The first step should be achieving a deep understanding of the targeted audiences. Sometimes, the issues or interests of the audience you’re translating for could be different from the audience for which the content was created in the first place, so the translation needs to reflect these nuances. What do these audiences need to know? What is unique to them?

For instance, younger generations of American Latinos primarily speak English, but they use Spanish with their relatives, especially older generations. This fact repeats with almost any other language group in the US, and means that their searches are more likely to be written in English. 

Understand how translated content performs in your industry

For instance, if your content is related to the healthcare industry, you need to know how the LEP (Limited English Proficiency) population would most likely search for a medical term, symptoms and any other related facts, using their language of preference. What phrases or slang words do they use? Make sure your translation uses the wording that the readers would use themselves. For example, in some Spanish speaking countries, flu colloquially translates as “gripe,” in others “gripa,” while health care institutions would use the scientific name of the disease.

Perform a keyword analysis for the translations

Once you understand what matters to your targeted audience, you need to know how they might search for your content using translated keywords. This step will directly impact how you translate the content. For example, names of institutions, organizations or government agencies could lead to confusion among your Spanish readers; the IRS might not be recognized as the “Instituto de Rentas Internas” if you don’t use the acronym IRI, and the UN probably won’t be properly read if you don’t use its translated acronym ONU.

Performing a keyword analysis might lead you to discover that your target audience is using English words or variations of English idioms to find content on specific topics. For instance, financial terms are frequently searched for in their English counterparts. “Foreclosure” and “Mortgage” are often included in searches written as questions in Spanish, for example: “¿Cómo puedo pagar mi mortgage?”  

Be flexible with the use of English terms in your translations

Usually, translators deliver a fully translated document from the original English material, which means that some English keywords might be lost in the process. This can have an impact on SEO when analytics tell us non-English speakers might be using English words as part of their search terms.

Including those English keywords in your translation could potentially improve the chances of your content appearing in search results. One strategy is to include both the English term and its translation naturally in the content: “¿Cómo puedo pagar mi “mortgage” o hipoteca?”

Pay attention to the metadata of your translated content    

Many companies and organizations miss opportunities to make their translated content appear in searches simply by not following SEO metadata best practices, or forgetting about how it needs to be applied on translated pages.

It is important to properly set headings and formats while staging your content, and to accurately set your meta title and search description so the content is featured on search results in a way that attracts clicks to your site.

For all content, you should follow SEO best practices and keep your meta title between 50 and 60 characters, and your description between 150 and 160. It’s also important to include relevant keywords for your targeted audience, whether they are in English or another language.

These elements are frequently overlooked, especially for translated content. Search engines will fill the voids you leave, often with less relevant metadata, which can greatly impact the visibility and success of your content.

Promote translated content on your social media channels 

No piece of content will be found magically on your site; you need to promote it on social channels and other outlets available to you. Many organizations simply keep their translated content out of their English channels, risking opportunities to expand their digital presence.

As noted, many bilingual or multilingual speakers in the US, particularly younger generations, are comfortable mixing English and other languages. They may be comfortable following your social channels in English, but be happy to see translated content. Or, they may be more likely to share translated content with those in their families or communities who don’t regularly access English content. 

Commit to your audience

Producing translated content without properly staging and promoting it makes it difficult to find. It may mean you’re putting a lot of effort intro translations that not many people will see.

While doing it right requires a higher level of commitment to your audience, the rewards behind a proper strategy for your translated content can include higher brand recognition, and an increase in perceived authority on specific topics and within certain communities. Even if your site is not the top-ranked page in English on these topics, the success of your translated content might establish a niche for your site. In turn, this could expand your page’s link profile, leading to more inbound links and a higher ranking on search engines.

In a diverse country like the U.S., being a multicultural and multilingual communicator is truly an advantage. Backing your translated content with a robust SEO strategy can help you stand out and reach critical audiences.

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