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Going International: What You Need To Know About Writing, Ranking, and Translating To A Global Audience

Expanding a business to international markets requires a strong online presence that appeals to a diverse audience. To rank on terms internationally, companies must optimize their websites and content for different languages, regions, and search engines. This article discusses various options and best practices for ranking on terms internationally, including site translation, hreflang tags, and more.

  1. Website Localization and Translation – One of the most critical aspects of international SEO is website localization and translation. This process involves adapting your website’s content, design, and functionality to cater to different languages, cultures, and regional preferences. Use professional translation services or native speakers to ensure accurate translations, and localize all aspects of your website, including text, images, and multimedia elements.
  2. Implement Hreflang TagsHreflang tags help search engines understand the relationship between different language versions of your website. By implementing hreflang tags, you can inform search engines about the preferred language for a specific page, ensuring that users see the appropriate language version in search results. Include hreflang tags in the head section of your HTML or in your XML sitemap.
  3. Create Separate URL Structures – For international SEO, it is best to use separate URL structures for each language or regional version of your website. There are three common options:
    • Country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs): e.g., for Germany or for France. This option is preferred by search engines and provides the clearest signal about the target audience.
    • Subdomains: e.g., for Germany or for France. This option is more cost-effective than ccTLDs and allows for separate indexing of different language versions.
    • Subdirectories: e.g., for Germany or for France. This option is easy to set up and maintain, but may not be as effective as ccTLDs or subdomains.
  4. Optimize for Local Search Engines – While Google is the dominant search engine globally, other search engines may be more popular in specific regions. For example, Baidu is the leading search engine in China, and Yandex is widely used in Russia. Familiarize yourself with the requirements and best practices of local search engines and optimize your website accordingly.
  5. International Keyword Research – Conduct keyword research for each target market, considering language variations, regional dialects, and cultural nuances. Use local keyword research tools and collaborate with native speakers to identify the most relevant keywords for your content.
  6. Build Local Links – Obtaining high-quality, local backlinks is essential for international SEO. Focus on building relationships with local websites, bloggers, and influencers in your target markets. Engage with local communities, participate in local events, and create region-specific content to attract quality backlinks.

To rank on terms internationally, businesses must implement a comprehensive international SEO strategy that includes website localization, proper URL structures, hreflang tags, and optimization for local search engines. By following these best practices, companies can improve their online visibility, engage with diverse audiences, and drive growth in international markets.

Avoiding Pitfalls in International Content Creation

And you’re not done… to write effectively for international audiences, it is crucial to avoid potential pitfalls that may alienate or confuse readers from different cultural backgrounds. By steering clear of cultural jokes, idiomatic expressions, local references, jargon, stereotypes, insensitive images, and regional date or measurement formats, writers can create inclusive, engaging, and accessible content that resonates with a global audience.

  • Variations in Spelling – Many languages have variations in spelling, vocabulary, grammar, and punctuation depending upon the geographic region in culture. An obvious example is English in America versus the United Kingdom. Some common examples include words that are spelled with “or” in American English (e.g., color, labor) and “our” in British English (e.g., colour, labour), or words ending with “ize” in American English (e.g., realize) and “ise” in British English (e.g., realise).
  • Cultural Jokes and Humor – Humor varies across cultures, and what may be funny in one region could be offensive or incomprehensible in another. Avoid using jokes, puns, or humor that are specific to a particular culture, as they may not translate well and could alienate or confuse readers.
  • Idiomatic Expressions and Slang – Idioms and slang are often deeply rooted in a specific culture, making them difficult to understand for non-native speakers. When writing for an international audience, use clear and straightforward language, and avoid colloquial expressions that may not be universally understood.
  • Local Brands and Pop Culture References – Mentioning local brands or pop culture references can create a disconnect for international readers who may not be familiar with them. Instead, focus on using universally recognizable examples or brands that have a global presence to ensure your content is relatable to a wider audience.
  • Jargon and Technical Terms – While industry-specific jargon or technical terms may be understood by professionals in your field, they can create barriers for readers from different industries or cultural backgrounds. Use simple language and explain any necessary terms or concepts to make your content accessible to a broader audience.
  • Implicit Assumptions and Stereotypes – Avoid making assumptions or reinforcing stereotypes about specific cultures, countries, or groups of people. Be mindful of your language and ensure your content is inclusive and respectful of all readers, regardless of their cultural background.
  • Images with Cultural Insensitivity – Visual content, such as images and videos, can also convey cultural insensitivity if not chosen carefully. Use images that are appropriate and respectful of various cultures, and avoid those that perpetuate stereotypes or could be considered offensive.
  • Date and Measurement Formats – Different regions use different formats for dates, times, and measurements. To avoid confusion, use internationally accepted formats, such as the ISO date format (YYYY-MM-DD) or the 24-hour time format. When using measurements, consider providing conversions to both metric and imperial systems to accommodate readers from various countries.

Technologies for Internationalization

there are several solutions available to help businesses internationalize (I18N) their websites. These tools and services can assist with translation, localization, and optimization for different languages and regions. Some popular solutions include:

  1. Translation Management Systems (TMS): A TMS is a software solution that helps manage the translation process for a multilingual website. These systems facilitate collaboration between translators, editors, and project managers. Examples of TMS include Smartling, Phrase, and Transifex.
  2. Content Management Systems (CMS) with Multilingual Support: Many popular CMS platforms, such as WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla, offer built-in multilingual support or plugins/extensions that enable website internationalization. Examples of such plugins for WordPress include WPML, Polylang, and TranslatePress.
  3. Website Localization Platforms: These platforms help businesses localize their websites by providing translation, cultural adaptation, and optimization services. Examples include Localize, Bablic, and Weglot.
  4. Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT): Software tools that help translators and language professionals work more efficiently and accurately. CAT tools typically include features such as translation memory, terminology management, and automatic quality assurance checks. They do not automatically translate text like machine translation systems but instead assist human translators in their work by providing suggestions based on previously translated content, maintaining consistency, and reducing repetitive tasks. Some popular CAT tools include Trados, memoQ, and Wordfast.
  5. Translation Services: Professional translation agencies or freelance translators can be hired to translate your website content accurately and effectively. Working with native speakers ensures that translations are culturally appropriate and contextually accurate.
  6. International SEO Tools: Tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Moz Pro offer features to help optimize your website for international search engines, conduct keyword research, and track your site’s performance in different regions.

When choosing a solution for internationalizing your website, consider factors such as your budget, the size and complexity of your site, the languages and regions you’re targeting, and the level of automation or customization you require. It’s essential to combine these solutions with a comprehensive international SEO strategy to maximize your website’s visibility and success in global markets.

Artificial Intelligence Is Making Internationalization Available To Every Business

AI is playing a significant role in driving advancements in internationalization and localization technology. By incorporating AI techniques such as machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP), these technologies are becoming more efficient, accurate, and sophisticated. Some ways AI is driving internationalization and localization technology include:

  1. Machine Translation: AI-powered machine translation services, such as Google Translate and DeepL, have improved significantly in recent years, providing faster and more accurate translations. These services can now better handle the nuances of different languages, making them a viable option for translating large volumes of content or serving as a starting point for human translators. We utilize GTranslate to machine translate Martech Zone.
  2. Translation Memory: AI algorithms can better analyze and match previously translated content stored in translation memories, enabling translators to work more efficiently by reusing translations and maintaining consistency across projects.
  3. Terminology Management: AI can help identify and extract relevant terminology from source content, assisting in creating and maintaining terminology databases. This ensures consistency in the use of specific terms and phrases across translated materials.
  4. Sentiment Analysis: AI-powered sentiment analysis can help identify the tone and emotion behind content, enabling localization professionals to adapt translations more effectively to convey the intended message and emotion in the target language and culture.
  5. Quality Assurance (QA): AI can automatically identify and flag potential translation errors, inconsistencies, or formatting issues, ensuring higher-quality translations and reducing the time spent on manual proofreading.
  6. Contextual Understanding: AI techniques such as natural language processing can provide better contextual understanding of the source content, helping translators create more accurate and culturally appropriate translations.
  7. Content Optimization: AI-driven tools can analyze search patterns, keywords, and user behavior in different regions, helping businesses optimize their content for international markets and improve their SEO performance.
  8. Predictive Analytics: AI can analyze large amounts of data to predict trends and user preferences in different regions, helping businesses tailor their internationalization and localization efforts to better target specific markets.

By harnessing the power of AI, internationalization and localization technology are becoming more efficient, adaptable, and accurate, enabling businesses to expand their global reach and better connect with diverse audiences.

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is CMO of OpenINSIGHTS and the founder of the Martech Zone. Douglas has helped dozens of successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to assist companies in implementing and automating their sales and marketing strategies. Douglas is an internationally recognized digital transformation and MarTech expert and speaker. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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