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Translators aren’t search experts

I run across clients every day that want to expand internationally, and naturally, they expect to use search marketing to do it. So, they carefully choose the Web pages they need to translate into local languages, they throw open the doors to the country Web sites, and hear the sound of…crickets. What went wrong? They carefully optimized their original Web site for search and they hired capable translators to convert them to other languages. But they missed an important step.

It sounds like the right things to do. Write the site in English, do all of your search optimization, and it works great. But when you translate your site to French, you aren’t done. You must redo your optimization for search.

Wordle word cloud based on LibraryThing tags

Image by preater via Flickr

Here’s why. Just imagine that you originally wrote your pages in French for your computer business. You’ve done all the optimization for search, and it’s working fine–in French. When you translate it to English, the translator correctly uses all the words required, but he constantly refers to “notebook” computers, rather than “laptops.”

Is the translation correct? Yes. Is it search optimized? No. People use the word “laptop” in their searches far more often than the word “notebook.” If your site uses the less popular word, you’ll get far fewer searcher visits.

Instead, you need to repeat your search optimization work in every language. Each time you translate, you must repeat the keyword research to determine popular terms and then use them in the translated text.

It costs more than relying on your translators, but the advantage is that the searchers actually find your translated site. If you want to save money, you can, but you’re likely to find that your translators are not search experts.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website,, most recently as the Manager of Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide

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