Practical SEO tips for translators and copywriters

Our last blog post on SEO took you through the basics of search engine optimisation. And now it’s time to get stuck in and have a go at some SEO for yourself. What sort of SEO project can you expect to receive as a linguist? How do you go about getting started and what tools can you use? Let’s take a closer look...

English may be the language of the internet, but only 30% of web users actually speak it as their first language. Businesses looking to target an international customer base need to create a multilingual website and that means they need to think about SEO in more than one language. It’s no surprise that the demand for SEO-optimised language services is growing fast.

Have you ever thought about the fact that website localisation and multilingual SEO go hand in hand? Unfortunately, what we’re seeing all too often is website copy simply being pasted into a Word or Excel document and run through a CAT tool like any other text for translation. Sure, this method produces lots of lovely multilingual websites. But if those websites don’t feature the right keywords for the target market, they won’t appear on SERPs (search engine results pages) and the world won’t even know they exist.

Keyword localisation

As more and more customers are getting wise to the fact that they need to think about SEO, we are seeing more and more requests for keywords to be localised as part of website translation projects. What might this kind of project look like?

Excel list with keywords

The English keywords are being localised into German for the Swiss market in this example. The ‘SV’ column contains search volume data – the number of times the corresponding keyword is searched for on Google every month.

Our first step is to translate the keywords literally into German. We can then check the search volume of the translated keywords using a free tool called Keyword Surfer. This browser extension shows the search volume directly in the Google search bar.

Google search

So now we can search for the translated keywords and check their search volume for the Swiss market (you can select the country settings in the tool).

Excel list with keywords

Once we’ve done that initial research, we can try to find similar keywords with a higher search volume. We also include a back translation for the client’s benefit.

Excel list with keywords

If you ever need to come up with alternative keywords, there are several tools you can use for inspiration. The most obvious option is to use good old Google! Just type in your keyword and see what suggestions it comes up with.

Google search

If you want to go one step further, you can also use Google Keyword Planner. Just be aware that you’ll have to be logged into your Google account, set up a Google Ads account and save your payment details. (Please don’t panic! You won’t be charged a thing unless you actually create and launch an ad campaign.) Once you’re in, you’ll be able to research keywords and discover new ones.

Google Ads Keyword Plan

Annoyingly, Keyword Planner only shows very broad search volumes. The Semrush Keyword Research tool gives you a whole lot more data, but after a seven-day trial, you’ll be restricted to a few searches a day with the free version.

Keyword Overview

Relevance and competition

It’s not all about the search volume when you’re trying to find the best keywords. You also need to consider 1) the relevance of a keyword for the website content and 2) the competition or keyword difficulty – a metric used to determine how difficult it is to rank at the top of the SERP for a particular keyword. The most lucrative keywords strike the perfect balance between search volume, competition and relevance. With that in mind, most businesses invest in longer, more specific keywords known as long-tail keywords.

Long-tail keywords

Whilst most long-tail keywords may have a low search volume, they involve less competition than short-tail keywords because fewer websites will be trying to attract visitors with the exact same keywords. What’s more, the conversion rate – the number of purchases (conversions) divided by the total number of visitors – tends to be higher because more specific search terms are more relevant and the customers using them are more likely to know exactly what they’re looking for.

Where do the keywords go? 

Once you’ve worked out the keywords you need to use, you’ll have to start thinking about placing them strategically throughout the website. There’s still a real lack of consensus when it comes to what the impact of keywords in different positions will actually be and how they will be ranked by the search machine algorithms. So it’s best to play it safe and cover the following areas...

Meta title and meta description

These are the short texts that are shown in the search results. The meta title is the clickable link and the meta description appears underneath that. Somebody’s decision to click on a search result – or not – is influenced heavily by these texts. They act almost like a shop front for the website, with the idea to encourage passers-by to step inside and have a browse around. The meta title and meta description don’t actually appear on the website itself.

→ Read more on metadata optimisation
→ Check out this tool for previewing the meta title and description in the search results

Website title
Keywords can be placed in the main title that you can see on the web page. You may want to include something like a product name, product category or the title of a blog post. Make sure that the title tells the reader exactly what’s on the page. It should make them want to keep reading!

Page content
You should use all your keywords in your page content. It’s best to break up long chunks of text with punchy subheadings, which guide the reader and are looked on favourably by search engines. Images are another effective way of breaking up a page and they improve the overall look and feel too. You can add alt text to describe any visual elements. Whilst it won’t be displayed on the web page, it will be read out to anyone using a screen reader. Interestingly, this text can also be used to boost the Google ranking.

Top tip

As you can see, SEO optimisation is a science in itself. In fact, we’re sure we could write several blog posts on all of the areas we’ve covered here! If you’re interested in learning more about SEO after this introduction, TAGS Language Solutions offers online courses aimed specifically at freelance translators. If you register your interest by entering your email address, you’ll be given access to some free sample materials. What better way to find out if the paid course is for you? Enjoy!

More useful links

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