SEO translation

In this article, we will take a look at the steps a website translation agency takes when providing a SEO translation. But before we focus on the details, let’s start by establishing what we mean by natural referencing or SEO.

What is natural referencing and why is it important?

Natural referencing and search engine optimisation (SEO) are terms that refer to the place occupied in search results by different pages of a website in relation to the keywords used by internet users. The aim of natural referencing or organic positioning is to reach the best possible placement among the first results on what is called the search engine results page, or SERP.

To give you an idea of the importance of SEO: a website displayed first in search results can achieve a click-through rate (CTR) of up to 28.5%. This percentage gradually decreases as the website gets lower down the page, falling to around 2.5% if it is in tenth place on the first page of results.

These figures illustrate the importance of making all efforts necessary to ensure your website’s pages are positioned optimally and organically. Achieving this takes time and depends heavily on the competition, the industry and, of course, the internal resources available.

Nonetheless, investing time and resources into your SEO is wise in terms of both finances and marketing, as the results will be maintained over time, even if they take a while to appear.

One of the key aspects of SEO is CONTENT. Search engines are increasingly insistent on this issue. The reason why is simple: it is in their interest to make sure their users receive the best possible content when they carry out an online search. This is the key to earning their loyalty. There are other aspects that affect SEO that we will not explore in depth in this article, namely the technical element and the external links received by a website.

For the above reasons, when a website makes the move to expand internationally, the translation – or, even better, the localisation – of its content must be carried out from a SEO perspective by an expert in SEO writing, and not just any native speaker of the target language.

Some translation agencies specialise in this type of service and have realised that translating content available only on paper is not the same as translating content for a website.

With this in mind, we will now examine how expert translators produce a SEO translation.

Steps in the SEO translation process

Now, we will take an in-depth look at the five steps involved in producing a translation that is optimised for search engines:

  1. Information gathering meeting with the client
  2. Semantic analysis of the competition and identification of keywords
  3. Start of the SEO translation process
  4. Translation quality control
  5. Sending of deliverables to the client

 1 – Information gathering meeting with the client

This is the starting point for any translation process, but when it is a translation of content for a website specifically, the questions tend to focus more on marketing and brand positioning. The goal of the meeting is to obtain information relating to the following questions:

  • What is the brand’s positioning, its promise and its values?
  • Who is the target audience (demographic characteristics, interests, etc.)?
  • What are the benefits of the product or service that make it stand out from the competition?
  • With what brands is it competing on the target market?
  • What is the brand’s tone of voice (formal, informal, commercial, etc.)? This information is especially important in the translation of articles.
  • If it is an institutional website, what is the sales process like?
  • If it is an e-commerce store, are there any other purchase channels available, such as physical shops? Is local SEO required?
  • What keywords in the source language would the client like to use for positioning purposes in the target language?

If the client or a SEO agency has already carried out a semantic analysis of the competition in the target market, meaning they have identified the search terms used for natural referencing and analysed which are positioned among the first results, this information is important to have. Otherwise, this is a step the translation agency must carry out.


2 – Semantic analysis of the competition and identification of keywords

 As indicated in the point above, if the client has not carried out a semantic analysis of the competition, the website translator must take care of this stage. With the help of tools like Semrush, they can identify the most suitable keywords for their client and the best way of expressing them in the target market, as well as finding out who is already well positioned in searches for these keywords. They will also measure search volume and, most importantly, look at the search intent behind the keywords. If the client is an e-commerce store, the SEO translator must pay special attention to search expressions with transactional intent, or in other words, the words internet users search for when they have decided to buy something.  Before starting work on the SEO translation itself, it is useful for the translator to send the client a list of search expressions for the target market so that they can be validated.


3 – Start of the SEO translation process

The information gathered in steps 1 and 2 stands the translator in good stead to start work on a high-quality, optimised SEO translation. During this stage, translation proper is often combined with localisation and even transcreation. In other words, the SEO translator might deem it necessary to adapt the content to the target market’s cultural characteristics. In the case of transcreation, they may decide to extend or shorten the content in a creative way for the same purpose: to adapt it to the local market’s ways of communicating. The aim of all of this is to make the local internet user feel as though they are reading content that has been written in their language, and not translated. It is important to remember that, among many other aspects of digital marketing, a website must inspire trust in visitors. Quality, well-written content is an excellent start point to encourage them to keep browsing and eventually convert them.

Tags and internal linking are very important for SEO. The SEO translator will be able to propose ‘title’ tags, ‘meta description’ tags and keywords for text links to other pages.

4 – Translation quality control

As is the case for any translation, translation agencies will assign the task of proofreading the translated content to another SEO translation expert who works with the same combination of languages as the original translator. This step is highly important, because the translator may miss possible errors once they have spent a long time on a project, or the proofreader may simply find a better way of expressing an idea.

5 – Sending of deliverables to the client

When it comes to delivering the translation, there are two options: it may be sent in the format indicated by the client so that it can be integrated into their CMS, or the translation agency may carry out the translation directly in XML or HTML format. Furthermore, each translation project will be associated with a translation memory, so the keywords selected will be saved for use in future translation assignments for the client. If the translator carried out the semantic analysis of the competition, this document will also be sent to the client.

As you can see, there is a significant process of preparation and analysis involved when it comes to producing a translation optimised for search engines. This is why any translation project that is part of a brand’s international expansion strategy must be assigned to experts in website translation in multiple language combinations.

Luisa ChaparroSEO Consultant & SEO translator french into spanish