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ISEO: 4 Steps to Reach Foreign Markets with an International Website

Target Marketing – December 15, 2010

In this age of global business, engaging only one nation’s consumer base is a sure way to plateau revenue and growth. Customizing your website to suit the linguistic needs of each international market can result in significantly increased Web traffic, as well as increased revenue per order and improved international brand recognition.

However, merely translating a U.S.-based website into another language isn't enough to take advantage of the potential in foreign markets. Tapping revenue streams from across the world requires a combination of website localization and International Search Engine Optimization (ISEO). ISEO is a key ingredient to success, and it’s attainable for any company willing to embrace four important guidelines.

1. Use ISEO as a Web Foundation

Though companies might be tempted to start with website development first and optimize later to keep initial costs down, there is little value in developing a website that is not optimized for ISEO. Instead, use optimization best practices to guide your company’s entire content development and site-architecture strategy. Today’s search algorithms place a great deal of emphasis on how quickly a page loads in a particular market, how many other reputable sites in the market and industry link to it, and the extent to which the content addresses what a user is seeking. It is important that you build your sites with this in mind:

   * Free your code from unnecessary information that will
    delay page load times;

   * Build proper alt image tags and anchor text;

   * Create links with reputable in-market sites; and

   * Develop content relevant to your target audience.

Only when optimization and design are done in conjunction can a business clearly answer the question, “Have we created a site that will attract customers and appear prominently in search results?”

2. Choose Your Words Wisely

Copy optimization and proper keyword selection should be priorities for companies moving into foreign markets. It is vital in website localization projects to validate keyword choices before going live in other languages. Adapting communications for other cultures must be handled carefully by people who understand the nuances of word choice and connotation in any given language. Step one is to make sure the linguist tasked with the job is a native speaker in the area you are targeting.

Ask that professional to put himself in the position of the user. What would he search for to find what he’s looking for? For example, if you are trying to sell desk chairs in China, the linguist should imagine that he is a company looking to buy chairs. What would he search on to do this? It can be a taxing process, but settling for anything less puts the effectiveness of international campaigns and SEO at risk.

3. Vet Your Images

Images count, and they might broadcast unintended messages abroad that only a native or a trained professional can identify. For example, the company that adorns its site with images of notable buildings from around the world might unknowingly have selected one that conveys waste, corruption or failure in a specific market.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Make sure they’re the words you want to convey. To do this, the aforementioned linguist should check that the images captured are relevant in the culture they are targeting.

Make sure the linguist adds appropriate text in the alternate image tags. Be as specific as possible to be as effective as possible. For example: “Black leather swivel chair with armrests.”

4. Beyond Keywords

Keywords and content are important. However, many of the world’s search engines that aren’t Google place greater emphasis on page load times, top level domains, where the sites are hosted, density of the keywords used on a given page and links to the sites from other reputable resources for the topic at hand. Beyond all of this, there exists an even larger international search marketing universe that includes social media, international search engine marketing and rich media.

While selecting the proper keywords for your international sites is crucial, you must also pay close attention to factors beyond keywords that have a significant impact on your rankings in the search engine results pages.

Whether a company already offers its website in multiple languages or is simply in the planning stages, it is vital to understand how investing in optimization can result in greater online visibility in the short term and faster return on investment in the long term. If a company doesn’t have the internal resources to do it right, then professional translation services can set a strong foundation for localizing communications to reach the intended audiences with appropriate messages to increase conversions. That goal is easy to understand in any language, and as international competition grows, companies need to take their website efforts to the next level with careful, informed localization and optimization.

Liz Elting is co-founder and co-CEO of Translations.com and TransPerfect. She can be reached at info@translations.com.