March 2017
By Rob Vandenberg

Image: Pesky Monkey/

Rob Vandenberg is the President and CEO of Lingotek, a cloud-based translation technology and language services company. Prior to being named CEO, he served as the company's VP of sales and marketing.


Boosting your international SEO

It's as simple as this: Global customers won't buy what they can’t read. And they won't read what they can't find. Here are some tips to make sure your keywords don't get lost in translation.

There are a lot of reasons to translate your website into multiple languages, but just consider these: Global customers don't visit websites, browse the Internet, or make purchases on sites that aren't in their native language. They aren't searching Google in English either. In fact, a McKinsey & Company report found that more than half of all Google searches are performed in a language other than English.

To make your keywords relevant to a global audience and to improve your customer engagement worldwide, you need tools that will automate and integrate translation and – most importantly – enhance your search engine optimization (SEO).

An international SEO strategy helps you to optimize your website across multiple locations and languages. This enables you to deliver different content to users based on their geographic location – a localization strategy known as geo-targeting. To attract visitors from multiple countries and those who speak many different languages, your website needs to be constructed in a way that makes it easier for international search engines and users to find you. You want them to know that you offer tailored content customized to country, region, and language, and that it's easy to find.

Optimizing keywords for international SEO

The words in your URL and page title tag are the most important tool for increasing your page

ranking. That's why it is important that every word – even if hidden in code – is translated. The ability to add these tags doesn't necessarily come out-of-the-box with your CMS, so it's important to choose a CMS that lets you add meta, url, and sitemap tags. These are all things that have to be translated or your international SEO won't work.

To make your web page easier to find, browsers and search engines will index your site. The engines use keywords as clues to figure out what each page is about. These clues are usually coded into your page. This indexing can get lost if your translation process includes cutting and pasting into a Word document that is then sent out for translation.

In addition to the text on the page, the search engine uses content coded into the page. This embedded information includes items like image names, heading tags, etc. If headings are simply bold (rather than using the heading tag), search enginges won't pick those words out of the page for indexing. If this heading information is not included in your web page, it could hurt your SEO.

Keywords are specifically used to index your site. If you are paying Google for specific keywords, you want to make sure those words are always translated the same way into another language. That way, the search engine can find them.

Indexable content that is "hidden" in code:

  • URLs
  • Metadata
  • Descriptions
  • Abstract
  • Keywords
  • Glossary Terms
  • Titles and headings (H1, H2, H3)
  • Image names
  • Image alt text (descriptions)
  • XML Sitemap


To improve your international SEO and search engine rankings, you need multilingual, search-friendly URLs. If you don't have an SEO language switcher with a URL language code option for the languages you are supporting, Google may not realize you have a site in a particular language. Especially for e-commerce or directory sites, you need to preserve URL parameters and make sure that each domain has translatable product tag URLs. When your site contains multiple languages, it's important to make sure that the language switcher points to the correct URL.


Metadata at the top of the web page makes it easier to index the page. It includes your description, abstract (a summary of the site), and keywords. The abstract – a summary of the site – should also be indexed. Your metadata should also take into consideration any character limits for the most popular search engines in your target regions and the use of double-byte character languages like Chinese and Arabic.

Titles and headings

Titles and headings capture the main ideas of an entire piece, and are therefore a vital factor in SEO. Be sure all headings are assigned properly. Don't just use bolded text to delineate titles, use the H1, H2 and H3 tags.


If you have text inside charts, tables, or on images, it won't be extracted for translation. Whenever possible, separate text from images in different layers. In websites and web applications, CSS and JavaScript can be used to create an embedded appearance.

XML Sitemap

The best method for attracting search engines like Google to your localized content is the XML sitemap. The sitemap gives visitors an overview of your site and can also display RSS feeds. An XML sitemap helps search engines crawl your site more efficiently so they can automatically submit your site to a number of search engines. If your sitemap is not translated, Google won't recognize important pages. It will then take that into account when determining the relevance of your site for the search.  

Automating and integrating translation of keywords

To reach an international target audience, you not only need to translate keywords, but also create relevant content that connects with global visitors. A cloud-based translation management system (TMS) makes it easy to keep up with the need for searchable translation of dynamic global content. Users of a cloud-based TMS can translate, localize, update, and publish global content continuously in real time. As a result, the globalization of content becomes faster and more streamlined. This gives enterprises the ability to easily create and manage different types of content across multiple channels, including social media.

How proxy translation can negatively affect your SEO

Proxy-based translation systems can have a negative impact on your SEO because the proxy may not localize your URLs or your keywords. In the world of translation services, proxy refers to a vendor computer system acting as a proxy for your website URL. When a user wants to see your content in a different language, a translated version is displayed as a separate web page. A proxy page is translating only what's visible, and code isn't visible, so it's difficult for search engines to search back and forth between a website and a proxy. For that, you need to have a federated environment – a security model that allows systems with the same login credentials to talk to one another. It's possible to have that with proxy, but it is difficult and expensive.

Content that is responsive and in real-time, like error messages, drop-down lists, and other UI and navigational elements, may not get translated with a proxy system. Skipping the translation of this responsive content can lead to a frustrating or negative experience for your global customers. The bottom line is that on-premise or proxy translation systems require extra work: you have to go in, find those keywords, and then get them translated.

Compare that with cloud-based translation management that integrates directly into your existing CMS. When translations are published directly back to your CMS, your international content never has to live on a separate server. This makes it easier for Google and other search engines to find your multilingual content. It fully automates the translation process in real time and taps into the SEO features of your CMS, like metadata and clean URLs. Cloud-based, integrated translation is preferable because it enables centralized, cross-lingual searching. A cloud-based system can translate all of your keywords – no matter where they are – automatically.

Terminology management ensures consistency

A high-performance TMS can automate the efficient use of your linguistic assets. Terminology management allows you to achieve effective and accurate translations by organizing keywords with a clear set of rules for their usage. Terminology management ensures that any keywords you use for search engine optimization remain intact, so your content remains searchable in any language. Enterprises build strong brands with consistent messaging. When companies go global, they need to maintain the integrity of that message.

For example, Google Spain is going to be looking for "inicio", not home. These tools will remember to localize "home" and automatically translate it as "inicio". This is important because there are different words in Spanish that also mean "home" such as "casa" or "hogar". But in a web context, "inicio" is most often used to refer to the home page.

Reusing translated keywords is cost-effective and speeds up your translation process. It will also increase messaging and brand consistency so your international users and customers will have a similar customer experience. Translation memories (TM) are important to agile, accurate SEO because they help you leverage every word for faster, more cost-efficient translation. When your translated keywords are stored in a TMS in the cloud, they can be reused and recycled across several different enterprise applications. TM stored in the cloud make localized keywords immediately accessible. Some older, offline translation services require emailing TM databases back and forth between translators or merging separately maintained keyword files after the project has finished.

With a cloud-based TMS, you have better access to your TM. No matter what department is translating – marketing, sales, etc. – they can use the same TM and ensure consistent reuse of translated words across all of your different assets. This TM sharing lets you update keyword translations in real time, which increases global SEO while cutting costs.

More translation means higher rankings

Translating your content and correctly indexing your keywords helps search engines rank your site higher for its relevant, multilingual content. If you have a thousand pages on your English site and those pages are translated into five languages, the search engines recognize your site as having 5,000 pages of content. The more languages you add, the higher your ranking. If they aren't tied together with the proper tags, Google won't see you as important and you won't get credit for your multilingual sites or content.

Make it easier for global buyers to find you

If you want your website to resonate with consumers around the world, you need to have an integrated and well-optimized site that uses the latest cloud-based translation tools. Proper indexing and translation of keywords, even those hidden in code, are crucial. Also important is the technology you are using to manage translation. An agile, cloud-based TMS that can store, manage, and reuse your linguistic assets in real time is another integral tool.

When your content is easily searchable because you have optimized your international SEO, you will better engage a global audience that wants to search, shop, and buy in their own language.