Live From Hong Kong! – Is Your SEO Content Ready to Go Global?

I’m sitting on my flight heading home to New York after speaking at SES Hong Kong. This first SES event in the incredibly cosmopolitan city was a smashing success, and gave me the chance to speak with and learn from leading online marketers from Hong Kong, mainland China, and many other countries in Asia. It’s important in the region to understand the opportunities from various search engines like Yahoo, Google, and Baidu.

With many world economies still suffering from a recession, it was refreshing to see such energy and importance being put behind online marketing in Asia. However, for whatever country you are based in, you’re probably looking to your global markets to support more of your overall sales. Even if your business is only in China, the U.S., or any other country, you may have a significant number of customers from growing foreign-based markets. Speaking to them directly (in their language) is a great way to increase sales from these markets.

Every market is unique and needs to be approached differently and individually. Think “localization” rather than “translation” when developing your international content and you’ll already be ahead of the game when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). When localizing content for an international audience, consider the following three main components of successful localization.

  1. Speak your customer’s language. In developing and localizing content, it is crucial to speak your customer’s language. Keep in mind that different populations refer to, for example, common American terms differently. The most classic examples are “cell phone” in the U.S. – which is “mobile phone” or simply “mobile” in the U.K., and “Handy” in Germany, and “vacation” in the U.S., which is referred to as “holiday” in almost every other part of the world.
  2. Use jargon sparingly. Corporate jargon is also a slippery slope. While it’s generally not advisable to use jargon when speaking to your customers, some industries (such as my company, SAP) have accepted jargon and abbreviations or acronyms that customers do use. Keep in mind that many of these remain the same even in other languages. For example, “ERP,” or “enterprise resource planning” doesn’t become “URP,” or “Unternehmen Ressource Planung” in German; it’s still commonly known as “ERP.”
  3. Think about spelling. Also consider alternate spellings. Even the difference between Asian English based-sites and American ones can be striking, although they use the same base language – English. But refer to “color” instead of “colour” or “optimization” instead of “optimization,” and you’ve just lost a potential visitor.

So make sure your localization partner understands your business and isn’t just translating words directly. This often causes keywords that are not matched with what locals search for, and makes it obvious that the website is a translation, which causes you to lose credibility with your international audience. Even after you launch your new content, periodically review keywords from PPC, organic search, and your internal search to ensure that you’re keeping up with changes in language and jargon so that you can always speak the language of your customer, you’ll be visible for those terms, and you’ll drive traffic and business value (thanks Avinash Kaushik!) for your company!

Signing off from 39,000 feet,

Crispin Sheridan

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