If you’re in the market for multilingual web content, odds are you already know that English speaking Internet users make up only 29% of all online traffic, Internet users in North America make up only 15.7% of all users worldwide (Asia accounts for 41.2%), and despite its popularity here in the US, Google is not the number one search engine everywhere in the world.
You know, then, that it makes a lot of sense to translate your content into multiple languages in order to tap into the growing global audience. And it’s even better if the translation includes content already search engine optimized in English, right? Wrong.
While we applaud your initiative to optimize your English language content, a direct translation of this content does not equate to optimized multilingual content. Sorry.
You see, Multilingual Search Engine Optimization, or MSEO, is a delicate and complicated process that requires a firm grasp not only on the source and target languages but also on regional, cultural and linguistic nuances that dictate the unique ways in which a certain sector of the world searches the web.
Translation alone is an art form. And direct translation of English phrases into a target language without careful examination of nuance and innuendo can result in awkward and offensive content. Take, for example, a major airline’s direct Spanish translation of “fly in leather” (to promote their leather seats) to “vuela en cuero”, which means “fly naked.”
Or a tagline for a pen translated from the English “it won’t stain your pocket and embarrass you” to the Spanish “no manchará tu bolsillo, ni te embarazará”. It won’t stain your pocket or impregnate you.
Smart, sexy copy in English that is poorly translated will not create smart, sexy copy in another language.
The same theory can be applied to multilingual SEO initiatives. A popular, relevant keyword in English that drives lots of traffic will not necessarily be a popular, relevant, traffic-driving keyword in another language.
So if you’re ready to go global and take your English keywords with you, stop and consider the complexity of the final goal. If you just want translated text, go with a translation agency (a reputable one with experience and references). But if you want to drive traffic from foreign language searches in country-specific search engines, you need the help of an experienced MSEO agency.