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Localization & SEO translation – What’s the Difference?

Many people think that translating a website is no different than tackling a book translation. This is far from the truth however, because there are distinctly different ways to translate a website for mass audiences. The key terms that get mixed up in website translation are localization and SEO translation.

Many people think that translating a website is no different to tackling a book translation. This is far from the truth, however, because there are distinctly different ways to translate a website for mass audiences. The key terms that get mixed up in website translation are localization and SEO translation.

While both of these terms sound close to each other, sometimes even complementary, they are far from same. What are the main differences between these terms, and how can you utilize them in order to boost your audience numbers as well as SERP?

Localizing a website

Depending on the nationality, beliefs and the overall language barrier that a website represents for your target audience, tackling a localization effort should be the logical next step. However, think about the term of “localizing” something for a moment before moving on.

Localization involves a complete rework and adaption of content to your target audience and their level of technical knowledge of the matter at hand. Some would say that localizing a website is easy – all you have to do is translate the sentences you read based on your knowledge of slang and culture of the people you are translating for. This means that you will often have to sacrifice quality or content of your articles because you localized them to suit a bigger audience.

Google’s Search Engine Optimization (or SEO for short) doesn’t like this because keywords and formatting get lost in the effort. While you have indeed widened the net of your readers, the website you translated for is now ranked far lower than before. Use localization only when there is no other option at your disposal.

Translating through SEO

Working on your site translation is another matter entirely. SEO works through keywords, and using Google Adwords will let you know which words are trending and optimal for use in your translations.

As you might know, websites live and die by their ability to embrace SEO that Google uses in order to avoid spam and unusable content on the internet. Just like you wouldn’t like to click on an article riddled with shady advertisements and backlinks, so thinks your audience.

While this means that you will have to translate content using certain words that you otherwise might not implement, this is a far viable solution to site translation than pure localization. Your audiences won’t even notice the difference if they don’t do a side-by-side comparison of the original article and your translated copy. Not only that, but they will find those translated sites as the result of properly implemented SEO keywords from Google.

For example, if you use translation companies to optimize your content, it will assuredly be done through SEO and proper formatting. Pure localization is rarely implemented because SEO is so important in today’s Search Engine Ranking Pages (SERP).

However, even SEO translation has its downsides when you put things into perspective. Content can suffer due to overreliance on search engine optimization and not enough care for the actual subject matter. Some of the worst examples on the web include articles that are riddled with backlinks to spam websites and keywords that make very little sense in the perspective of the article at hand.

Finding a balance

It’s often quite difficult to decide whether you will have your website translated or SEO optimized. After all, you don’t want to lose your audience, nor do you want them to leave because SEO has made the content incomprehensive. Luckily, you can always implement the best of both worlds and localize the content while maintaining a healthy SEO optimization active.

  • Ask your translator to translate the website based on their best judgment. Let them have their creative freedom but emphasize that they maintain a level of technical jargon without going too casual. This will give them the motivation to do their best without being pulled down by SEO.
  • Once the first draft is complete, ask them to optimize the content for SEO themselves. After all, the original translator should have the best knowledge of where the keywords can be placed and what parts of the content can be cut out. You should compensate your writer additionally for doing this since it requires extra work and revisions.
  • If they don’t know how to do it themselves, you can look for help online or do it yourself. Someone in your company is bound to have social media management skills and they should be able to work out a solution to your SEO needs. The worst case scenario will lead you to use one of many SEO courses online and learning how to do it in-house with your marketing team (which can be beneficial in the long run).

SEO can be completely and safely implemented once the translation is already done. There is no need to implement it from the get-go and end up with automated, robotic content that serves no purpose. Never rely on automated translations using online tools – these translations are done by a script that will literally translate your content word for word and you will be left with something that doesn’t even resemble an article.

Final summation

As we can clearly see, finding a healthy balance between localizing your content and optimizing that translation for SEO is something completely doable. While it will take a two-step process to do so, the results far outweigh the initial trouble to do so.

Keep in mind that you should always leave relevant technical terms unchanged from their original language. These are likely slang words that have been internationally accepted as an industry standard and should be used as such.

A professional web translator will always ask you what type of translation do you want and should they keep SEO in mind when optimizing your content for a different language territory. Make sure that you have a clear picture of where you want to take your brand when online presence is concerned and adjust your SEO plans accordingly.

Written By

Dina Indelicato is a blogger enthusiast and freelance writer. She is always open to research about new topics and gain new experiences to share with her readers.rnYou can find her on Twitter @DinaIndelicato and Facebook.rn



  1. Mary Carmen Parra

    June 4, 2018 at 11:19 am

    Dear Dina, great peace of content ! Thanks a lot for linking to our website localization blog post.
    Have a nice day!

  2. Alex Marsh

    January 27, 2020 at 7:41 am

    Most of the people get confused when they hear these two terms and think that both are same. This content has made me understand the difference. Thanks for sharing!

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