Udo Leinhäuser Udo Leinhäuser
May 29


International SEO (iSEO) has grown into an essential part of a linguist’s work. As more companies expand outside national borders, they need to optimize content in multiple languages, for all search engines. That’s because queries end up with almost 80 percent of people clicking on organic search results, not paid ads, writes Udo Leinhäuser, founder of  i-seo.works.

As a language service provider, you need to stay updated with the new search engine algorithms to deliver translations that can capture the attention of a multinational audience and get traffic.  

The good news is that iSEO is less complicated than most people imagine. After all, it’s just applying the same SEO techniques, but in multiple languages and with a focus on the language-related ranking factors. How do you do that? Here are three things that every language service provider should know about iSEO. 

Any language-specific SEO strategy starts with keyword research 

Keyword research is the central piece of the international SEO puzzle. You can’t optimize content for search engines if you don’t know the ways people search for information online. With so many tools available for keyword research, there’s no room for making assumptions. You either know the exact terms to use, or your client’s competitor will get all the traffic. 

Every localization project should start with keyword research done by local SEO experts--people who know well how locals speak. 

Why can’t you just translate your English keywords? Because languages have different ways of looking at the same things. As a language service provider, you’ve already experienced the differences in the ways of expressing concepts! 

Americans look for takeout food, while Brits call it a takeaway, despite all of them speaking the same language. The same principle works for Spanish-speaking countries. People in Madrid speak differently from Mexicans, for example. So, just like English, Spanish can have many different words to express the same idea. 

You need to perform keyword research for every language and every region you localize for to find the right keyword to target based on facts, not suppositions. A word-to-word translation can’t cover all the ways people speak, and you risk limiting the business opportunities of your client.  

On the other side, in-depth keyword research shows what searches are performed in every single market. Not only will you end up with an accurate list of terms to optimize for, but you also get a better understanding of the target audience and their interests.  

The importance of the WDF*IDF analysis in localization projects 

While not entirely new to SEO, the WDF*IDF analysis has become an essential part of the content optimization process. 

Let’s take a closer look at what elements are analyzed and how they influence SEO: 

  • WDF stands for “within document frequency” and counts the frequency of a keyword within a piece of text. 
  • IDF stands for “inverse document frequency” and analyzes how popular the same keyword is on similar websites. 

In a nutshell, WDF*IDF analysis identifies the relevant words, terms, and keywords for each topic and determines their optimal distribution inside a piece of content. Luckily, you don’t have to do that manually. All you have to do is provide the software with your target keywords, and the computer will do the work for you. 

The tool identifies the best ranking URLs for your main keyword and runs a semantic analysis on these pages and your content, using a specific formula. The result is a list of terms and LSI keywords that appear in all the analyzed pieces of content, together with data about how often you should use each of them in your copy. 

Why do you need WDF*IDF analysis? Because the concept of keyword density is dead. Google and other search engines have refined their algorithms to understand what every page is about, based on the words used. So, just like with keywords, you can’t use the original WDF*IDF analysis for all the target languages. 

Every time you translate content, you need to perform a new analysis for the translated version of your text--which the software will compare with high-ranking pages from the local market. Implementing well the results of the WDF*IDF analysis is a work for linguists and specialists with excellent language skills. So, even if you worked with non-native translators in the initial phase of the project, for this part of the job, you need to work with locals. That’s because you have to change the copy and fit in the new keywords naturally to maintain the quality of your localization project. 

Maintain effective communication with the client 

As a language service provider, you’re the specialist. You know the right keywords and how to integrate them correctly in the copy for SEO purposes while keeping the original message intact. However, consulting the customer can help you improve SEO and streamline your workflows even further.  

Remember that most keywords and terminology you work with is part of the corporate language--something that your client knows very well. 

Have your work approved periodically by your customer and use the feedback to identify and fix any translation errors right from the moment they occur. Otherwise, you’ll keep carrying mistakes during your localization project. This can confuse the team of translators and linguists--which ends up slowing down the translation and limiting the performance of the translated content. 

Everything that contributes to the SEO result should be shared with the customer. Keywords, meta descriptions, alt tags are details that the client might not even think about during a website localization project. However, mistakes in metadata can influence how end users engage with a website, with negative consequences on your client’s bottom line. 

Language service providers are essential to iSEO

For how scary and complicated iSEO may seem at first glance, language service providers should try to become good at it. That’s because SEO agencies and experts can’t handle international search engine optimization without skilled translators and linguists. 

Performing keyword research without a linguist means ignoring crucial elements like cultural insights and language skills. Moreover, changing the translated copy to integrate specific keywords based on the results of the WDF*IDF analysis isn’t possible without a good translator. 

Learning iSEO comes with many benefits for language service providers, as you avoid pushing content back and forth with SEO agencies while providing your customers with better service.