Q&A: What is SEM localization?

Category: Marketing Translation

Search engine marketing (SEM) localization is the process of targeting customers in international markets by ranking well in search engine results, generating traffic, and converting visitors to actual leads and sales.

Many people have problems differentiating between SEO, PPC, and SEM. (So many acronyms!)

SEO is search engine optimization, and is often referred to as “natural,” “organic,” or “unpaid” search. In the localization world, SEO means translating your metatags, descriptions, alt tags, URLs, and other language-based information into the target language.

PPC (pay per click) is when you (the advertiser) bid on keywords relevant to your product, service, and target market. Your ads then display as “sponsored results” on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Microsft when those queries are typed in. (Depending, of course, on their relevance, how much you bid, and about a trillion other factors.)

SEM, search engine marketing, is simply the umbrella that covers paid search (PPC) and organic search (SEO) efforts. Though there was some confusion at first about the term (people thought SEM=PPC only) it’s now generally accepted by professional groups that SEM covers the whole shebang: search engine optimization (SEO), paid placement, contextual advertising, digital asset optimization, and paid inclusion.

So what does this mean for localization?

SEM localization doesn’t have to be a painful process — nor does it have to be separate from your website translation process. In fact, the easiest way to globalize your SEO is to integrate it into your overall localization efforts. Think of search terms, or keywords, as just another asset.

Global marketing consultant Bill Hunt, has published several articles on this and in one of them he states:

SEO fits perfectly into localization process. Sadly, no one listened then and only a few listen today. The point is as strong today as it was then: integrate or fail.

The first step, he writes, is to integrate your keyword research into the glossary development phase of the project. If you can, come up with a rough list of critical terms in the local language and understand their relative importance via keyword demand. Then bounce that list and search volume against the glossary  to make sure both lists are complete and contain not only linguistically correct words, but also the most popular keywords used by local searchers. This is an essential step, and one that the translation agency should guide you through.

If your localization company has SEO knowledge, the actual content translation will be done correctly. The translators won’t just translate your website content — and in the case of PPC, your keywords and ad text — they will transcreate it, using your original content goals and finding the best places for the terms. They’ll take into account the placement of titles, headlines, and develop a compelling and action-oriented meta description and first paragraph.

For PPC, this means working with the original keyword lists and changing them into terms that people really use to search in their native language, and making sure that the ad text is attractive to the local audience.

The third and final step is, of course, QA. Not to be forgotten! But if you’ve integrated search engine marketing into the process from the very beginning, you’re less likely to come across errors or editorial discrepancies that need frantic fixing right before launch.