How to Create Quality Multilingual Web Content

by Amy Haddow June 11th, 2013 

We explored the 3 key stages of tactical international SEO implementation in an earlier post; now its time to hone in on one particular element of multilingual SEO " content.

Without high quality, optimised content, other SEO activity will be defunct. Google has long positioned good content as pivotal to all SEO activity, and recent Penguin updates have placed further emphasis on the need for relevance and user experience over keyword stuffing and black hat techniques.

Having recently migrated to a WordPress platform, Language Connect rebuilt and restructured content, and have since experienced improved SenSEO scores. Heres how.

Address existing content

You have approximately 3 seconds to engage visitors to your website.

Content should be easy to digest, which means:

  • Write clearly and in plain English where possible
  • Use headings, subheadings, bullet points and visuals to break up blocks of text

According to recent studies, only 16% of users read web copy word for word. That means 79% simply scan a page and pick out key words and sentences.

All web visitors consider the same two things: does your website offer what theyre looking for, and will they find it easily?

Information needs to be concise, appropriate and engaging to grab the readers attention within seconds.

Take Language Connects website. Here is how the Services page looked before the revamp.

Language Services Agency

Visually, its pretty easy to digest (if not slightly busy). Its difficult to instantly identify where to go on the page and hard to differentiate between each service at first glance.

Plus, what does it actually tell you about our services? Content is generic and sales oriented and doesnt give much insight into how each service can benefit the visitor.

Wheres the call to action? Its that subtle boxed arrow you can see on the bottom right of each image. Does this encourage you to find out more or get in touch?

Take a look at Language Connects Services page now (above the fold).

Language Services Provider

As a user, I know instantly that Im in the right place if Im looking to translate text as opposed to an audio file. The content speaks directly to the user and questions their needs; so if the answer is Yes, I need written content translated, the user knows they are in the right place and it is clear that the next step is to Contact us.

In addition, a high quality image displaying the dominance of text translation for the business (chart) reassures potential customers that we have experience in this field without being overtly self-promotional. Design creates interest and is essential in capturing user attention and increasing conversions.

Getting multilingual – things to consider

There are a number of things to consider when approaching multilingual content.

Which languages will you choose? This decision should be made according to industry, market demand and web users. A brand consultant can help you identify market opportunities.

How will you manage the process? Will you opt for machine translation exclusively or engage the expertise of a translator? I always advise a combination of both to reduce cost but increase accuracy and consistency; People + Process + Technology = great global content.

How will you extend your global content on a regular basis? Are you planning to conduct multilingual blogging? What about multilingual Twitter engagement?

Once youve decided on your approach, its time to look at how to write global English and be mindful of your international audience when writing web content.

Global English – keep it simple, stupid

Unlike highly targeted e-marketing campaigns, web content must consider a diverse audience.

English is being used more and more as a lingua franca, i.e. a neutral third party language used as a means of communication between 2 or more non-native speakers. In instances where localization cannot be justified (perhaps the audience/market is too small), you must ensure you use plain English; minimise the use of idioms, buzzwords, and acronyms which convey an element of exclusivity.

Simpler syntax can significantly increase readership worldwide and investing time in developing a basic understanding of cultural norms can ensure universal clarity and further increase reach.

In addition to this, global English makes future translation easier and therefore quicker and cheaper. Translators will advise you of word swells, i.e. how the length of text will change in accordance with new language characters and phraseology. Changes can be quite significant as The Economist highlights below:

Word swells in translation

The Services page discussed above has been translated into German (example below). See how the text differs in length. Space on the page and image choice/placement must allow for word swells.

German language services

In short, stand out with simplicity.

A multinational audience will appreciate the fact that your web pages are easier to understand than other English-language sites, increasing the likelihood that they will choose your business over competitors.

To conclude, a few wise words on persuasive web content from Henneke Duistermaat:

Combine beautiful words and powerful visuals to dazzle your audience. Create desire by appealing to both emotion and logic. Design an enchanting experience for your web visitors. Because thats how you win more business.

Amy Haddow

Copywriter, creative and online marketing enthusiast. I am particularly interested in digital progression and discussions on how businesses are expected to react to these changes. About me

Amy Haddow

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One Response to “How to Create Quality Multilingual Web Content”

  1. Dmitry says:

    Thank you for your advice. I think about website with multilingual content. So it's very actual for me.