Copywriting in a foreign language

How to create SEO-friendly copy
in a foreign language

How to create SEO-friendly copy in a foreign language

October 23rd, 2017 – 25 Comments

If you want to grow your audience, it could be a great strategy to focus on a different language. Creating content in a foreign language can be quite a challenge though. In this post, I’ll discuss three ways to create content in a foreign language. I’ll also share some useful tips on how to write in a language that’s not your mother tongue.

Multilingual keyword research

SEO copywriting always starts with keyword research. Creating copy in a foreign language makes no exception to that rule. Jesse, our academy lead, wrote an awesome post in which he explains that creating copy in a foreign language could have large implications for your SEO. If you’re going to aim your content at a new foreign audience, you need to find out what words they are using when they search in Google. You’ll have to get in the heads of your foreign audience.

Learn how to write engaging copy and how to organize it well on your site: Combine our SEO copywriting and Site structure training. »

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Take cultural differences into account

Next to using the words your audience uses, you’ll need to make sure that the content you create matches the local niche of your audience. If you’re a British company and you want to get started on the French market, you’ll encounter some cultural differences. If you are a British company and you want to get started in the Chinese market, you’ll come across some really big cultural differences. Being aware of cultural differences is important if you’re going to create content in a foreign language.

Three options to create content

After you’ve focused on your multilingual keyword research, and on the possible cultural differences, you’ll want to start creating content. There are three ways to create new content:

Translate

You can translate the content you already have on your original website in the language of your choice. You can do that yourself (provided that you have mastered the language) or you can outsource this. Translating is the cheapest way to create new content. That’s a huge plus for this strategy. However, it hardly leaves any room for the keyword research you’ve done, nor for possible cultural differences.

Write new content

The second strategy for creating content in a foreign language is by writing entirely new content. Again, you can do that yourself (provided that your writing skills in the new language are up to scratch) or you can outsource this. If you choose to outsource, I would advise you to give a detailed outline of what you want your article to say. Native writers are usually best at embedding an article in a local culture. They can use examples of current affairs in a specific country. That’ll make the copy appealing.

Transcreate

The third option for creating content in a new language is a combination of the two other strategies mentioned: transcreation. A blog post from your ‘old’ website will be the inspiration for a new article or blog post. However, keyword research and cultural differences are taken into account. The content will not be translated literally, but in the end, the articles will pretty much have the same message. This strategy is probably is the most efficient way of creating new content in a foreign language. You do not have to come up with all new ideas, but the local culture and the specific words of your audience are taken into account.

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Tips for writing in a foreign language

You can only write content yourself if your writing skills in the new language are up to scratch. Otherwise, you should outsource the writing. Writing in a language that’s not your mother tongue can be quite hard. I know from experience. So, what can you do to improve your writing?

Read a lot… and after that, read some more

The best thing you can do is to read a lot. Of course, you need to read texts in the language you want to master. Read blog posts, newspaper articles, novels. Your brain will recognize patterns of words and memorize phrases, sayings, figures of speech and preferred word order.

Practice and study

Reading will help you to passively use the language. Practising by actually writing stuff will improve your skills even further. Write, correct and write some more. It will also pay off to study the basic grammar and spelling rules before you start putting pen to paper. That’ll help you to avoid the most common mistakes.

Use a tool or a native speaker

There are lots of tools out there that’ll help you with grammar and spelling in a foreign language. I always use Grammarly to correct my English. Tools like this are helpful. Another way to get feedback on your writing is to ask a native speaker for feedback. Native speakers will also be able to correct spelling and grammar, and besides that, they could give valuable tips on style and sentence construction.

Conclusion

Adding a language to your website could very well open your site to a whole new audience. Creating content in a foreign language can be quite a challenge, though. If you want to create this content yourself, your writing skills in the foreign language should be rather good. In any case, you should always do keyword research in a foreign language and take into account any cultural differences there may exist.

Read more: ‘SEO Copywriting: the ultimate guide’ »

 


25 Responses to How to create SEO-friendly copy in a foreign language

  1. Capt Eric
    By Capt Eric on 4 November, 2017

    Is it better for SEO to have a separate site for the second language or put additional pages on our main site domain. We currently use a sub domain for the Japanese version of our site. I’m not sure how that influences GMB etc…

  2. nexvan
    By nexvan on 1 November, 2017

    Hi, Marieke!
    there any plugin for WordPress, which automatically translate the website according to the location?

  3. Cody Wise
    By Cody Wise on 26 October, 2017

    This is a really good idea to expand reach. It is something I have been planning for some time but haven’t really put together a solid road-map so that the translation would be up to my standards. I may just need to hire a translator. Any recommendations for high quality Spanish translation?

  4. Kamil
    By Kamil on 26 October, 2017

    The translation industry offers a service called website localisation. It is a sort of translation which takes into consideration cultural differences, keywords research, analysis of used photos and graphics, product names etc. This service should be provided by a native speaker of the target language – mostly because of the cultural differences and the understanding of the target market itself. The aim is to create content that will be perceived by the audience as written in a given language and not translated. I think this is something, that is missing in this post because localisation is the most recommended way to start running your website with one or more foreign languages. The translation industry follows all the current trends according to the marketing strategies and SEO-related guidelines. And I’m talking here about human translation – made with passion and huge background research, not about machine translation.

  5. Abdul Muneeb
    By Abdul Muneeb on 25 October, 2017

    Hi, Marieke!
    I want to ask is there any plugin for WordPress, which automatically translate the website according to the location?

    • Marieke van de Rakt
      By Marieke van de Rakt on 26 October, 2017

      Translating by machines is never an option, in my opinion. I think you really need a professional if you do not master the language yourself. In many European countries, people speak multiple languages because these countries have multiple official languages. In these cases, one is able to translate him/herself. Otherwise, you should hire a professional.

      • Abdul Muneeb
        By Abdul Muneeb on 26 October, 2017

        Okay, the same content in different languages can be used? Wouldn’t it spread duplicate content issues?

        • Kamil
          By Kamil on 26 October, 2017

          Someone asked this question before – below you can find the answer!

    • Kamil
      By Kamil on 26 October, 2017

      Maschine translation is not recommended if you really think about building relationship with your audience.

  6. Gavin Duff
    By Gavin Duff on 25 October, 2017

    Why not have Option 4? Use the SEO community at your disposal and engage with knowledgeable SEO copywriters in your target markets in order to have this content created for you?

  7. Shantanu Sinha
    By Shantanu Sinha on 25 October, 2017

    Hello Marieke,

    Great piece of information over here :)

    Nowadays people just do not want to sit and do business in their own city or country, but with the power of Internet they want to cross the boundaries and sell their products world wide. Thus there are many countries who has their own language and if one wants to sell their products into their country then they should know how to use the foreign language, so that people over there buy from them too.

    This is very important to know the keyword search analogy, which the foreign people use when they want to search out for similar product, this might be same in American countries while it may differ in the French countries.

    We should be very accurate in translating our content because it can cause our reputation. We need to get us a native speaker who can speak that tongue easily and can help us going on in this situation.

    Thanks for the share.

    Shantanu.

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 25 October, 2017

      Thanks for your comment, Shantanu. You should indeed put your heart and soul in translating your content. If you can’t do it yourself, hire a respectable, professional translator who can do it for you. Quality matters!

  8. mizikisa
    By mizikisa on 25 October, 2017

    i have a website targeted to sout african audience but for some reasons traffic comes to my website from germany and my website is in english. i am thinking of catering for the german audience too but translating my blog posts seems like a lot of work.
    i am thinking if i can use a good multilingual plugins to handle this as my website is on wordpress.
    Any suggestions?

    • Tatiana
      By Tatiana on 25 October, 2017

      Hi Mizikisa,

      I am now in the middle of creating a website with 2 languages: English and Dutch. First the content was created in English and now we are translating it with a help of a professional translator to Dutch. The reason is that it is not only important to translate the content, but it also has to read well in the other language. Plugins might not pick up on the differences and cultural aspects, which are very important. So I would suggest to look for a translator.

  9. rizkart
    By rizkart on 25 October, 2017

    This is amazing info. I actually choose the same strategy at my website .

  10. Icho
    By Icho on 24 October, 2017

    Thank you very much for these useful tips! I just installed Grammarly browser extension, it’s really helpful

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 25 October, 2017

      Great to hear, Icho!

  11. Sam R
    By Sam R on 24 October, 2017

    Fantastic post here, was a great read! I truly believe that there are huge opportunities in non-English speaking geos that many people are not taking advantage of. Professional translation is not that expensive compared to the benefits you could get out of it!

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 25 October, 2017

      Thanks for the compliments, Sam. And you’re right, there are loads of opportunities out there, just waiting for you to jump on them.

  12. sarah
    By sarah on 24 October, 2017

    Great post, thx a lot!

    There is one suggestion I would like to make. With the current Yoast Premium Plugin it is not possible to add multiple properties in Google search console. When using different domains for each language (e.g. English > .com and German > .de) one property for each domain/language is necessary. It would be awesome if this feature could be realized through the Yoast Premium Plugin in the future. This would save owners/admins of multilingual sites a lot of work and time :)

  13. EmRatThich Table Tennis Coach
    By EmRatThich Table Tennis Coach on 24 October, 2017

    Google understands the content in several languages. Should the translation of the same content be considered as a “duplicated content”? Do you have some example study case about this, Yoast?

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 25 October, 2017

      No, translated content is not considered duplicate content.

  14. Marcin
    By Marcin on 24 October, 2017

    What if we wanted to create German and Swiss versions with the same content? We need to suppress German to German? Would it be better to create duplicate content and give other hreflang tags?


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