Who Leads the Global Web Strategy, Search Marketing Firms or Translation Companies?

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For years there has been dissociation between Translation/Web Globalization companies and Search Engine Marketing (SEM)/Search Engine Optimization (SEO) firms in term of Internet Marketing strategies. That gap finally seems to be getting closer, yet very few companies really understand the challenges or have the expertise needed to successfully assist their clients with their global web strategies.

Translation and Web Globalization Companies

On the one hand, Translation and Web Globalization companies have neglected to address important concepts of Search Marketing by not including the basics as part of their Web Globalization standards. For instance, in Lionbridge’s perspective on best practices and standards for Building a Global Web Strategy white paper, little to no consideration was given to SEO, Paid Placement (Paid Per Click also known as PPC), Paid Inclusion, Web Analytics and other important methods of Search Marketing. The following is an excerpt taken from the 9-page document recently mentioned:

Building a Global Web Strategy excerpt

As a mater of fact, by not creating clear definitions of basic terms such as SEM, a reader can get a confused view of the topic in discussion. It does not take much time and efforts to explain that there is a school of thought that defines SEM as Paid Per Click (PPC), and a different one that considers SEM as a form of Internet Marketing encompassing methods such as SEO, PPC and Paid Inclusion.

Additionally, Translation and Web Globalization companies focus their efforts on clickability and usability factors by covering branding, look and feel, content generation and publishing, and also provide guidance on technology for internationalization or localization processes.

However, equally important findability factors are relegated to a second level. A global website will not be as successful, should proper methods of Search Engine Optimization, Information Architecture or Paid Advertisement are not employed throughout the different stages of the site's life cycle.

The old idea of “if you build it, they will come” is no longer applicable, especially in competitive international markets.

Websites need to be found on the first pages of Search Engines' natural results or paid listings. Careful thought has to be given to keyword research, internal link structure, valid coding and other related subjects that will influence the performance of a site. Having great content in the local language created by local translators considering cultural aspects is not enough if the copy is not optimized with the most important keywords that people are searching for.

Since findability is not within the realm of expertise of Translation and Web Globalization companies, progressive organizations like Lionbridge partner with or suggest SEM/SEO firms to handle this part of the project.

Search Engine Marketing / Search Engine Optimization Firms

On the other hand, Localization, Internationalization and Web Globalization are not concepts that most Search Marketers are very familiar with.

In my personal experience, the majority of Search Engine Optimizers and/or PPC specialists don’t understand cultural factors that influence multilingual keyword research like with tilded words, know what a translation memory is, or have the necessary experience to deal with the complexity of languages from around the world. There are exceptions to this rule though.

This is an example of an old-fashion approach from a firm that still provides Spanish and International SEO services:

SEO Firm offering Spanish SEO services

What caught my attention was the following paragraph:

Doing business on the Spanish web is not about interacting with Spanish-speaking natives in their language but rather bringing them to your website to do business with you in English!

Apparently some people are stuck in this type of old commonwealth thinking regarding English as the predominant language. Or simply, they just don't get the concept of localization or Multilingual SEO.

In the words of a commentator in the recent interview with Aaron Wall about International SEO and Global Search,

It is great that the big industry gurus are now focusing on multilingual issues and seeing the importance that multilingual websites will have in the immediate future, now that USA is not the country with more internet users.

Indeed, the potential that global markets present to the Search Marketing industry is growing rapidly. Large corporations and medium size companies are already investing in Multilingual Paid Search as indicated by Marketing Serpha in the Website Globalization Report 2007. Their findings to a survey of 1,939 Multinational and International Marketers show that 33% of Business-to-Business (B2B) respondents were already using Multilingual Adwords or a comparable service and 17% of them were planning to do it in the next 12 months. Meanwhile, 31% of the Business-to-Consumers (B2C) respondents stated they were using Multilingual Adwords or a similar service and 27% of them plan to do so within the next 12 months.

Important events such as Search Engine Strategies (SES) and Search Marketing Expo (SMX) Advance have special sessions that discuss International SEO, Localization and Global Search from a Search Marketing perspective.

The latest of these sessions was Global Search for the B2B SEM session at SES San Jose 2008. Virginia Nussey, from Bruce Clay Inc, in a recent blog entry described the presentation of Patricia Hursh, President of SmartSearch Marketing, who emphasized the need for

localization more than simple translation of websites.

Hursh also suggested running Paid Per Click campaigns to measure more accurately the effectiveness of each language.

Nussey also mentioned in her post that Kevin Lee, Executive Chairman & Co-founder of Didit talked about challenges that International Search presents in terms of currency, selection of vendors and other issues directly related to B2B.

In that same session, Virginia wrote, Jeffrey Pruitt, President, SEMPO and Vice president, iCrossing mentioned

It is expected that the B2B SEM will double in the next four years to $8 billion.

According to Nussey, Pruitt also talked about a couple of trends that are affecting Search Marketing, Mobile Search and Social Media.

Even though Search Marketers have not reached a deep understanding of Translation, Localization, Internationalization and Web Globalization, there has been progress made through ongoing discussions to better equipped them with global web strategies.

Final Thoughts on Global Web Strategies

There is still work that needs to be done to reduce the breach between Search Marketers and translators, but we all are moving in the right direction. No longer are the Search Marketing discussions focused only on translation, nor do the most important translation companies fail to acknowledge the importance of Search Marketing.

Search Marketing methods should be incorporated in the planning process and be part of the global strategy since its inception. In fact, Search Marketing should be part of a well developed Global Marketing and Sales strategy and act as an extension of Global Marketing, instead of being an isolated area of the organization.

A comprehensive combination of best practices in SEM/SEO and Translation/Web Globalization is needed for a successful global web strategy. It will be crucial for achieving satisfactory results to rely on the expertise of both vendors.

Successful Web Globalization projects require more than clickability and usability factors to succeed. An optimum balance between the right amount of traffic and good conversion rates will be ultimately an indicator of an strategy well executed.

Depending on the size of the global web strategy, and based on the goals and objectives of the organization, a shared-centralized approach to translation and Search Marketing will be the best. This is more relevant if the project requires high levels of local cultural and communication understanding as well as of extensive knowledge of local search technologies.

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