As a German SEO Consultant I worked with UK and US SEO companies and other clients on many internationalisation or localisation projects in recent months. The international sites we tried to optimise in many cases failed to compete with even much smaller local competitors. Also the SEO measures undertaken were far from sufficient due to structural limitations of these projects.
Thus I want to introduce 10 most common fatal localization mistakes English language sites face when entering other markets.
- No local domain, instead using internationalcompany.com and having no local domain like .fr for France, .de for Germany or .pl for Poland. Thus everybody will link to the .com domain and the non-English speaking audience will bounce off it before finding the small flag in the right top corner. In the meantime a domain grabber will make big bucks off your brand.
- Translating before doing local market research. Ever tried selling beef in India? Or freedom fries in France? Not all mistakes are that easy to spot. Nonetheless most companies just translate their sites without even taking a look at what a new market demands.
- No local server. You need a German server to rank high in Google for Germany. The difference is substantial.
- Translation full of grammatical and spelling errors. I’m astounded how many business sites fail at that and how bad. Nobody will trust you if you can’t even spell correctly trying to sell something. Hire a translator who is a native speaker of the language you want to localize to and actually lives there not someone living next door.
- Setting up a completely new domain for a new country days before you enter the market. Basically you should register the most common international domains months or years before you enter the markets. It might be gone already later and you risk ending up in the Google sand box not being acknowledged as an authority and thus not ranking.
- Being far too late on the market. I’m still amazed by the companies which need months or years to offer a product or service in Germany fisrt offered in the US. Why give away 100 million German speaking potential customers to copycats and local businesses? Coming too late (like Facebook in Germany or eBay in Poland) means you will probably never be the leader on the market.
- Not having a local address or representation. With the rise of local search and a plethora of local websites and services that replaced directories you won’t even get a link without a proper address.
- Not offering payment via PayPal or other locally accepted or wide spread payment methods. Unlike in the US e.g people in Germany don’t use credit cards much.
- Broken character sets: Recently I joined several ad networks and affiliate networks and those sites which were translated had in many cases broken German “Umlauts”. In most cases I will leave such a site.
- No local blog. If you do not have a “company interface” in a local language you won’t reach the public. You rely solely on search engine traffic but you won’t get it for the reasons above for a while. No useful localized content means no local links. Without local links you won’t rank, even as an authority domain.
Are there more issues? Yes there are, but most sites fail to implement these localization basics. On the other hand: These 10 fatal mistakes are easily avoidable.