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  • Top 10 Fatal Localisation Mistakes

    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.

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. No local server. You need a German server to rank high in Google for Germany. The difference is substantial.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.

    I help people with blogs, social media & search. I help you succeed on the Web. I've been online publishing for 15 years. I started back in 1997.

    13 Responses to “Top 10 Fatal Localisation Mistakes”

    1. Flowcomm says:

      This is a really interesting article. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    2. P. Balemans says:

      Good advice. But I am missing one very common mistake: not hiring a professional translator. There are plenty of people who think that just because they can speak a second language “reasonably well” and because they are a native speaker of the source language, they can provide you with a good translation. But a good translation is much more than a text without grammatical and spelling errors (and you would be surprised by now many native speakers are unable to write a text in their native language without grammatical and spelling errors). Being a native speaker of the target language is not enough: the translator should also have a thorough knowledge of the source language to be able to understand all the subtleties of a text and to be able to convey them in the target language.

    3. Bryan Coe says:

      I definitely agree with P. Balemans. After working for US companies in Germany and German companies in the USA, I am still shocked at how many companies think they can just have one of there staff translate their material who maybe speaks the target language of the new market. The only way to truly localize for a foreign market is to know the field as well as the business and social cultures of the target market. Sometimes companies fall pray to these issues because of ignorance, arrogance or the attempt to cut costs. Doing it right the first time will give you a much better chance to succeed…

    4. david H says:

      We work with both US companies in Germany and German companies in the US and you are correct, not only are it appropriate to have the site converted, but to have it done in local vernacular is equally as important. The language use ever day is very different then text book languages, the only way to navigate and speak that you are locally connected is to get a proper translation. With out getting local translations, you will most likely struggle in your new expanded markets.

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    7. Great advice..according to me, every company that wishes to undertake business in an other country must register under a local domain. It really helps in case of search engines like Google that have the option of searching for local pages.

    8. Excellent post!
      A local translator is important. For example, Spanish community is represented for many countries, so a simple translation can produce many mistakes because a word can have different meaning in Spain, Argentina or Mexico. In my experience, a local domain makes really the difference.

    9. Diego says:

      I´m glad language is seen as a major aspect of success. My site is about language and I take care of that issue almost everyday.

    10. Fast-Free says:

      Anyone know of a good service to check translation. I wanted to make a site in another language, but I am not sure how much I can trust auto translate.

    11. [...] Top 10 Fatal Localization Mistakes – SEOptimise [...]

    12. james says:

      This is all true – its always worth spending the extra money and planning ahead by securing your local domain names up front if there is a possibility to expland into different territories later.

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