International Business Strategies

How to Localize SEO to Capitalize on Global Search Volume

Simply translating your website is not enough. Learn how to localize SEO efforts to take full advantage of the search volume global markets provide.

Nathan Lucas's avatar
Nathan Lucas

May 16, 2022


How do consumers find what they’re looking for? They rely on search engines to provide them with the best results for businesses. Google holds 91.94% of the total search engine market share, followed by Bing and Yahoo! This means if links to your business aren’t seen through Google, they may not be seen at all.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a digital marketing strategy that works to promote your website by placing links at the top of search engine result pages. SEO strategies boost website traffic by increasing the visibility of a web page to a search engine user. It is the art of ranking high on a search engine.  

SEO Translation vs. SEO Localization: The Key Differences

The best way to take advantage of SEO is to develop web pages around topics people are searching for that are relevant to your business. Expanding to other languages opens your site to the applicable terms people search for in other languages.

It’s not enough to just translate a page into another language to take full advantage of the SEO benefits though. To boost your website’s visibility, you must also pay attention to SEO localize SEOlocalization aspects such as meta titles and descriptions that are not normally considered with standard SEO translation 

What Is the Definition of Localization?
Localization is similar to translation but takes it a step further. Localization doesn’t translate text into another language word for word. Instead, localization is a comprehensive process of adapting content for a target market or locale. Because the material communicates directly to the viewer, localization produces an engaged audience.

SEO translation translates your website’s content to rank effectively in search results in any language. SEO Localization means adapting website content with a locale in mind. Therefore, SEO localization refers to targeting a country or region by making your website relatable. In addition, it requires paying attention to every possible cultural reference or linguistic nuance that can result in audience engagement.

For example, we assume the word “popcorn” would be translated into Spanish in one, straightforward way. That’s not the case, however. Almost every Spanish-speaking country translates popcorn differently. In Mexico, they say “palomitas.” In Spain, it’s “tostón.” Cubans say rositas de maíz” and in Uruguay, it’s just “pop.” Those are just four translations for popcorn – there are many more. In this case, the direct translation isn’t enough because SEO depends on capitalizing on the terms people search for, which can be different depending on where they’re located. 

Addressing the 3 Pillars of SEO

While there are three pillars supporting SEO, translation touches mainly on the “on-page” SEO pillar. On-page SEO describes how search engines like Google or Bing view your website’s content to rank them accordingly. This means that what you have on your website (words, videos, graphics, etc.) will impact how your website is ranked on these search engines. Off-page SEO includes strategies to drive traffic to your website. Finally, technical SEO ensures a website meets the technical requirements of search engines. 

Translating website content develops on-page relevancy but can’t complete the task of optimizing on-page content. Translation alone will contribute to improvements in organic visibility, however, you have to dig deeper to localize your SEO content to take full advantage of the massive potential global audiences provide.

Localizing On-Page Content for SEO 

Translation and localization are relevant to the on-page pillar of SEO. Translating your content adds relevant keyword density and allows you to communicate with global audiences comfortably. However, translation alone won’t adjust everything on-page. Therefore, a strong SEO strategy also includes localization of meta titles and descriptions, alt text, and target keywords in order to satisfy search intent properly and take full advantage of the search volume around preferred keywords. 

Keyword Research 

Keyword research is a crucial part of SEO. High-ranking keywords in one language may not be as useful in another. When you convert your website into another language, your keywords and titles may lose their capacity to rank effectively. So, you’ll have to research which keywords people use to find your website. This research also allows you to determine search intent, deciphering which pages are ranking for specific keywords, such as a blog, product/service page, or homepage. Once you’ve set the keywords in your language, it’s time to localize them to other target languages since search habits differ from culture to culture. This allows your site to take full advantage of the keywords that drive the most traffic to your site.


Complete localization dives into the HTML of the website and allows you to adjust the meta title and description of each of your pages. This is incredibly important as it is the preview of text users see on Google when they are searching. If you can get their attention through relevant titles and descriptions, viewers are likely to choose your site over a competitor’s. Well-written, catchy meta descriptions attract readers and potential customers to click on your page. When they are translated and localized properly, they sound more authentic which helps global users trust your site enough to earn their click.

Image and Alt-Text Localization

Image alt text (or alternative text) are short descriptions (about 125 characters) of images on a web page. Translating images also impact SEO since Google utilizes this text and the context of the page to understand what images to display in the image search results. Having translated alt text allows images to pop up in image searches in the language of your target audience. 

Another factor influencing image translation and localization is overlay text. Rather than text being hidden, as alt-text is, overlay text is visible. If all of the text on your website is translated, but the text over the images is not, it can confuse users of multilingual websites. It’s better to separate text from images to be translated more efficiently.


Technical Optimizations

Advanced technical adjustments should also be considered for a multilingual website to enhance organic search engine visibility. Translating alone does not address the technical adjustments here, so they’re necessary to localize for SEO success.

Hreflang Tags

Hreflang Tags are an HTML attribute used by Google to specify a web page’s language and geographical targeting. This allows webmasters to help search engines show the correct version of a page in different languages. For example, if you have a version of a page in both English and Spanish, hreflang tags designate which page Google should display based on a user’s geographic location and preferred language they use in a search. This creates a better user experience for those searching in that specific language and country and is only addressed with SEO localization rather than translation.

Sitemaps & URL Structure 

Sitemaps and URL structure are also considerations for SEO benefits when localizing your website. A Sitemap is a list of web pages created so your web content can be found easily by search engines to see the newest pages on a website or all the web pages together, including all images, video content, etc. It’s essential to update your sitemap to include the local versions of web pages so relevant search engines pick them up.

URLs are the building blocks of your website and, when optimized, can help increase your website traffic. Clean URLs perform better in search, appear more trustworthy, and make sharing easier. A multilingual URL structure indicates that the website is targeted to a specific country, users, and search engines. For multilingual web pages, each particular website version should have a language-country code in the URL. For example, “” signifies the English version, and “” signifies the French version of a website.


Canonical tags help Google and other search engines understand which pages have original content and which pages are duplicates. This establishes the proper authority and ranking of the original content without penalizing it for having a duplicate page elsewhere. Language pages should have self-referencing canonicals. If they are not set up correctly, you can get international targeting errors that will affect how pages appear in search results. 

Off-Page Adjustments

Translation and localization primarily affect on-page and technical pillars. However, there are some considerations when thinking about backlinking.

Multilingual Backlinking

Backlinks, also called inbound or incoming links, are links from other websites to your own. They demonstrate to users and search engines that other websites vouch for your content, increasing its credibility. Because backlinking represents a sort of “vote of confidence,” it’s essential to focus on high-quality, relevant backlinks that are earned, not bought. For example, suppose a search engine such as Google recognizes that relevant, authoritative sites are referencing yours. In that case, that’s a positive signal that Google can trust your site and reward you with higher rankings.

Localization is not directly relevant to backlinking. However, you want to ensure that links referenced in a foreign language are being directed to the correct matching language URL.

You’ll also need to pay attention to external links within your content since you’ll likely link out to sites in the source language. Adjusting external links to websites in the translated language establishes continuity throughout your site.

SEO Localization Can Be Difficult; Let Us Handle It!

Having translated and localized web pages can set your business up for success in the global marketplace. If you combine that with a focus on SEO,  you’ll look at every aspect of your website even deeper and build it up to speak to all of your potential customers authentically. SEO localization can seem tricky, but partnering with a localization company like MotionPoint can help you form a strategy and guide you through the process for SEO localization success. 

Last updated on May 16, 2022
Nathan Lucas's avatar

About Nathan Lucas

Nathan Lucas is a web developer who enjoys bringing to life the ideas and concepts of the marketing and sales team. If they can dream it, he can build it. When he’s not working, he enjoys being a husband and father, adventures in the great outdoors, fitness, and art!

Nathan Lucas's avatar
Nathan Lucas

Digital Marketing Developer


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