5 Tips to Save Cost for International SEO
Building and running a well-oiled website doesn’t come cheap. Having multiple websites in different languages and targeting different countries could cost you loads of $$$. It makes you wonder how to possibly manage and optimize all these websites! Before you pull out all your hair, read these 5 cost-saving tips for International SEO (search engine optimization).
Website design and optimization cost:
The designing and setting up of the websites perhaps has the biggest cost-saving opportunities. Having global websites doesn’t mean that you need to create all websites from scratch. That is true even when you decide to use different ccTLDs (country code top-level domain) or domains for each website. You can save big by using the same website structure, webpage templates, and CMS (content management system). By launching global sites using the optimized core (or parent) site structure and all page templates used, you won’t need to optimize them multiple times for the individual languages.
Using the same websites and webpage templates don’t mean that you should ignore the local needs for certain adjustments. In some countries, they write from right to left. Some languages such as Chinese and Japanese are written with double-byte characters. It means that each character, in those languages, takes up the equivalent of 2 alphabet letter spaces. Unless you adjust the font size for double-byte character languages, those characters would often appear too large. In some cases, the characters overlap or not displayed correctly when the text space and line space are rigidly designed. The impact is more apparent when compared to the non-monospace font. Create a different CSS (cascading style sheets) set for lower font sizes for these unique language sites.
IT and website operation cost:
Most operational and website management activities do not require local language skills, and don’t need to be conducted in each country. This is especially true if you choose to take my first tip and use the same website structure and templates. The manpower used for individual sites can eat up a huge piece of your global website operation budget. By centralizing the work, you can expect massive cost reductions.
Creating and updating a robots.txt file and XML sitemap files are some of the simpler activities that you can centralize immediately. Some of the tag settings such as canonical tag and Hreflang tags can also be managed centrally. You can also set how meta description and title tags are generated, but be sure to make them editable by the local team.
Because your central IT team now has a complete view of all websites, they may be able to diagnose more duplicate content efforts. They may even find some action items that are implemented on some websites, but not on others.
Content translation and localization
Having the entire site translated is costly. Having the site translated into multiple languages would take up another huge chunk of your budget. It is also unfortunate that in many cases, you will need to spend even more money to edit and polish up the translated text. This is especially the case with certain languages such as Japanese, which has multiple levels of politeness depending on your business and target audience.
One way to reduce the cost is to provide a set of keywords or glossary list for each language that you’d like them to use when translating. Since many words have multiple translations in other languages, this will also help reduce the amount of edit work you need to do after the initial translation.
For this keyword research, focus on the tier 1 keywords, and key terms used in your taxonomy. You may also want to include some of the common words used in the product descriptions and information. For example, the English word “price” is typically translated as “価格”, “値段” or “料金” in Japanese. Each of them is used in search depending on the types of products or services. By having the right version of “price” in your product description, you are already optimized for “price of xxxx” format of search queries.
Repurpose the same language content – Edit for each country as needed
Because many global websites are managed separately in each country, oftentimes the content is translated locally by different translation companies, a site for Spain is translated in Spain, while a site in Mexico is translated in Mexico, and a site for Argentina is translated in Argentina. It is important to make each site as local as possible, the adjustment can be done during the editing stage. By translating the content into Spanish once, then localizing it in each country, businesses can save a substantial amount of their translation budget. If you are a US company, you may be doing this already when creating sites for other English language countries such as UK and Australia. You don’t translate it again into English, but localize it for each country by changing the spelling, currency, metrics, etc. You can apply the same idea to other languages such as French, German, Italian, and Spanish.
If your CMS is set to create a “parent-children” relationship, be sure to set it so that when a parent content is updated, it won’t wipe out optimized content on local sites. This is usually a matter of checking or unchecking a box in the settings. When not managed, simple problems like this happen, resulting in the erasing of the local team’s optimization work and creating more work for them. This often results in the local teams rejecting the idea of centralized SEO management, and “run-off” with their own external sites.
Clarify and detail SEO action items that must be done locally
There are countless action items that go into SEO work involving multiple departments and people. Just like the IT and translation work I mentioned above, there are many other tasks that are duplicated unnecessarily. This happens even when a company tried to centralize some of the work. It’s best to create a policy, or at least a checklist of action items, and responsible areas specifying what is centralized and what needs to be done locally.
In many cases, the local teams have much smaller resources available for SEO related work. By centralizing these activities, you can free them to work on critical SEO items that need to be done locally while saving money.
Many of these points require pre-planning to maximize the savings. But you can consolidate or centralize many of these tasks related to SEO anytime. By doing so, you can also speed up the SEO process in many cases. Discuss the task allocation with the local teams. The last thing you want to do is to create a process that doesn’t allow the local team to make necessary optimization work that is unique to each country. Invest some of the savings back into the local SEO projects by adding resources and providing the tools. They are more likely to accept the change when they see how it benefits them locally.
*This article was originally published in the Search Engine Journal in March 2018.