¿Hablas SEO? We metro-ites in New York may think the buck stops here, but the real world (of which 95% exists outside the United States, thank you) stretches far beyond. Steak’s little answer to this microcosmic conundrum? Jesus Mendez.
Ladies and gents: Meet Steak’s Spanish-speaking SEO pro, here to solve all your Spanish search problems (well, almost). Today we’re talking optimizing websites in a foreign language, or more specifically, Spanish-speaking markets.
1. Before we get into the whole so how do you do it sermón, let’s make one thing clear: This population is no joke. As this study shows, with 136 million Spanish-speaking Internet users worldwide, Spanish ranks third worldwide in both content and users on the Web, just behind Chinese’s 383 million users and English’s 478 million. The Association of Spanish Language Academies also found that by 2050, 10% of the world will speak Spanish, with the largest Spanish-speaking country none other than … the United States.
So how exactly do you optimize foreign language sites? Relax, niño. The answer to all your problems is in this little blog post.
2. Why would a company optimize its website for Spanish?
JM: Two reasons why a company would add Spanish content are: 1) if they are opening properties around the world in say, Latin America or Spain or 2) because the Spanish population in the U.S. is growing exponentially. There is a huge market and money to be made by advertising in the native language of a population. A lot of Spanish speakers in the U.S. are not fluent in English.
3. To optimize a site for Spanish, you have many choices to target, right?
JM: Right, you have:
- English websites with a Spanish component, if companies create a section and optimize (see below).
- Spanish companies with English-Spanish sites. You’d apply the same SEO practices here, but with caution of translator programs because they miss many nuances and often get things wrong (see below, again).
- Straight foreign language sites: sites based in foreign countries vying to rank on Google’s 100+ foreign-language or -dialect search engines like Google Mexico, Google Argentina, Google Columbia.
4. So, SEO for Google’s 100+ foreign language search engines: same practices?
JM: Yes, same SEO principles, just translate correctly. Culture plays a huge role though. In Mexican Spanish, we’re taught formal Spanish but the majority of Spanish speakers use informal Spanish—especially in search: Keyword research proves it.
For example, tu (informal “you”) is used instead of usted (formal “you”), so keywords need to target informal Spanish because that’s what people use to search. Even a five-star hotel should target informal Spanish. But while users don’t use formal Spanish … online translation programs do.
5. Why else wouldn’t online translation programs work?
JM: Translator programs give you proper Spanish. They don’t take into consideration different dialect. There’s definitely a human factor to building strategies for different countries.
If you have to use a translator program like Google Translate, Babel Fish (Yahoo translator) due to budget constraints, you would get some benefits but the terms could be misleading. It wouldn’t be optimal.
6. According to Google, it has 681 million pages in Spanish, which ranks Spanish just behind 806 million in Chinesez and 9,890 million in English (see “Spanish on the Internet” study). Along those lines…
Do these foreign sites have less SEO competition with fewer websites in their language?
JM: They actually have it harder because they still compete with English sites in search engines. For example, Google.com.mx (Mexico) still lists plenty of American sites targeted to Spanish speakers.
7. How do dialects affect Spanish SEO?
JM: Well, in Mexican Spanish we call cake “pastel” but in the Dominican Republic, it’s “bizcocho.” Pastel in the DR is not a pastry at all; it’s a different kind of food. Without a human translator, you may not convey the right message or hit the right keyword for the Dominican Republic.
Translating between Castilian (dialect in Spain) and Latin American Spanish would just have an added component. You would have to look up dialects for Mexico and Spain, but also know the cultural and formal-use differences, which no online translation program could give you directly.
8. Do you think foreign language sites are up to par in SEO practices?
JM: They’re definitely not as up-to-date as we are in the U.S. The number of skilled SEO pros and SEO as an industry elsewhere is not as advanced as we are here. The biggest reason is that SEO originated in the United States, and it takes time to get that knowledge out to remaining countries.
9. You’ve worked in SEO and digital marketing for five years, with some major clients and considerable budgets. Have you seen more clients optimizing for foreign languages?
JM: I’ve worked both in-house and on the agency side, and I haven’t seen much focus on optimizing for foreign languages.
The thing is you don’t need a whole separate website. You can have a Spanish section, a Spanish subdomain, and that would benefit your English pages too.
What’s an example of this?
JM: Well, let’s say an English-speaking company creates a Spanish section on its website for its Spanish-speaking clients. But they never optimize that Spanish section because it’s not part of the overall strategy. That Spanish component could have 2,000 visitors a month, while the main site has 50,000 visitors a month. Creation without optimizing equals failure.
There are good business opportunities here. You’re not necessarily fighting for rank on Google Mexico because there’s huge Spanish-speaking population in the U.S. too. For example, typing in “abogado” (lawyer) would pull up mostly English and Spanish sites.
10. Any last tips on optimizing SEO for Spanish websites?
JM: A lot of companies don’t appreciate that Latin American countries speak different dialects. So you have to create and optimize sites for each, but you don’t need a different strategy for each Latin American country.
There are similarities between South America, the Caribbean and Mexico. If you group by region, you can facilitate an optimization strategy.