The Do’s and Don’ts of International Content Localization

Post by Cara Hebert, SEO Analyst

While global SEO as a whole can provide tremendous value for international businesses, international localization goes well beyond the generic campaign and should express an understanding of local behaviors, preferences and cultural habits. Successful localization can translate into increased leads, conversions and revenue through the simple process of understanding the customer. Here are some quick “do’s” and “don’ts” in understanding international localization:

Don’t: Use translations without understanding cultural significance

Localization is NOT translation. The Internet is full of marketing horror stories in which companies simply translated a current campaign without checking the local implications. For example:

The American Dairy Association

In English: “Got Milk?”

In Spanish: “Are you lactating?”

Perdue Chicken

In English: “It takes a tough man to make a chicken tender.”

In Spanish: “It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused.”


In English: “Turn it loose.”

In Spanish: “Suffer from diarrhea.”

If this is what can go wrong with only one line of text, imagine the problems that could ensue from translating an entire site!

Don’t: Chose keywords with high search volume just because

Localization is also not just keyword research. While every marketing campaign should have a data-driven approach, simply typing keywords into Google AdWords isn’t enough. Each keyword should be thoroughly researched to ensure that the meaning remains the same and that there are no missed keywords. Generally, if a keyword has unusually high search volume that seems too good to be true, it’s not true.

For example, when American-based Colgate tried to launch its new toothpaste “Cue” in France, the translation worked perfectly and search volume was high. However, “cue” was unfortunately already the name of an infamous porn magazine. While Colgate most likely didn’t offend a large amount of customers, the name affiliation between the two certainly didn’t help.

Do: Research local competitors in each market

International localization does, however, entail deep competitor research. The first step in this process is to identify local competitors within each market. While your company may be competing with other global enterprises, when conducting a competitor analysis for international localization, it’s best to target companies operating strictly within the market limits. These competitors will generally have a better understanding of native culture and therefore be targeting more locally relevant keywords.

Do: Demonstrate understanding of the customer

Rather than using a generic keyword in hopes that it is used universally, international localization demonstrates the importance of the customer through the research and understanding of each cultural market. By undertaking this process, companies are able to offer consumers a more relevant and seamless user experience, regardless of location.

As illustrated, a little research goes a long way, and you’ll find that international localization should always be at the base of your global SEO campaign.


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