SEO translations presentation ATA 61

Last week, I gave a presentation during the ATA 61st Annual Conference on the topic Translating for Man and Machine: The Art and Craft of Search Engine Optimized Translations. Over the past years, international SEO has become an increasingly important part of my translation practice. There’s a growing demand for multilingual content that not only appeals to the target audience, but also captures the attention of search engines. After all, the best website won’t help you sell your products or services if it has no traffic.

In my presentation for the American Translators Association, I explored the following topics:

  1. What is SEO and international SEO (iSEO)?
  2. Which opportunities exist for translators in this area, and what skills do they need to bring to the table?
  3. How does the optimized translation process differ from regular translation?

As promised, the slides to my presentation about SEO translation are now available for download. They include a clickable list of tools I mentioned during my presentation, as well as some recommended resources for learning more about this topic.

International SEO Best Practices

Due to time limitations, we were unable to go into detail about the various elements that need to be optimized to ensure (international) SEO success. Therefore, I recorded a supplemental video explaining the on-page optimization process in more detail. In this video, you will find out what you need to focus on besides content when implementing an international SEO strategy, and learn best practices for optimizing:

  • title tags
  • meta descriptions
  • heading tags

I also included an overview of what a typical SEO translation or multilingual content creation workflow looks like.

Questions about specializing in international SEO

Thanks to the virtual format of this year’s ATA Conference, I was able to receive everyone’s questions in the chat. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to address all of them in the live webinar, so I’d like to answer any remaining questions here.

Q: Do you need certification for ISEO, and what SEO certification would you recommend?

A: I liken this to working as a translator – certification is not required, but it certainly helps demonstrate to potential clients that you know your stuff. If you have years of experience from “learning by doing,” credentials in related fields, and samples to prove your success, then certification is just icing on the cake. But if you’re just starting out and trying to build a client base, you may want to invest in some formal training.

Google does not provide any certification for SEO; however, it offers some useful courses for beginners through Google Digital Unlocked, such as Fundamentals of digital marketing and Make sure customers find you online, which include search engine optimization basics.

I can personally recommend the Coursera course Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialization through UC Davis, which offers a sharable certificate at the end.

If you’re a self-taught SEO practitioner and just want something to prove your expertise to the world, you can take a free online certification exam through SEMRush Academy to earn your credential.

Q: How do you become a certified copywriter?

A: I took an online course through the German Association of Professional Copywriters (Bundesverband Professioneller Werbetexter Deutschlands), which consisted of 10 lessons and a final exam. Depending on your target language, there may be similar programs available in your country.

Q: How do you charge for ISEO services?

A: I usually charge hourly or by project. I typically calculate an hour per page for keyword research, analysis, and mapping. In the beginning, you may need (significantly) more time, but you should become faster with practice. For projects involving keyword research/analysis, content creation, and optimization of metadata, I charge a flat fee (again per page).

Q: Which tool do you use?

A: I use a variety of tools, depending on the job. I typically start with Google Keyword Planner and just Google Search for inspiration and go from there. I often check Answer the Public for ideas, too. For checking keyword volumes and values, my preferred tool is Ubersuggest (subscription version). However, I also work with SEMRush, Ryte, and a few other tools, typically when a client provides access. For multilingual content optimization, these tools offer basically the same functionalities, so choose the one you like best.

Q: What is the QA process for ISEO?

A: This depends on whether you work for an agency or directly for the end client. Agencies typically have their own SEO experts, who will verify keyword suggestions on their end and offer suggestions for improvement where applicable. Their SEO teams are often monolingual and will only be able to check the SEO data, not language-specific relevancy of keywords in the target market.

Direct clients will trust you to be the expert regarding relevancy, volume, and value of your suggestions, but they may have in-country resources in the target market weighing in on the relevancy of suggested keywords.

SEO translations or multilingual content will usually undergo a review process just like a regular translation would, but the reviewer will have SEO knowledge and pay close attention to things such as keyword placement, sentence length and structure, readability, and other best practices for web writing.

Q: How do you measure competition for keywords?

There are three different metrics to measure competition:

Ubersuggest screenshot showing the importance of various metrics for international SEO

  • CPC (Cost per Click, red arrow): This indicates the suggested bid for a certain keyword in the paid ads of search results. The higher the suggested bid, the more valuable this keyword promises to be – people are willing to pay a lot for it because it offers a high chance of conversion (the user will take the desired action). This value goes from a couple of cents to dozens of dollars. (Find out what the 20 most expensive keywords in Google AdWords Advertising are!)
  • PD (Paid Difficulty, blue arrow): This value indicates how hard it is for a keyword to rank in a paid search. The higher the value, the higher the competition, i.e., the more difficult it is to rank with this keyword.
  • SD (SEO Difficulty, green arrow): This metric indicates how hard it is for a keyword to rank in the organic search results. Again, the higher the value, the more competition, and the less chance you’ll make it to the top with this keyword. When optimizing content, aim for an SD value under 30.

Q: How would SEO be affected if Google is broken up by antitrust suits?

A: The monopoly battle involving Google could take years. In the meantime, Google is likely to continue what it’s been doing, which is working to provide users the best possible search experience. There will be continued algorithm updates, and anyone working in SEO needs to have their finger on the pulse of these developments. However, with various lawsuits looming against the Internet giant, other search engines are likely to improve their technology and try to get a piece of the pie. In the United States, Bing could increase its market share, so SEOs – whether translators or content writers – need to keep their eyes open and be prepared to learn more about the signals that influence rankings in other search engines.

Do you still have more questions? Don’t hesitate to e-mail me at

About the author - Marion Rhodes

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