Another year, and another trip to ionSearch, a web optimisation conference up in Leeds, UK. This time sadly a brief visit, just the Thursday and only the latter half of it. You can probably still get a sense of what’s been happening via the #ionsearch hash tag.
Multi-lingual Sites and Geo-Location
Given that we operate in both the UK and Switzerland, many of the issues are familiar:
- Adapting content to different territories isn’t something that should be left to the end of a build process, but should be paid attention to right from the word go.
- Translation absolutely must not be left to automated translators (see above for an example of what can go wrong!)
- Understanding culture is a key part of moving content from one territory to another – you need people on the ground who live the culture day in and day out, and they need to be your people, people that you have hired, trained and built up a solid relationship with.
Andy Atkins Kruger gave a great example of a practice they follow of simply taking a screengrab of an organisation’s item of content in a foreign territory and highlighting issues with its localisation. He gave a great example of an American Airlines UK-specific page which referred to “Chapter 11” and “unaccompanied minors” – both very US-focused terms, and both ones which needed to be adapted for the UK.
Both Aleyda Solis and Andy Atkins Kruger (and the others speakers whose names I didn’t pick up) made a separate very important point, that preparing and adapting content for multi-lingual sites, particularly from an optimisation perspective can be fiendishly complex. Should you use geo-location, and if so how? What about the value of Google Webmaster Tools and its definition of location? What about the influence of the sources of links and shares on Google’s perception of which territory a website is relevant to? All important, and all in need of consideration.
One issue in particular which they all agreed upon was this: don’t automatically redirect your visitors based upon their geo-location, i.e. don’t detect that someone from the UK is viewing the French version of your site and automatically redirect them: it’s an unnerving experience for one thing, and search engine crawlers don’t always originate from the territory you want them to (so if they all originate from the US they only end up crawling US-facing content).
What you should do is use geo-location to helpfully and elegantly suggest to visitors that there is a version of the content in a language which they might prefer. www.amazon.com do this well:
Speaking on E-Commerce
Later in the day, I spoke on a panel discussing “Speaking on E-Commerce” with Rob Hughes of homejames.co.uk, Gerry White, and Paul Rogers of GPMD. It was my bright idea not to have a whole slew of slides but just to answer a set of questions. It all seemed to go well, hopefully people found it useful. Really interesting discussion all round.
Finally, I saw Martin Mcdonald give an interesting talk about how “he was giving up SEO”. His talk was actually about how the world of search engine optimisation has a perception issue: the wider public perceive search optimisation as a spamming activity, but the industry (such that it is) has moved on (primarily because of actions taken by search engines it has to be said) and is now focusing much more around quality content.
Here at Refined Practice we’ve never followed the actions he discussed that many search optimisers used to follow, we’ve always been totally focused on building a brand and its presence using fair and ethical means. It was an eye-opening to hear about some of the practices people used to follow! Good to see marketers more generally moving towards quality content as the main driver of interest.
All in all, a useful and interesting little trip, a good conference and one I can heartily recommend.