Where does web localisation end and SEO begin?

Published on March 22nd, 2017


Most online businesses know they need search engine optimisation (SEO) to reach a wider audience. Web localisation, on the other hand, isn’t always such an obvious requirement for companies that want to maximise their reach.

This is strange for two reasons. First of all, web localisation is essential for engaging with audiences in a connected world and, secondly, the line between web localisation and SEO is rapidly fading away. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to know where website localisation ends and SEO begins in modern marketing.

Web localisation becomes a core element of marketing

While businesses worldwide have become obsessed with digital marketing over the last decade, it’s fair to say website localisation remained a more specialist practice. Just about every company on the face of the earth has jumped on the digital marketing bandwagon.

Meanwhile, website localisation and language services in general have been more popular in specific industries – like online gaming, healthcare, law and various others. The simple fact is many businesses, particularly the smaller ones, have been slow to pick up on the importance of localisation in building relationships with audiences.

However, things are changing. Brands that are looking to secure their future in an increasingly global market realise localisation needs to be a core part of their marketing strategy.

The great web localisation and SEO overlap

As digital marketing became more sophisticated it kind of gobbled up every other part of creating and maintaining a website. Now the design, development and optimisation of a website is very much part of the marketing process – as is localisation.

These practices overlap so much now that it can be hard to separate them and this is certainly the case for web localisation and SEO. Take a look at this list of localisation tasks and see how many of them overlap with search optimisation:


  • Audience research
  • Choose domain and URL structure
  • Choose web hosting
  • Create language selector
  • Use UFT-8 character set (HTML)
  • Optimise/localise code for maintenance
  • Declare language for each version of site (HTML)
  • Optimise titles and meta data for each language (HTML)
  • Localise visual content
  • Optimise visuals for each language – eg: alt descriptions, file names, etc. (HTML)
  • Identify (and translate) keywords
  • Localise currencies, measurements, dates, etc.
  • Localise landing pages
  • Multilingual content


That’s not a complete website localisation checklist but you can see every one of those tasks could be considered SEO. In fact, this “international SEO” checklist contains 56 tasks and every one of them could be considered website localisation respectively.

There is no international SEO without localisation

As soon as you start marketing to international audiences there is no SEO without web localisation. Language selectors, regional domains, multilingual content strategies, multilingual SEO and everything else you do to reach foreign-speaking audiences ties localisation and search optimisation together.

In fact, unless you plan to keep your business operating in one country only – and you happen to live in a very non-multicultural one – you’ll never maximise your reach without localisation guiding your search marketing efforts.

It’s not simply a question of languages and website translation services either. It’s as much about formatting your website, mobile applications and other owned platforms correctly. Get the coding (ie: software localisation wrong) and you’ll have serious problems ranking in search engines, app stores and other places people need to discover your brand.

Web localisation is about far more than translating the content on your pages. It’s about making sure your digital assets connect with audiences from all linguistic backgrounds and cultures, while maintaining performance across all of them.

So just as mobile optimisation, for example, is an essential part of SEO, programming and marketing in general, it’s key to web localisation once you open your site to foreign-speaking users.

We’re not trying to say website localisation and SEO are the same thing here – it’s a more complicated relationship than that. As with most things in marketing a modern business the overlap between different strategies means you can’t do one without the other. So don’t expect to get the most from search optimisation without localisation being a fundamental part of your marketing efforts – or vice versa.

Posted on: March 22nd, 2017