Savvy Diversification Series – Multilingual SEO: A booming niche for tech-savvy translators

The Savvy Newcomer team has been taking stock of the past year and finding that one key priority for many freelance translators and interpreters has been diversification. Offering multiple services in different sectors or to different clients can help steady us when storms come. Diversification can help us hedge against hard times.

With this in mind, we’ve invited a series of guest authors to write about the diversified service offerings that have helped their businesses to thrive, in the hopes of inspiring you to branch out into the new service offerings that may be right for you!

Finding your niche is a process. And sometimes, your niche finds you.

That’s how I came to be a specialist for search engine optimized (SEO) translations. Like many of us, I started my career in translation as a generalist, accepting any decent job that fit my English-German language pair. In the early years, I translated everything from a website for a surface coating manufacturer to juicy copy for some sort of BDSM series.

After a few years in the business, during which I became more immersed in the industry side of our profession through ATA conferences, webinars, and association memberships, I began to realize my passion and talent for creative translations. I narrowed my focus on marketing, advertising, and transcreation. That’s where I came across the need for multilingual SEO.

Rising demand for SEO in translation

A few years ago, I started receiving more inquiries for SEO translations. Some clients would simply ask for a list of keywords to be translated. Others wanted specific keywords included in the translations. Most of them provided little guidance, which made me curious about best practices in modern SEO content writing.

Before starting my translation career, I had spent about half a year as an SEO copywriter for an organic content marketing enterprise. At the time, SEO writing was very formulaic, and many practices employed then would be punished by Google and other search engines today. I knew I needed to catch up on current trends in search engine optimization, so I started immersing myself in the topic through books, webinars, and online courses.

I quickly realized that in many cases, both end customers and translation agencies had at best a basic understanding of SEO. As my expertise grew, I frequently ended up educating my clients about the finer nuances of SEO content writing.

About two years ago, I was contacted by a translation agency that had come across my LinkedIn profile. They were interested in bringing me on board for an account that included a lot of content marketing. Some of it would be transcreation, some would be original content writing, but almost all of it would include search engine optimization. Refreshingly, this agency was truly knowledgeable about SEO and even provided training for their translators. I’ve been working with them ever since, and it’s been one of my most fun and rewarding opportunities.

Need for qualified specialists

While working in this field, I noticed that there is a lack of truly qualified SEO translators. This is dangerous for the client, because incorrectly implemented SEO can result in the opposite of their desired effect: Instead of improving their search engine ranking, they will be penalized by the search engine or, in the worst case, removed completely from the results.

That’s why I decided to share my knowledge with my colleagues. I gave my first presentation at the BDÜ (German Translators Association) Conference in Bonn, Germany, in 2019, and the feedback was overwhelming. Last year, I presented a session at the ATA 61st Annual Conference, and again, it was obvious how much interest there is in this field. I currently offer an on-demand webinar for German speakers on the basics of multilingual SEO, and am in the process of creating two follow-up courses focusing on keyword localization and optimized writing.

Why SEO translations are different

SEO translation is so much more than simply plugging translated – or even transcreated – keywords into the final copy. It requires an understanding of keyword analysis, content marketing, and web writing.

Here are a few common mistakes and misconceptions surrounding multilingual SEO:

  • Translating or transcreating keywords without checking their relevancy in the target market. This requires the use of an SEO tool, such as Ubersuggest, Ahrefs or Semrush. The free Keyword Planner through Google Ads is only helpful to a limited extent, as it does not provide detailed search data. If you’re serious about offering SEO services, you won’t get far without a paid subscription of some sort.
  • Keyword stuffing. Modern SEO is no longer about using the same keyword or keyword phrase as often as possible on the page. In fact, this practice is now frowned upon by search engines and can lead to penalties.
  • Neglecting semantic optimization. Search engines have come a long way and are increasingly able to understand context and natural language. That is why well-optimized copy should include lots of synonyms, word variations and related terms to signal that the content is relevant to the search inquiry.
  • Ignoring the importance of meta elements. The content on a website is important, but to signal its relevancy to search engines, it also needs to have optimized meta elements. These include the page title, URL, ALT descriptions for images, and the meta description that is displayed in the search results listing.
  • Not optimizing for the right search engines. Yes, Google is the primary search engine across the globe, but not all countries use Google, and not all target groups within a country where Google is the market leader may prefer it. For example, Yandex is the leading search engine in Russia, and the largest search engine in China is Baidu. Microsoft’s Bing tends to be particularly popular among older audiences. And don’t forget that YouTube, Facebook, and Amazon are also search engines! Each search engine has its own algorithms and looks at different elements.
  • Writing paper prose for digital formats. People read differently on screen than they do on paper. That’s why web writing is its own art and science. It is designed for easy readability and requires an easily skimmable structure, short sentences and paragraphs, lots of subheaders, lists, etc.

Not all SEO writing is created equal

Even within SEO writing, there are differences. In addition to writing and translating optimized web copy and blog posts, I’ve recently started adapting English Amazon listings for the German market, which required me to learn yet another approach to SEO. For example, there are character restrictions to adhere to and keyword repetitions to avoid. In addition, Amazon has its own product listing guidelines that sellers need to follow.

One of the most important points about translating or writing multilingual SEO copy is that you must stay on top of the latest developments in the search engine world. What gets you on page one of Google today may cost you your ranking in a few months. Anyone interested in pursuing this niche needs to be willing to put in the time and effort to invest in continuous education and self-study.

Author bio

Marion Rhodes is an ATA-certified English to German translator, certified copywriter and multilingual SEO specialist. A native of Germany, she immigrated to the United States straight out of high school in 2001. Before starting her translation career, Marion worked as a reporter for the Omaha World-Herald in Nebraska and as a freelance writer for various English- and German-language news publications. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications. When she’s not crafting copy for her clients or volunteering for ATA, she can usually be found riding one of her two horses around her home in San Diego County. For more information, visit www.imctranslations.com.

Dear Savvy: Will I Go Broke as a Literary Translator?

If you read the first post in our new “Dear Savvy” series, on breaking into culinary translation, you might remember that our inbox has been graced by a number of thoughtful reader questions lately. In this new column, we provide answers to your questions by asking those who know best. In this case, we recruited literary translator Lisa Carter to respond to a reader question on the rumor that literary translators struggle to make a living. Whether you’re an aspiring literary translator or just curious about this specialization, read on!

Dear Savvy,

“I’m interested in literary translation, but I’ve heard you can’t really make a living off it—that it just doesn’t pay well. Is that true?”

– Leaning towards Literary

Great question! Unfortunately, I don’t have a simple, yes-or-no answer, and in fact I’m going to turn it back to you with some questions. But I think that in answering them, you may find that literary translation can certainly be a part of your career, and perhaps someday the bulk of it.

To start with, what is “well paid” or “a [decent] living” for you? It’s different for all of us. Are you the sole income earner or do your earnings supplement the family’s? If you need or want to make multiple six-figures a year, literary may not be viable. If, however, you’re able to find a couple of projects per year, at current book project rates, you could certainly earn five figures.

(For a discussion on rates, I encourage you to listen to this podcast between literary translator Alex Zucker and publishers Chad Post and Tom Roberge.)

Similarly, I would also ask whether day-to-day satisfaction with your work has value to you. If literary translation is your main interest and you consider enjoyment a form of payment or compensation, then don’t forget to factor that in.

My second question is: What are you willing and/or able to do to ensure that literary does pay well? I believe we hold the answer to what it is possible to earn.

As in any area, how well you know your craft and can meet your client’s expectations will impact the number and quality of projects you’re offered. The more experience you have, the more you can earn.

Right from the start, however, there are several ways to increase per-project earnings, while also contributing to positive change for the profession as a whole.

  • Negotiate. Consider your experience and what you need, and negotiate a rate that is fair for all parties. You never have to accept a subpar offer. It’s bad for your pocketbook, and sets a bad precedent for everyone. I’ve negotiated every contract in my career; I have not always gotten everything I asked for, but I always got something.
  • Explore grant opportunities. Are there programs in your city, state or country that will supplement your earnings for a particular project? For example, I’ve recently found a grant that would allow me the time and space I need to complete a book project.
  • Submit your work to contests. Prizes can be financial. Seek them out, apply or ask your publisher to do so.* I recently won $1,000! (Winning also leads to recognition, more projects, and gives you credibility to negotiate rates.)
  • Does your country subscribe to Public Lending Right? (The majority do; the United States being one notable exception.) Registering your work ensures an annual payout per title published. In Canada, I earn approximately $2,000 per year for the body of my published work.

All of these additional sources of income help to increase what you can earn, overall, in literary translation and should not be discounted.

I hope this helps! There are so many rewards to literary translation, both monetary and nonmonetary, if you choose to pursue them.

Image source: Pixabay

*Need a place to start? Here are a few literary-translation contests we’ve heard of at Savvy that offer cash prizes: PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant, St. Francis College Literary Prize, Asymptote’s Close Approximations contest, and the Gulf Coast Prize in Translation (which Lisa recently won!).

Looking to take a leaf out of someone else’s book? We would love to answer your question on the blog! Leave a comment below or shoot us an email: atasavvynewcomer@atanet.org.

Author bio

Lisa Carter is an acclaimed Spanish-to-English literary translator, writer and editor. Her work has won the Gulf Coast Prize in Translation and the Alicia Gordon Award for Word Artistry in Translation, and been nominated for an International DUBLIN Literary Award. As the owner and operator of Intralingo Inc., Lisa helps authors and translators tell their stories. To learn more, visit www.intralingo.com.

Dear Savvy: I Want to Work in Culinary Translation

Recently, our inbox has seen a number of thoughtful questions from readers. In lieu of shipping off worthy advice to lone recipients, we decided these exchanges could benefit a broader audience. Without further ado, we are pleased to inaugurate our new question-and-answer series à la “Dear Abby,” titled “Dear Savvy” (get it?).

Our first reader question is on how to break into the culinary translation sector. To answer the question, we recruited Claire Cox, a fellow translation blogger who counts food-and-drink translation among her specializations, and who also happens to be the creator of the bustling Foodie Translators Facebook group. Read on for some fresh-baked advice!

Dear Savvy,

I keep hearing that translators should specialize. I was thinking of going into medical translation, which I heard is in demand and pays well, but after reading your blog post titled “How (Not) to Be a Professional Translator” and “Specialisation according to Rose Newell,” I realized I’m actually interested in culinary translation. I haven’t been able to find any resources on this specialization online. Is there demand for culinary translation? Where do I start?

– Hungry for a Specialization

Dear Hungry,

There is definitely considerable demand for translation in the field of food and drink. The problem is, as you will realize from the countless examples of poorly translated menus, that everyone and their cousin thinks they can do it! Translating menus, recipes and cookbooks often involves a great deal of research, so it can take a long time to translate just a couple hundred words and it’s hard to get clients to understand that charging on an hourly, rather than per-word, basis is fairer in such cases.

That said, it can be a very rewarding field to work in, especially if, like me, food is one of your personal passions. There are good, decent-paying opportunities out there: the problem is finding them! You need to make sure that food is listed on your CV/résumé/directory listings/agency forms. If you use sites such as ProZ, make sure that food is mentioned under various keywords—gastronomy, food, cooking, nutrition, restaurants, catering, etc., in your source and target languages, to make you more searchable. You could always write to restaurants if you feel their menus are particularly bad, although in my experience that rarely pays off—I suspect the person who opens the letter may well be the person responsible for the inadequate translation (or at the very least their best friend!). Writing to publishers is another option, although again it can be difficult to get a foot in the door from a standing start.

For me, the best option is networking. There are translation groups out there: the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) in the UK has a Food & Drink Network, although it doesn’t see a lot of traffic, just the occasional food query. I heard an excellent talk about food translation at the ATA Conference in San Francisco in 2016 by the very entertaining Joe Mazza , entitled “Arugula by Any Other Name: Coping with Translation in the Culinary Arts” (see link to my brief summary here), so I’m sure there must be similar groups in the US.

I set up the Foodie Translators group on Facebook just over two years ago, and it’s now grown to a lively and supportive group of over 2,600 colleagues with an interest in all things food-related. Not all of us translate in the field all the time, but we do share a passion for food, so you will see recipes, fabulous food pictures, questions about ingredients or culinary equipment, cries for help, and requests for recipe and restaurant suggestions from across the world. We’re also happy to accept food translation queries and related job postings. Most of all, we’ve become a real community, and members even arrange to meet up in person at translation events worldwide. This, in turn, gives you a very good feel for colleagues you can trust if you suddenly need to pass on a request for translation in this field. I personally ended up being offered a very large project to translate recipes and related material for a new restaurant opening precisely because a colleague had seen that I’d set up the group and knew that I was interested in food translation. You never know what may come of the smallest pebble you throw…

Good luck—and do come and join us online!

Claire

In search of more resources for culinary translation? Savvy stumbled upon this upcoming AulaSIC course on culinary translation for English-Spanish and English-French translators (site in Spanish; contact cursos@aulasic.org for more information). Comment if you are familiar with any other resources of interest. Now, time to get your hands dirty cooking up your résumé!

Do you have a question of your own ripe for an answer? We would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or shoot us an email: atasavvynewcomer@atanet.org.

Image source: Pixabay

Author bio

Claire Cox is a UK-based translator from French and German into English. She works primarily in the fields of energy, nuclear technology and health & safety, but has a soft spot for translations in the fields of food and horticulture too, as these reflect her own private passions. She has been translating professionally for over 30 years and is a qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting.

Website: http://www.cctranslations.co.uk/
E-mail: claire@cctranslations.co.uk
Twitter: Claire_Cox16
Blog: http://www.clairecoxtranslations.wordpress.com/