Multilingual SEO Services – How to identify the scammers

by oskarokupa on January 22, 2009

Last year there was a big controversy about what qualifies as Advanced SEO. This is not the aim of this post but in my opinion Social Media Marketinghigh level Information Retrieval understanding,  analytics based SEO analysis, local and mobile search and ultimately International SEO are the cornerstones of advanced search marketing.

As in any new more advanced SEO disciplines that are catching on, lots of dilettante practitioners try to capitalise on the popularity of the new concepts. That is the candid version of the story. The more harsh and probably honest version is that plenty of snake oil salesmen and scammers are starting to target the multilingual arena.

There are several signs to try to spot when it comes down to separating the wheat from the chaff in the international search field. Those are some of the most conspicuous :

  1. Translation companies doing website localisation and SEO. Nothing again translation companies. They have their market and they work very well for legal documents, business translation and the like. However, translating is not localising.  In order to localise a website in other language you need to be a native speaker first and an Internet marketer second. More than translating, localising is creative copywriting, requires keyword research abilities and on-page SEO expertise. It is the similar issue that a few years ago happened with webdesign companies trying to get on the SEO wagon. It didn’t work very well.
  2. Empty promises. “We promise High SERP rankings”. One of this translation companies offering Multilingual SEO approached us recently asking us for help. Obviously they didn’t have the know-how to do things by themselves so they were pursuing a partnership. When we mentioned the limitations of any SEO work they turned around in a rage mentioning the sentence above. Anyone who has been in this industry for a while knows that you can’t guarantee rankings.With personalized search more and more ingrained in search engines algorithms and increasing competition for generic terms, SEO is a different discipline now that it was 2 years ago. Vacuous promises are not only deceiving but irresponsible. Funnily enough, this particular company’s site was being outranked by one of our clients for the main keywords targeted by them on the main page, keywords that were not even our main goal for our client. It is clear that some companys come “talk the talk” but can they “walk the walk”?
  3. Lack of basic insight about the international markets. There is a company in the US that has been lately strongly focusing on promoting their multilingual search services.  The on-page overoptimisation of multilingual seo related key phrases is sometimes hard to digest on their blog posts. However, keyword stuffing is not their main problem.  Stating things like that consumers speak English in Spain but shop in Spanish is gross ignorance and makes me feel embarrased for them.
    As a Spanish native myself, I can guarantee that very little people speak English even within business environments, as anybody going to Spain for holidays can certify, and although we claim to be fluent in our CVs very few people has basic conversational English skills. This kind of misleading information coming from an allegedly expert in the subject matter can harm more than ignorance when it comes down to targeting international markets.
  4. Lack of basic International SEO knowledge. A SEO company offering multilingual services in the UK, that recently got a major deal with a big american company to provide their services in different languages, mentioned in its corporative blog, not too long ago, that to have a local domain name and local IP address in order to list on local search engines wasn’t important. Vanessa Fox, previous Google Engineer, explains very clearly how search engines determine location relevant search results, putting at the top of her list country specific local domains. This is something that is consensual belief for all the experts in International search engines matters, which leaves this firm in a very bad place.
  5. “We will submit your site to thousands of local search engines”. That is a classic. Not much to mention about that. Run for the hills if that is part of the promotional materials of a multilingual search marketing company.
  6. One thousand links and SEO for £100/100€. Multilingual search marketing is difficult. It requires not only general market expertise but also linguistic abilities and insight on search engines and platforms that go beyond Google and Yahoo. If companies in the US charge £750/h for just consultancy add all this additional expertise to the equation. Anyone who claim to be able to optimise and manage multilingual campaigns online for those prices are just going to take your money and run.
  7. Local offices worldwide. That is a tough one. Although not being necessarily a bad thing, having to synchronise people from different locations, working cultures, timetables, time zones, different command of the English language, etc is a challenging endeavour.
    Additionally, in order to be able to combine and integrate efforts from different agencies across the world the companies need to make an additional investment if the results are meant to be cohesive enough for the project brand. Having a multilingual, multidisciplinar team under the same roof that can bounce ideas and add different insights is a much more cost effective approach.

There are no standards in the SEO industry and when we dig into more specialised search marketing disciplines the needs for knowing exactly what is value for money is essential if you don’t want to end in the hands of industry hustlers.

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