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The E-Commerce Disruption Series: 6 Telltale Signs You’re Not Optimizing Your Multilingual E-Commerce Websites

Lionbridge’s global search expert shares tips to set yourself up for e-commerce success

This is the second piece in the Lionbridge E-commerce Disruption Series, which explores changes in the e-commerce space as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

You’re a global leader. You’ve been running in the e-commerce space for years. You’re on top of your game. Right? Maybe not.

Perhaps you’ve noticed a disconnect. You have great content on your website, but you’re just not getting the traffic you expect. Or the sales. Why is that?

Brendan Walsh, Lionbridge’s Global Search Subject Matter Expert, performs technical SEO audits on multilingual e-commerce websites. He frequently discovers that sophisticated, multinational companies don’t know they have under-optimized websites. Their missteps can profoundly damage their bottom line. Walsh works to identify the root of the problem and to find ways to fix it. This type of evaluation is increasingly more important as e-commerce spikes.

COVID-19 has prompted more people than ever to buy online. They have become used to online shopping and that habit is likely to continue, even as areas begin to relax social distancing. Walsh says the time to perfect your website to capitalize on e-commerce is now.

“If you’re not exploiting this change and the shopping dynamic where more and more people are shopping online, someone else will,” says Walsh. “When a product works locally, there are also opportunities to market it globally in a different language. That’s where we can really help.”

Walsh routinely assesses global companies’ multilingual websites to find ways to improve visibility in each market and correct existing issues before companies enter new geographic areas. In his customized Website Analysis Report, he focuses on 6 areas that can cause companies to falter. We spoke with him about his work.

What is a multilingual e-commerce website?

A multilingual e-commerce website is an online portal that facilitates commercial or business transactions over the Internet—including the buying and selling of goods or services, and the transfer of money and data—and provides its content in more than one language.

What are the 6 areas you focus on when analyzing company sites and why are they important?

#1 Speed

We live in a mobile-first world. If the page isn’t mobile-friendly, your webpage isn’t optimized. Furthermore, Google will index the mobile version first, so if a page isn’t responsive and fast on mobile, it will impact your desktop performance as well.

One of the most common mistakes that affects e-commerce website speed is image optimization. If the picture is not optimal, it will slow down the loading of the page significantly. I’ve seen cases where it can take up to 10 seconds for a picture to load. A potential customer is not likely to wait that long. The good news is that this problem is one of the easiest things to fix. It doesn’t involve a code change and takes about two or three seconds per picture to correct.

#2 Geo-targeting

Geo-targeting is about landing the right page in the right market. If you have created content for the U.K., but your British users are seeing American English instead of British English, you have a problem with geo-targeting. When you haven’t done geo-targeting before, it is difficult to get it right. There are many ways to misuse it, which results in hidden content. That’s why the right page fails to show up. Numerous things affect its functionality, including localization or technical issues. For instance, the inability to use Google Search Console effectively will create problems. Geo-targeting issues are harder to address unless you are very knowledgeable about geo-targeting. Very few companies have insight into geo-targeting, but Lionbridge has experience addressing it week in and week out. We have developed tools to fix geo-targeting issues, one which creates regional sitemaps (with hreflang tags) and another which generates hreflag tags for AEM. This ensures the right page lands in the right market.

#3 Bots / sitemaps

It’s important to understand how a bot crawls your website. The instructions in the robots.txt file tell search engine bots how to index your site. I look for a couple of things–whether the actual content is being disallowed or blocked as well as anything that will get in the way of the content being indexed. I’m checking whether there is a link to a site map and whether it’s well-structured. Any mistake with robots.txt can cause significant issues. Commands can hide everything on a website or block valid content from being indexed. An up-to-date sitemap will help bots discover new information quickly.

#4 Security

From a confidence perspective, security is critical. If customers see the words “not secure” at the top left corner of a computer screen, how likely are they to enter their credit card information to make a purchase? Some people will complete the transaction anyway, perhaps because they don’t notice the security issue. Others won’t. Many security issues are caused by media being referenced from http URLs, or links to unsecure sites. In practice, when analyzing these issues, we generally find that https versions of the media or links exist. Simply updating the reference from http to https resolves the issue.

#5 Structured data

Structured data is Google’s gift to search. It is the capability of describing the content on your page directly to Google’s bots. You can highlight important content so Google can use the data in the correct way. This enhances search results. Problems arise when the structured data is not all mapped. As a result, the product you are selling may have incomplete information. The image and description may be depicted during a search, but the price, availability or reviews section may be missing from your multilingual online store. People are more likely to buy from a vendor that has all the pertinent information readily available. Buyers also gravitate towards sites with attractive images and reviews. Structured data needs to be mapped, which can be done in an afternoon by going to the product management system and configuring it for image, description, price, availability and reviews. It is hugely important for the bottom line, particularly for products.

#6 Branded and unbranded search results

Branded and unbranded search results go together. It’s how I visually demonstrate search results to our clients. In both cases–whether the search includes the brand name of a company or not–we are looking for the company’s resulting position on the page. The higher they are in the rankings and the more attractive their results, the more click-throughs they will get to their multilingual e-commerce website. Conversely, they can expect fewer click-throughs if we see that their competitor has better multilingual SEO due to optimized product pages, better descriptive content, optimized images and structured data.

Are companies surprised to learn they have under-optimized pages?

Yes. Many companies aren’t aware that they have technical issues with their sites, and they’re pleased to capitalize on the opportunity to increase their visibility. We’ve helped numerous, multinational consumer brands optimize their performance across multiple sites. Often, a multilingual e-commerce website starts off with good performance, but over time, content can get old and weary and technology can degrade.

What’s one final piece of advice you’d like to leave our readers with?

When companies suspect their multilingual e-commerce websites are underperforming, they might be quick to assume that content translation is the problem. When you work with a language service provider (LSP) like Lionbridge, you should have the utmost confidence that your e-commerce store content is spot-on in any language version. In these cases, technical issues most often interfere with multilingual website optimization. It just takes a little attention and determination to correct the problem.

Get in touch

Not sure if your multilingual e-commerce site is optimized for search engines? Reach out to us to see if you qualify for our free website analysis report.

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Janette Mandell
Janette Mandell