Many companies are looking to branch out into France, and it’s easy to understand why. With rising numbers of daily internet users and growing confidence among the French for online purchases, France now has the sixth largest ecommerce market in the world, with an estimated value of close to $60 billion.
Of course, to tap into this booming market, your business needs a high-quality French website. Its goal? Exactly the same as your English one – to generate traffic, and turn that traffic into sales. Be careful, though; making a French version of your existing website needs more than just a good translation. It needs a high ranking on Google, too.
Read on to find out the common pitfalls – and make sure you don’t land in them.
Localise your French content
You might know your target keywords in English like the back of your hand. Making sure you have the correct keywords in French – that will produce the highest search volumes – is not as simple as translating the English directly. Sometimes, a colloquial or idiomatic French term may be used more frequently and therefore generate more results. On occasion, the English variant is the more commonly used term, too. This is especially true for technical or scientific keywords.
Similarly, cultural considerations might be needed, too. What might seem informal and friendly in English, could be construed as flippant and blasé in French – surely not the image you want your potential clients to have. French can be complex to navigate by a non-native, thanks to the huge regional and cultural variations, as well as the big differences between its written and spoken form. These all impact directly on keyword search term – and that’s before we even think about the accents, syntax and two genders and levels of formality (vous/tu).
Start your campaign by translating the keywords you’re targeting and provide your translator with a ‘translation dictionary’ to ensure that the SEO elements are in place.
The only way to be sure you have the words, tone and cultural connotations exactly right, is to work with a professional translator, who can identify these nuances and help get them just right for your local audience. Choose a translator who is a native speaker and is well-versed in the subtleties of the French market, and who can help tailor your website to the expectations of a French user.
Remember to translate metatags
Metatags are often overlooked. Companies rightly spend considerable time perfecting the translation (or transcreation) of their website and its content, but then neglect the words your potential clients see first: the metatags.
An example of the Title and Description metatags are shown below.
These little words which appear in Google’s search results are the only description of what’s on your site, and so they are often the deciding factor as to whether a user clicks on your link, or the one next down the line. And when you think of the amount of work it has taken just to be visible in those search results, it seems silly to throw it away by not translating your metatags just as carefully as the rest of your site.
A word of warning, though; the French language can make writing metatags more of a challenge. French words are, on average, 25% longer. A quick look at the most common 1,000 words in French and their corresponding English translations clearly shows this. This means you might need to work a little more creatively with those 55-60 characters for the Meta Title and 155-160 characters for the Description. A direct translation won’t always be possible.
Every page on your website needs its own, unique URL for each language. If you don’t have a different URL for each language, only one version will by indexed by Google, which will of course directly (and negatively) impact on whether you appear in search rankings. What’s more, using French language URLs is much better for French SEO, as your site appears more relevant to the user and allow you to incorporate keywords into it.
It’s not just about Google, though. Having a French URL will make you appear far more credible to the French audience you are trying to attract. While it is true that 39% of French people speak English (to some degree), 93% say they prefer French websites. This preference makes having a French URL even more important.
Translate the blogs with the most traffic
When it comes to translating blogs, you need to be strategic. Translating every single blog from English into French may very well not be an effective use of your time. To help you work out which blogs should be the priority, review traffic to each page using a tool like Google’s Search Console. This can tell you which blogs made the biggest impact in English, before you consider translating them into French.
Once you know which posts attracted the most visitors, you can decide whether to translate them into French. Consider their relevance to a French audience, if they’re still sufficiently timely, and whether they might benefit from localisation or ‘transcreation’. This means translating the words, but also translating the cultural context and making it pertinent to your French audience.
If you discover that a long English language post does generate the traffic you hoped, consider targeting them to different keywords, or spend time rewriting them before having them translated.
Create separate social media profiles
The importance of social media cannot be underestimated. Having an active social media site specifically for your French profile is highly effective for engaging your new target audience. In France, around 74% of internet users use Facebook regularly, and almost half use Instagram. Twitter is less popular than it is in the UK – perhaps because of the character limitation – and so this may not be an immediate priority.
Facebook does allow its visitors to translate content. However, if someone searches for a French word, they won’t see your English profile. That’s why it is important to translate all of your social media profiles – as well as keep them updated. This is particularly important for larger companies, especially those with the capacity to engage with their visitors, which can be a useful tool in terms of acquiring gems of feedback from your new target audience. For smaller companies with a limited budget, a localised social media profile can be helpful, but is not something to work on at the expense of the other suggestions in this article.
Run a French link building campaign
The benefits of having another site link to your own are clear: backlinks are crucial for making your site appear authoritative and relevant. Ultimately, this has the effect of boosting your authority with Google, which will make you appear higher up the rankings. Perfect! But how do you get these links to your own site? Run a French link building campaign.
Begin by searching for keywords on google.fr and look carefully at the results. Whenever you see a directory, blog, Quora post or anything else you can engage with, use the opportunity to do so. Write something engaging and original in response, and – above all – make sure you post a link back to your site. Remember to adjust the tone depending on the style of the post, but as a general rule these can be informal and chatty. The aim is to create as many backlinks from high authority sites as possible.
Of course, if this seems like an awful lot of hard graft, you could always use a specialist French SEO agency to run your SEO campaign for you. International SEO specialists with experience in France will have a deeper knowledge of how to build links from local resources and link to local content, so this might be something to consider, in order to get the ball rolling.
Use a guest posting service
Following on from the importance of backlinks, and we come to guest posts: your SEO trump card. The backlinks within guest posts are by far the most effective type when it comes to ranking highly with Google. They also have the added bonus of creating exposure for your site within a piece of editorial content. That’s why a guest posting service can be a cost-effective – and timesaving – solution to building backlinks.
This comes with a few essential caveats: the posts must be written in French, placed on sites about France, and be placed on high authority websites. Remember, you are trying to attract French customers to your site and gain authority in the French market. This means translating an existing English language post is not always the best solution; those blogs were written with an understanding of English culture and nuance, and very often this does not translate as easily as you might imagine.
To find relevant and high-quality sites, start by searching for any of the following:
- Article invité + topic
- Publication d’invités + topic
- Ecrire un article + topic
- Soumission d’articles + topic
Replacing “topic” with either a keyword, or a wider topic / industry that you’re targeting.
Use a tool like Majestic to check the TrustFlow of the site, or Moz to check the Domain Authority (the higher the better). Write to the webmasters (in French of course) and ask if they’d be interested in publishing an article on their site in exchange for a link back to you. Tailor the emails to compliment their site and mention possible article titles.
When someone asks to see an article, send them the guest post which will include a link back to your site.
A guest posting service with knowledge of French blogs and websites accepting posts will save you a lot of time – and be able to write the content for you. Most sites open to guest posts have their own focus, whether that’s food, beauty, interiors or technology. Planning a blog post with the right slant and written using the style guidelines of that site will make it far more likely to be accepted. Guest posting services can also plan and commission posts for you, speeding up the process no end.
Translating your website into French and assimilating your Google ranking might seem like a lot to take on board – especially if you are not a native French speaker. Don’t despair though; simply follow our advice, and you will be up and running en français before you know it.
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