Back to Podcast

Multilingual SEO w/Isaline Muelhauser

Host:

Areej AbuAli & Sarah McDowell

Guest:

Isaline Muelhauser

In this week's episode, Isaline, content strategist and confessed SEO nerd, discusses all things multilingual SEO. We also find out what inspires Isaline and what empowers her to be the brilliant woman she is today.

You can connect with Isaline through LinkedIn and Twitter.

Episode Transcript

Sarah:
Hello and a very warm welcome to the Women in Tech SEO podcast, where your hosts are me, Sarah McDowell, SEO Content Executive at Holland and Barrett and the wonderful Areej AbuAli, SEO Consultant and Founder of the Women in Tech SEO community. 

This week, we are joined by the wonderfully amazing Isaline Muelhauser who is an SEO nerd and content strategist, and also host of community SEO Nerd Switzerland and Content Strategy Lausanne. And she's a lover of cats and the outdoors. Hello!

Isaline:
Hello. Hello Sarah. Hello Areej. How are we both doing?

Areej:
I’m really good over here. Super excited to have Isaline on with us. She is one of my favourite people in the community. And I know, I probably say that about a lot of people, but I mean it.

Sarah:
You can have multiple favourites, that's okay.

Areej:
Tell us more about you Isaline. I'm so excited that we've got you here and you do so much with your meetups. You have a lot of different things that you host locally as well. So we'd love to learn a little bit more about you.

Isaline:
Yes, thank you for welcoming me today I'm really happy to nearly meet you in person, at least get to talk to you instead of writing. And so usually on Saturday mornings, I would be at my rowing training on the Lake. So I'm not unhappy to be here inside because the weather is not that good. So. It was a beautiful excuse not to go and sleep a little longer. So, I'm really happy to join you this morning. And yes, I, I co-host two communities, one of them with my, one of my best friends, it's SEO, nerd Switzerlands and we just felt that it was really important to bring some knowledge about SEO to the Swiss people and also crate the contents that we find interesting. And the articles that we find worth reading and good sources. Because very often when people look for information and the internet, it can be overwhelming with all of the articles. And when one is a beginner, it's difficult to know. What article is good and can be trusted? And what is a good source? Yup.

Areej:
Yup. I love your meetup and I love that you continued doing it during the lockdown world we're in right now, which meant that you managed to get a lot of awesome people that you normally wouldn't have managed to get to if you were based locally. I know that you recently had one with Ruth on accessibility, which was brilliant. So yeah, I love that. You've continued doing that even in the current lockdown world we're in.

Isaline:
I suppose this is one of the good things about the COVID situation. If I mean, if we can say there are good things in the situation. It's geography. Doesn't matter anymore when you do things online. So indeed it was really. A huge privilege for Sarah and I to get to, invite and welcome people that we look up to. And we've been stalking and on Twitter and reading every article. So it was a wonderful feeling, for Sara and me too, to welcome them and get the chance to sort of share. Share the speaker with the community, you know?

Areej:
Yeah. And for those who don't know, it's Sarah Moccand-Sayegh and she's brilliant. She recently spoke at Brighton SEO and just kicked us with her talk. So, yeah. Thanks so much for mentioning her and she's a valued member of the community. Awesome. And can you just tell us a little bit more about how you set up your own business?

Isaline:
I started my own business about a little bit over a year ago, I was working in a wonderful web development agency with very inspiring people, but I felt that it was time for me to step on my own and be able to provide that. Type of service to smaller clients that I couldn't work with a big agency. So there was a very important and very interesting step. So I don't regret it in minutes.

[Quick Fire Round Questions]

Areej:
Awesome. Well, I think before we kind of kick into our main topic and talk all things multilingual, I want to learn a little bit more about, you know, what empowers you as a woman in our industry. And what, what do you feel has been one of the things that empowered you the most to reach where you are right now?

Isaline:
It is watching all the women that I admire. I only very recently understood what a role model is as when I was younger, I used to stay, Oh, no role model. What is it? I don't need that. I don't care. But today I'm a little older and I realized that it's very inspiring to see how. All the women behave. And for example, in the webinar SEO Nerd Switzerland, it was very interesting to see how Roxana answered people's questions even when they were tricky and just, you know, generally speaking, res see how other people behave and have sort of a new.

New standards of what is good and what is, okay. It's reassuring to do something when I've seen someone doing it.

Areej:
Yup. I love that. And I think that's why representation matters, right?

Because if we, if we don't see ourselves represented on stage, or if we don't see ourselves represented in the workplace, then we're going to struggle to, to get inspired them, to get empowered.

Isaline:
Yes. And I think this is one of the wonderful things that this community provides. I mean, women in tech, SEO community is that it provides a whole range of representations.

And I believe that I can find someone I can relate to, but someone also very different from me can find someone else. And so this. Wide range of different people. This is that's truly amazing.

Areej:
Yeah, I got off that and isn't it. So for women who are just starting in the industry, let's say they're in their first year of what advice would you give them?

Isaline:
If you want to be a business, behave like a business. And when I say that's, I mean, one of the things that have helped me is getting someone who, who does my bookkeeping getting a lawyer to help me write contracts in terms of agreements. So it means if you want to be a business, just be as reliable as someone you would like to start a business with.

I think it sets healthy work relationships for any client that meets you.

Sarah:
So we invited you today to chat about multilingual SEO. So yes, I'm very excited about this topic, because it's something that I don't know that much about. So I want to start with the basics here. So can you explain to our audience, what multi-lingual SEO is, and maybe give some examples?

Isaline:
So multilingual as you are when you create and try to improve a website that is in more than one language. So namely you are trying to attract traffic for more than one. One speaking languages. And you have to imagine that in Switzerland, we speak three, nearly four languages, and this is only the national languages, but, and we have every household project in several languages.

But imagine someone who has another mother tongue, like, comes from Albania, for instance, and you have to make your websites in the national language, but also available to someone who has a different level of language than yours. So one of the things that I would like people to remember is that multilingual languages, as it's not only for the people who have this mother tongue but also for the people who live in the country and I have another mother talk.

Sarah:
For languages in Switzerland, what are the languages?

Isaline:
So we have eight, about 80% is Swiss German about, I think 12 to 15% is French like me another. I suppose another small percentage is a to Chino Italian, like Salmaco and then we have a few people talking romance, but this is a small market share.

Areej:
Wow. That's and everyone is, or the majority of people are fluent in English as well, right?

Isaline:
I would say that English is a second language more than another national language. Yeah.

Areej:
Yeah. I think that's amazing. And that explains so much about why a lot of Swiss people are extremely smart people.

Because from a very young age, they're trained on having a lot of languages that they, that they speak. I wanted to touch in a little bit about if someone is talking about internationalization and internationalization CEO, versus multi-lingual SEO, but what is one way that we can differentiate between those two?

Isaline:
That's a really good question. What would be internationalization SEO if it's not multilingual, right?

Areej:
Yeah. I find it extremely interesting because I think there are a lot of, there are some websites, at least that, for example, if they tackle, let's say the US and the UK market and in both cases, it's English. So it's not specifically a different language.

Isaline:
Yeah. So that would be, yes. I understand. That would be like Swiss, German and German. Yes. Something I can relate to so I think this is where SEO comes close to branding because you can write a website that's how's that sounds, if I go back to what I know that sounds German of a website, that sounds which Swiss German, for instance, I had a client in the rental fields and we were disgusting.

So. I was doing the keyword search and clustering things, in French. And of course, the markets being 80% Swiss German, one needs to translate, which means that I was looking for alternatives for project page ends, project names. That's where German. Right. And so I translated my keyword search, but the thing is.

The kind of words ahead that the dictionary could give me was not the words that were used by the people. So in this case scenario, it means that using the dictionary words will make the website not sound Swiss. Yup. And we'll change the level of trust that people would have in the service or products.

And so in such a scenario, I just talked to someone whose first language is Swiss German, who is living in the Swiss-German part of Switzerland, because it could send me for instance. Oh, yes. For, which is a rental guarantee, I suppose. And it was like, no, nobody uses that everybody uses. So it's the type of thing when cannot know if. If one doesn't talk with someone local. Yeah.

Areej:
Yeah. We have that all the time with Arabic. So I'm, I'm fluent in Arabic, but I'm, I'm Egyptian. So that's subjection Arabic. And even though we have a lot of the same words, the Arabic that we speak in Egypt versus the one they speak in Jordan or Lebanon or Saudi Arabia or so forth, there's a lot of difference in the actual context of the words and meanings and people who are local would notice that right away.

If they go into a website and they read. You know, a specific article or, or so on. So w would you say that's one of the challenges of multi-lingual SEO and if so, what other challenges are there?

Isaline:
Hmm, I think another. Challenge is. So the challenge is choosing the right words in terms of SEO and terms of branding, because it, as I say, it, it would have a different, it gives words, gives a different impression to people like on the sort of emotional level.

And the other thing it's confusing translating and copywriting. So lots of people are like, Oh yes, I'm going to translate the websites. And most of the time, I'm like, no, you don't need someone to translate. You need some right to copyright because you want to have the same feeling that you're giving.

And so one of the. The mistake would be to just translate on a very, just in a very descriptive way. Whereas you need to transfer your brands.

Sarah:
That's a very interesting point because I'm guessing some people when they think about different languages in multi-lingual SEO, they probably think, cool, surely this is just like air translating, but you have to make sure that the words and not just the words that you're picking, but they're how you're putting words together is in fits in with your brand.

And that's very key. Isn't it. And do you think that's? That's sometimes what people sort of forget about and they just think are we just need to translate it word for word, and they sort of forget about what they're feeling or the characterization of the business.

Isaline:
Yes. I think someone who, who might not have experienced these multilingual specifics, because when one learns a language, you know, sometimes you say words and you don't know the sort of seconds meaning, and it turns out what you said is a joke.

And you don't know, and you don't know why is it a joke, but you've just made a joke. And I think if you've never been in that situation, it would be difficult to understand this sort of secondary meaning.

She also pointed out with the example of Spanish that you have to think about the cultural reality of the people and the time of the year, as the season might be different from one continent to another, even if it's the same language. So. And I thought that was another very interesting point too, to say this is something I don't experience because Swiss German, have winter at the same time that we have winter.

Sarah:
There’s a lot at stake, right? Barely isn't there. So yeah, not only have you got to think about using the right words and making sure that they're right for your brand, but you've also got to think, okay. Seasonality and also what's happening in that country that you're writing for as well.

So, are there any tips that you can give us about how to successfully tackle this?

Isaline:
Yes. I think the first tip is to manage the client's expected expectations. If you do a keyword search in my case, in French, and I'll say, okay, I'll just translate it. Too German to see if there's nothing that goes completely against my finding.

However, if you want to have the real targeting and attract the traffic, you need someone who has this mother tongue to do the keyword search. So really managing expectations about if you don't hire the people who speak the language to do the keyword search, you are not going to have the same types of results in terms of traffic.

So. That would be one thing. And also the best is to hire a copywriter that comes from a local place. Because if you have a copywriter from France, writing something for Swiss people, even though it's in French, it's going to sound. French and which is not necessarily what you want, if your markets are the Swiss markets.

So I think again, it's about the client's expectations. You have to be precise that one language has to be prioritized over the others because the original language, what I call the original language is. The number one language in which the website is validated and then it's translated in a secondary language. So the client has to choose the original language that is going to be the best.

Areej:
Yeah. I love that. Even other than putting content as you aside, I know this is something that's very popular for digital PR as well and is extremely important. So having worked quite closely with some digital PR teams, when I was agency side, we had a lot of the same thing at stake here where.

If someone is going to be doing the outreach for a specific country or region, then it's better than they are from that country and region that they are familiar with. How to interact with journalists and what topics are. So I think everything you're saying applies to that as well.

Is this something that you've you've had experience with or you can give some advice on, agencies and companies who maybe are trying to go with the shortcut rather than hire people who, who are familiar with the language and with the local area?

Isaline:
I think the shortcuts in the end it's would be.

An investment that was not worth that because it's not going to work at the moment. Sorry. I work with a client who is very, who is providing service in the marketing area and they have a very good blog, lots of very interesting articles, brilliantly written by people who live in France. And so they are attracted to third more of traffic that are French and.

A little bit of traffic that is Swiss when their market is Swiss because they are located in Switzerland. So now they are in this situation where they have, to rethink the whole content and leverage, you know, do the keyword search and the clustering and leverage the articles to target the actual markets they want to target.

So in the end, the investments are higher than. If you do that from first, you know? Yep.

Areej:
Yeah. I love that. You're completely right. Right. So it's about investments long term. And even if we feel like we're spending a little bit more, initially, it's going to be worth it, in the long run. Awesome. So, I mean, just to wrap up, do you have any favourite resources that you would recommend for people who are getting into multi-lingual SEO?

Isaline:
Good question. I need to think about it and get back to you about that and answer question afterwards, if anyone reads to me on Twitter, because I've been living in the situation for so long that this is not a subject that I research, it's just a subject that is parts of how I work.

Areej:
And I think that applies to a lot of things in SEO, right? It's like learning by doing and learning by actually being added to the situation and having to kind of sort it out.

Isaline:
Yes, but listening to SEOs. I think she gave lots of very interesting inputs there.

Sarah:
Wonderful. Well, what we will do is, at the end of the podcast, we'll sort of say where people can get in touch with you.

You say, if they've got any questions or they want to carry on picking your brain, they can do.

Awesome. My, I very much enjoyed this conversation. I feel like I've learned a lot in a short space of time, so thank you very much.

[Quiz Feature]

Sarah:
That brings us to the end of this week's Women in Tech SEO podcast time.

Sarah:
Yeah. If people want to carry on the sort of learning or carry on the conversation with you, how, how best can they do that? Where, where, where are you? Where can you be found?

Isaline:
So I can be found on the Slack channel if you are part of the community. Otherwise, Twitter is good and LinkedIn, you know, are the usual channels.

Sarah:
Areej, how can people get in touch with this and the Women in Tech SEO podcast?

Areej:
Yeah. So we're on womenintechseo.com/podcast/. Definitely get in touch. If you want to speak, you can fill a form.

If you want to sponsor us, you can also fill a form. I just hope everyone gets to be part of the community and we get to have a lot of, for also conversations as we've just had with isn't it.

Sarah:
Wonderful. Well, apart from that, the only thing that I would say is if you're enjoying our podcast and you're not yet a subscriber, then please do subscribe to wherever you listen to your podcasts because then you get notifications of when wonderful episodes go live.

Areej:
Goodbye. Thanks for joining!