Book Review: The SEO Translation Bible
Maria Scheibengraf, The SEO Translation Bible: Master the Art of SEO and Diversify as a Freelance Translator
With the rise of machine translation, all eyes have turned to work that only humans can do, work where we are still superior to machine intelligence. SEO writing and SEO translation are two of those fields where human work still reigns supreme.
I’ve just started training in SEO copywriting, which means that my eyes are peeled for everything SEO. And, as is often the case, when you have a new subject on your mind, you find it everywhere. That is how I stumbled upon Maria’s new book and ordered it on a whim.
The SEO Translation Bible: Master the Art of SEO and Diversify As a Freelance Translator is the name of the book. Maria gets right down to business, covering SEO translation in just 73 pages. So, even before you start reading, you should already know that this can only be the start of your journey into SEO translation. 73 pages are nowhere near enough to do this topic justice.
In the introduction, Maria correctly points out that there isn’t a lot of material yet on SEO translation. Monolingual SEO copywriting, sure. Technical and off-page SEO, also sure. But where exactly do translators fit in? She’s here to tell you. And it’s good to have her position SEO translation in the big realm of multilingual SEO. One thing I’ve always found overwhelming with SEO is that it covers so much ground. Where do you start and where do you stop? Maria makes it abundantly clear that SEO translation is much more than keyword research. And that’s what makes this field so interesting!
Let’s take a closer look at the book:
The Structure of “The SEO Translation Bible”
Part 1: SEO Fundamentals
Sometimes it feels like any discussion related to web content and marketing will inevitably turn to SEO. Seeing that it’s such a visible topic (that no one with a business website can escape), you’d think that most would have heard of SEO and roughly know what it is. That’s not really the case, though. I recently attended a webinar about content writing where the term SEO needed to be explained to the audience. That’s why I can understand that the bulk of Maria’s book is dedicated to SEO fundamentals: It’s to get everyone up to speed on the nuts and bolts.
If this chapter is full of brand-new information for you, you will need to do a lot more reading before setting out as an SEO translator.
Needing to learn more is a general theme throughout the book. Again and again, Maria gently nudges readers to go and get more training and find out more about SEO. She may call her book a bible, but it’s really a roadmap on how to start your journey in specializing in SEO translation.
SEO fundamentals she outlines in the book:
- Search engines
- SEO success factors
- Search intent
- Search volumes
- Types of SEO
This short little list covers a lot of ground. Don’t be fooled by the brevity of Maria’s explanations.
Part 2: The 5 SEO Translation Pillars
Now, this is where things start to get interesting! It’s easy to find information about monolingual SEO. Specific information about how SEO ties into translation is much rarer.
Maria cuts right to the chase: SEO translation is actually a misnomer because what we are really doing is localization and transcreation.
People who speak a different language also show typical cultural preferences that influence their search behavior. The best translation won’t do the job if it doesn’t factor in a target group’s typical search behavior. The same applies to cultural preferences for certain types of calls to action: What feels shouty to one group might feel just right to another.
At the end of the day, a good SEO translation has to cater to the cultural expectations of the target group. That means going beyond translation. If a new target group just wouldn’t be interested in what a certain piece of copy focuses on, it doesn’t matter how well translated it is. Even an exquisite translation brimming with verve and esprit wouldn’t fulfill the SEO brief: The new target group would never think to look for that translated copy online making the SEO translation a failure.
Adding another level of intricacy to the job of SEO translation, SEO translators control only part of the SEO translation process. Maria takes care to show us the big picture and our smaller role within it. Usually, the original copy and web design are done without the input of SEO translators. Our translated copy is only one step in the process. We take someone else’s copy and web design and get started: analyzing the brief, conducting keyword research, looking at competitors, and then crafting the translation.
The work previously done by others can be a constraint on our SEO translation process. To put a more positive spin on it, being involved early on in the process allows SEO translators to influence what kind of SEO copy they will be working on. SEO translation is not the kind of specialization that lets you get away with hiding from clients, other writers, and web designers. You have to be able and willing to communicate with the other people involved in the process.
Part 3: The SEO Translation Workflow
All of this is very interesting, but you’re still asking yourself how SEO translation is actually done? Then Part 3 is for you.
Maria starts with getting paid. Don’t use a word price when quoting. That can’t accurately reflect the work you’re doing. The whole point of SEO translation is to focus on the larger impact of copy and not to link your work to the number of words on the screen. Hourly rates or project fees are the way to go. If that hasn’t been your pricing model so far, Maria provides some very helpful estimates for how long common SEO-related jobs could take. This is fantastic for those first quotes where you’re still testing the waters.
So, you need to know how to charge for your services. And you need to know what services you will be providing. That starts with a good, thorough brief from your client. Don’t just assume things. Take the time (and budget for it) to get the necessary information from your client. Next to a clear idea of what services your client wants, you have to be crystal clear on who your client is and what they are trying to achieve.
Are you familiar with creative briefs and how to talk to clients about them? If not, then you have some homework to do.
Beyond what Maria says in the book, I recommend including a summary of the brief along with the other job details in your quote. You want to be on the same page as your client and you want to have evidence of what you agreed on.
And that’s the end of the book!
My Thoughts About the Book
This book is a quick read that leaves you with a concrete idea of what you need to learn to become an SEO translator. It definitely left me wanting more!
While it may not be the one book that will answer all your questions, it does pull together all the skills you already need to have in order to work as an SEO translator. I feel that Maria has done an excellent job of making readers want a follow-up to this book. I know I’d definitely buy it.
I would have loved it if Maria had let us peek over her shoulder during a job with a client. Maybe she could have shared typical emails she writes or typical steps she takes during a translation process, or—my favorite–typical pitfalls for inexperienced SEO translators.
Let me know how you like the book!
PS You don’t have to take my word for it. Maria appeared as a guest on Tess Whitty’s podcast Marketing Tips for Translators.
Have a listen to what Maria has to say about her book. If you decide to purchase the e-book, you can do it off the episode page and snag a tidy 10% discount.