In this post I mention SEO and Search engine optimization several times, I am referring here to the optimization of a website for natural search, so without paying for it showing up high in the search result lists.
While on holiday I spent some time talking to a local entrepeneur. He makes his money through his own website, we got to talking about his website and about the translations of his site in particular. Since this site was translated from Greek into English, French, German, Italian and Russian I had a quick hunch that his meta-keywords would not be in order for all the separate languages (which does not apply to all translations he made by the way).
When asked to test a site specifically for SEO, what are the things to look at? As I mentioned above, there are a few tell-tales when you start your testing, especially when the site has been translated:
- lang – this should be set to the actual language of the page you are testing
- meta-keywords – these should be in the same language as the lang set in the header
- meta-description – this should be in the same language as the lang set in the header
- Alt-text for images – – these should be in the same language as the lang set in the header
- page specific URL’s – should be in the same language as the lang set in the header
Please note that this is just a sub-set of what needs to be looked at when testing a site for SEO optimization.
Based on the before mentioned website I will give some examples of what to look for when testing for search engine optimizations.
Looking at the header of the Russian version I indeed saw exactly what I assumed I would see:
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="ru-ru" lang="ru-ru" >
<base href="http://www.corfu-villa.gr/ru.html" />
<meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />
<meta name="robots" content="index, follow" />
<meta name="keywords" content="corfu villa, villa corfu, seaside villa corfu, pool villa corfu, villa with sunset view corfu, villa rental corfu, corfu villa rentals" />
<meta name="description" content="Corfu villa. Two elegant seaside pool villas located in Chalikounas Corfu with amazing panoramic sunset view. See photos check 2010 availability and book online with our paypal secure system." />
<meta name="generator" content="" />
<title>Корфу Вилла | бассейн вилла с потрясающим видом на закат | villa.gr Корфу</title>
If you look fast and are not sure what to look at this looks fine, however from a Search Engine point of view this header is a bit of a drama.
The language is set to Russian in the first line, the title is in Russian, in the Cyrillic alphabet. The SEO issue however is in between the language declaration and the title: keywords and description are in English. When a Russian is trying to find a “seaside villa in Corfu” he will probably not use the English words for it, instead the keywords used will quite likely be “вилла на Корфу с видом на море“.
Just for fun, here are the result pages for the two searches; the English search on Google.ru and the Russian search on Google.ru. On the Cyrillic search the first page doesn’t have any links to our test site. On the English search however, the site is the first to surface, underneath the paid links. Problem I see with that result page however is, the url we get back is the main URL rather than the Russian URL.
The header of the homepage of the site is just the beginning of testing it for search engine optimization.
This being a site aimed at renting out a villa with amazing views in a fairly decadent location, it is quite visually driven. As a tester you might not pay too much attention to the images, however when testing the search engine optimization, the images should be looked at as well.
Sticking to the example of the Russian version of this site I grabbed another piece of the source code:
<div title="Corfu Villa Boxes" id="boxes">
<div title="Corfu Villa Gallery. Click to view more photos" id="left_box">
<table border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" width="100%">
<td><a href="/ru/gallery.html"><img src="/templates/corfuvilla/images/gallery.jpg" border="0" alt="Corfu Villa Gallery" /></a></td>
Within this snippet you’ll notice again an issue similar to that in the header meta-tags. The page is supposed to be in Russian, yet the title of the div is in English. The alt-tag of the image is also in English. Both of these are supposed to be in Russian in order for this page to properly be indexed by the search engines in that language. If you really want to make an effort, the image name should also be in Russian.
The useage of the images themselves, on the rendered HTML page already gave an indication that SEO and translation were not well thought through or at least not fully implemented.
The text on the image should of course also have been translated. When, as a tester, you see mistakes like this on a website, this should quickly give you an idea that the SEO has not been done properly, nor quite likely will the translation of the site have been done properly. Ideally you would want the text on this image to be configurable in the CMS and be attached to the language the page is in.
Of course there are more things you have to look at when testing for SEO, however I will stop here for now.