Somebody recently asked me:
"We are currently asking a freelancer to do English-to-Chinese translation on the content found on our main website. I wonder if SEO keyword research could be done now so that we can pass on the info to our translator so that he can keep in mind the various keywords he should use when translating the materials. Or is it more efficient to do this as well as rest of SEO when the Chinese website is up and running?
This is a great question, and the short answer is "it depends". I'll go over the different options individually in a way that I hope is useful to any reader, then provide an answer for this specific case at the end of the post.
In general, the best results will come from doing content creation and SEO together, and having this done by somebody/some team with expertise in both areas. In fact, I'll go one step further and say that the person in charge of this project should also be skilled with content planning and writing. This is the process we usually use at Nanjing Marketing Group, but we also use the other methods mentioned in this blog post in other situations.
Here's the process we normally use, step by step:
Most cases. This is our default strategy.
While the above process is ideal in my opinion, it's not the most common method. It's tough to build a team that knows SEO and translation.
Another method is to have the content written or translated first (without consideration for SEO) and then have that content 'SEOified' by somebody with SEO writing experience.
Businesses that need to keep costs down, such as e-commerce sites that have massive volumes of content to translate and do not mind having content of a bit lower quality.
This is similar to the first option I discussed. The difference is that I'm assuming the translator does not have prior experience with SEO.The trick here is giving the translator an SEO crash course quickly and effectively enough. Of course, the more time there is to train the writer the better.
I recommend this method when the client has a strong content team that will be sticking around, whether that team is composed of one writer or many. The initial investment in SEO training is most likely to be worth it if the trainees are able to apply it over the long run. Also, if the content team is just a lot better at producing this type of content than anybody else would be, it's a good idea to keep them working on the content, but give them the training to optimize it right for Baidu and Google.
Websites where their content IS their business. For example, blogs, e-magazines, newspapers, etc. For websites like this, their own writers are going to be a lot better at producing content for their business than anybody else, even a professional agency.
In this case, I know the person who asked the question already has a freelance translator working on the project and I believe that it is quite important for them to keep costs down.
So, in this case I recommend option #2: Have the translator work on the content first, then have it tweaked for SEO.
Another reason to recommend this is that there isn't a lot of room to benefit from SEO keyword research yet because the content to be translated is already determined. They are selling a certain product and that product will not change regardless of the research.
Finally, upon checking the English-language website, I can see that the English source content is friendly for search engines, and this is very likely to be reflected in the localized Chinese content.
After the content is done, a team with expertise in SEO can review the content to make minor edits, as well as plan additional content for key landing pages such as the homepage.