Transcreation SEO: Bridging Cultures to Amplify Your Brand

SUSO 18 July 2023

Find how to take your International SEO strategy to the next level with the power of transcreation.

Author: Albert Konik, Senior Content Writer

Albert Konik







Translating a website to another language is a common SEO practice for international brands. However, translation is merely the first step to conquering international markets. 

If you think about reaching global audiences, translating your website word-for-word can potentially do more harm than good, and that’s something many don’t realise until it’s too late. 

There are tons of examples of brands that got lost in the translation of their marketing messages. And while many of these mistakes are hilarious (like KFC’s famous “eat your fingers off” campaign in China), they can also be costly, and we’re not just talking about finances here. 

But big brands aren’t the only victims of wrong translations. Many international websites make similar mistakes, believing that translation is all they need to boost their SEO. 

In most cases, for your international SEO efforts to be successful, you also need to consider factors such as search intent, language nuances, and keyword volumes on the targeted overseas markets. 

That’s where transcreation SEO comes into play. 

What Is Transcreation?

Transcreating is the process of translating by creating unique content that matches the original’s intent and meaning while acknowledging foreign language and cultural nuances. 

This applies not only to marketing but other forms of content, too. 

An example from Hollywood is where movies that are adaptations of Japanese or European films include changes to better tailor them to the US audience. 

That is transcreation at its finest, as it includes both translating a script from the source material and creating a new film with, more or less, the same meaning.

However, when discussing transcreation in SEO, it’s not just the linguistic and cultural standards a brand must adhere to when targeting overseas markets. It also requires acknowledging the differences between search intents and search volumes for target keywords

For instance, a term with a high search volume in one country may be less widely searched in another. In such a case, translating it literally won’t generate the SEO results you want. However, once you dive deeper into keyword research, you can pinpoint keywords with similar meanings but generate more buzz. 

In such a scenario, using them instead of translating your original keywords word-for-word would be much more profitable – as long as they don’t change your content’s original meaning and goal, of course. 

Transcreation vs Translation & Localisation?

We’ve already discussed that transcreation and translation are, while connected, two separate practices. But what are the key differences between the two? And what part, if any, does localisation play in all this?

First, what is translation? It’s the process of rendering meaning from one language to another. Translators use the source text as the base, translating it to another language while keeping it as close to the original as possible. The goal here is to ensure the content’s original meaning is preserved.

On the other hand, localisation is a more technical process involving incorporating content to suit a particular region’s cultural context and linguistic requirements. For instance, localisation can be something as simple as using different terms and spelling on British and American markets (elevator vs lift, colour vs color, football vs soccer, etc.).

Perhaps one of the most famous localisations is with the first book (and movie) in the Harry Potter series. In the United Kingdom (and the majority of the rest of the world),the book is called “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”. Yet the title was adapted in the U.S.A. to be “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”.

As for transcreation, it’s a more creative process that combines translation, localisation, and creation. It doesn’t only require translating and adapting an existing text to the target audience but also creating a new copy which preserves the original content’s meaning and is tailored to the foreign audience

Why Is Transcreation Important for International SEO?

Transcreation, just like translation and localisation, can play a vital role in your international SEO strategy. While not every SEO campaign calls for content transcreation, implementing it can help you boost your international SEO through:

  • Creating unique content. Since transcreation involves creating new content, it allows websites to target various audiences with truly unique copy that carries the same message and intent.
  • Improving CTR. SEO transcreation doesn’t only apply to onsite content but to meta descriptions and page titles as well. If they appeal to a foreign audience, specific pages can enjoy higher click-through rates from organic search.
  • Reducing bounce rate. By keeping the content tailored to specific audiences, brands can enhance user experience and ensure the user stays on the website for longer, reducing the bounce rate and sending the message to search engines that the site has top-quality content.
  • Establishing trust and authority. Building trust and authority in the market can take time, but unique, high-quality content, tailored to a specific audience can provide invaluable help in this process. If your content is considered top-quality, it can generate more inbound links and traffic. These signals tell search engines that your website is a trustworthy source of information, helping establish your authority on the target market. 
  • Boosting conversion rates. Transcreation can be invaluable for increasing a website’s conversion rates. The content and website created with a specific audience in mind can significantly improve engagement, leading to more conversions and reaching business KPIs. 

Our Tips for Successful Transcreation in SEO

When implemented correctly, transcreation can be invaluable for growing your brand’s organic search visibility on a global scale. That’s the critical wording, though, correctly. 

As powerful as SEO transcreation is, it can also become a two-edged sword. Overdoing it can completely change the intention of your content, leading to more confusion. Therefore, when transcreating, you need to tread carefully. 

As an SEO agency, we know that better than anyone. And based on our experience, we’ve come up with several tips for successful transcreation in SEO.

Not Everything Has to Be Transcreated

This advice might sound odd, considering we’ve just spent the first half of this article describing how important transcreation is for SEO. However, it’s not always the best solution. 

Transcreation can be very helpful when it comes to establishing connections with overseas users. It works brilliantly when adjusting slogans, landing pages, headlines, titles, etc. 

In other words, transcreation can help trigger the wanted action from your users while establishing trust and enhancing their experience. 

That, however, doesn’t apply to all copy forms

Some content requires a different approach, as accurate to the source as possible. That applies to product and service descriptions, research content, technical documentation, etc. 

If you were to transcreate such content, you would risk losing the initial intent. Therefore, in such instances, it’s recommended to stick to translation and localisation.

Another potential risk of SEO transcreation is losing out on essential keywords that help search engines understand your content’s intent. For instance, some languages might not have direct equivalents for phrases in a source language. Instead, they might use a different word that roughly translates to something similar. 

Translation and localisation work best in such instances as creating new headlines or page titles using transcreation can completely change how search engines understand your intent and risk you missing out on relevant keywords. 

Carry Out Your Research

If you want your transcreation SEO process to succeed, conducting thorough research is a must. This ensures that your transcreated content is authentic, top-quality, and tailored to the intended audience – all that without losing its original intent. 

  1. Research your Target Market: learn as much as possible about its culture, users, language, and habits. Everyone involved in your transcreation project should be aware of any linguistic and cultural differences, as these have a massive impact on your campaign’s success. 
  2. Conduct Keyword Research: Just because one phrase generates traffic in one country doesn’t mean the situation is the same in another. 

Look for keywords and phrases that have similar intent and meaning but have higher monthly volumes to ensure your transcreated content not only ranks for the right keywords but also preserves the same intent as the original. 

Once you have all the puzzle pieces together, find the people to work with on your transcreation project. As a rule of thumb, a transcreator should be a native speaker, fully aware of even the tiniest linguistic and cultural nuances that may impact the final copy. 

Finding someone like that is research of its own. Yet, if you want to ensure success, working with a trustworthy and reliable SEO agency is imperative. 

Maintain a Similar Tone of Voice

When creating content for a different market, brands are often tempted to interfere with their original copy’s tone of voice. In some cases, delicate alterations are recommended to fit the cultural and linguistic requirements, but the transcreated copy should still resonate with the original tone of voice

If you were to change your content too much, it would only cause your target audiences to misinterpret your website’s actual intent. That could possibly lead to confusion and users feeling they were manipulated, shattering your reputation in the process.

Too many tweaks to the content’s tone could also lead to your website targeting the wrong audience. Therefore, if your website uses a more joyful style in your native market, apply the same to foreign audiences while acknowledging differences and linguistic nuances. 

Be Aware of Linguistic Limitations

The problem with translating content is that some phrases and sayings make no sense in another language. The same situation applies to transcreation, with brands having to be extremely careful using particular phrases and words. 

Why is that important? Well, let’s get back to the already mentioned KFC in China case. In the 80s, KFC decided to conquer the Chinese market with its famous slogan – “finger-lickin’ good.” 

Nothing wrong with that on paper. However, when translated literally, that slogan turned into “eat your fingers off.” Doesn’t sound overly inviting, does it?

Marketing history is full of such examples, which perfectly show just how essential it is to be aware of any linguistic limitations and nuances. Transcreation requires a subtle and well-researched approach. Otherwise, you risk destroying any chances of conquering the global market. And that applies to SEO, too. 

Take Your Time

The final advice we want to leave you with is to take your time. Transcreation is not a process you should rush. Spend some time researching the foreign audience and learn as much as possible about how tailoring your content to their requirements can benefit you. 

Once you’re done researching, focus on the most important pages first. Don’t try to change everything all at once, but take a step-by-step approach to ensure your transcreated SEO content is unique, top-quality, and accurate. This allows you to monitor your progress and truly measure whether the transcreated content is performing well.

The Bottom Line

Although SEO transcreation may not be the first fiddle of your international SEO strategy, it can become a significant advantage when targeting overseas audiences. 

By tailoring your messages to linguistic and cultural nuances, you can improve how foreign users see your website, increasing its authority and engagement, and leading to higher click-through and conversion rates. 

However, transcreation requires a detailed and well-researched approach. You can’t simply create new content and translate it. Any risk of getting lost in translation can be disastrous. 

By carefully choosing the content to transcreate, performing thorough research, preserving your original tone of voice, and being aware of linguistic limitations, you can design a transcreation strategy that will generate incredible results. 

Also, remember that transcreation takes time. It’s not a process you should rush. Instead, take an analytical approach and carefully transcreate each page.

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