TMCnet Feature
August 24, 2020

6 Steps to Italian SEO when translating a website

For English speakers looking to expand their business into Italy, translating your website is often the first step in a marketing campaign, however it’s far from the only step. This article explores the 6 steps to successful Italian SEO.

First, it needs to be addressed whether translation will help your company.  Not every company that thrives in the UK will work in Italy. It’s a safe bet that football shirts will be popular in both countries (providing they have the right team on them), but thick winter coats might not sell as well in the warmer climates of Italy.

There’s also the current uncertainty over how the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit will affect business in general and from the UK to the EU in the next couple of years. Before launching your business in Italy and starting an Italian SEO campaign, first research whether you will get a good return on investment.

How can you determine if your business will do well in Italy?

Start with keyword research to see the search volumes of your current keywords and related terms. This will help you determine if you have a client base in Italy or if nobody uses the search terms that apply to your product or service.

How to do SEO in Italy

1. Do a culture check

Italy is very different from the UK, so you need to learn about its culture and customs before you target customers. 78% of respondents in a survey about digital marketing in Italy said campaigns faced major problems due to a lack of “web culture and knowledge”.

Italians prefer an informal tone when they read an online blog or eCommerce site. Young customers are likely to appreciate humour and for some technological related terms will also use the original English version instead of the translated version. They also have an ageing population (22.5% are aged 65 or older in 2020 and its projected that the median age will be almost 50 by 2030), which is driving specialist purchases. Be sure you know your target audience as an older audience are more likely to appreciate a more formal writing style and to use local terms for products.

It is a country of high mass consumption, where most people continue to shop after meeting their basic needs. Pre-paid cards are a popular payment method, and recorded delivery is more valued, as there is an inherent distrust of online payments.

When selling online, write with a healthy balance between accurate facts about your product/service (its features) and what it can do for you (its benefits). Saying something is “the best” without a shred of evidence to back it up won’t be received well.

Consider whether you want to do everything in-house or if it’s better to outsource your campaign to an Italian or multilingual SEO agency. This allows you to focus on doing what you do best, and that is running your company.

2. Choose a suitable domain

After determining that your product/service will be desirable to an Italian public, one of the most important things for Italian SEO is choosing how to structure the domain. There are three main options:

  • Separate domains (e.g. Either use your brand name, or if you use a keyword rich domain name, translate it into Italian. With modern CMS systems like WordPress or PrestaShop, this is relatively simple to configure using a shared database running both your English and Italian domains.
  • Separate sub-domains (e.g. This is a good choice, although, it’s not a great idea to do this if your domain name ends in because it will send mixed messages to Italian customers and can damage your Google (News - Alert) ranking in that country.
  • Sub-folders (e.g. These should be avoided where possible, however, because it’s easier to make a mistake in the code that results in broken links or missing images, which will cause customers to click elsewhere.

3. Have a human translate your website

Using a computer to handle something as complex as language will only lead to trouble. At best some terms will sound awkward; at worst you’ll say something that’s utterly ridiculous or could even have legal consequences.

Any mistakes in English also have the potential to go awry.  For example, a spelling mistake in the sentence, “We regularly receive complements from our guests,” would probably be overlooked in English (complements instead of compliments).  In Italian though, this becomes, “Riceviamo regolarmente supplementi dai nostri ospiti,” which reads like a hint to leave a tip.

To test this try translating something from English to Italian, then copy the Italian text and translate it back again. Errors made by automatic translators will be picked up by native speakers and create an unprofessional and untrustworthy impression of your company.

4. Write units correctly

In Italy, they use the Euro as currency, the decimal system for weights and measures, and Celsius for temperature. The average shopper doesn’t want to do the conversion themselves (and who could blame them?) so save them the trouble.

Also, on a quick note about the Eurozone countries, they use a decimal comma to separate Euros and cents, as well as putting the Euro sign at the end of the figure, so 2000 Euros and 99 cents becomes 2.000,99 € rather than €2,000.99.

5. Get technical

To be clear, we don’t mean making the content on the page overly technical - most consumers won’t like this one bit. What you need to do is focus on the inner workings of the website, including:

  • Making sure the translated meta tags and meta titles don’t go over the character limit
  • Check the configuration of your Hreflang tags
  • Make sure that pop-ups and automated emails are translated

6. Do an Italian link building campaign

Once your website is live it’s as if you’ve built a shop on a backstreet somewhere that’s rarely visited. You need to move it to the high street. To do so, build links to it from relevant Italian websites with high traffic. This not only brings visits to your site, it also tells Google that your site is popular and provided the links are high quality, then you will also go up in Google’s ranking.

These elements should be a good indication of what you need to get you started on doing Italian SEO. By beginning with researching your potential customers you’ll collect the information necessary to direct your next steps into making your business a success in Italy as well.

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