Table of Contents
Demand for SEO translation or localisation is growing. But as newer services, there isn’t yet an industry standard on what to charge. And students on the Become an SEO-savvy translator course have fed back that they’d like help with pricing and estimates. So, here it is!
I’ll be honest. I don’t like to talk about pricing. It can be such a sensitive and personal matter that I actively try to stay away from it… until today that is.
Today it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room – money!
In this post I’ve pulled together key tips to help you price SEO-related language services.
But it’s important you’ve done some pricing groundwork first.
Prepare to price: essential groundwork
Set your rates
Have you given some thought to how you set your rates? Or are you just following what you think is ‘right’ or competitive? If you struggle to price your services, I cannot recommend Susie Jackson’s course enough. It will make you do a deep dive into all your expenses and how much you really need to earn, gathering precious data that really will help you… charge with confidence.
Track your time
If you’re not yet tracking how much time you spend on projects, you’re missing out on valuable data that will give you clear insight into whether you’re being paid enough. Once you know how much you should be charging for each hour of work, and you have a clear idea of how much time it took you to complete a similar task in the past, it will be a lot easier to prepare a realistic estimate. Also consider setting a minimum increment, such as 15 or 30 minutes, or perhaps even an hour, so that you don’t end up being paid by the minute.
It took me a long time to consistently track my time, but as with any other habit, you just need to keep at it. Nowadays it’s as natural as putting on my reading glasses before starting a new project. Personally, I use LSP.Expert to track time spent on actual projects and Toggl for any other tasks, but there are several time tracking apps available.
Factor in your costs
If you’re offering SEO translation and related services, I’m guessing you’ve spent time and money studying and learning these skills. And you will continue to do so. Because SEO is constantly changing, if you’re working in this field, you’ll be dedicating time to continuous training and research. Plus, you might have other costs like SEO tools, books, magazine subscriptions and association memberships. So whether you decide to charge per word, per hour or per project, make sure you always factor in those overhead costs.
6 steps to pricing it right
First things first. When you have a new SEO translation project, you need to make sure you fully understand the client’s requirements. Take time to go through the brief and any other instructions, ask relevant questions and clarify the client’s expectations if necessary.
Step 1: Clarify which SEO service you’re providing
Clients could ask you to complete a number of different SEO services, which I’ve detailed below. But typically they all have a few things in common: a somewhat lengthy client brief, a bit of to-ing and fro-ing with the client, and you’ll need to be deeply familiar with the subject field and use some kind of SEO tool (paid or free).
You receive a list of terms (the keywords used for optimising the source text). Your client will either have come up with the keywords themselves or have worked with an SEO expert to do the keyword research. Your job is to find the most relevant equivalent keywords for your target market.
You’re asked to suggest keywords for a specific page or URL. In this case, there’s no list of source keywords provided so this type of project might be more time consuming and a bit more outside of a translator’s comfort zone.
Meta tag localisation
When translating website copy, such as for a services page or a blog post, your client might also ask you to localise the title and description that will appear on a Google SERP (search engine results page). There are specific character length requirements to meet and best practices to follow to give the localised copy the best chance of success (in other words, the most clicks).
You’re asked to either localise content while keeping SEO best practices in mind, or to optimise copy already written in your target language but that’s not ranking well in search results.
Step 2: Confirm target language and locale
One of the most important details to check with your client is the target language and country. Bear in mind that two countries that technically speak the same language can have totally different markets and consumers. For example, I’ve often been asked to use Brazilian Portuguese keywords because the search volume is so much bigger than for European Portuguese. And yet, if the client is trying to target consumers in Portugal, that just doesn’t make sense, and ultimately won’t help convert customers in that market. So if your target language or locale is smaller, it’s important to set realistic expectations and alert your client to the fact that search volumes might differ significantly from the source language.
Step 3: Account for edits
Whenever you’re trying to please search engines, there’s a lot of trial and error. Plus, since the client probably knows their product better than anyone else, their input is fundamental. Whether you’re researching keywords or delivering an improved version of their localised copy, expect to receive feedback and implement changes, and factor this into your quote.
Step 4: Choose your pricing structure
I’m sure by now it’s pretty clear that charging per word for SEO translation projects isn’t such a good idea. So how should you do it? Well, I recently surveyed SEO translators and found that the vast majority charge hourly rates for this type of project, while some (21%) use project rates. Hourly rates range between €25 and €100, but remember that there are many variables, and rate setting should be tailored to your individual situation.
Step 5: Be realistic and fair
Since SEO translation is a relatively new service, there aren’t exactly set industry rates like the ones we have for ‘standard’ translation and proofreading. What’s more, I’ve seen a trend emerging where agencies underestimate the time and effort needed to complete these SEO tasks. For instance, it’s not uncommon for me to be asked to localise 40-60 keywords in an hour. And yet, according to my survey of SEO translators, only around 5% of respondents consider this doable. Meanwhile, 38% of respondents indicate an average throughput of 3-10 keywords per hour, and 24% consider 20-40 keywords an hour to be reasonable. So make sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew. And don’t be afraid to push back on unrealistic expectations.
Step 6: Use analogous or parametric estimating
As a former translation project manager and certified PMP (project management professional), I’ve long been interested in proven techniques for creating the most accurate estimates. And these are two of my favourites: analogous estimating and parametric estimating. Analogous estimating involves quoting based on how long it took you to complete similar projects in the past. Of course, to do this, you need to have completed a number of real projects and know how long they took you. Meanwhile, with parametric estimating, you work on the project for a little bit and see how much you can get done. Then multiply that duration by the whole project scope. For example, if you need to find 10 keywords for a page, see how much time it takes to find one, and multiply it by 10. That should give you a fairly accurate estimate of the time you’ll need to complete the whole thing. Just don’t forget to add in a buffer in case things take longer than expected.
I hope this has helped shed some light on how to price your SEO translation services. The next time you have an SEO project to quote on, please feel free to refer back here to help you quote more confidently.
Like with anything SEO-related this information is not set in stone.
And I, for one, would love to keep learning about this topic, so it would be brilliant to have your feedback or hear about your experiences of quoting for SEO translation projects.
Drop me a quick line at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments and don’t forget to share this article with anyone who might find it useful.