Language is the keyhole to a person’s thoughts and to the maps of how they perceive and process information of the world.
Differing language expressions, contextual cultural clues, and subtexts of what is spoken or written hold a deeper meaning than their translated counterparts.
Try translating Cafuné, the Portuguese word, to English. The word will lose all its essence.
Or try to explain Hygge to someone who is not familiar with its importance in the Danish culture.
A lot of relevant information and meaning is pushed out in a void unable to reach searchers and interested audiences. And thoughts get sandboxed in various languages, often not translated or re-written.
Ludwig Wittgenstein put it aptly
“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”
Without language diversification, SEO is broken.
What do Search Engines aim to achieve?
The primary goal of a search engine is to provide searchers with helpful and relevant information based on the input query.
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, then is the process of optimizing an organization’s web presence to improve visibility when people search for information, products or services.
Let’s take a hypothetical example:
Scenario: A searcher wants the step-by-step process of making a delicious pizza at home.
Step 1: In their browser window, they go to their preferred search engine platform, and search for ‘making delicious pizzas at home’, or ‘step-by-step guide of making a delicious pizza at home or something similar.
Step 2: They see several SEO optimized pages, and most likely open the top 3 results and go through them.
But there is a significant gap.
They never saw the well-detailed, extremely structured page from an Italian pizzeria, written in Italian. Nor the detailed checklist blogpost with visual clues from a French pizzeria, written in French.
What’s missing? Step 1.5.
Step 1.5: Search engines should expand their keyword repository and database to incorporate helpful content from various languages to deliver better results.
What is a Search Engine’s blind spot?
Search Engines silo the results across languages.
Let’s go back to the Cafuné example, from above. Here is what the search query for the word looks like:
And when I update my region to Portugal
These two indexes are not talking to each other. But they should be, for information completeness.
Translation tools work their magic on the next step, the webpage.
Search Engines should here offer a translated snippet of the Portuguese word ‘Cafuné’.
Similarly, for our hypothetical scenario above, Search Engines should at least present a structured, well-articulated page that is relevant to the search query from several other languages.
Languages are the way humans, and now even generative A.I, interpret and navigate the information world, mental world, conversational world, and emotional world.
With the primary objective of provide searchers with helpful and relevant information, not taking into consideration language diversification and language-induced contexts and subtexts, search engines are extremely limiting their own capabilities.
To that effect, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as a process is broken, and incomplete.