Lionbridge optimizes content for voice search and grows featured snippet presence by 3800% with SEMrush
"SEMrush is our SEO platform of choice both for our internal marketing team and the optimization work we carry out for our clients. SEMrush offers a wide range of tools that we use throughout our content creation, publishing and reporting processes."
Brendan Walsh, Global Search SME, Lionbridge
Lionbridge is one of the best in class translation and localization companies in the world. For more than 20 years, Lionbridge has helped their clients connect with global customers by delivering marketing, testing and globalization services in more than 300 languages. Through their world-class platform, they orchestrate a network of one million passionate experts in 5,000-plus cities, who partner with brands to create culturally rich experiences.
Business challenge: multilingual text, voice search and featured snippets optimization for Lionbridge and clients around the world
In 2016, Lionbridge was looking for a new SEO platform partner with the ability to handle the growing size and scale of its SEO practice. The core of their business is the ability to handle multilingual content and scale across regions and markets. Part of the Lionbridge linguist community is pre-qualified by an internal exam to execute international SEO with best practice in-market requirements. As a result, the Lionbridge team comprises hundreds of people across 30+ languages who conduct SEO work all over the globe. The new platform had to offer wide functionality, precision, and an extensive international database for a reasonable price.
In addition, Lionbridge was challenged to evolve a content strategy for MileIQ - a Microsoft subsidiary company. Despite its infancy, voice search was a particularly important traffic channel for the mileage tracking app, so Lionbridge needed to develop a new strategy targeting featured snippets specifically for voice search. SEMRush was the only solution.
The company set a goal to evolve fundamental voice guidelines they could implement to their own website and clients across the world.
Solution: Answering question queries with short paragraphs and lists
To achieve best results in voice search, Lionbridge constructs a content strategy around questions. The company’s Global Search Subject Matter Expert Brendan Walsh describes it as reverse-engineering the featured snippet structure.
“It has to be high quality content laid out the right way: strong H2’s with questions in them, short paragraphs and short lists after them. It’s a hard strategy not to be successful with. If you understand your target audience and pair that with the right research and best in class tools, it’s a no-brainer,” says Brendan.
For example, here’s how Lionbridge’s featured snippet for “tips for translation” looks like:
Here’s how Google pulls it into a voice search answer:
Fast forward to the 2020 SEMrush Voice Search Study which supported the data that 70% of all answers returned from voice searches occupy a SERP feature, with 60% of those returning a featured snippet result. Essentially, occupying a featured snippet is a cheat for appearing in voice search.
When their voice search journey started, Lionbridge set to train their professional translators in the science of SEO. The new tool had to be user-friendly so that even the beginners could deliver great results after a short training.
“Back in 2016 we did an extensive review of the SEO tools on the market, and SEMrush won easily, based on the blend of cost and functionality. Since then, they have worked on improving the tools and incorporating our feedback into their product development. We have two levels of licensing: Pro for our power users across our marketing teams and a custom research license which we use to inform the optimization processes for our clients,” says Brendan.
When Lionbridge started working on their featured snippets, the target environment was quite rich. They had a lot of things to go after, so they prioritized. The Lionbridge team started by targeting the topics they had a strong right to rank for: translation and localization. The Topic Research tool has helped the company uncover opportunities.
A topic Lionbridge is always interested in would be localization. They use the tool to review content ideas to see what’s trending and what suits them. They proceed by pulling out questions within the topic area.
Next, the SEO team uses People Also Ask information and can go as far as Quora and local forums to see what people are talking about within the industry.
All of that research is then filtered through SEMrush to discover new keywords and validate the questions around those areas. After finding up to 200 questions, the Lionbridge team groups four or five logically related questions together and answers them in a single article. The question categorization in the Keyword Magic Tool can be extremely useful for this purpose.
“Before any content is written, we build a content specification with the discovered keywords and questions, winning articles, suggestions for the title, description, and H1. The guidelines specify the use of lists and paragraphs and exclude tables when trying to target voice search since their titles don’t get read out. After that we give as much creative freedom to the writers as possible,” says Brendan. “It’s not a complicated strategy but it is really effective.”
Lionbridge's featured snippets trend
When researching their own content, Lionbridge has discovered that their closest competitor from a content perspective is frequently Wikipedia. They’ve learned to target it when they can:
“I’m a firm believer that if Google is displaying Wikipedia in the results, it’s definitely something we can win. Google likes to have some variety of sources and get away from Wikipedia. We can’t all rely on it to be the oracle, the source of truth for everything,” explains Brendan.
But the real opportunity for featured snippets and voice search, according to the company’s global search expert, is not in English, where the competition is the highest, it’s in all other languages. And it’s crucial for Lionbridge as a localization company to have access to an extensive international SEO database such as SEMrush.
From the technical side, Lionbridge uses the SEMrush Site Audit tool regularly to make sure sites - including their own - are up to speed and clean. The team finds the markup check one of the handiest for featured snippet optimization.
Brendan explains: while it’s possible to be successful with featured snippets without markup, it definitely makes data collection easier for bots, increasing your chance of appearing both on SERP and in voice search. He reviews the pages without markup in the SEMrush Site Audit tool to find any missed structured data opportunities.
Once all of the measures are implemented, the Lionbridge team goes to Position Tracking tool to see if their strategy is working.
“I can’t emphasize how central of a role SEMrush plays in our content marketing,” says Brendan. “Every week when we meet with the team, we spend ten minutes going through our SEMrush results, look at our Position Tracking results - Ranking and Featured Snippets, for the US and any other countries we’re focused on that week. It’s a cornerstone of how we judge success of our content strategy. Importantly, this has moved the needle of our key KPIs.”
Lionbridge’s ranking distribution, with positions 1-3 in gold
Lionbridge went from 0.7% success of the featured snippets they are tracking to 27% success in the US on Google.com between July 2019 and July 2020. That's an over 3800% increase.
26% of keywords tracked are now in the top 3 SERP positions, up from 3.5%
A 127% growth in page views year-on-year
International Traffic Improvements (Page Views)
— German improved 100% in 12 months;
— Swedish improved 77% in 12 months;
— Italian improved 140% in 12 months;
— Korean improved 101%;
— Japanese improved 140%.
Lionbridge can easily and more cost-effectively scale to serve its customers in 80+ countries
Many of Lionbridge’s customers run businesses in 20-25 markets and the cost of providing services in those markets can be too high. SEMrush enables rapid upskilling of staff with an overall lower cost to operate.
Report and Dashboard Creation Effort Halved
Specialists involved in reporting have a single tool that can create automated reports using information from any of the SEMrush tools, from site auditing through to Featured Snippet performance. The SEMrush reporting tool integrates data from Google Analytics, Adwords, Search Console and Google My Business, through a single, intuitive interface.