Braniff_Airways_Airbus_A320-231;_N901BN,_July_1989In 1987, in an infamous example (or possible urban legend) of poorly-thought-through translation, now-defunct Braniff Airlines tried to market its new leather seats to the Spanish-language Florida market. But it’s “Fly in leather” slogan was translated to vuela en cuero. The gotcha was that en cueros is a colloquial expression for “naked.” There was controversy at the time: was this an intentional attempt to stir up the community? Were people at Braniff that ham-handed and insensitive? The ad exec responsible for the campaign was quoted by the Associated Press claiming “the double meaning wasn’t intentional.” Regardless, the last-hour expenses of leather seating and attempts to reach out to new markets did not save the long-troubled airline. This story has passed into urban legend territory, and is often misattributed to American Airlines instead.

By analogy, this example should apply to your SEO optimization. Don’t leave localization as an afterthought! An industry colleague, Hemi Avraham, wrote a great blog on the subject published just this week on FinanceMagnates.com. To him, the key is to combine the best practices of SEO optimization with professional translators with a knowledge of local markets to get the exact right terms your various audiences are looking for. Because just literally translating English phrases into foreign languages (often using a machine translator) may miss out entirely on idioms, neologisms and cultural sensitivities. Avraham specifically cites the legendary “en cueros” gaffe as an example of the sort of detail machine translation software isn’t going to pick up on. We couldn’t agree more! Don’t “fly naked” into foreign markets.

If you’re looking at global SEO optimization, definitely seek out professionals you can trust. If you’d like to share your experiences and plans for the future, contact us at [email protected]. (We promise to keep any embarrassing stories strictly confidential!)