I'm webmaster of a non-commercial site in English. A non-native-English speaker asked me why our site doesn't produce hits in Google searches she conducts for relevant keywords in her native language.
I asked her for a list of keywords in her native language, and I naively tried inserting those into the META info in the page headers and waited a couple of weeks. No help. A little searching informed me that Google doesn't use the META info, and has not done so for a very long time. D'oh!
To be entirely concrete, suppose the StackExchange folks want Russian speakers to find this site, Pro Webmasters. The direct translation in Russian of "webmaster" --thanks, Google Translator-- is: "вебмастер". (Not sure this will render properly, but that's not essential to my question.) Assuming Pro Webmasters has a common template for all pages it generates, inserting "вебмастер" into the Keywords META for that template won't help, it seems.
What could StackExchange do to make this site visible to users searching with the Russian keyword "вебмастер" ?
Pretty much all the advice I've seen boils down to this, if I understand correctly: use the desired search term often (but not too often) among site content, and the problem will be solved. That's great, but I don't think sprinkling "вебмастер" visibly all over Pro Webmasters is going to fly.
Just for completeness, crawlers must be long immune to the invisible-to-visitors scheme, e.g, format "вебмастер" in a tiny text size in a color the same as an existing background, e.g. white-over-white. Or, put that text inside a div styled: ' style="visibility: hidden" '. Probably some other equivalents.
I can only think of one slightly effective method, along these lines: place an unobtrusive link on the common template to a page titled "for international users" , and on that page list desired synonyms for "webmaster" in various languages on that page. A test case --admittedly, just one-- using my site implies that a Google search for
"international users" вебмастер
will produce a hit for this page, and thus make the site minimally visible, despite the fact that the page will almost never be visited. At the moment, anyway.
Note: All the SEO discussions I have found so far are about competitive and --almost certainly-- commercial sites. To repeat: my site is non-commercial, and it is about an obscure, narrow topic that is of interest to only a small number of people worldwide. This isn't about clawing our way to the top of competitive rankings, just making this content minimally visible to interested non-native-English speakers.