Multilingual websites need to rank for the right keywords in every language – otherwise, you’re not reaching the people you need to online. Keyword translation is one of the most important tasks in any multilingual SEO strategy but it is also one of the most misunderstood. Getting this part wrong can be detrimental to an online marketing strategy, so in this article, we discuss keyword translation (vs keyword localisation) and highlight the key mistakes companies need to avoid.
Keyword translation broadly describes the process of converting a list of target keywords into another language. That sounds simple enough. Unfortunately, the phrase “keyword translation” can easily give you the wrong idea of how this process works – or should work.
In summary, you should never directly translate a list of keywords into another language.
For example, let’s say a travel company has a list of keywords in English that includes the queries: “cheap hotels,” “budget hotels” and “low-cost hotels”. Directly translating these keywords into Spanish would give them “hoteles baratos,” “hoteles económicos” and “hoteles de bajo coste”.
There are several problems with doing this:
- Mistranslations: Direct translation can produce keywords that don’t make sense in the target language.
- Natural language: Direct translation doesn’t produce the keywords your language audience is naturally using – e.g. “hoteles al mejor precio”.
- Keyword mismatches: Optimising for keywords that your audience simply isn’t using when looking for your (or similar) products online.
- Missed keyword opportunities: Not optimising for all of the keywords your target audience is using.
So, by simply translating a list of keywords into your target languages, the result will be not targeting the keywords you need to.
Luckily, proper keyword translation doesn’t do this. Instead, it incorporates multilingual keyword research as part of the process and keyword location to find the queries your target audience is really using.
Multilingual keyword research uses native-speaking SEO experts alongside SEO tools, to conduct keyword research in each target language. Essentially, it repeats keyword research for every language audience, from scratch, to ensure you’re targeting the right keywords and you know which search queries (or keywords) to prioritise.
Performing multilingual keyword research is crucial because it allows you to learn more about each audience’s priorities and interests as well as understand better what they are after when searching for products online. For example, a retailer selling game consoles will probably find demand for specific consoles and titles vary across markets. They might also find buyer priorities are different too, in some markets with certain audiences being more price-sensitive than others – or certain features being in high demand in specific markets.
These are important insights for informing your keyword, SEO and content strategies.
Keyword localisation can operate at two levels. At the keyword level, it takes a keyword in one language, and instead of translating it directly, finds the best match instead in the target language. This can overcome many of the issues companies often run into with directly translating keywords, but it doesn’t fix them all.
The best approach is to always perform keyword localisation at the keyword strategy level. This means that, instead of localising individual keywords, you take a complete list of keywords and localise it to match the queries your target audience is using.
This helps analyse search intent, keyword volumes, conversion rates, etc. to produce a list of keywords that will achieve your marketing goals in each target market. After analysing the keyword list and setting out clear goals, multilingual keyword research should come next, to help identify the queries your target audience is using.
From here, you can select the keyword opportunities that match your requirements. Using these valuable insights, you can create product pages for each language version of your website, targeting the most relevant keywords. Moreover, you can also optimise your content strategy to address the needs of each audience, no matter how similar or different they might be.
Far too many companies have often the wrong idea about keyword translation, underestimating its importance. This results in getting multilingual SEO wrong, leaving them stranded in other language markets, optimising for search queries that unfortunately nobody uses.
In return, this leads to cutting off the supply of international leads at its base and online marketing strategies come to a standstill.
If your keyword strategy isn’t getting results in your overseas target markets, our multilingual SEO experts can help. Fill out the form on our contact page and one of our search marketing experts will get right back to you.
If you’re also an online seller of goods or operate in the Commerce industry, you can meet with our eCommerce localisation specialists to discuss keyword localisation vs keyword translation at the upcoming eCommerce Expo 2023 that’s taking place this month in London. Find out more here if you are planning to visit this year’s event.