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Keyword translation is more complex than you think

Published on May 28th, 2021

Keyword translation is crucial for any website looking to build an online presence across multiple language locations. These are the phrases that connect you with local audiences, guide your content marketing strategy and form the basis of all your organic SEO efforts.

Unfortunately, the phrase keyword translation itself is a little misleading. The danger is that a number of website owners might think they can throw their keyword lists at Google Translate and cross keyword translation off their to-do list. As we will explain in this article, though, keyword translation is a lot more complex than that.

What do you mean by ‘keyword translation’?

The phrase “keyword translation” can catch a lot of people out because of how we popularly imagine the translation process working. Taking an individual word or just one sentence and then translating it into another language should presumably be enough.

In some cases, this is precisely how translation works. A good example of this is using a dictionary where we tend to take words in isolation, without any context, and find the most direct translated equivalent in our target language.

However, when you are translating something more complex, such as an advertisement rich in linguistic creativity, you cannot translate words in isolation. Instead, you have to step back and consider the goal of the broader message to ensure this is captured in the translated version. Or, to use the popular adage, you have to make sure the true meaning isn’t lost in translation.

Now, keyword translation can be deceptive because it resembles the dictionary example in a way. However, that is not the case.

So if that’s how the keyword strategy you have in place looks, it is essential to rethink things again and reassess your multilingual ambitions before you move forward.

Thinking about it from the user’s perspective

If you start with a list of keywords in English and then translate them into other languages, there are several issues you will encounter, even if the accuracy of your translations is 100% correct:

  • Lack of context: Google has invested billions into AI and machine learning to better understand the contextual meaning behind search queries – so take this as a hint of how important context is, even within a single language.
  • Direct translations: While these are fine for dictionaries, the true meaning and intent of search queries are lost through direct translation.
  • Unusual terminology: You may think you have translated a phrase perfectly, but there is actually a more common alternative used by your target audience in their native language.
  • Missed keywords opportunities: Presuming that foreign speaking audiences are typing the exact same keywords as your local audience is incorrect.

That last point is actually the most important one and the biggest mistake several business owners make with keyword translation and their online strategy. The interests of your foreign speaking audiences vary greatly and the keywords they use to find content and products are not necessarily the same as your local audiences. Those keywords may not even exist in your target languages.

So it is important to keep in mind that keyword translation starts with localised audience and keyword research to find out what local audiences are usually typing into search engines. It’s not just simply taking a list of isolated keywords in your native language and translating them because this doesn’t give you the keywords your target foreign-speaking audiences are using online. Instead, you need to start the keyword research process all over again to determine the search terms they actually use – in their own language – and compile a new list of keywords to drive your international marketing strategy.

For an effective and more targeted translation of your keywords, please contact us.

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Posted on: May 28th, 2021