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Keyword translation: Why it’s so important and how most brands get it wrong

Published on August 30th, 2019

International SEO is becoming increasingly important for modern brands. Ultimately, targeting international audiences is the only way to maximise growth potential, but building a search presence in foreign languages involves a lot of work.

One of your first tasks is going to be keyword translation, which provides the search terms you need to optimise for in each target language. However, many brands get this crucial stage horribly wrong. Therefore, in this article, we are going to explain why keyword translation – or, more specifically, keyword localisation – is so important and the mistakes you need to avoid.

Why is keyword translation so important?

Keywords are the foundation of every search engine optimisation (SEO) and paid search strategy. The simple fact is, the more languages you are targeting, the more complex your keyword lists are going to become and this has a knock-on effect for all your other marketing resources.

Your keywords determine what kind of content you are going to create, how you craft the copy in your ads and the content on your landing pages. It also shapes key parts of your website, from the content on your homepage down to the questions you cover on your FAQ page.

It all comes back to keywords and translating the search terms that matter most to your business (and target audiences) is crucial to everything.

How do most brands get keyword translation wrong?

The biggest mistake you can make with keyword translation is taking your existing list of keywords in English and translating them directly into each target language. Unfortunately, the term “keyword translation” is a little problematic because it oversimplifies the process.

Let’s go back to the marketing basics for one moment and confirm that different target audiences often have varied interests.

If everyone was interested in the same thing, we would not be talking about target audiences in the first place. Millennials and Baby Boomers have different interests and they will use different keywords to find the same product or service.

This is Marketing 101.

Likewise, Millennials in the UK and the same generation in countries around the world have different interests – which means they are also going to use different keywords to discover your brand.

So, instead of simply translating your list of English keywords, you need to start again with your audience research and discover what people are really searching for in each target market. In some cases, you are going to find the same keywords and direct translations will be fine. In many cases, they won’t. Meanwhile, you will also find the direct translation of keywords in English does not match the search terms being used by users in another language, even if the general meaning is the same. Colloquial expressions, idioms, slang, spelling mistakes and grammatical differences can all skew the keywords you need to be targeting in foreign languages.

How do you avoid these problems?

As long as you work with translators with specific experience in multilingual SEO and translating marketing campaigns, you should be fine. They will have the knowledge required to make sure you start again with audience research and pinpoint where user interests, keywords and even the search engines being used by your new target audiences differ.

Crucially, they will also understand that the direct translation of keywords does not always leave you with the search terms people are actually using.

Effective keyword translation is about discovering which search terms are going to connect people with your brand in foreign languages. Sometimes, this means targeting keywords that are very different from the ones you are used to optimising for, but this is the whole point – pinpointing the biggest opportunities in each new market.

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Posted on: August 30th, 2019