Your language partner is a critical first resource for optimizing your multilingual B2B website.

Before digital marketing, advertisers relied on intuition and luck to choose the right words to reach buyers. As John Wanamaker famously put it, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” Back then, you couldn’t tell whether your carefully crafted message “connected.” Now, with digital marketing, instant feedback and analytics help us track how buyers find solutions online.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) makes your website easier to find by adapting the content and meta-data to suit buyers’ search strategies and search engines’ requirements. However, a recent survey by found that only 17% of small- and medium-sized businesses planned to adopt an SEO strategy in 2017. According to SearchDex, the overwhelming majority (91%) of marketing professionals agree that “managing and building a well-run SEO strategy and team is difficult to accomplish.” If you are reading this, you are probably already thinking about your multilingual and/or international presence. Before you start worrying about hiring SEO professionals for high-level advice and analytics in foreign markets, there are basic steps your translation partner can take to create a search-friendly foreign-language site.

What is multilingual keyword research?

One step for core international SEO is multilingual keyword research. For website translation projects, we always work with linguists who are also subject matter experts. However, discovering which search terms are typically used by buyers in your target market requires research.

For example, even though software and digital solutions are rapidly globally accessible and have a strong English presence, some countries and cultures create corresponding terms in their languages. These terms may be preferred for search. For example, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software might be called “ERP” by some people in France, but the acronym doesn’t map onto the French term, which is “système de planification des ressources.” Buyers in French-speaking countries might search for this type of product in a variety of ways, using both the French and English terms.  On websites selling Customer Relationship Management software, you might see both the English acronym “CRM” and its French definition “gestion d’une base de données clients” on the same page. Others might use the acronym GRC, drawn from the French term “gestion de la relation client.” This research needs to be done in-country by native linguists who can grasp subtle linguistic differences between markets, not just for digital solutions but for all products and services.

What does keyword research involve?

Translating the keywords for your English language site is the first step. From there, the team generates related keywords, and finds search volume and competition data for these. Tools like SEMrush are used to analyze ranking and competition. Tracking trends in seasonal popularity is also useful. Although multilingual keyword research is similar to English-language research, it’s important to work with native speakers in the target country. Buyers from different cultures and regions think differently about their needs. Global languages such as Spanish, Arabic, French, and German are spoken in multiple countries, but terminology can vary from region to region.

Multilingual keyword research also takes into account the most popular search engines in your target markets. Google remains the leader in North and South America and Europe. Baidu leads the market in China, so keyword research must be done specifically for that search engine. Google’s competition in Japan, Korea, and Russia is fairly stiff as well, requiring optimization for additional popular search engines such as Yahoo, Naver, and Yandex.

Your deliverable will be a list of relevant foreign-language keywords, ranked and validated for the right search engines (for example, a typical Japanese keyword research deliverable would include rankings for both Google and Yahoo). The translation team will use this termbase of validated keywords to inform the web copy, meta-data and any related ads.

Keywords are bait for drawing prospects to your site. Validating your multilingual keywords will improve the chances of your site being found, but buyers won’t stay if they don’t see relevant and engaging content. Quality content in any language is one of the best predictors of site traffic. “Write for humans, not for machines” is the web copywriter’s mantra. Only skilled human translators can craft messages that are appealing as well as informative.

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