When you translate your website to serve an expanding global market, optimizing it for search should be top of mind from the very start. 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. You don’t need to hire a separate SEO consultant for every market you’ll target. Your translation partner is a critical first resource for creating a search-friendly foreign language site.

What is multilingual keyword research?

Any given term could have a number of correct translations. Choosing the one most used by searchers in your market requires careful thought and research. As part of the translation process, the translation team needs to validate how your customers actually talk about and search for your products and services.

To take an example from SAAS, terms for software and digital solutions may vary across languages and cultures. 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.” Similarly, 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.” Buyers in French-speaking countries might search for these products in a variety of ways, using both the French and English terms. Research will tell you which term ranks best in which French speaking market, be it Belgium, Canada, France, or Switzerland.

Keyword 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 a list of keywords for your English language site is the first step. From there, the team finds search volume and competition data for these and related keywords. 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 when writing the web copy and creating meta-data.

Use keywords wisely

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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