Launching an SEO or PPC campaign in a new market? For best results, avoid keyword translation. Here’s why international keyword research is much more effective.

Click. Click. Click.

Is that the sound of your online sales growing – or your budget being wasted?

When you’re paying for every click – or optimizing your site – you need to be sure you’re targeting the right keyword. You already know that’s true for your home market. You’d never just choose a word out of thin air and build a PPC campaign around it – you’d do your research first.

But often, that’s exactly what brands do when choosing keywords for new markets. They translate their existing keywords and hope for the best. This approach might give you a beautiful keyword, but it won’t give you an effective one.

International keyword research is a much better approach.

THE PERILS OF KEYWORD TRANSLATION

Time for an uncomfortable truth: you get what you pay for.

If your budget is tight, you may be tempted to just go for keyword translation, rather than investing in keyword research. Something is better than nothing, right? No – you’ll get a lower return on investment and end up spending more in the long run.

Here’s why:

Let’s say you’re targeting the keyword ‘loyalty card’ in the UK. It’s got a high search volume (5,400 monthly searches) and you’re ranking well. So far, so good.

You now want to move into the German market. You translate ‘loyalty card’ into German and get ‘Treuekarte’ (‘Treue’ means ‘loyalty’, ‘Karte’ means ‘card’).

Here’s the catch. Keyword translation only gives you one target-language keyword per source equivalent. And it might have little or no search volume. ‘Treuekarte’, for example, only receives 260 average searches per month on Google. Because keyword translation rarely incorporates tools like Google Keyword Planner or Google Trends, you have no idea it’s this low.

International keyword research would have yielded better results. Even a quick glance provides two better alternatives. ‘Bonuskarte’ (‘bonus card’) receives 1,000 average monthly searches, while ‘Kundenkarte’ (‘customer card’) gets a mighty 2,900.

And when you compare the three terms on Google Trends, ‘Kundenkarte’ is a clear winner. Although all three words are synonyms, the closest translation would have been seen by the fewest people.

 

(source: Google Trends)

The moral of the story? It pays to invest in international keyword research. It may be more expensive up-front, but it’ll give you a much wider reach. If you’re still not convinced, check out the results of our Brazilian keyword research here.

WHAT’S THE MOTIVE?

Identifying search intent is crucial for PPC success – and SEO, for that matter. But a simple list of keywords won’t help you understand why your customer is searching for loyalty cards. Do they want to sign up to your loyalty programme? Or do they want a printer to produce loyalty cards of their own?

If your target keyword is too broad, it can quickly eat into your PPC budget with useless clicks. A 2016 audit of 2,000 Google Ads accounts showed that on average, 9% of a company’s keywords were responsible for all their conversions. The same is true for SEO – if your keyword is too broad, your site may be visible, but potentially to the wrong people. In both cases, improving your keyword quality can have a dramatic effect on search campaign success.

This might seem like keyword research 101. And it is. But that’s why international keyword research – carried out by a local market expert – is so important. Without it, you could be missing out on the most popular and relevant keywords for your brand.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

French is an official language in 29 countries, Arabic in 27 and Spanish in 21. They may speak the same language, but you can bet these countries are searching for different things.

That’s why a generic keyword translation into French is not enough. To be effective, your keyword research also needs to reflect local search preferences.

For example, ‘auto insurance’ is rarely searched for in the UK or Australia. But it’s common in the US and Canada. Conversely, ‘car insurance’ is popular in the UK and Australia, and not in the other two countries. Even though all searches are in English, the keyword you should choose is affected by regional preferences. See for yourself:

Auto insurance:

(Source: Google Trends)

Car insurance:

 

(Source: Google Trends)

International keyword research allows you to go into this level of granularity, so you can be sure you’ve got the right result for your target market.

CHOOSE YOUR ENGINE

Google controls around 90% of the global search market. But local search engines dominate in particular countries. For example, Baidu has 70.3% of the Chinese market and Yandex covers 54.3% of Russian searches. A one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to yield results – your keyword research should meet the requirements of the prevailing search engine.

Search is also moving beyond search engines. In 2018, 54% of US product searches began on Amazon, compared to 46% on Google. Of course, you’ll want to advertise on the sites your customers use. This means SEO and paid advertising on marketplaces and social media sites is set to increase – and they’ll require a completely different approach.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Keyword translation is a false economy for your global SEO and PPC efforts. The wrong keywords can cost you more in the long run – in wasted clicks and lost leads. Instead, trust international keyword research to make the most of your budget. Work with a local in-market expert, or a global search agency, to make sure you’re capturing the most relevant keywords in your target market, on your preferred channel.

Need help getting your SEO or PPC campaign off to a strong start? Or back on track after a false start? We’d love to help. Read about our international PPC service, then get in touch with our expert digital team.

ABOUT Gary Reilly

Originally from Sydney, I'm an international digital marketer with over seven years' experience. I help global brands achieve their goals with integrated digital solutions. And I'm passionate about deciphering user intent to create relevant content that's accessible, visible and delivers ROI.

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