International trade is part of Dutch DNA, on and offline. To grow your brand’s digital visibility, you’ll need a solid Dutch SEO strategy – and language is key to success. Here’s what you need to know.
The Dutch have always been a cosmopolitan lot.
After independence from Spain in 1568, Dutch merchants sailed the oceans, travelling the earth for new products and markets. In the process, cartographers like the Blaeu family mapped out vast parts of the world. Their “Atlas Maior” was the largest book published in the 17th century.
Today, the Netherlands is the fifth-largest exporter in the world – not bad for such a small country. Its ongoing economic success makes it an attractive target for international brands.
Online, the picture is just as rosy. The Dutch enjoy fast internet and online shopping – 30% of consumers buy something online at least once a week. So boosting your brand’s online visibility through Dutch SEO should be a pillar of your Netherlands strategy.
Need to navigate your way to success? Here are the key signposts to follow.
FINDING YOUR WAY: DEVICES
Google is the preferred search engine in the Netherlands, with a market share of 96%. Mobile accounts for 40% of the Dutch market, with 51% of consumers sticking to desktop. Like in other markets, preferences align with age. The younger your audience, the more you should prioritize mobile.
Voice search is also increasingly important in the Netherlands. Optimizing your content for it – and localizing into Dutch – is a great way to reach customers at home.
29% of households use voice search on their mobile phones. And in October 2018, Google launched its Google Home product with Dutch language support. The result? 5% of Dutch households bought one in the first five months.
Amazon’s Alexa is also available, but doesn’t offer Dutch as a language – only customers happy to speak in English or German can use it. The number of households with an Alexa is actually the same as those with several such devices. Which suggests Amazon could soon find itself losing out to Google Home altogether.
FINDING YOUR WAY: LANGUAGE
To build a successful Dutch SEO strategy, you need to speak the right language. But that’s easier said than done. Here are a few considerations:
1. ENGLISH OR NOT?
It’s official: the Dutch have the best English proficiency in the world. So it’s not surprising many of their online searches are in English. Plus, five million Dutch shoppers bought from foreign sites last year – 3.7% of total online spending. If you’re in a rush and need to get started quickly, launching in English is perfectly fine.
Long-term though, sticking exclusively to English will limit your reach – the top e-commerce sites are local. To truly embed your brand in the Netherlands, you’ll have to go Dutch.
Curiously though, that doesn’t mean you’ll have to abandon English altogether. The Dutch have adopted many English words into their language – like “SEO”.
2. COMPOUND OR NOT?
Dutch grammar throws up another challenge. It’s part of the Germanic language family, which features long compound nouns. You can simply write multiple words together to make a new one. Like “zoekmachineoptimalisatie” (search engine optimization).
Of course, this throws up challenges with title tag and meta description character restrictions.
But more importantly, the way people search is often grammatically incorrect. Dutch internet users often break up words into their original components. Here’s an example – the correct Dutch term has the least searches:
Source: Google Trends
Don’t get the wrong end of the stick here. You don’t need to make your website grammatically incorrect to get clicks. Google’s pretty good at identifying relevant synonyms and closely related searches, then serving those up on the SERP. Whether users break up the word or not, it shouldn’t have much impact on your ranking.
But it is a great example of why international keyword research is so important. It can point out synonyms or related searches. Keyword translation only gives you the most obvious option. It won’t provide any insight into what your searchers are looking for – and you could miss out on better keywords to target. In the above example, for instance, you should consider targeting “search engine optimization” just as much as “zoekmachineoptimalisatie”.
3. NATIONAL OR REGIONAL LOCALIZATION?
One word of warning: the trend towards English doesn’t affect all of the Netherlands equally. The English keyword is particularly popular in North and South Holland. In all other sub-regions, Dutch is preferred.
Source: Google Trends
If you’re expanding beyond metropolitan hubs like Amsterdam and The Hague, you’ll need Dutch. Here again, this type of insight is only possible with international keyword research.
FINDING YOUR WAY: SEO TRENDS
The Netherlands don’t exist in isolation – global SEO trends have an effect here too.
Take zero-click searches. 50% of searches don’t result in a click on any link – paid or organic. To counteract this, your Dutch SEO strategy should include ranking for featured snippets. These are concise answers to queries, picked out by Google. Like this:
Not only do they appear in a prominent position (“position zero”), they also get better results than plain links.
Identifying which search queries will trigger a featured snippet should be part of your Dutch keyword research. Specialist tools can help with this, like SEMRush. Structured data will then help you create a webpage Google can easily “read” and turn into a featured snippet.
Of course, this is just one SEO consideration among many. Google is becoming a search destination, not just a route to other sites. It’s invested heavily in machine learning, and its algorithm is getting better at interpreting what searchers are looking for. Start your Dutch expansion with a tailored strategy for your brand.
Dutch SEO has many similarities with other European markets. But there’s strong local competition. While English is fine to get started with, long-term success depends on a localized approach.
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