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Keen to kickstart SEO or a PPC campaign in a new market? Here’s why international keyword research is a must-have for an effective global marketing strategy.

Marketing budgets are tightening as a result of the economic downturn, so you want to make sure your money is being spent wisely. As technology and audience targeting evolve, keywords remain the foundation of effective search marketing. So identifying local keywords that will engage and convert target audience segments is critical to success. 

Research is a crucial part of getting to know your international target markets’ buying habits, pain points, search phrases and language – a step often overlooked by many brands expanding globally.

Typically, huge effort goes into researching and curating target keyword lists for English SEO and English Paid Search efforts. The same effort isn’t usually applied to international keywords, though. International marketers often translate English keywords into another language – without checking if they even have any local search volume or validating their intent in the local market.

While translating keywords will give you an equivalent and relevant phrase, it typically won’t find you the ‘best’ keywords to use. That’s because for any specific keyword there could be several ways to say it in another language, but without looking at the data it’s almost impossible to predict which version is best suited for SEO or Paid Media purposes.

International keyword research, as opposed to keyword translation, is a much more data-driven process. It will identify groups of the most relevant keywords with the highest demand in a market.

Here’s why doing the digging in the early stages will impact your SEO and PPC success and bring you a greater ROI.

WHY SHOULD YOU AVOID KEYWORD TRANSLATION?

Your return on investment will be much greater if you put in the groundwork in the early stages. And keyword research will provide a more strategic, market-specific approach to generating the most relevant and high-volume keywords than simple keyword translation.

Here’s why:

Say you’re marketing stylish sneakers in Germany. You may think that simple keyword translation would suffice. For example, you’d use the direct translation for ‘sneaker’ in German – Freizeitschuhe, Turnschuhe and Sportschuhe. 

However, after doing local keyword research, it’s clear these search terms have a much lower average monthly search volume in Germany than the English word ‘sneaker’.  So it makes sense to use ‘sneaker’ as your keyword in this instance. 

Source (Google Trends 2023)

Keyword translation wouldn’t have picked up this nuance, resulting in wasted effort and missed opportunities. Local keyword research may be more of an investment up-front, but it’ll yield a much larger reward.

Once you’ve done the research into what your audience is searching for, it’s important to consider why they’re searching. This will impact both your SEO rankings and maximize the impact of your PPC spending. 

WHY ARE THEY SEARCHING?

Understanding your global audience – and why they’re searching for something – is essential for effective international PPC campaigns and SEO strategy.

A simple list of keywords (e.g. ‘sneaker’ or ‘sneakers’)  may not do the job. For example, someone in Germany may be searching for ‘white sneakers’ or ‘sneakers that are good for weight training’. They could be looking for sneakers for children, or themselves. 

Plus, Google flags websites that have a high bounce rate. If a customer lands on your website and doesn’t find what they’re looking for, their swift exit can have a direct effect on your rankings and bump you lower down the Google search ladder. And as 0.63% of Google searchers click on results from the second page, this isn’t the ideal place for converting clients.

If your target keyword is too broad, it can quickly eat into your PPC budget with useless clicks. Your ads won’t be targeted to the right people, with the right pain points. This can lead to frustrated customers, with a negative effect on both your brand credibility and pocket. 

Instead, group your keywords based on user intent. This could include informational, transactional or commercial intent. International keyword research will help develop your understanding of user intent in your target markets, giving you the most relevant keywords your audiences are using to search. 

This might seem like keyword research 101. And it is. But the same SEO and keyword research principles apply internationally. As you’d invest in SEO in your home market, your international strategy needs to carry the same weight.

That’s why global keyword research – carried out by a local market keyword expert for each of your target languages and territories – is so important for your international sites. Without it, you could be missing out on the most popular and relevant keywords for your brand in each market.

WHERE ARE THEY?

Did you know Spanish is the official language in 20 countries? But, as you can imagine, Spanish speakers in Mexico are searching for different things than Spanish speakers in Spain. Two very different countries, in different hemispheres with different buying habits and pain points. 

And that’s why a generic keyword translation into Spanish won’t suffice. 

Here’s another example, this time in English: ‘winter jumper’ vs ‘winter jersey’. As you may have guessed, ‘winter jumper’ will have a much higher search volume in the UK, and ‘winter jersey’ will have a higher search volume in the US. Both mean the same thing – a warm layer for colder months. 

However, with international keyword research and market research, you’d be able to tailor your content to exactly what consumers are looking for. See for yourself:

Source (Google Trends 2023)

With an almost 99% higher search volume in the US in winter months, it’s clear that winter jersey is the favoured search term in that region. The keyword ‘winter jumper’ would have little impact on the US market. 

Source (Google Trends 2023)

On the other hand, ‘winter jumper’ has an almost 75% higher search volume than ‘winter jersey’ in the UK around the same time of year. If you’re a brand that’s present in both markets, it would be smart to adapt your keywords and content accordingly – to tap into exactly what consumers are looking for.

Global keyword research gets straight to the core of what people are searching for, wherever they are in the world. It gives you granular insights that will prove beneficial to the consumer journey – and ultimately deliver a higher ROI from search efforts. 

WHAT ARE THEY USING TO SEARCH?

It may come as no surprise that Google controls around 90% of the global search market. But each country has its own preferred platform for research. For example, Baidu has 55.8% of the Chinese market share and Naver holds 35.11% in South Korea.

It’s important to tailor your research to suit in-market preferences to make sure you’re meeting each search engine’s requirements. And be sure to use a keyword research tool that pulls data for the search engine you’re optimizing for. 

And, as we know, search is migrating to other platforms. As platforms such as Instagram and LinkedIn improve their search functionality, so comes the need for social media optimization (SMO) for your content and profile. 

TikTok has gone further, having introduced featured snippets in response to particular search queries. While still in the testing phase, it’s clear the platform is investing in advancing its search capabilities.

Keyword research for the most popular video platform, YouTube, is essential too. And for e-commerce brands, keyword research and optimization for Amazon will help brand awareness and your product reach.  

For example, short-tail keywords are generally preferred by LinkedIn users to discover profiles or content, in contrast to web search where users may search using questions. That’s why prioritizing international keyword research in your overall global marketing strategy is important – so you’re hitting the mark from LinkedIn searches to Instagram scrolls. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Keyword translation may appear at first glance to be a sensible option. But for effective international SEO and PPC campaigns, an international keyword research strategy will deliver in the long run. 

Simple keyword translation can have long-term costly effects such as misaligned intent, lower volume, frustrated customers and missed opportunities. 

To maximize your ROI, invest in international keyword research instead. For consistently high results across markets, work with a global agency that has a network of local in-market keyword experts. They’ll have the knowledge and experience of conducting keyword research across channels and markets to ensure your strategy is effective and drives results. 

This helps to standardise and scale process, while maintaining high-quality results. 

Want to strengthen your SEO, PPC or SMO strategy? Or need help getting back on the wagon after a false start? We’d love to help. Read about our international PPC service, then get in touch with our expert digital team.

Photo by Reed Geiger on Unsplash