FEATURE: Keyword translation – keywords, keywords everywhere!

Targeting multilingual online worlds takes much more than just localizing the content of your website into a foreign language and directly translating the source code of your page.

International Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of adapting your multilingual content and websites for search engines in different languages and countries to achieve the best rank and visibility in the search results, also known as search engine results pages (SERPs), writes Ivana Djuric, a Project Manager at Belgrade-based Eurotranslate.rs

And at the core of SEO, you will find KEYWORDS.

Keywords are the foundation of every search engine optimization and paid search strategy. The simple fact is, the more languages you are targeting, the more complex your keyword lists are going to be as they determine what kind of content you are going to create, how you craft the copy in your ads and the content on your landing pages. 


What are keywords?

A keyword or keyword phrase is one or more words that people use on search engines like Google.

For example, if you are looking for office space to rent, and you type “office space for rent” into Google – this is your keyword (four words long). Some people would type “office space”, some “rent an office”.

Keyword research is the process you undertake to find out which keywords people use when looking for specific products or services online. At present, the top 5 searches for this topic are:

  1. office space
  2. office rental space
  3. office space realtor
  4. office space for rent
  5. office space for lease

These are known as the keywords for this particular search term (there will be many more in the full list, including most common spelling mistakes and typos). SEO specialists will use the keywords to ensure that they build their websites and PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns so that they can attract people from the search engines.

 Keyword research

How does this relate to translation? Before starting the translation of your website, you need to know what your customers are searching for in the target language, or, put simply: which words they use to find you online.

Without proper keyword research, the simple translation of keywords can only go so far. That’s because people who are speaking different languages rarely have the same way of looking for products and services.

You will always need to find the right keywords to use in your web content to avoid attracting a different target audience than you planned and losing opportunities in the local markets you are trying to reach through your website or a campaign. Choosing the right keywords and researching and localizing correctly for online content in different languages is critical because keyword translation is NOT just about translating, but researching and localizing for a target locale.

Keywords Translation VS. Keywords Localization

Many companies and SEO agencies like to use Google Translate to translate their keywords. Other companies use someone in their office for keyword translation. In either case, these are not the ways to run an effective global content marketing program.

Keywords translation is usually completed in line with a website translation project. It is most frequently done for human readers but without consideration for the search engines. The challenge with just translated keywords is that they may accurately convey meaning but not serve their purpose – which is to be discovered by search engines.

Companies often use employees who are native speakers to translate their keywords as a great way to ensure proper context, and while this is perhaps a step above using a machine translation tool, it still fails to provide effective localization. The person translating the keywords from the list is not doing keyword research to see how searches are being performed in the given market. The way something is searched for in Argentina may not be the same as in Mexico or Spain, even though they are all using the Spanish language. Also, the way the word is translated in a different language might be completely accurate, but not used by speakers of the language in the same way.

Keyword translation example

For example, if you are selling jewellery and looking to translate your website from English into Spanish, your UK website visitors would find you by searching for the term “wedding ring”. In the UK, over 74,000 people use this term in searches each month. The Spanish equivalent is “anillo de boda”, but only a measly 5,400 people in Spain use that keyword every month. Given that the population of the UK is very similar to Spain — and people in both are getting married quite often — there must be some searches for it somewhere?

In fact, in the Spanish language, the term “alianza” is used to refer to a wedding ring, so when we check the results for this search term, we see that there are almost 10,000 searches each month using this term instead on Google.es.


What can clients learn from this example? If they just translate “wedding ring” literally, they’re missing out on a ton of potential clicks to their website. So, keywords can’t be translated because they’ve evolved directly to serve the everyday needs of the people of a particular country. Simple keyword translation can’t predict that.

The solution

Find translators with specific experience in multilingual SEO and translating marketing campaigns and you should be fine. They will have the knowledge required to make sure you attract the right audience and user interests, keywords and even the search engines being used by your new target audiences all match.

Most importantly, they will also understand that the direct translation of keywords does not always give you the search terms people are actually using.

Effective keyword translation is about discovering which search terms are going to connect people with your brand in foreign languages. Sometimes, this means targeting keywords that are very different from the ones you are used to using in your own language, but this is the whole point – pinpointing the biggest opportunities in each new market.