Master multilingual keyword research for international SEO

A crucial step for any international SEO or PPC campaign is multilingual keyword research. This gives you the edge over your competitors. It allows you to target keywords that plenty of people search for in your target country that are relatively easy to rank for.

In this article we explain how to do keyword research and then use it for SEO translations or when creating new content. Finally, we provide a strategy on researching multilingual keywords even when you don’t speak the language.

Keyword research fundamentals

Keyword research can be used to help name products, optimise websites, give inspiration for what topics to write about in blogs, and address your customer’s concerns before they even raise them.

It is NOT about finding a handful of keywords then repeating them endlessly. This is a very old-fashioned SEO strategy and thankfully, Google now penalises it.

The most important factors to consider when choosing keywords are:

For multilingual SEO campaigns, make sure that your SEO software shows search volume and other statistics from the country you’re targeting. If you run a taxi company for example, then the translation of “taxi” in French, German, Italian, Spanish and several other European and international languages is “taxi”. If you only offer the service in the UK, having global statistics for this keyword would therefore be completely meaningless.

Prioritise keywords that are:

Website optimisation

This is where keyword research first originated and for good reason. Once you’ve identified keywords, match each to a specific web page. Choose different keywords for different pages as far as possible. This is because Google typically only shows one or two pages from the same site in its search results.

Now you’ve identified keywords, include them:

Important – Except for the URL, always use correct spelling and grammar, even if this means you don’t use the keyword exactly as it is.

Google now use a wider analysis than just one keyword. Include words related to your main keyword. For instance, if your keyword is “dictionary”, using words like “meaning”, “spelling”, “translation,” or “definition” will also help.

Other uses

In addition to helping optimise existing content, keyword research can also be used to:

For the above purposes, don’t think too narrowly. It’s still perfectly valid to use keyword research to identify topics, themes, potential and questions, even if you don’t write a keyword on your web page exactly as it’s entered into Google.

Semrush is a particularly useful piece of software for the above, as it has a feature that lets you search for questions entered into Google, saving you a lot of time wading through long lists of keywords.

Two approaches to SEO translation

When translating a website there are certain pages that obviously must be translated. Any pages selling products or services plus your home page, about us page, terms and conditions, contact page, etc.

Many websites have hundreds or even thousands of other pages though and it can be difficult to identify which to translate.

Our approach to this is to identify which pages get the most visits in English (assuming that’s the original website language). To do so, we use a mixture of Google Analytics to measure actual visits to each page, and Semrush to measure ranking with search engines for different keywords and potential traffic.

Using this information, we then identify which pages are the most successful in English. If a website has a hundred blog items on it, you’ll probably find that a handful of them are generating 90% of the time. These are the ones to translate.

This simple solution ensures that you don’t miss out on opportunities while keeping within a reasonable budget when going multilingual.

Google considers automatic translations spam. Automated translations can also create some embarrassing if hilarious mistakes. Once you’ve identified what to translate, the next stage is therefore to get a qualified and proficient translator to translate your website. To optimise the translated content for search engines, there are 2 solutions:

   1. Create a keyword glossary before completing the translation

This is our preferred solution and is normally the simplest to implement.

The process is as follows:

   2. Translate content, then optimise it

An alternative solution is to translate the content first without thinking about keywords, then do the keyword research in the foreign language and optimise it. This approach is self-explanatory.

How to find multilingual keywords without speaking the language

As already mentioned, you need to work with a professional translator to create an SEO friendly, multilingual website.

That said, what if you don’t have an international SEO consultant who speaks the language?

If you use Semrush, or another SEO tool that has a multilingual interface, then it’s possible to do international keyword research even if you don’t speak the language. Here’s how:

  1. Use Google Chrome

Install Google Chrome if need be and open it.

   2. Visit semrush.com and run your report

This also works with other SEO tools, provided they have a multilingual interface.

For the example below I’m using Semrush’s keyword magic tool to look up questions for “chant” (the French for “sing”).

   3. Change the language to the language you’re doing the keyword research in

In this example, we’d change the language to French (Français)

   4. Translate the page back to English using Google Chrome

Click the translate icon, then press “English”.

   5. Tick any keywords you want to use

You will now see a Google translate of the keywords. Keep in mind that these won’t be completely accurate.

   6. Export the keywords you’ve selected

Once you’ve selected all the keywords, press “Export”, then whichever format you prefer. XLSX is standard for Excel.

   7. Open the export in Excel

Open the file in Excel and instead of seeing the English translation of the keywords, you will see the original keywords in the foreign language.

   8. Pass these to your translator

Your translator can now include these keywords in the translated content. Assuming that they’re native speakers, they will understand the language far better than Google does. Therefore ask them to check that the keywords make sense before they optimise your translated content.

Our services

We include free keyword research with all our SEO translation, on-page SEO and multilingual link building services. We work with qualified and experienced native speakers and offer these services in 6 different European languages – English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Dutch. Please get in touch for a no obligation quote.

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