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How to effectively translate SEO keywords for different global audiences

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As the owner of an international business, it’s important that online searchers in various geographic markets can find your multilingual website. And a major part of this is using the right search engine optimization (SEO) keywords for your web pages.

After all, you may have optimized your web pages for certain keywords. But unbeknownst to you, searchers may be using different keywords to search for what you offer. As a result, search engines may not direct searchers to your web pages – no matter how relevant or useful they may be.

And because searchers in different markets may speak different languages, you may therefore be wondering how you can translate your SEO keywords:

  • Into these new languages, and ultimately
  • For greater visibility in international searches.

You may also want to know what else you can do to enhance your SEO keyword coverage such that more searchers in foreign markets land on your website. Well, keep reading as we explain how keyword translation works, and how you can facilitate an effective multilingual SEO strategy (hint: it involves more than just the translation of keywords!)

What are keywords in SEO and why are they so important?

“Keywords” are terms that people use when looking things up in a search engine. Despite what the name suggests, keywords need not be single words – they can be phrases as well. For instance, if a person is looking for a step-by-step chocolate cake recipe, then they might use the keyword “chocolate cake recipe” in Google or any other search engine to find such a recipe.

All these are also examples of keywords:

  1. “facebook” (for people who want to navigate to the Facebook social media platform).
  2. “hotels in spain” (for people searching for hotels in Spain).
  3. “iphone 13 pro vs pro max” (for people wanting to compare these two iPhone models).

Keywords are an important feature in SEO as they help search engines understand what searchers are looking for, and then serve the relevant web pages. After a person searches for “chocolate cake recipe,” for example, the search engine will evaluate all the web pages it has indexed to identify those that likely provide a chocolate cake recipe. It then ranks these shortlisted pages according to their relevance to the user’s search.

What does this mean for you, as you try to increase website traffic from search engine users?

It means that when optimizing your web pages, you’ll need to incorporate in them the keywords that people use when searching for information. If you have a web page that covers a delicious chocolate cake recipe, then you should definitely include the keyword “chocolate cake recipe” on the page. (As opposed to, say, using the keyword “procedure for baking a brown dessert containing cocoa, flour, sugar, and eggs.”)

By optimizing your web pages’ keywords, you help search engines rank your web pages for such keywords – and ideally as high as possible, so that more searchers will find and visit your website.

What makes a good SEO keyword?

While there are practically infinite SEO keywords out there, optimizing your web pages for every one of them is frankly an impossible task. And you don’t want to target all of them either, especially if they aren’t relevant to your business.

As a result, the value of keywords differs according to what your business offers and what customers are likely to use in their searches. In addition, keep in mind these considerations when researching SEO keywords that are “good” for your specific business:

  • Search volume: How many people are using this keyword every month? While you generally want to target keywords with higher search volumes, keywords with lower search volumes can also be worth going after if their users are closer to the bottom of the sales funnel (in other words: they are more ready to buy).
  • Search intent: What are people looking for when they use this keyword? If conversions are your focus, then you may want to prioritize keywords that suggest commercial investigation or transactional intent, instead of navigational or informational intent.
  • Keyword difficulty: How easy might it be to rank your web page on the first page of the search engine results for that keyword? Keywords with lower keyword difficulty will generally be easier to rank for. However, you may still want to invest resources into ranking for keywords with higher keyword difficulty if they are especially valuable to your business.

Any good keyword tool, such as Ahrefs, Moz, or Semrush, will be able to provide insights on the above as you conduct keyword research.

The keywords that you’ve identified to be valuable for your business may also be the ones worth translating into other languages. The relevant issues for keyword translation are similar to those for keyword research, with a few extra considerations. For example:

  • Translation language: Which languages do your new target markets speak? If they speak multiple languages, will you translate your keywords into all such native languages or only some of them?
  • Search volume: Searchers in a different country or market may use the translated version of the keyword less frequently compared to your existing customer base’s use of the original keyword. This is especially if searchers in the new market use different search terminology to look up the same topic.
  • Translation complexity: Some words in one language can be translated into different words in the target language, where each of these words has subtly different meanings. Using the right translation for specific keywords can be tricky if you aren’t familiar with the language’s nuances.

Should you only translate existing keywords?

Your keywords need to cater to your markets’ needs. Hence, if your target market uses a different language from you, then you’ll have to translate your keywords accordingly. By doing so, you better ensure that customers in the new market can find your web pages in the search results. This in turn increases organic traffic to your website, brand awareness, and ultimately sales.

However, while keyword translation is undoubtedly important, you can’t always just do a direct translation of your existing keyword list and call it a day. Such a simple translation process may not sufficiently capture cultural or language nuances that the local audience uses in online searches.

The more effective approach is to localize your keywords – which entails translating your keywords, and then refining them further so that they fit with the local context. For example, if you’re selling potatoes to Chinese language users, then you’ll need to translate the English word for “potato” into Chinese. However, there are different Chinese terms for “potato,” depending on the country in which it’s being used: in China, you’d refer to a potato as “土豆” but in Singapore, you’d call a potato “马铃薯” instead. Same potato, but two different Chinese names in two different countries.

Apart from localizing existing keywords, aim to research entirely new keywords for your target audience. This is especially if your new market uses keywords not found in your current list of keywords to search for the things you offer. You’ll need to cover such bases as well for thorough SEO keyword coverage and maximum search visibility.

Hence, don’t skip the step of performing multilingual keyword research when entering new markets. You might be surprised at the ranking opportunities you unearth as you do so.

How to translate your SEO keywords

1. Make a list of your existing SEO keywords

You’ll be working with this list for your keyword translation. Before you get started, however, consider beefing up this list with new keywords you haven’t created content for yet. For example, you can do a competitor analysis to identify content gaps – in other words, keywords that your competitors have created content (and are ranking) for, but not you.

2. Translate your keywords (and localize them if needed)

Once you’re happy with your keyword list, translate the first keyword into your target language. As a straightforward translation of the keyword might not adequately capture the local context, look into localizing your translated keyword as well. This could involve rewriting the keyword to include slang or colloquialisms.

3. Evaluate the viability of your localized keywords

For instance, running your keyword through a keyword tool can get you insights into its search volume and keyword difficulty. On the other hand, doing a search of the keyword in a search engine can help you glean search intent – in terms of what searchers are looking for when they perform the same search.

4. Refine your localized keywords

Based on your findings, you may need to adjust your localized keyword further (such as making it a long-tail keyword if this reduces keyword difficulty). At the same time, check if you need to modify your existing web pages for better compatibility with your localized keywords. If you’re unsure, it doesn’t hurt to engage an experienced translator for professional assistance with the localization of your keywords and web content.

5. Use an automatic translation tool for quicker keyword translation

Repeat this process for the rest of the keywords in your SEO keyword list. If you have quite a few keywords on your list, manually translating them all will take some time. However, you can speed up the process by tapping on an automatic translation tool like Weglot.

Weglot uses sophisticated machine translation technology to instantly translate the content on your website – which, of course, also includes your keywords. All these translations are centrally stored in a cloud-based dashboard, so you and your team can manage them in one place, and from any location or device.

Weglot includes a translation glossary to help you maintain consistency when translating different instances of the same phrase. And if you want to manually review your translated keywords, you can add your translation team to your translation project. Alternatively, you can order the services of professional translators directly inside the Weglot Dashboard.

Weglot is compatible with all leading website and ecommerce platforms, including WordPress, Shopify, and Webflow. In fact, more than 60,000 websites are currently using Weglot to produce translated content and keywords.

Weglot: a key tool for keyword translation

As you venture abroad, you’ll be taking steps to adapt your website for new markets. And you’ll need to help people in these new markets find your website – hence the importance of translating your SEO keywords. Doing a simple translation of your existing keywords is the easiest way of adapting them for use in a foreign market. But as we’ve discussed, this approach may not be sufficient if the situation calls for a localized variation of your keywords.

If so, you’ll want to adapt your keywords for the local context by tweaking them to include cultural references, specific jargon, or even slang. At the same time, don’t neglect to do multilingual keyword research to find new keywords worth creating new content or optimizing new content for.

While doing keyword translation and website localization manually can be quite the chore, Weglot presents an effortless alternative. Weglot integrates seamlessly with your website to automatically translate your keywords and web content into more than 110 languages. It also includes built-in team collaboration features to help you work with professional translators for flawless keyword translation. Last but not least, Weglot includes best-in-class international SEO features to help search engines rank the different language versions of your web pages for the right keywords so that you gain more global search traffic.

Start your free trial of Weglot here to experience how Weglot can assist with your keyword translation efforts today.

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