10 Things to Avoid When Localizing Keywords

localizing keywordsFor any website SEO is vital for traffic.

But in today’s web environment, using the right keywords is essential.

A great way to increase your website traffic for a specific topic is to localize your keywords.  This will narrow down the search results and make it easier for you to be found.

Unfortunately stumbling into pitfalls is easier than you might think.

Language is as complex today as it has ever been and when it comes to foreign markets it’s vital that your keywords don’t get lost in translation.

If you are thinking about localizing keywords the following ten things should be avoided.

1. Don’t underestimate new competition

Stay aware of any new competition that will come as a result of localizing your keywords.

‘New York Pizza Parlor’ will open up a different set of results than ‘Pizza Parlor’; that’s new competition that might not have turned up in previous searches.

2. Don’t presume your keyword’s meaning will stay the same

Even within one language one keyword can have different meanings in different countries; conversely products can be called different things.

For instance, in Spain, ‘coche’ is the word for a car, while in Latin American Spanish it is often the word used to describe a baby stroller. Likewise, what you’d call a ‘baby stroller’ in the USA is a ‘pram’ in the UK.

These linguistic tricks can mean the difference between using a correct and high traffic keyword, and a rarely-searched term.

3. Beware of spelling differences

Watch your spelling.  For example, there are some differences between American English and British English. The American English spelling ‘airplane’ is spelled ‘aeroplane’ in British English while words like specialize and optimize are spelled using an ‘s’ in the UK (e.g. optimise).

Make sure you have the correct spelling for the area you are targeting.

4. Don’t forget about different measurements and currencies

In the USA the weight of a person is expressed entirely in pounds. In the UK, however, it’s expressed in stones.  So if you run a weight loss website you would need to localize your keywords to suit this change and use the correct terminology.

‘Lose fourteen pounds in fourteen days’ would need to be ‘lose a stone in fourteen days’. The same goes for ensuring you use the correct currency for the region.

5. Don’t rely only on Google

While it remains the main player in the USA and Europe, Google isn’t predominant in other countries such as China where Baidu is the top search engine.

Do your research in this area and ensure your optimization strategies are targeted at the top performing search engine in the market.

6. Speak the local language

If you are localizing your website for a foreign market you can’t just leave your content and keywords in English and hope for the best.

Although English is the most widely spoken second language in the world, locals will search in their native tongue first, even when looking internationally.

7. Don’t rely on online dictionaries

You can’t simply type your keyword into an online dictionary to find the optimum version in a  foreign language. This is because your keyword might not have the same meaning when translated or the foreign language audience might use a different word for it.

As an example, ‘hotdog’ directly translated into Finnish comes out as ‘kuuma koira’, which means a dog that is warm.

8. Don’t rely on machine translation software

It might seem like an easy option but most machine translation software only gives you a basic direct translation, which like dictionaries will rarely provide you with the term that foreign language searchers are most likely to use.

Top performing keywords can be anything from a direct translation to a colloquialism or an adoption from English or another language.  For instance, the top keyword for low cost flights in Italy is an English hybrid ‘voli low cost”.  Getting advice from a native-speaker and researching the search volumes of your options is the only way to ensure you get keywords with the best search possibilities.

9. Ensure you’re using the right dialect

Let’s say you’ve translated your content and keywords, perhaps even by a native speaker, and the meaning hasn’t changed in the process. That doesn’t mean it’s definitely correct. Dialectical distinctions are another factor that must be considered.

Think about the differences within a language from nation to nation.  For example, in FRANCE a post office box is called a “boite postale” where in Switzerland (a predominantly French speaking country) they prefer the term” case postale.”   If your keyword is translated into the wrong local word, regardless of it being a correct translation, you could miss out on traffic.

10. Don’t use an unreliable human source

The most accurate way of translating is to use a native speaker that lives in the country you are localizing to. So reliability is essential, not only in making sure that the correct local terminology is used but also for accuracy in general.

Engaging a professional translator with experience in your particular business sector, particularly if they have experience in the field of SEO and keyword research. This is the best way to ensure your content will be accurately translated and properly optimized with your top keywords and that your localized website will bring in plenty of traffic, no matter what market you target.

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Christian Arno is the Managing Director of Lingo24, Inc. Follow Lingo24, Inc. on Twitter

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  1. Although I don’t know if this post is made by Liz or Christian but thanks both of you for a great post! There are many things to pay attention to when targeting a local market than I thought. I current market it global at the moment. But I think when I want to try a local market, I will refer back to this post for more guidelines.

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