Multilingual Keyword Research: SEO Tips for Global Brands

Are you taking global SEO as seriously as you should?

When it comes to entering new markets or running global marketing campaigns, most brands rush to translate their content into the target language – including their website copy, blog posts, press releases, social media copy and text ads – without conducting any preliminary research whatsoever.

These brands do not take account of the fact that tweaking domestic strategy is vital to ensure that the content fits the culture, tastes and habits of the new target audience.

The role of multilingual keyword research

Quality translation still remains the core element of any localisation process. It ensures that the tone of voice reflects the brand identity and helps you convey the brand message consistently across different markets. However, there are a few other factors to bear in mind before the translation phase. One of these is multilingual keyword research for global SEO.

 Why is it so important? Multi-language keyword research lays the foundation of every global content strategy because its purpose is to identify what you will be talking about. In order words, it defines the topics you will be covering, the issues you will be addressing and the questions you will be answering. In so doing, it helps your customers find you, wherever they are in the world.

How to do keyword research for multilingual SEO

Be realistic. Well-executed keyword research in multiple languages, especially if these are in non-Roman scripts such as Arabic, Russian, Chinese and Korean, requires resources and expertise.

Even if you happen to know the language, direct translation won’t work. This
is simply because of cultural differences. Moreover, even when people share the same language, the way they search for products and services can vary significantly from country to country, or even from region to region within the same country. This is because of cultural diversity.

For instance, according to a study by Web Certain, French people search for ‘lead pencils’ using any one of four different terms‘crayon à papier’, ‘crayon de papier’, ‘crayon de bois’ and ‘crayon gris’ – depending on where they come from. That is why you may need to do multiple keyword researches for each language/country before breaking into a market.

Multilingual SEO needs humans, not machines

For the reasons explained above, you should never rely on machine translation when conducting multilingual keyword research for global SEO. You might be tempted to use keyword research tools that claim to cater for multiple languages. However, nothing can replace native expertise to achieve high-quality results.

There is one more thing you need to remember. Along with a strong command of the target language and an ability to understand any subtleties of a given culture, an in-depth knowledge of international SEO best practices is a critical asset to have.

In other words, in order to carry out proper multilingual keyword research, you will need someone who is able to translate, brainstorm new keywords, and also analyse them, taking into account some SEO criteria, such as:

  • Local search volumes. It is pretty straightforward: the higher the volumes, the greater the chance you will get traffic by targeting those specific key phrases.
  •  Competition. Even better, keyword difficulty. This measures the amount of “effort” it would take to get to the top positions on Google (or other search engines). This is not just about the number of competitors. The authority and reputability of competing websites also have a major impact on this criterion.
  •  Strategy. There might be keywords in your industry that get a lot of traffic but do not convert into sales. This means that the keywords used do not bring the right audience to your website, and you should therefore not target them. Make sure you use someone who knows how to strategically select the right mix of broad and long tail keywords.


What next? From keyword research to SEO-optimised translation

What happens once you finally get your multilingual keyword set? The next logical step to increase your international visibility on Google is content optimisation, which includes placing your keywords into the copy so that it follows global SEO rules and best practices.

Here is where translation comes into play. The translation should seamlessly work your keywords into the copy, ensuring that the copy does not sound either unnatural to readers or spammy to search engines.

Translators and copywriters with SEO skills will know exactly which parts of the content Google looks at and will be able to provide you with perfectly optimised translation as well as localised meta-tags to use in your page’s HTML.

In conclusion, Google search patterns around the world vary markedly according to local custom, cultural references, dialects, politics, religion, belief systems and so on. To avoid missing out on global opportunities, make sure you do your research and use professionals to do your multilingual keyword research.

See also: Multilingual SEO: The Global Search Engine Landscape.

To find out how we can help you achieve your global SEO goals, please call us on +44 (0)20 7294 7710 or e-mail us at We will also be very happy to give you a quote.