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3 basic steps to follow when localising keywords Tips for effective keyword localisation
To localise keywords effectively, follow three basic stages: translation, adaptation, supplementing and testing. If you have a list of well-performing keywords, you need to complete four main tasks to make your list work in other languages:
- Translate keywords correctly.
- Localise keywords: adapt them to a new region (taking language, cultural and other differences into account).
- Search and add new keywords relevant to the local market like trends, events, etc.
- Test the new keywords in search engines and add them to the localised texts.
In its online training on digital marketing, Google underlines that you need a proper translation—and localisation—to overcome language barriers and communicate your ideas and offers. To make locals feel like ‘you speak their language’, Google strongly advises in favour of using professional services.
Automated translation is rarely 100% fluent and accurate. Free tools might be tempting, but Google penalises websites which use Google Translate for their multilingual pages. The reason is simple: they are considered to be low quality content, not meeting user needs.
Google’s recommendations can be fully applied to localise keywords. As the cornerstone for both organic traffic and paid online advertising, keywords have two main functions:
- to ensure correct content indexing by search engines;
- to encourage user actions with search results.
The closer is a keyword variation to a user’s search query, the higher are the chances that the search engine sees the content as relevant and puts in the first page of search results. Obviously, this means a user is more likely to click your link.
It’s impossible to achieve highly relevant search results if keywords are simply translated. Yes, they will still be relevant and meaningful for a user reading the content. But search engines have different criteria for relevancy.
1. Correct translation
Context is translators’ favourite word. And context is even more important for localising keywords as you should specify the exact word meaning.
How would you translate ‘slicer’, ‘imaging’ or ‘support’? And if I told you these were 3D-related terms? When translating keywords, it is vital to explain what they mean in a given context, give links to the pages with the keywords or at least explain what the pages are about.
The translator should understand the tasks that have been set when creating a keyword list. In this case, they might be able to add other variants based on typical local search queries.
2. Keyword adaptation
Ideally, localised keywords should match actual search terms and queries. Depending on a country, region or target audience, these search queries can differ significantly from terms which have been translated directly.
After adaptation, you may get two synonyms in the target language instead of one source word or a long-tail keyword (phrase) if it correlates to terms online users enter when searching.
Next, the list of translated keywords is analysed for search engine relevance. Search term frequency and related variants are the main things to pay attention to. Based on analysis results, you then correct and amend the list.
Tools for keyword analysis:
Google Keyword Planner is the easiest option (requires a Google AdWords account).
Yandex’s Keyword Statistics and Serpstat are Russian online services targeted at the Russian-speaking segment of the web.
3. Testing and diagnostics
The first round of keyword testing takes place during the adaptation. For each keyword, all the above-mentioned tools offer an approximate number of search queries. Please note that does not mean you should neglect testing the final keywords variants in main search systems. This covers keywords both for content creation and social media posting.
Use the SEMrush Keyword Difficulty tool to check competition for the most important keywords. The index (from 1% to 100%) shows you how difficult it is to outperform your competitors for the planned keywords and keyphrases. A low-frequency long tail keyword has more chances of getting to the first search page when it matches the search term.
In search engines, the quality rating for each keyword depends not only on competitors. The relevance and quality of a corresponding landing page is another component. That means localised keywords should be highly relevant to the content of the landing page.
Anywhere else to use keywords?
The text summarising a page’s content in search results. Web surfers are more likely to click an offered link if they notice the keywords from their search queries (or closely related terms).
Note: Recently, Google announced that their search engine now supports meta descriptions up to 320 symbols long. Still, many prefer the good old fashioned 160-symbol metas, just to be on the safe side.
The first thing you notice when you examine search results is a page title or a heading. If a heading matches a keyword or a keyphrase, the search engine sees the content as relevant and shows it higher in search results. If a heading fails to describe the content accurately, the search engine gives fewer points to the page.
Note: A good heading is accurate, engaging and a bit provoking. It communicates the idea behind the target page in a clear and concise way.
Sometimes, page URLs are localised, too. For Russian language, it means transliteration. If you add a long-tail keyword to your URL, be careful not to make it too long (3 to 5 words max).
Note: According to Google, keywords in URLs do not have a strong impact on your SEO.
Search systems cannot ‘see’ images. Instead, they look for image descriptions in <alt> tags. During localisation, it is better to translate image descriptions and add keywords to them as it makes the page content more relevant to search terms containing matching and related keywords.
Note: An average image description should be not less than 3 to 4 words (250 symbols or more), with only one of them being the keyword.
“If you’re growing into an area that primarily speaks another language you’ll need to translate your site. And it’s probably best to have it done by a native speaker – rather than an automated translation service.
But simply translating content might not be enough. Words and phrases that work in an Italian market may not resonate with a French audience. Localisation is the process that makes locals feel like you “speak their language”.
It seems like a fair bit to think about…but there are many companies and freelancers out there who specialise in exactly this type of work.”
Google Digital Garage