The Many Faces of International Keyword Research

The Many Faces of International Keyword Research

2nd April 2013

Where would we be without keyword research? It’s indisputably the foundation of all search marketing and no doubt a part of daily life for most people reading this. International search is no different, and when done properly, keyword research can offer real value in a number of different ways; to inform international decisions and drive global performance.

I’m going to talk about several ways international keyword research can and should be used by any business with international ambitions or an existing global presence.

Keyword Research for SEO and PPC

Pretty obvious, right? You’ll already be using keyword research as part of all your SEO and PPC work, so this is no different for international.  However, how many of you have thought about just translating your existing keyword list to get you a quick, ready- made list for all of your new target markets?

This is where I throw in the obligatory “you should never ever translate keywords” point.  The clue is in the name: research.  People don’t search for the standard dictionary translation of your English keywords. They search for the words they associate with your product or service, which are likely to be colloquial terms, abbreviations or slang and you’re only going to know what these are by actually researching the activity in the market/language.

And there is another layer to consider – where your audience is searching. Google insights are pretty useful in the US or Western Europe, where they have the majority market share but in countries where they don’t like China and Russia, they won’t give you a true picture of what your audience is truly looking for. Make sure you know which search engines are prevalent in your chosen market and harness the data they have to offer.

International Keyword ResearchDiscovering New Markets

Most organisations are becoming increasingly aware that they need to start looking at international markets in order to grow – but which ones? In some cases, there is already a clear demand from particular countries but for many it’s a lucky dip –with a cursory glance of Google analytics to see where visitors are currently coming from.

Keyword research can be a very useful tool for guiding decisions on international expansion, as it can be used to assess the demand for your product/service; understand the competition; the legal implications or restrictions etc..  in multiple markets. The data you gather can be easily benchmarked to give you a global picture and highlight markets which could offer huge potential, as well as those which won’t.

This is just a starting point. You won’t want to base your entire international strategy on keyword insights, but it will help you discount some markets and focus your more in-depth research on a small number of markets which are more likely to be profitable. The chances are you’ll be surprised at the results.

Understanding your Customers Better

The value of keyword research doesn’t end with deciding on a market and target keywords. You can also use the technique to discover how you can refine and adapt existing offerings or expand your product/service range to drive further growth and success.

Digging deeper into keyword data can highlight trends and preferences of users in specific markets, which could enable you to offer a solution, just for that market, to make your brand and your proposition more appealing to the local market.

A good example is some research for a tourism website, for a city which has visitors from across the world. They are all interested in visiting the city but what they want to do when the get there differs dramatically. French visitors want to know where they can find good food and drink, whereas Korean visitors are much more interested in outdoor sites and activities. Knowing this information means the company can develop more bespoke, relevant content for those country sites and focus their marketing efforts on the areas that will drive the most interest.

This is applicable to any product or service. While the basic product might be the same, there will be differences on the way it’s used, the features which are important – even which colours are more/less popular. Seeing your product/service as local, rather than global and making even small changes to what you’re offering in each county could make a real difference to the success of the product.

Don’t Forget the Native Speaker!

It goes without saying that whatever the purpose of the research, it should always be carried out by a native of the market who intrinsically understands the language and culture. Without native knowledge nuances, opportunities and pitfalls will be missed and you won’t achieve the results you’re hoping for.  Yet done properly, it can be one of the most valuable tools in your international search kit.


Written By
Gemma Birch has been working in international search since 2007 and leads WebCertain’s marketing team. She is responsible for managing WebCertain’s online marketing activities around the world as well as organising and programming the International Search Summit.
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