Andy Atkins-Kruger

Why Someone Else Really Needs To Look Over Your Keyword Research – Especially When Multiple Languages Are Involved

Why Someone Else Really Needs To Look Over Your Keywords – Especially When Multiple Languages Are Involved

Sometimes in life it is best to get third party advice.  Investments, life insurance, which neighbourhood to live in – all constitute areas where its best not just to follow our own gut feel but to gain someone else’s opinion.  Keywords are one such area where someone else’s opinion – or rather lack of opinion – can help immensely.

Partly this is due to avoiding being blinded to the wood, because there are trees in the way – but it’s also partly related to the objectivity required within any discovery or research process.

Corporate Speak

You realise you’ve been comprehensively brain washed?  Within your business, you use a language which is particular to you and which isn’t used by outsiders.  In fact, it’s not even used by your closest competitors!  You’ve been so indoctrinated (trust me, you really have) that you cannot now separate regular language from corporate speak.

And yet you’re about to be let loose on a research project which will help your business make certain key decisions or perhaps invest marketing budget in particular keywords which you have chosen.  Oh dear.  This really isn’t the time to let for you to be let loose with your favourite buzz corporate words.

Ego Keywords

You know what I mean by Ego keywords, right?  That’s those keywords that you absolutely have to be at the top for come what may and whatever it may cost.  Sometimes this might be a good thing – because those keywords are good for brand awareness – but sometimes this is a disaster.  They cost way too much, generate no real conversions or interest – but yes they keep the boss happy (that’s providing he or she doesn’t see the real figures and work it out).

Ego keywords are a bit of problem when you’re doing research too.  They tend to reduce the number of keywords you’re able to find that are relevant. Reason?  Because you can’t think of anything better than the Ego words – everything else must be inferior by definition, so you keep looking for closely related alternatives to the words you’re in love with.  It’s not going well this, is it – are you ready to handover that keyword research task to a specialist yet?

Related Keywords and Synonyms

A fresh mind and an objective approach means that your typical keyword researcher is looking for synonyms and related keywords which point to a similar intent on the part of the searcher.  They’re not locked into how you think and feel about your naming conventions and thought processes.  In fact, they’re much more obsessed by trying to imagine what your target audience might be thinking.  But they’re also trying to second guess what you’re thinking and because they don’t actually know what you know, they have a broader view which definitely helps when researching keywords.

Different Concepts in Different Languages

But when it comes to researching keywords in other languages – based on a set of keywords in a different start language such as English, then the process works much better.  If you research keywords in English and then translate those keywords, you’re doing your business or client a disservice.

The reason is that keywords are abbreviations of thoughts that are created from the material surrounding  the user.  If you live in a wood, you’ll probably construct your house in timber.  If you live next to a quarry, you’ll build your house in stone.  They will look very different, but they’ll both still be houses.  However, your keyword might be constructed from words meaning “timberbox” if you live in the word and from “stone-on-stone” if you’re construction is more robust.

In the same way that we live our lives picking up things from the environment around us, we create keywords for the concepts we understand.  The Sami language in Norway, Sweden and Finland has around 180 different snow and ice related words and as many as 1000 different words for reindeer.  So if we imagine translating “cheap reindeer” from English which one of the 1000 is going to have the most traffic?  Probably not the one we translate!

Did you know that the Japanese have four different ways of spelling the single word “Venice” and they each have different search volumes.  Which one did your translator pick? They had a 25% chance of hitting the jackpot (and a 75% chance of missing it completely!).

You Might Not Like It – But They Really Are Searching Like That

Your customers can’t always spell.  Or maybe they choose to spell differently.  Those of us who speak English generally have a fairly consistent way of spelling which doesn’t change much except between different regional flavours.  But if you were Dutch or French or German or any one of many other languages, you have probably been through a spelling reform where the rules have been changed.  The Germans did this in 2000 and there was some considerable controversy over the changes meaning that different parts of the population were spelling words differently – and some of those spellings were officially incorrect.

Others are just plain wrong in the way they spell or abbreviate things, or they use words to look for your business which reflect on their perception of you, even if that perception is one you don’t like.  (They’re still looking for you so bite the bullet and get on with it!)

All in all, the best way to achieve international search marketing success is to have an expert search marketer who speaks the language, do the research objectively for you based on a clear brief from you.  Yes there’s a cost, but it’s generally much less than the lost revenue from NOT doing that!

Andy Atkins-Kruger
Andy is the CEO of Webcertain. He is a trained linguist with 20 years experience in international marketing, having helped major brand leaders with their advertising and public relations projects on five continents. Webcertain has been operating multilingual search marketing campaigns for over 15 years and is one of few agencies which only deal with international campaigns; the company doesn't deal in single market projects. Andy speaks regularly at conferences around the world, writes for the Multinational Search column of SearchEngineLand.com and is the Managing Editor of the Multilingual Search blog.

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