An Intro to International Keyword Research

I grabbed my tea the other morning, and was heading over to my desk when someone called out my name, “We’ve got another client who wants us to do International SEO for their website. By the way, how is your German keyword research going?”


One of our clients from New York realized that the majority of their competitors were already doing global search engine marketing, and it was time for our client to get some global customers as well.  The English language web is highly saturated with across a broad range of keywords, while the opposite holds true for other languages.

Because of this, more and more SEOs are moving into the international search scene. It’s interesting that in some European countries such as Holland and Denmark, people use as much English as they do their native languages in their online searching. In contrast, people from Russia and Spain tend to use their native languages to conduct online search.

My actual experience was with Germany, and working with German keywords research.  I was tasked to learn about the search habits of people from Germany as well as to find out what words Germans type into the Google search box when they look for activities to do in New York.  Our client wanted to see if there was significant search volume for searches originating in Germany.

After working with Germans for 3 years, and learning the language, I became familiar with many aspects of their culture.  Based on my observations, I made the assumption that the younger generation (Millennials) would most likely use the English language and Google or Yahoo search engines to look for activities to do in New York. In contrast, the older generation, often called Baby Boomers, would typically use the German language to conduct an online search.  The more I worked on the project, the more curious I became.

Next, I set up an online survey and asked my friends to pass it around to get as much feedback from Germany as possible. I’m not going to dive into the details of the survey results, but it mostly proved my initial guess regarding Millennial and Baby Boomer search habits correct.

Among other things I learned was that most Germans use the German language as their primary browser language. The majority of Germans have German as their operating system’s language and use German search terms.


Because of this research, I have decided to approach the process of putting keywords together in a slightly different way than I did before.  Instead of brainstorming and writing down words in English and then translating them, I went on German websites, read forums, blog posts and discussions in Social Media where people talked about when and why they go to New York, and what things were best to see and to do there.  This gave me a clear idea about their expectations and needs.

To my surprise, the final list of my keywords for the project was half in German and half in English.  Based on these findings, our client decided they were not going to create a separate German-language version of their website as it most likely would not generate the expected positive return on investment from an SEO perspective.
If you have things to share on the topic please follow us on Twitter and Facebook.  It would be interesting to see what other people’s actual experiences have been with International SEO.


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