Why is SEO localization crucial for your success? Keywords are key

Keywords and search engine results are almost literally the online history of events, episodes, trends, moods and habits of human beings this age. Can you guess the most searched term in 2020? “Why?” dominated the 2020 Google Year in Search[1].

In a year that tested everyone around the world, “why” was searched more than ever. From a marketer’s point of view, “why is toilet paper sold out” just might be the most representative search question of 2020. It captures the curiosity and frustration of the year, and it gets at shoppers’ need for basic, practical information. Indeed, searches for “who has” plus “in stock” were up over 8,000% year over year, according to Google Data.

COVID-19 has projected us into the future. In 2020, global e-commerce sales growth jumped three years in the first three months of lockdown, with a share of overall retail matching 2023. In the United States alone, more money was spent online during April and May than the last 12 Cyber Mondays combined predictions[2].

In this dynamic market, increasing their online presence and effectiveness is not an option for businesses. It’s essential. And just because it works in the New York area, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to work in Italy or in China or somewhere else.

That’s why, if you have an online business, you should look after your search engine optimization, or SEO. Of course, there are plenty of other ways to drive traffic to your website: media, social posts, and display advertising are just a few. But, when done well, SEO can provide an important strategy for organic growth.

Why is SEO so essential for a business?

Considering that...

  • 91% of adults use search engines to gain information<
  • 65% of online users perceive the position a company ranks on search results as a sign of trustworthiness
  • 90% of people don’t go beyond the first page of search results

...the answer is simple. Optimizing keywords leads to better visibility among the countless search engine results: brands that invest in keyword optimization will generally rank high among the search results. The higher it ranks, the more visitors a brand attracts to its website and, potentially, the higher its chances of successfully converting those visitors into users, thereby monetizing their products or services.

And that’s where the need for SEO localization and linguist professionals enters this scenario.

Deciding to implement a SEO strategy is a big decision that can potentially improve your site and save time, but you can also risk damage to your site and reputation. As a linguist can easily imagine, keywords do not require to be translated: they need to be localized. And this happens because of a simple and never-gets-old rule: literal translation simply does not work.

When you want to adapt your SEO to a target market, you have to think and type as the consumers you are targeting for: you do not have to think of a keyword that is understandable by your ideal customer, you have to think of the same exact word/expression/abbreviation that he/she would use for your intended purpose.

When adapting your SEO for another market, synonyms might not work for example: a synonym might exist in a language without actually being used for the same purpose or in the same context. And this is true even for English speaking markets. For instance, US users predominantly search for “football shoes” but those in the UK use “football boots” to search for products (as a bonus, these refer to two different sports). If a US-based apparel company is developing its keywords for the British market, it would be well-served knowing what word the locals use for the same item[3].



Football boots vs Football shoes

In the same way, think of homonyms (those words having several meanings): you want to make sure to use exactly the meaning that is more likely to lead your costumers to your site and exclude all the others.

Or think of made-up words: sometimes when we type fast on our research bar, we all make typos, right? Some typos in one language are simply more common than others, and we probably want to include those too in our keywords if they are useful for our goal.

Only a native speaker (and skilled translator or professional multilingual copywriter) has the linguistic perception to achieve this result and made up the most effective made-up word.

Another important cultural factor to consider is that people might search the same product by using different combinations of keywords based on their social environment, domestic news, habits, etc. For example, if your business produces air filters, you might want to know if in your target market people are benefiting from a special bonus from government which cover this purchase. In that case, people might search those products using expressions like “air filter bonus” and that is something you would not know unless you are deeply involved in those country social environment.

Sometimes, text needs to be expanded or “adjusted” for target audience in order to make room to specific keywords and expressions that are particularly valuable from a SEO point of view. And that’s why, this process is the perfect match between localization and copywriting. And here is another aspect we should consider: What browser are we optimizing for? Google is not the only answer, of course.

Search Engine Market Share

Yandex, for example, is one of the most successful and popular search engines in Russia, with a total market share of 55% of the search traffic, while Bing is mostly visible when you buy a new device and don’t have any search engine installed (and someone would say that’s why “Google” is the third most common search on Bing). And you cannot forget to mention Facebook or Twitter: despite being technically social networks, they are widely used as a medium of search engine in locating products, people, companies, etc. making the possibility of conversion very high.

And remember when we said that SEO might also risk your reputation? Well, think about searching for your web site on a browser. In a perfect world, top results would be linking back to your web site, followed by positive feedbacks, news, stories about how wonderful your company is. In the real world though, businesses might find that googling their brand reveals a host of negative reviews, which is where reverse SEO comes in.

Reverse SEO is a form of reputation management that effectively helps to push these negative links and results down the results page. To do this, it requires businesses to optimize other pages with the same keywords, seeing them rise above those negative pages. In other words, unlike traditional SEO, where you are attempting to establish what related terms people are searching for in order to drive them towards your site, with reverse SEO, you need to rank using the keywords from the sites you are trying to bury on page 2 of Google.

In short, asking why localizing your SEO is important would be like asking why you want your business to be found. In a world that almost literally lives on the Internet, the answer is quite obvious. But if you are still unsure, you can check yourself by searching your favorite browser.


[1] Think with Google, 2021

[2] Mastercard Newsroom, 2021

[3] Keywords: To Translate, or Not to Translate: That is Not the Question, 2020, Gabriel Karandysovsky, Nimdzi