- Take a selection (maybe 10) of your most important SEO keywords
- Identify the local language equivalent in your most important markets, outside of the US
- Get someone in your local country office to type in each keyword in the local engine (one Google, one other), and record your SEO rank
- Then also get them to record your competitors' rank.
If you are ranking well, then no need to read any further - congratulations for being awesome. If, however, your results are on the scary side, then join the club. Here are 3 basic steps for helping you get back on track:
Step 1: Set up Local Language Sites
So I sort of lied - I know that this is far from a basic step, especially if you are starting up from scratch. But if you are a global company, then it's close to impossible to rank well organically for important local language keywords without having a local language site.
One work around (or cheat) would be to sponsor local language keywords in order to show up on the PPC side, also translating your adcopy. Of course, when this person then gets taken to an English language site, they will likely be a little pissed about it, and rightly so. So you should not be surprised when you see significantly lower conversions when doing this.
Step 2: Build Your SEO Keyword List
If you haven't already, then make sure you have an SEO Keyword List in English. This should consist of your most important keywords (and Prefered Landing Pages [PLPs]) that you want to be appearing for in the SERP.
Then take these English keywords and ask your local country contacts to help translate them into the appropriate local language(s). Now because several different translations may exist for the same English keyword, you want to make sure that you have identified the best one – best in terms of both volume and quality.
Check for estimate search volumes using the Google Keyword Tool, and the "Country" and "Language" toggles. Generally speaking, the higher the keyword volume, the better as you don’t want to be spending lots of time optimizing for a keyword translation that no-one is searching on. However, with this you also want to take into account quality, as high volume keywords can sometimes be too broad.
The best way to check for quality, is to look at your PPC results (in particular, some kind of quality score or conversion indicator) for that keyword. If you’re not sponsoring the keyword already, then test it out in PPC first (about two week's of data is usually sufficient).
In addition to simply translating your English keywords, you can also get other good ideas for SEO keywords from PPC, so remember to check out PPC keyword performance for each language. You may come across a keyword that doesn't work well in terms of an "English keyword translation", but works fantastically within that particular country.
Important note: It’s really important to get your keyword list right (as you will spend a lot of time optimizing your site for these words), so don’t skimp on the time/effort to put these lists together - it will save time in the long-term.
3. Optimize Your Local Pages
Once you have your keyword list in place for each language, optimize each local language PLP according to the keyword. At a minimum, make sure you optimize according to the HABIT checklist.
Then of course, continue to monitor, optimize and add keywords to improve your placement and presence over time.