SEO and Search Localization for Global Digital Marketing

175_CreativeFocusIncDigital ads will lead the way for global media growth in the next four years, accounting for 33% of total advertising revenue, nearly catching TV in the process. So it’s no surprise that marketing dollars are widely being invested to make advertising more relevant across global markets and languages using translation. A lot of advertisers can get localization and translation wrong, especially in the digital and search marketing space.

There are few situations where direct translation works, and international search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) efforts are not examples. Translating English search ads and into Spanish may seem like the quickest way of having a local presence, but what you really have is an English-turned-Spanish text, which has gained no more local relevance from its language-switch, and may even end up costing you sales due to this cultural detachment. Tailoring digital content and SEO and SEM strategies to target local search queries in the culture and language you are writing for is the key to success across worldwide markets.

So how can you write digital marketing copy that helps you keep up with the Jones’, the Garcia’s, and the Schmidt’s?

Knowledge is Power

The Internet is a world unto itself, one where each country operates in its own distinct way, and where language is more powerful than ever – as is knowing how to use it.

This is particularly true across many regions and continents, with DACH (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) being one of them. These countries may share the common language of German, but all use it in a very different way online. The word for “pencil case”, for instance, may translate to federmäppchen in Southern Germany but would be known as federtasche in Northern Germany, and federpennal in Austria. Not being able to accommodate for these variations may mean that, while your translation is working well in one part of Germany, you’ve lost out in the rest of the DACH region.

Keywords aren’t particularly resilient against translation, so having local knowledge of what people are searching for, in their native language, is imperative. This is far beyond what simple translation can achieve and requires active research into the market you are looking to become part of, all of which will pay greater dividends than any translation job.

Running local keyword research is vital to understanding these nuances across markets. This research can also tell you what doesn’t actually need any translation at all. For example, Italian jet-setters scouring the internet for their next flight commonly include the English words “low cost” rather than the Italian equivalent. If you opt for a straight Italian translation, you’d miss opportunities and potential sales. English buzz words like this hold relevance online in a wide range of countries, perhaps more so than their native terms.

All these issues are easily avoided by adopting the target language from the beginning. Redirecting the time and resources placed on translation into transcreation results in fully authentic content for the market you are aiming for. Driving a multilingual digital marketing and SEO strategy will successfully negate the cultural barrier that may stand between you and your customer, your webpage and your Google ranking, and ultimately online conversions and sales.

Words and Pictures

Wrestling with word limitations is also likely to stop your translated text in its tracks. Translations for search can appear clumsy or overly ‘wordy’ and needlessly eat up your allocated word count in an SEO and SEM campaign. A bit of localization magic can give you effective, fully relevant ad copy that falls within your word limit and better suits your target market. For example the phrase, “Half price” is replaced by “half off” in American English. That’s two precious characters in SEM ad space wasted on a term that isn’t even relevant for the US market. For languages that use different alphabets, then Google’s pixel limitations will also need to be taken into account. In Russian, for example, the vast majority of English translations will be far too long.

Optimization also trumps translation in the wider picture of your website. Alt tags on imagery, for example, are easily overlooked when translating a page. Writing in the target language from content conception with optimization at the point of production means every inch of your page will be optimized for your country of choice.

Success in Search

Whether it’s lowering your cost per acquisition, or generating incremental revenue, optimization across search can maximize your spend efficiency. Using keyword research can help you to target the most appropriate multilingual terms across markets. This saves wasting budget on keywords that are directly translated from English with no guarantee of relevance.

Integrating optimization into the overall localization strategy ensures that SEO presence is perfectly tailored to local markets, and highly visible across all search engines. This allows your onsite content and online ads to get the greatest amount of impressions, clicks and conversions.

From an SEO perspective, optimized content will drive incremental traffic and maximize visitors from organic listings, allow them to find and fully engage with authentically created content and ultimately, converting to sales and revenue.


Based in London, Gurdeep Gola is SEO Director at Adapt Worldwide, a Welocalize Multilingual Digital Marketing Agency. To contact Gurdeep, email

Adapt Worldwide, a Welocalize multilingual digital marketing agency, helps brands expand their global reach across markets and platforms in more than 175 languages. Increasing demands for an integrated approach between marketing and localization, Adapt Worldwide assists through the cultural adaption of content across digital channels. Our broad range of specialized digital and language services include search engine optimization (SEO), app store optimization, copywriting, transcreation, mobile, web and paid amplification. Based in London, with operations in 19 global offices, Welocalize acquired Adapt Worldwide in 2015. Adapt Worldwide was formerly known as Traffic Optimiser.