With many of the available tools available to marketers it seems very easy to “go global” overnight with the click of a button targeting hundreds of countries in dozens of languages. While it is possible to carpet-bomb the world with your magically translated website, it is quite another to be successful. It is far more effective to identify markets that are aware of your type of products and actively seeking them out. Even the simplest of keyword research efforts can reap huge dividends by knowing if the market is even aware of your type of product. If no one is aware a product like yours exists we cannot expect many searches for it.

When conducting keyword research for new or even existing markets brands should follow a relatively simple process and not get overwhelmed by understanding the entire keyword universe. Obviously, if you already have localized content for a market you should check your analytics, Webmaster tools and site search logs to understand the words people are using to come to your site today.

There are many articles on keyword research on the web but most of them jump into the deep end trying to find every possible variation or sacrificing opportunity by going to broad in their search. I have seen a number of companies paralyzed by and exhaustive research report from an agency on all the keywords they should target. The following are the three key steps for any business wanting to target a local market. Note, that these are country and language specific.

Step 1: What is my product categories called in the local market?

Understanding what your product category is called in the market is important.  For example, if you want to sell your laptops in Sweden you have to know that they are called bärbar dator in Swedish. Don’t just use Google Translate but look at what others in your category call it on their site and most importantly ask native local language people and partners.

Step 2: Identify product attributes and descriptors that help define a “searcher journey.

The Searcher Journey is that set of queries done from the first to the last to understand a product category.   This step helps you understand specific demand for the product attributes of your offer.   For example, if the majority of the searches in Sweden are for lätt bärbar dator then you know they are looking for lightweight laptops and that is an important feature and should be included in your paid search and on page copy.    Step 3: Understand the Purchase Journey of the searchers in each market. Once you know the category and attributes of a market you need to understand if and how they want to purchase especially online.   There are many markets where they prefer to research online and buy offline. While others like to touch and feel products in a store but go online to purchase to save money or reduce taxes.  Buy cycle terms are search query modifiers that help you identify people researching products or those who are ready and looking for a place to purchase. These phrases and data are one of your best indicators of opportunity in a local market. Are people in Sweden looking for a bärbar dator? Are they looking for the price bärbar dator pris or if it is on sale using bärbar dator på rea? If your research finds there are not many later stage buy cycle searches then maybe they are not actually buying online which would require additional research on market viability for an online store especially one not located in market.    The more you understand the Searcher Journey for each market and the more of the query “refinements” you can identify and integrate into your content the more engagement potential you will realize.  This is true if your selling a product, service or you have an ad-supported site that requires local market traffic.

While so far this seems relatively simple it can get fairly complex quickly. Many brands jump into this too quickly and often just translate the site and launch it and hope for the best. This agile method of market launch results in a number of missed opportunities.

Most localization companies start the process with a file called a “Localization Glossary” which is simply a list of English words and their local market equivalent. The primary purpose of this document is to eliminate ambiguity on which word to use and enforce consistency. Additionally, many localization firms use translation memory tools that can do a search and replace for these common keywords. Lets take for example the phrase “monitor.” In one context it is a display on a computer but in healthcare it is to look for changes.   Many people will often use “screen” when referring to the viewable area of a monitor. In Chinese there are 21 different character variations for “antivirus” and the glossary ensures the translators use the correct one.

From a search perspective, the glossary is where you are able to ensure that the local phrase they use is linguistically correct but also has the highest search volume. For example, a translator used the German phrase “Projektor” to describe an LCD projector. When there were actually 100,000 more searches for the colloquial variation “beamer.” This is why you should review the glossary for search demand before you start the process to ensure the word you choose is linguistically correct but also the most searched variation.

Another often missed opportunity of international keyword research failing to look at both the English and local variations of keywords to understand how people search in the market. It is often surprising to marketers that an English word is more popular than the local versions. For example, in Brazil, the Portuguese word for whisky is uísque. The local market was targeting that phrase in paid search and was not getting many impressions and very few clicks. They did a quick Google Keyword Planner check and found that uísque had 5,400 searches vs. the English Whisky had over 90,000 each month in Brazil. Combining the English phrase whisky, with the local language ad creative allowed them to target a significantly larger share of the opportunity.

Keywords research is simply listing to the voice o the consumer and understanding their collective needs and wants, in their language, will give you most of the insights you need to create effective content and the right messages and offers that will connect in the local market. Failure to spend time understanding your target markets search queries can lead to a significant loss of opportunity and costly rewrites and post launch optimization activities.