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  • Writer's pictureCarlie Sitzman MA, CT

Culture in Marketing: International SEO Keyword Research

Once you have found trending marketing content that works in your home country, identifying trending topics worldwide is an excellent way to expand your target audience. It may be tempting to simply have the trending content from your home country translated into the local language. Taking this approach could be a huge mistake, however, since content is nothing without its cultural and sociological environment. Foreign trends may be the same, similar with minor adaptations, or completely different. You will have to be aware of the many subtle ways in which the environment and culture in the target country differ from your own corner of the world. Hiring a translator specialized in marketing to perform trending content research for the target country can give you a huge advantage here.

This article is the third in a five-part series discussing how to adapt trending content research for foreign audiences. I will write from the perspective of someone in the United States researching trending content for Germany. This week’s article addresses international keyword research for SEO. The biggest question I hear over and over again with regards to international keyword research is: “Why can’t I just translate my existing keywords directly into the target language?” There are two major factors that affect trends and therefore influence keywords: cultural differences between countries and linguistic differences.

Culture and SEO Keywords

Culture is something you should consider before you even decide to market something with SEO keywords in a foreign country. Consumers in foreign countries are not necessarily going to have the same taste as those in your home country. Even if they do like the same things, they may perceive the same thing differently. They may also utilize products and services in ways that differ from how you would use it in your country. Culture-sensitive design is the first step in the right direction. Of course once you have something that is sure to be a hit, you will need culturally appropriate keywords to match.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches - A Case Study

Let’s examine the peanut butter and jelly sandwich as an example. This is an extremely popular flavor combination in the United States that can be found in the form of sandwiches, candy, spreadable mixes, ice creams, and much more. In many foreign countries, however, such a flavor combination is unthinkable. Foreign consumers faced with the proposition of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich are likely to react with surprise or perhaps even disgust.

Cultural Adaptation of the PB&J

One strategy an American company wanting to market PB&J sandwiches in Germany could use is modifying the sandwich to encompass ingredient combinations familiar to the German public. Jelly is rather common in Germany, but peanut butter is not. Chocolate hazelnut spread and cream cheese are both extremely popular in Germany. Consequently, a company marketing PB&J sandwiches in the United States might opt to sell a chocolate hazelnut spread and jelly sandwich or a cream cheese and jelly sandwich instead of a sandwich containing peanut butter. With a newly adapted sandwich in hand, they will then have to find the appropriate SEO keywords to describe it. Had they taken the one-dimensional approach of simply translating the words “peanut butter and jelly” into German, they might be using SEO keywords for a sandwich that no one even cares to search for.

An International Approach to PB&J Keywords

Another strategy is to change your perspective on the place of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in society. Rather than looking at it as a delicious sandwich, envision it as an exotic, metropolitan experience. A taste of the United States. People wanting to explore the unknown and appear sophisticated to their friends are likely to be much more tolerant of “bizarre” flavor combinations than those seeking a delicious sandwich. With this perspective, you probably won’t be calling it a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Who is even going to know what that is? Instead, you might use a phrase such as “American sandwich” to appeal to people searching for an international “American” experience.

The Linguistics of SEO Keywords

Linguistics is central to the success of keywords internationally. Many English speakers mistakenly believe that there is a direct translation for every single word in the English language. This simply is not the case. Languages bundle meaning into words differently. There are words in German that do not exist in English and vice versa. A word might seem to have a direct translation that is very similar in meaning, but the connotation in the foreign language will then be different from the connotation in English. Even if you will be marketing the same thing in both countries, the differing cultural perspective and linguistic tendencies may cause consumers to label the item differently in their native languages. To get an idea of how this phenomenon plays out, let’s take a look at how the literal meanings of a few common, everyday phrases differ between German and English:

Hiring a good translator specialized in marketing is the best way to get foreign SEO keywords right. Translators generally possess superior fluency in two languages. This in-depth linguistic expertise coupled with profound cultural knowledge allows them to identify trendy, culturally-appropriate phrases that will make effective SEO keywords.

Contact me to unlock trendy international SEO keywords that will capture consumers’ attention!

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