How to do International Multilingual Keyword Research

Table of Contents

Global expansion of businesses is rising with the growth of communication technology. But it isn’t as easy as rolling out into another region. There are different building blocks to consider before branching out.

One of those building blocks to expanding your global search presence is through international keyword research.

Keyword research may be a simple process for your current locale. This is because you’re comfortable with the words, phrases, and patterns of your primary language and country. But when it comes to international keyword research, these attributes that you are used to sometimes don’t transfer over to different languages.

Take for example the different meanings behind words in British English compared to American English.

  • Trousers vs Pants
  • Lorry vs Truck
  • Crisps vs Chips
  • Football vs Football

The underlying meanings of terms will play a part in search intent. There are other intricacies like idioms, jargon, and slang that can shift the intent of searchers across countries.

Conducting Keyword Research for International Markets

For this method, we’ll be focusing on keyword research for expanding to international markets. This entails taking existing pages we have in our primary market.

From there, finding keywords in other markets we intend to improve our organic search presence in.

To illustrate this in action, we’ll be using B2C fashion, a strong vertical in e-commerce.

Items Needed

  • VPN
  • SEO Tool
  • Translator
  • Bookmarklets
  • Spreasheet Software
  • Keyword List
  • Chrome Extensions

VPN

Gone are the days where we have the ability to see how search results are presented in other countries. This used to be possible through just using a different Google ccTLD (e.g., google.fr, google.co.jp, etc.) or emulating geolocation which provides different results.

Use a VPN of your choice to place yourself in the different areas you’ll be targeting. The more popular VPNs on the market will have more country options, so be sure to double check that you can tunnel into the countries you need.

SEO Tool (Ahrefs or Semrush)

For this method we’ll be doing an analysis of competitors for keywords, which both Ahrefs and Semrush excel in. Feel free to use any SEO tool of your choice that allows you to see keywords at a page level.

Translator

There are a number of translators out there, but two of the best are DeepL and Google Translate. DeepL has praise from users for their translations being more natural sounding compared to others. But they don’t have as many languages to translate between as Google Translate.

Bookmarklets

Bookmarklets are tasks completed in a single click through a bookmark, executed through JavaScript. You can set one up to view the backlinks to the current tab in any of the SEO tools you use. There is a great write up on SEO bookmarklets by Detailed.

Ahrefs code here:

javascript:location.href='https://app.ahrefs.com/site-explorer/overview/v2/subdomains/live?target='+encodeURIComponent(location.hostname + location.pathname)

Semrush code here:

javascript:location.href='https://www.semrush.com/analytics/organic/overview/?db=fr&q=%27+window.location.href

For this Semrush bookmarklet, change out the two letter country code for the country you are conducting keyword research in. In the code above, it is set in France (FR).

Spreadsheet Software

If you are working on a comprehensive list of keywords for your international keyword research project, compiling these in a spreadsheet helps organize things.

Keyword List

You will likely have a list of pages you are looking to perform keyword research for. If that’s the case, put together a list of the primary keywords you target with those pages.

Or you may have a list of keywords in your local language that you are working with. Maybe that’s to influence new pages or optimize existing pages.

Chrome Extensions

Both of these chrome extensions help speed things up if you are creating a bulk list.


When you have the items outlined above, you are ready to start your multilingual keyword research. Any substitutions you may have to fit the mold of your workflow and resource availability are welcome.

1. Set Up Your VPN and Navigate to the Respective Google ccTLD

The first step is to set your VPN to the country you are targeting. Once it is active, navigate to the Google ccTLD in that same country. Some of these include:

  • https://www.google.fr/ (France)
  • https://www.google.co.jp/ (Japan)
  • https://www.google.co.uk/ (United Kingdom)
  • https://www.google.it/ (Italy)
  • https://www.google.com.mx/ (Mexico)

The best way to find this is by searching “Google [Country]”.

Note: Be cognizant of the search engine that has the strongest market share in the area you are looking to expand to. Google may be the largest search engine in the United States, but there are other players out there. For example, Naver is a large search engine in Korea and Yandex is a large search engine in Russia. You may need a different SEO tool that takes into account the search volume of those specific areas.

2. Translate the Primary Keyword

After you have opened the search URL needed, start translating your primary keywords.

One thing to note is that translation tools aren’t as strong as someone who speaks the local language (of course). If you have the resources, translate the keywords through them.

For our workflow, we translate them in bulk in a spreadsheet and use that for search terms to run through.

3. Search the Keyword and Analyze the Results

After you have your list of translated search terms or if you are working through them one by one, you’ll search these on Google.

When looking through the results, keep in mind the search intent of your original term and what is presented on the SERPs.

If the results presented look similar to that of the localized page you’re looking to improve search visibility for, open 2-3 of those URLs. Scan through the content of those pages and ensure there is a resemblance.

4. Snag the Top Three Results and Open in an SEO Tool

Once you’ve found similar content in other regions to yours, use the SEO tool of your choosing to look at those exact URLs keywords.

We typically work these in batches so we save the URLs in a spreadsheet then work from there.

To make these easier to open when we have a sheet of URLs, we use the Open Multiple URLs chrome extension. Then after the batch of URLs for the respective page/keyword are open, we use bookmarklets.

5. Analyze the Keywords

Keep an eye out for top ranking keywords and keyword variations that show up in the report. Anything ranking on the first page is a good indicator of matching search intent. There also may be keyword variations that didn’t show up in the simple translation that would be worth taking note of.

Plug those keywords into your translator to check if they are a match then add them into your keyword list.

As you are working through different international competitors’ keywords, keep track of repeating websites. Those will likely be your competitors to look out for in that region. This will be helpful down the line as you are conducting a competitive analysis to reverse engineer their success.

6. Validate the Final Keyword List and Optimize the Localized Pages

When you have your final keyword list, it’s time to validate the keywords. Work with a native speaker to validate the keywords you’ve discovered to ensure they are viable to use for on page copy.

For SEO tools, they don’t get other languages perfect, so this validation stage is important.

An example is for Japanese keywords, Semrush has spaces in between Japanese words. But spaces aren’t used in Japanese.

The next step after validation of your final keyword list is execution. Getting the keywords into your copy naturally and setting internal links will drive the change you want to see.

Key Takeaways

Integrating a solid SEO strategy with a strong keyword research foundation will help your localization efforts. The steps of international multilingual keyword research are akin to that of your typical keyword research process. With just a little bit more care through verification and validation.

This is just one step in a series towards improving your organic search presence in different locales. Don’t forget to plan strategically through internal linking, hreflangs, actual translated/localized content, and much more that will have an impact.

  • Underlying meanings of terms will shift search intent from one locale to another.
  • Think through shortcuts like bookmarklets that can shave time off from keyword research projects with more volume.
  • Search intent should be accounted for every step of the way.
  • A strong multilingual localization resource will prove invaluable for your global expansion.
  • Plan accordingly to fit your newly discovered keywords into your localization and SEO strategy.
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