SEO translation: keywords

Published on 10/09/2019

We could define SEO translation as the translation of web pages that takes into account the principles of search engine positioning during the translation process.

But how can we be sure that the translation of our website will be optimal to generate the highest number of visits and, ultimately, sales? Can a translator act as a digital marketingconsultant? What are the keys to successful SEO translation?

In a previous post on this blog I analyzed those essential elements of a website that need to be translated because of their relevance to achieve a good positioning: "Translation andSEO." 
Today I want to go deeper into one of those elements: how to manage the translation of keywords.

Before the translation: do we have an optimized website?

Before the translation: do we have an optimized website?

As you can't just ask for elm pears, the first consideration we have to make is whether our website is optimized for search engines. If we have created our website with the aim of getting customers who find us through search engines, we cannot avoid this step.

If your company's website was created without professional optimization work, the first step will be to do so. This is such a specialized and sophisticated job that we should entrust it to digital marketing professionals, so if we don't have the internal resources, we should outsource it. 

If we are a SME with few resources and we cannot outsource, the truth is that there are a lot of tutorials and tools available to everyone today. However, you will need to invest a considerable amount of time.

If we know something about digital marketing, we can quickly familiarize ourselves with the most basic elements. Here's a link to a fairly comprehensive guide: "SEO On Page: Complete guide with tips and tricks for positioning in search engines".

If our website has been optimised to be found on Google, the search engine par excellence in Europe, we will start from a good base to achieve a similar result on the translated website.

Whether we have done it internally or outsourced it to a digital marketing agency, the optimization process will have involved an analysis of the keywords we want to position. If we have these keywords, this will be a good way to start.

The first step in an SEO translation is to study the keywords of the language into which you are going to translate.

Study of the key words we want to translate

Study of the key words we want to translate

Once we know the keywords we want to translate, we must make a study of the keywords in the language and the market we are going to address. The keywords of the original language will be a good basis to work on.

When we talk about keywords, we are talking about the words and expressions that users use to search for content. We can also outsource this study and the strategy to be followed to an international or established digital marketing agency in our target market.

When we study the keywords in the target market, it may happen that:

  1. The number of keywords is reduced or increased (see example in the last section of this blog).
  2. The effort can be put into keywords other than those in the original language as a matter of pure SEO strategy.

A translator familiar with SEO translation will be able to help us determine the keywords for the target market. This is relatively simple and there are several free tools on the market to do so.

Taking into account the market can be relevant. You may find differences in the words used to search for content in Canada or to search for content in France. Google's keyword planner will allow us to filter by country.

Once we have the keywords selected, we can study what the level of competitiveness is and establish an SEO translation strategy based on this. In other words, we can consider competing for those words in which we have the best chance of positioning ourselves, even if they are not the most frequently searched words.

Now we can start the translation. The translator will take into account the keywords to be used depending on the results of the analysis.

What happens when the translation has more or less keywords than the original language?

What happens when the translation has more or less keywords than the original language

During the study of the keywords for the target market, we may find that there are more keywords that we are interested in using.

When this happens, during the translation process, new phrases should be introduced in which those key words that interest us can be entered.

Similarly, there may be a reduction in keywords. In this case it is likely that two terms will end up being translated by one. In these cases, we will have to take into account the density of keywords so that Google does not penalize us.

Keyword density is one of the sensitive factors in positioning. An excessively high density can be considered by Google as an unnatural attempt to position a page and we may be penalized for it.

Example: translation company and translation agency

The contents of the website of AbroadLink Translations, our translation company, are generally translated into several languages. In the case of Spanish we find the terms "agencia de traducción" and "empresa de traducción" as one of the most common searches that users use to locate translation service providers. In addition, these keywords have almost the same monthly search frequency.

In the case of French, most searches are for "agence de traduction". The search for "société de traduction" follows far behind. Even less frequent are the searches for "bureau de traduction", "enterprise de traduction" and "botique de traduction".

From this keyword analysis, we can establish an SEO strategy on which keywords we will want to favor. If we want to cover all possible searches for French translation services, when translating from Spanish to French, we must go from two terms in Spanish to as many as five terms in French. The instruction to the translator can be to always translate "translation agency" as "agence de traduction" and to divide the translation of "translation company" among the other possible terms in French: "société de traduction", "bureau de traduction", "enterprise de traduction" and "botique de traduction" in the ratios 2:1:1, favouring the keyword "société de traduction" which is significantly more frequently searched for than the others.


The battle to appear on the first page of search engines has created a new discipline: digital marketing. Web page translation must take into account the principles of SEO. SEO translation should start by establishing which keywords we want to position in our target market.

Therefore, it is not just a matter of translation and linguistic decision. A translation may be the best from a linguistic point of view, but it will not necessarily bring more potential customers to our website. It is mostly a SEO strategy where the frequency of search and the level of competence of the keywords should determine the translation.

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Josh Gambin's picture
Josh Gambin

Josh Gambin holds a 5-year degree in Biology from the University of Valencia (Spain) and a 4-year degree in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Granada (Spain). He has worked as a freelance translator, in-house translator, desktop publisher and project manager. From 2002, he is a founding member of AbroadLlink and currently works as Marketing and Sales Manager.

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