International Keyword Research

SocialB Digital Marketing Blog Last modified: 19 Apr 2022 by Rich Clarke
Paid Search (PPC) | SEO

So you’ve got your SEO and PPC strategies mapped out, campaigns implemented and your current marketing campaigns are performing nicely. You’re now looking to expand into new international markets to take another step closer to world domination. 

You might be thinking, all I really need to do is simply Google translate your keywords for your new target markets. But no, stop right there. This is not the way to approach international keyword research. 

Simply using machine translation for your campaigns is not enough and will see you missing out on the actual search terms used, potentially wasting resources, time and money on irrelevant terms.

There’s no easy way about it, you need to approach keyword research for international markets in the same methodical and thorough way as you would with your home market. Moreover, there are three additional aspects to consider to ensure your international campaigns garner the results that you’re hoping for.

In this blog, we’ll outline the three key aspects to incorporate into your regular keyword research methodology to ensure your international keyword research is on the mark.



The first and most obvious aspect to consider is language. This is where machine translation can often trip up.


Compound Nouns

One thing to consider is compound nouns which come in three forms;

Open or spaced compound nouns that have a space between the words e.g. tennis shoes

Closed or solid compound nouns that have no space with the words put together e.g. bedroom

Hyphenated compound nouns which join the words with a hyphen e.g. six-pack

The German language is a prime example. There are many incidents of closed or solid compound nouns where the English language uses open or spaced compound nouns. In the example above we have the English tennis shoes translating to the German tennisschuhe.

There can even be different variations of the same compound noun used with British and American English. For example

  • Container ship
  • Containership
  • Container-ship


Accented Words

Another consideration is accented words. You’ll need to discover the search volumes of searches for accented words with or without the accents. It’s important to always ensure that the content on pages is linguistically correct, however, if there are high search volumes for accented words without accents then add them to your PPC keyword lists. 


Terminology Variants

There are many examples of varying terminology used between British and American English. Here are a few examples but I bet you can think of a few more.

Jumper – Sweater

Trainers – Sneakers

Trousers – Pants

Failing to do your homework on terminology differences can lead to content having a completely different meaning. These misunderstandings could drive the wrong type of traffic visiting your website resulting in fewer conversions and wasted ad spend.  

These differences can lead to vastly differing attitudes that will influence how people search online, what they look for in a website, the content they are more likely to share or endorse with others (such as reviews), and their expectations of which platforms provide trustworthy information.



The second important aspect to consider is culture. Culture is pervasive and influences how people think, so it directs their behaviour. These differences also influence how people search online, what they look for in a website and what type of content will resonate with them. 

Different cultures have different meanings of words, behaviours and gestures. This can fundamentally affect what people search for online. 

Generally speaking, Western cultures tend to focus on nouns whereas Eastern cultures tend to focus on verbs. To put this into context a British search might be “large saucepan” whereas a similar Chinese search might be “large pan for cooking” even though both searches are for the same item.

Knowing these differences will allow you to target the right kind of keywords for your content


Search Engines

The third aspect to have on your radar is search engines. Although Google may be the top dog for the UK and US, the same can’t be said for every country around the world.

Do your research and find out which search engines your target audience predominantly use for online searches. You’ll want to use the keyword tools on the various search engines to get the data that you need and not just rely on Google Keyword Planner.

Here are some examples of dominant search engines for particular countries:

Baidu – China

Yandex – Russia

Naver – South Korea

Another thing to factor in is that some search engines will not favour web pages with content that is restricted in that region. For example, that YouTube video on your homepage won’t help you get to the top of the ranking on Baidu.



If you want to be successful online in other international markets you’ll need to approach each market individually. However tempting it might be to use Google Translate, resist. Run through your already effective keyword research process for each country and combine it with this three-pronged approach. 

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