Global business

Why You Need to Localize SEO and SEM for International Websites

Why international SEO? Imagine potential customers are searching in their native language and will not even find you in the SERPs.
Global business blog category featured image | Phrase

Gillian Muessig, co-founder of MOZ, is quoted saying: “Research indicates that 3 times as many readers of a website will convert to customers if you give them information in their native language.”

You don’t need to translate your legal and privacy info pages, but you do need to translate your important landing pages, selling pages, and other valuable, general content.

The worst-case scenario here is that they are searching in their native language and will not even find you in the first place.

No eyes equals to no buys

In order to avoid this unfortunate outcome, you need to appreciate how important it is to understand how you can benefit from international search marketing.

So let's talk about how you can stop losing guests before they can even get to your doorstep and start translating and localizing your international SEM campaigns immediately.

The laws of attraction

Throughout history, the scientific community noticed certain tendencies among particles and other entities to be either attracted to or repelled by one another. These properties were often referred to as the "laws of attraction".

Your efforts with SEO and SEM will be no different. Certain (albeit disputed) laws will govern whether or not your strategy is attractive or repellant to searches.

Effectively localized international SEM can lead to more downloads, more sales, more revenue, and even reduced costs in longer-term marketing expenditure.

Your SEO and SEM will receive higher quality scores, rankings, and click-through rates—and ultimately more sales—when adapted for the searcher's native language.

But how do we approach search campaigns when dealing with international markets?

International SEM goes beyond simple translation

The most important thing to realize here is that simply translating keywords from English to other languages isn’t going to cut the cake.

The commonality of search terms will differ tremendously around the world so we’re going to need to focus on a more diversified localization strategy—rather than solely on translation with regards to multilingual SEO.

Translation is about way more than just taking a word and transposing it from one language into another.

Meaning doesn't always transfer smoothly - and as those who speak multiple languages can attest; we use a lot more idioms, slang terms, and other phraseological constructs in our day-to-day life than we realize and a lot of those don't translate cleanly from one culture to another.

If the wording is not properly adapted to the region and its demeanor, it may not resonate in that market and could even lead to the dismal failure of your international SEM campaign.

It’s not always about different languages, either!

Even when targeting within an English-speaking market, US-English speakers might search for “cell phone” when looking for latest mobile device deals, while customers in Britain would search for "mobile," and an English speaker in Germany might look for "handy".

So, take the effort to translate and localize your advertisements with the help of local agencies with the proper insights into how to really make your SEO shine.

I doubt very much that you will regret the ridiculous amount of money you could end up saving and the reduction in unnecessary customer confusion in the long term.

Your local language service provider (LSP) can help and advise you on the local search market.

Go local with keyword research and use it to make your tone more familiar to your audience.

Just because an English keyword has a high search volume on Google does not mean that the translation of that keyword will have a high search volume in another language or market.

Just because something is popular on, it isn't necessarily going to be popular on

In another language, a keyword may receive a lower volume of search terms than, perhaps, a slang term commonly used in the foreign culture.

So optimize your in-language keywords. There may be several different ways to translate and localize a key phrase.

International SEM doesn't always mean excluding English completely

When running international search campaigns, look out for language mash-ups.

For example, in some countries, a top search phrase for travel sites will include the English term "low cost" in combination with local in-language keywords.

Before investing in a foreign PPC campaign, familiarize yourself closely with the local user behavior and search habits. Read 8 Steps to Master Localized Keyword Research and International SEO for more information on this.

Choose each character carefully

Before investing in a foreign SEM campaign, you should be aware that the number of characters you can use on each line of your PPC (pay-per-click) ad is usually limited.

As the number and length of the words are often longer in foreign languages - think German or Finnish for example - resulting translations are likely to exceed the limitations. Thus, it is important to adapt the ad to fit within the character length limitations.

Localization will boost ROI for global websites

Global websites and landing pages represent a critical component in the customer journey.

You can count page views, likes, and shares, but to measure translation effectiveness and ROI you're going to have to determine how well your content resonates with a given audience.

Analyze, for example, why a campaign did well in some markets but failed to take hold in others.

Carefully localized websites and landing pages lead to higher conversion rates, and localized ads will result in better click rates, which can be measured and compared easily.

We at Phrase, as another example, noticed that the "average time spent" conversion rate for landing pages increased by +17% after the implementation of localization of our own SEO and SEM.

You can check out our case study about how Kreditech multiplied its user reach by 400%.


Anyone with an international, online presence needs to carefully consider their approach to multilingual SEO and SEM.

Just like domestic SEM initiatives, international SEM is an iterative process and businesses should continually monitor campaigns to identify which ads perform best in local markets.

Effесtivе lосаlized SEM ѕtrаtеgiеѕ hаvе hеlреd buѕinеѕѕes to сrеаtе a ѕuреrb niсhе in tаrgеting lосаl аudiеnсеs.

Sо if уоu аrе рlаnning tо boost your click rate conversion and dоminаtе уоur lосаl mаrkеt, уоu оught tо focus on localizing your international SEM campaigns.

Working with localization experts will help you to ensure your website attracts as many potential global customers as possible.

What about you? What steps have you taken to boost your SEO or SEM? Leave a comment below with your thoughts!