International SEO: from translation to iSEO

by Teresa La Torre | 14 November 2017

SEO concept: symbolic image of international SEO

Image: kbuntu /

Although many companies operating in the German-speaking market get their website translated into German, very few of them actually consider international search engine optimization (international SEO or iSEO for short). However, a well thought-out iSEO strategy and a translation partner with an in-depth knowledge of SEO are crucial for successful search engine optimization of your German website.

What is international SEO?

International SEO is the translation of a website into the desired language with simultaneous optimization of the content for SEO ranking. This includes keyword analysis and keyword monitoring in the target language. International SEO varies according to the country for which the website content is intended. Tailoring SEO optimization to the target group being addressed in a foreign language calls for a good linguistic and cultural understanding of the market concerned. This definition relates to editorial search engine optimization.

iSEO is the key

Many companies are aware that website content has to be optimized for search engines for it to be visible on the Internet. As a result, a lot of time and effort is invested in SEO. This work is undertaken either in house or in cooperation with SEO companies. But when it comes to a German-language website, only a few companies realize that translation of the content is not enough by itself. The translation must be combined with search engine optimization so that your German website will achieve a good ranking. You therefore need an SEO translation. International SEO comprises the following aspects:

  1. Keyword analysis in the target language, in this case German
  2. Translation of the website content taking SEO rules into account
  3. Transcreation of metatexts
  4. Keyword monitoring

Keyword analysis

The basis for any good SEO translation is meticulous keyword research. This is the only way to establish which keyword promises the greatest success in which country. To be able to carry out a keyword analysis for the foreign-language website, you need to tell your translation partner the keywords for the English website.

Let’s assume that your target group is consumers and one of the English keywords is “pasta”. Possible German equivalents would be “nudeln” or “teigwaren”. A look at the Google Keyword Planner tool reveals that the term “nudeln” is searched on 20 times more frequently than “teigwaren” in Germany. Even search queries for “pasta” are 10 times more frequent. This example shows that the content should be geared towards the terms “nudeln” and “pasta”. 

Search queries for nudeln, pasta and teigwaren in Germany

Search queries for Germany in the Keyword Planner

In Switzerland it’s a different picture: the most-frequently sought term is “pasta”, followed by “teigwaren”. “nudeln” comes way down the list, because in Switzerland the word “nudeln” describes a particular shape of pasta. It is clear from these examples that it makes sense to perform keyword analysis for individual countries and that this yields different results. Subsequent keyword monitoring can provide information as to whether another text with optimization on the term “teigwaren” would afford an advantage. A translation partner providing SEO services will provide you with the information that you need for international SEO.

Translating website content

When translating website content, it is important to take the findings of the keyword analysis into consideration. This means using the identified keywords and synonyms in the translation and positioning them in accordance with SEO rules. A translator with SEO experience can incorporate the results directly into the translation; this eliminates an additional review step by an SEO expert who is a native German speaker.

Transcreation of metatexts

The metatexts (title tag and description) play a major role in search engine optimization. SEO rules prescribe that the main keyword should occur in both the title and the description. Metatexts are also subject to a clear character limit, making it difficult to produce a translation with similar ranking success. The texts must instead be adapted to the search behavior of the target group in the target country, resulting in a combination of translation and creation.

Keyword monitoring

An SEO strategy only yields success if the SEO effort already put in is followed up by monitoring. Further optimization potential can be identified in this way, both for the English and the German website. Keyword monitoring in English and German are autonomous processes. To assess the optimization potential for the German version, you need to get your translation partner involved in analyzing the monitoring results; otherwise the potential for optimizing your German website will go to waste.


Want to hit a high Google ranking with your German website? Request a free quotation – just send me an e-mail.


Other articles about search engine optimization that might be of interest to you:

SEO-optimized translation – an advantageous service

SEO articles: How to create brilliant content in 8 steps

Keyword research for SEO: how to be successful



Teresa La Torre freigestellt zoom 2

My name is Teresa La Torre. I work as a translator, SEO expert and copywriter, thus combining three skills that complement one another perfectly
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