Keyword translation or keyword research?

by Teresa La Torre | 18 October 2021

Female feet making choice: symbolic image of deciding between keyword translation and keyword research

Image: belchonock /

Ping! A new e-mail drops into the inbox: a company wants its website translating. I reach for the phone and ask for further details. I find out that along with the website texts, I will get the keyword list in the source language. A keyword translation will be sufficient; researching the keywords in the target language won’t be necessary.

Will that achieve the desired results?

What role do keywords play?

Keywords are key terms that people enter when searching on the Internet. Search engines use these terms to find and display matching content. This means that for a text to be displayed in the results lists of the search engines, it must contain the relevant keyword.

Keywords thus influence your visibility on the Internet. This applies to the translation as much as to the original text, because if a translated text doesn’t appear in the search results, the products and services offered don’t exist for those seeking them. But how do I find out what search term is used in a language?

Better not to opt for keyword translation

If keywords are simply translated, various factors are not taken into account. This can have a negative impact on the visibility of the translated page on the Internet. Let’s look at the following examples, which show clearly why keyword translation fails to take important factors into account.

Search volume – a decisive factor

The German search term “seo agentur” can be translated into English as “seo agency” or “seo company”. The correct keyword for the translation can only be found using a keyword tool such as UbersuggestHypersuggestKeyword Finder or Google’s Keyword Planner. The tool shows that the two terms are used both in the United Kingdom and in the USA. People search more often for “seo agency” in the United Kingdom, however, and in the USA for “seo company”. Search volume and target country are the crucial factors in this example.

Take the target group into account

In the second example, the target group dictates the keyword. The English term “distance learning” can be translated into German using “Fernunterricht”, “Distanzunterricht” and “Distanzlernen”. In many cases the translations are interchangeable. What term should be used here?

According to Ubersuggest, the search volume for “Fernunterricht” and “Distanzlernen” is currently 1300 inquiries a month in Germany (as of October 2021). Only 70 inquiries are made regarding “Distanzunterricht”. Here the target group is important as well as the search volume. Does it tend to use “Distanzlernen” or “Fernunterricht”?

Screenshot of search volume for German keyword "Fernunterricht"

Search volume in Ubersuggest

Search terms and trends

During the coronavirus pandemic, the picture was different for a while. At the end of 2020, the search volume for “Distanzunterricht” shot up and was occasionally 6 to 7 times higher than for the other terms. What keyword would have been more useful then?

Screenshot of keyword comparison for German keywords "Fernunterricht", "Distanzunterricht" and "Distanzlernen"

Keyword comparison in Google Trends

Researching keywords in the target language is a better option

A high ranking in one language doesn’t guarantee that the translated pages will be successful in the target language too. Success depends on having the right keywords in each language. Simply having them translated is not enough; on the contrary, researching the search terms in the target language is essential. It is only by doing this that aspects relevant for search engines and specific to target groups are taken into account. You will otherwise fail to be found on the Internet.

Invest in SEO translation, therefore. This service combines website translation with search engine optimization, including keyword research – so that your target group can find you in any language.

More information on this topic:

SEO-optimized translation – an advantageous service

Website translation

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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