May 15

Spanish SEO keyword research on a budget

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Whether you are considering outsourcing your Spanish SEO projects, or have decided to keep the project in house, this post will give you a deeper understanding of how to proceed.

Keyword Research:

This has to be the starting point for any online marketing program, PPC or SEO. Potential customers come to us all the time and say “I want to rank for keyword X”. This is the wrong way to approach any online marketing project, but in Spanish it’s a bigger issue because each country/region could have a different way of referring to the same thing.

Keyword -> “Cacho

  • All the Countries: Horn, bone of the skull apendix of some animals
  • Spain and Mexico: Piece, portion of something
  • Colombia: Joint
  • Ecuador: Lie, usually humorous
  • Bolivia and Chile: Problem
  • Honduras: Phone
  • Salvador: Type of bread with sesame seeds
  • Venezuela:Infidelity, adultery

Keyword Discovery:

You start the same way as you would in English…(Brainstorming all the possible terms that someone could use to find your site, find synonyms, checking your  Google Analytics data to see what keywords people are using to find you, etc.) Maybe you already have this research for your English site and figure, “hey, I’ll just translate this!” Unfortunately, it is not that easy. First you have to think about your target market. Even if you decide you want a general Spanish language campaign, you still have to ensure that none of the translated phrases are offensive (this happens more often than you might imagine).
By the way, Google Translate is not really an option when doing this. It might give you some basic ideas, but once you get past the single words and start translating long-tail keywords, GT is toast.
Some of the phrases it brings back are twisted, or just plain wrong. Just for fun, check out this application that shows the proof is in the pudding.

At the very least you need to hire someone who is a native Spanish-speaker, preferably one who is literate enough to know something about the different meanings a word or phrase might have. If you are going after multiple markets, unless you have someone who has travelled extensively or is extremely well-read, then you have to get someone from each market to take a look at both your English and Spanish lists to vet the terms.

Another great way to do keyword discovery (in any language is to use the Google Instant.  Type your keyword phrase into the google search bar (from the version of google.es.mx or whatever market you are going to target).  You’ll see terms come up as suggestions.  Add those terms to your list for qualification.

OK, now you have a list of 200 keywords. The next thing you need to do is feed them into a keyword tool so that you can see what kind of potential they have. If you are going after multiple countries in Latin America, then you need to feed them through for each country. We like the SEOmoz Keyword tool, but if you don’t want to spend the money then the Google Keyword Tool  will do.
However if you go with the Google tool be sure to change the settings to Exact.  Otherwise your possible searches are going to look huge.  We also suggest that you click the button that says only provide terms that are closely matched. This will allow you to get traffic numbers on the keywords you already have.

Qualifying Your Keywords

First you need to figure out your branded keywords and set them aside. Next, start breaking down the keywords into categories. For example, if you sell car parts, you might put all the words related to mufflers in one category, brakes in another, filters in another and so on. This makes each list more manageable.

Then you take those lists and run them back through the Google Keyword Tool, but this time you let it suggest possible keywords based on your target market. You keep doing this for each country that you plan on targeting, and separate the results. This process can be long and arduous, but its importance should not be overstated. Without excellent keyword research your whole campaign will be a failure.

Now that you have a preposterously long list, you have to decide the keywords that are most important. Assuming you’ve followed the process that we list above, you have at least 5 keyword lists divided by category first and by country second. It should look something like this:

Keyword-research-optimization-example

First, look at all the times that a keyword phrase is repeated…If this happens, it is a good thing! It tells us that this keyword has broad appeal and should be considered for inclusion in your campaign. Usually I put these rows in one color and move them to the top of the list.

Then we look for slight variations on the same keyword. These go in a different color but directly below.

Finally we start qualifying the remaining keywords. What we are looking for is a balance between competitive and traffic. Obviously if a branded keyword has high competition that doesn’t mean that we throw it away, but at least we know what we are up against.

Organizational structure is up to you, but we like to create tiers that are color-coded. This makes them easy to find. Generally we separate into the following groups: Core Keywords, Informational, Transactional, Singular/Plural and Long Tail. Rinse and repeat for each market.

Having an excellent keyword document is essential to a great SEO campaign in language, especially in Spanish because there are so many additional markets to consider. In another post we can address different ways to use Social Media Management for keyword research, something that has been addressed very well by iPullRank‘s excellent post on the SEOmoz blog.  What do you think?  Did I miss any essential techniques?

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