SEM translations for e-commerce business

Nina Nguyen I 31st August 2021

More than 80% of consumers buy products exclusively on websites written in their own national language. However, online marketers who want not only to present their website in German but also to address international markets face the problem that the search engine optimised content of their homepage cannot simply be translated 1:1. We explain why.


Know-how and flair

Tips and tricks:
Keywords, SEO and localisation


know-how and flair

The existence of a multilingual website alone is not enough to optimise exposure to foreign buyers. This is because the company must also be found in the best possible way in the other languages via the search engines.

One of the main difficulties is what is known as localisation. In order to be on the top pages of Google and other well-known search engines such as Bing and Yahoo, all components of search engine marketing must be adapted to the specifics of the respective language and the peculiarities of the target group. This is because buyers from other countries have different search behaviour compared to German customers.


SEM (Search Engine Marketing):
This refers to all measures that have the goal of encouraging internet users to visit one's own homepage. There they will find information that should lead to the purchase of the offered goods or services. Search engine marketing consists of the sub-areas SEO and SEA.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation):
Your website is prepared with the help of various measures so that it appears at the top of the most important search engines when the searcher enters specific keywords in the search field. This ranking is so important because experience shows that only the first entries on Google pages are opened. Therefore, if you are at the top with your company, you can direct more visitors to your website.

SEA (Search Engine Advertising):
You place ads on Google (AdWords) and other search engines, which then appear before the search results when the keyword is entered. Since your ad is at the top of the page, there is a good chance that the searcher will open it.

The aim of the advertising measures is to increase online sales. Since the potential buyers are specifically addressed through search words (keywords) and precisely formulated texts, your company can avoid unnecessary advertising expenditure.



SEM text translations include not only entire SEO texts and websites, but also other elements important for search engine marketing such as

* page titles
* meta descriptions
* keyword lists
* ads

The title and (meta) description are particularly important for search engine optimised websites, as they appear in the Google hit list. The title, together with the spaces, must not be longer than 70 characters. Anything longer than this and Google will cut off the last characters. The headline should be formulated in such a way that the reader immediately knows what the website is about.

The short description of the website content below this must not contain more than 155 characters including spaces. It should make the reader curious so that they click on the pages.

You need keyword lists when you start an advertising campaign. They include all search terms that potential customers are likely to enter when searching for the desired product. AdWords ad translations may have no more than 30 characters in the title and the text may have no more than 80 characters.

Keywords, SEO and localisation

After the multilingual keyword search, the specialist translator translates the search terms found into the respective target language. However, the SEM translation must not be 1:1 under any circumstances: appropriate linguistic localisation is imperative, as foreign prospective customers searching for your products often have different search behaviour than do German consumers.

„Haus“ can be translated into English as „home“ and „property“. The translator must decide which of the variants has a better chance of success in the English-speaking market, i.e. whether, for example, people are more likely to search for „buy a home“ or „buy a property“.

In addition, the search terms must accurately capture the subtleties of the respective target language. For example, sometimes different keywords in the source language can be translated with the same word in the target language.

Localisation also means that the specialist translator takes into account the cultural and ethnic background of the target language. In this way, it avoids misunderstandings and legal difficulties that could arise from a linguistic implementation that is not geared to the country's own specifics. The currency, units of measurement and your T&pC stated on your company website will be adapted to those of the respective destination country. The same applies, of course, to German personal names in certain cases. For reasons of better identification with your company, German city names are replaced with well-known places in the target country.

Diversity of expression also plays a major role: the search terms are often paraphrased or modified and replaced by synonyms. This makes it possible to rank with different terms for one and the same page. However, caution is advised here: it should always be clear what the theme of the page is – so don't get too creative. Ad translations should also sound as natural as possible.

In addition, the guidelines and exception rules of the respective search engine must be observed when it comes to SEM translations. These concern the limitation on the number of characters. Google AdWords ads, for example, will not be released if the translated text is too long.

The translation of your company website should also have legible and unique content, as similar text passages from several websites are regarded as copies by the search engine. The immediate consequence: your website slips down the rankings. Therefore, always write your texts yourself and don’t copy them from other websites.

About the author

As is unmistakable by my surname, I have Vietnamese roots, but I grew up in a beautiful small town in Lower Franconia (hint: famous for the "battle keys"). Since my school days, I have been passionate about the languages of this world and the different cultures that enrich us. With my experiences from my studies and in the professional field of translation, localisation, transcreation and content, I work in the marketing team of lingoking to introduce the world of lingoking beyond national borders and to inspire companies as well as each individual with our platform.

Contact me @Lorenz Schweiger


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