Choose keywords carefully when going global

Posted on the 8th November 2011

Say that we had just decided to expand our e-commerce and e-marketing to include Europe. A big decision for us was the need to increase (double, actually) our PPC budget. This, in turn, meant that we had to take a re-look at our keywords.

Now – firstly, we decided not to translate our site into twenty different European languages – we left it in English. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to take a serious look at your keywords used in your e-marketing campaign…and I tell you why.

We were surprised to discover how many words in English are found in other European languages…except – although spelt the same, they have totally different meanings. For example; Gift in Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish means Poison. In Germany and ‘Old Timer’ isn’t an old person but an old car. A Handy is a mobile phone. You may be selling Boots in England, made from leather but in Germany this would be seen a selling Boats.

But one also has to be careful with UK and USA English. When you take a good look at both of them in some cases they can seem like two completely different languages.

The simplest examples of the differences you need to keep in mind in the two languages is that some words are written with different letters. In the UK for example it is “optimising” while in the US its called “optimizing.” There are other textual differences to keep in mind that go beyond using different letters in the same words. Did you know that what you call a “bathroom” in the US is mostly called a “loo” or “toilet” in the UK? Or an ATM is a “cashpoint?” It can even get complicated. A “bandaid” in the US is a “plaster” in the UK, where plaster in the US is what you use to patch walls with (or in slang, “plastered” means really, really drunk).

In general you can say that UK English usually is a bit more “formal” and feels more like a “written” language where US English is more of a “speaking” language. You can actually hear people saying it when you read it.

Keep in mind that if you are optimizing (or optimising?) for Europeans and you are still using the English language that most Europeans are taught the “standard English” version, which means the British one.