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How To Optimize YouTube Videos To Help Ukraine

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How To Optimize YouTube Videos To Help Ukraine

Back on Feb. 11, 2022, the marketing team at SE Ranking, then located in Kyiv, Ukraine, invited me to give an online presentation about my Search Engine Journal article entitled, “Video SEO: 10 Steps to Optimizing Videos for Search and Discovery.”

I quickly accepted.

I didn’t hear back from them for several days, and I learned later from Svetlana Shchehel, an editor at SE Ranking and fellow SEJ contributor:

“Some of us have spent days on the road striving to bring our families to a safer place. Some are still in Kyiv and other cities of Ukraine, trying to do their daily routine to the sounds of air raid sirens.

All of us feel scared and devastated, but also hopeful and strong.”

That’s when I decided to go beyond presenting a PowerPoint version of my Search Engine Journal article.

And that’s why I opened my presentation at their webinar on April 14 with a snapshot of “The real price of war.”

I said, “Ukrainians are a big part of the SE Ranking team. Tatiana Perebeinis, the chief accountant of SE Ranking, and her two children, Mykyta, 18, and Alisa, 9, along with a church volunteer helping them, Anatoly Berezhnyi, 26, were killed on Sunday, March 6, crossing the concrete remnants of a damaged bridge in their town of Irpin, to evacuate to Kyiv.”

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Now, as I said then, I can’t help Ukraine produce more YouTube videos that people in Europe will watch and share.

But I can teach you how to optimize videos that tell the truth about the war, so they are discovered when people conduct relevant searches on YouTube, the world’s second-largest search engine.

Here’s a quick reference, and we’ll dig in below.

How to optimize YouTube videos to support Ukraine.

How YouTube’s Algorithm Works

YouTube’s algorithm tries to match each viewer to the videos they are most likely to watch and enjoy.

With more than 500 hours of video content uploaded every minute, this is quite a challenge.

YouTube’s search and discovery systems tackle this Herculean task by paying attention to viewers instead of videos.

YouTube’s algorithm “follows the audience” by paying attention to things like:

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  • What they watch.
  • What they don’t watch.
  • How much time they spend watching.
  • Their sharing, likes, and dislikes.
  • “Not interested” feedback and satisfaction surveys.

Next, I explained that YouTube has multiple algorithms, including ones for:

  • YouTube Search: Videos are ranked based on how well the title, description, and video content match the viewer’s search and which videos drive the most engagement for a search.
  • Up Next: Videos are ranked to offer viewers videos they’re most likely to watch next. These videos are often related to the video an audience is watching, but they can also be personalized based on watch history.
  • Your homepage: Videos are selected based on how well they have interested and satisfied similar viewers, how often viewers watch a channel or topic, and how many times YouTube has already shown each video.
  • YouTube Shorts: YouTube wants both short and long videos to succeed. So, broadly speaking, relative watch time is more important for short videos, and absolute watch time is more important for longer videos.

But you don’t have to be an expert in YouTube’s algorithms to be successful. Instead, you focus on knowing your audience.

YouTube’s search and discovery system doesn’t “promote” videos to your audience. It ‘finds’ videos for each viewer and their varying interests.

The goal is to get people to watch more videos they enjoy so they will come back to YouTube regularly.

For example, Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine, made an emotional appeal to members of the U.S. Congress for additional help in defending Ukraine from Russia’s invasion.

His 18-minute address included a powerful video set to haunting violin music, juxtaposing Ukraine’s pre-invasion joy and beauty with graphic images of the war’s death and destruction that brought some lawmakers to tears.

And Tubular Labs data shows 174 accounts uploaded 217 videos about this event to YouTube, resulting in 5.3 million views and 130,000 engagements (e.g., likes, comments, shares).

Most were uploaded in the News & Politics category, but the video with the most views and engagements was “Trump Dials Back Putin Praise, Russia Sanctions Prominent Americans & Zelensky Addresses Congress,” which was uploaded in the Comedy category by Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Zelensky addresses CongressScreenshot from YouTube, March 2022Zelensky addresses Congress

Jimmy Kimmel’s 14:06-long monologue got 1.6 million views and 28,500 engagements.

WION, an Indian multinational English language news channel headquartered in New Delhi, uploaded a news story that was 48:13-long, which got 561,000 views and less than 7,800 engagements.

Meanwhile, CNN’s 6:06-long news story got 371,000 views and 13,400 engagements. I’d call these results counter-intuitive.

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After providing this background, I presented an update to the 10 steps for optimizing videos.

Step 1: Conduct Keyword Research For YouTube

The first step is conducting keyword research.

Instead of trying to cover the 10 best YouTube keyword tool alternatives, I focused on just four:

  • Search predictions: Start typing a term in YouTube’s search box. The autocomplete feature will provide you with a series of search predictions related to what you’ve already typed in and what other people are searching for.
  • Keyword Tool for YouTube: The Keyword Tool for YouTube pulls more than 750 long-tail search term suggestions from YouTube’s search predictions by appending and prepending the keyword you specify with letters and numbers.
  • Google Trends: Google Trends shows you “web search” interest by default. But, click on the Web Search button, and a drop-down menu will show you other options, including YouTube Search trends back to 2008.
  • vidIQ: When you search on YouTube, vidIQ displays how hot (or not) the keyword or phrase is based on its search volume and competition. It’s also worth noting that Ukrainians make up a large part of vidIQ’s team.

Step 2: Optimize Videos Specifically For YouTube Search

The second step is optimizing your videos for YouTube Search, which prioritizes:

  • Relevance: YouTube looks at many factors, such as how well the title, description, hashtags, and video content match a viewer’s search query.
  • Engagement: YouTube looks at the watch time of a particular video for a particular query to determine if the video is considered relevant to the query by other users.
  • Quality: YouTube’s systems are designed to identify signals that can help determine which channels demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness on a given topic.”

And I shared the following tips for optimizing your titles:

  • Use compelling titles for your videos that accurately represent the content.
  • Keep your titles concise – under 50 characters.
  • Put the most important information up front and your hashtags, branding, or episode numbers towards the end.
  • Avoid misleading, clickbait, or sensational titles, making your video less likely to be recommended to viewers.

Step 3: Optimize Video Descriptions

The third step is optimizing both parts of your descriptions – what viewers see before they click Show more and what they see after.

In June 2020, YouTube introduced Video Chapters, which add context to each portion of the video.

And in January 2021, YouTube launched a new search results page that appears when users look for videos by hashtag.

So, here’s how to optimize your descriptions:

  • Use the first few lines of text to explain what the video is about using search-friendly keywords and natural language.
  • Use the rest of the text (what shows up once they click Show more) to provide around 200 to 350 words of extra information.
  • Add Video Chapters, which use timestamps to allow viewers to watch or rewatch a specific section of a video.
  • Use related hashtags (#) to help viewers find your video when searching for a specific topic on YouTube.

Step 4: Optimize Video Thumbnails

The fourth step is optimizing your thumbnails.

I said, “Video thumbnails let viewers see a quick snapshot of your video as they’re browsing YouTube. After uploading your video, you can add a custom thumbnail if your account is verified or choose one of the three thumbnail options that YouTube automatically generates.”

I added, “Your custom thumbnail image should be as large as possible.”

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Custom thumbnails should:

  • Have a resolution of 1280×720 (with a minimum width of 640 pixels).
  • Be uploaded in image formats such as JPG, GIF, or PNG.
  • Remain under the 2MB limit.
  • Try to use a 16:9 aspect ratio as it’s the most used in YouTube players and previews.

But, I also cautioned:

  • Make sure your thumbnail follows YouTube’s thumbnail policy.
  • Create thumbnails that accurately represent your content.

Step 5: Optimize For YouTube’s Recommendation System

The fifth step is optimizing your videos for YouTube’s recommendation system, which drives a significant amount of the overall viewership on YouTube, even more than channel subscriptions or search.

And YouTube’s recommendation system works in two main places: The “Up Next” panel and a viewer’s homepage.

The “Up Next” panel suggests additional content based on whatever a viewer is currently watching, alongside other videos YouTube thinks the viewer may be interested in.

So, here’s how to optimize videos, so they’re Up Next:

  • Make strong calls to action to encourage viewers to watch another video in your series.
  • Long endings may delay viewers from watching more, so be mindful of how your videos end.
  • Use links, cards, and end screens to suggest the next video that your viewer may be interested in watching.
  • Develop playlists that are organically connected by a specific theme or tent-pole event to create a long viewing experience.

Step 6: Encourage Viewers With Links, Cards, And End Screens

The sixth step is optimizing your links, cards, and end screens.

Links in your description can encourage viewers to take an action, which is an engagement signal.

Cards work well when in conjunction with scripted calls to action or when they’re relevant to your video content.

End screens can be added to the last 5–20 seconds of a video to promote other videos, encourage viewers to subscribe, and more.

So, here are some video SEO best practices:

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  • Use cards in older videos to highlight your most recent uploads or promote fundraising campaigns.
  • Use cards to cross-promote other creators and credit collaborators in your video.
  • Leave enough space and time at the end of your video (the last 20 seconds) for an end screen.
  • Encourage viewers to click using calls to action for different end screen elements and show them at different times.

Step 7: Remember The “4 Rs”

The seventh step is fighting misinformation.

For content where accuracy and authoritativeness are key, including news, politics, medical, and scientific information, YouTube uses machine learning systems that prioritize information from authoritative sources.

And certain types of misleading or deceptive content are not allowed on YouTube, including misinformation that can cause real-world harm.

For example, YouTube blocked Russia’s state-backed channels RT and Sputnik across Europe on March 1, 2022.

And YouTube started blocking access worldwide to channels associated with Russian state-funded media on March 11.

YouTube cited a policy barring content denying, minimizing, or trivializing well-documented violent events. YouTube added that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine now fell under this policy, and violating material would be removed.

Here are the “4 Rs” YouTube’s machine learning systems use:

  • Remove content that violates their policies.
  • Reduce recommendations of borderline content.
  • Raise authoritative sources for news and information.
  • Reward trusted creators.

Step 8: Optimize For User Homepage

The eighth step is optimizing videos for a user’s homepage.

The homepage is what a user sees when they first open YouTube.

It displays a mixture of personalized recommendations, subscriptions, and the latest news and information.

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Unlike other platforms, YouTube doesn’t connect viewers to content through their social network.

Instead, YouTube’s recommendation system is constantly evolving, learning from over 80 billion signals every day to help people connect to videos they love.

So, I shared these observations:

  • Recommendations connect viewers to high-quality information and minimize the chances of seeing problematic content.
  • Any video that YouTube classifies as “borderline content” is demoted in recommendations.

Step 9: Set Up A Regular Publishing Cycle

The ninth step is publishing content frequently and regularly.

A good frequency to aim for is a minimum of two videos per week, but the right amount of content depends on your audience, your goals, and your content.

And release videos on a set day of the week, if possible. Releasing videos on a recurring schedule helps build a structure to your channel that an audience can rely on.

Then, I shared the following ways to optimize your programming:

  • Upload new videos consistently to give your audience an expectation of when they can see more new content.
  • Keep viewers engaged for longer and encourage them to come back for more.
  • Keep doing what works. Don’t be afraid to experiment, but do so mindfully.
  • See how often your channel appears on Home, globally, by going to your YouTube Analytics Traffic Sources report.

Step 10: Create Shorts

The tenth step is getting started with YouTube Shorts.

In my article, “YouTube Shorts: An Introductory Guide,” I said,

“You might mistakenly think that Shorts is merely a bunch of creation tools that make it easy to create short-form videos up to 60 seconds long with a multi-segment camera.”

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But, I added, “Viewers may find your Shorts by tapping Shorts at the bottom of the YouTube app.”

They may also find Shorts:

  • On the YouTube homepage.
  • In their notifications.
  • By checking their Subscriptions.
  • Featured on your channel page.

YouTube is also testing new ways to deliver Shorts. For example, once viewers tap into a Short, they can scroll to watch more short videos.

So, why should you jump on the bandwagon?

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki revealed in January 2022,

“We’re seeing momentum across the platform, including on Shorts. We’ve now hit 5 trillion all time views on Shorts!”

After presenting the 10 steps to optimizing videos for search and discovery, I encouraged attendees to apply what they had learned.

They weren’t in a position to stop missile strikes or Russian troops, but they could tackle other strategic threats to Ukraine, including misinformation, fuel, and food.

I suggested that Oleksandr Tkachenko, the Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine, could use their help.

In February 2022, his Ministry launched an operational press center with Ukrinform National News Agency and the Center for Strategic Communication and Information Security to provide daily updates on Russia’s “disinformation war.”

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On March 18, 2022, Tkachenko said,

“Russian propaganda has driven itself into a dead end, so it has completely switched to the Russians – to brainwash them.

Roskomnadzor is trying to block all resources that might tell the truth to the Russians. But they’ve lost control. And soon, the refrigerator at home will win over the TV at home for the Russians.”

But, there is another way to tell the truth to the Russians.

YouTube has escaped any major censorship since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, despite the company suspending all monetization in Russia.

So, optimizing Ukraine’s videos in Russian could help Tkachenko tell the truth about the war to 106 million YouTube users in the Russian Federation.

I also suggested helping Bill McKibben, founder of Third Act, which is organizing people over the age of 60 to defend our climate and democracy.

He’s pushing a plan called Heat Pumps for Peace and Freedom.

In an op-ed entitled, “Heat pumps could help ease the climate crisis — and the war in Ukraine,” which was published by The Boston Globe on April 4, McKibben explained,

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“Putin built his army on oil and gas earnings, and he’s made Europe cower by threatening to turn off the energy spigot. Both can be addressed in part by the massive application of technology.

The simple heat pump, for instance, which is basically a highly efficient air conditioner that also works in reverse, uses electricity to take the ambient heat from the outside air to warm a home.”

Does this plan seem farfetched?

Well, five U.S. Senators – including both Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of Massachusetts – have written to the White House asking President Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act, which would get America’s air conditioning factories to start churning out heat pumps for immediate export.

And you can help McKibben by optimizing YouTube videos in more than 100 countries around the world, across 80 languages, to build support for this strategic plan to deliver millions of heat pumps to Europe before October, making Putin’s energy weapon much stronger less potent.

Finally, I suggested helping David Wells, Senator for Newfoundland and Labrador in the Canadian Parliament’s Upper Chamber, Vice President of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association, and Canada’s delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Senator Wells spoke on March 31 at a “Geoeconomic RoundTable: War in Ukraine – Political and Economic Forum,” which discussed how the invasion of Ukraine is affecting global food security. He said,

“David Beasley, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, told the U.N. Security Council this week that the war in Ukraine has created ‘a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe’ and will have a global impact ‘beyond anything we’ve seen since World War II’ because many of the Ukrainian farmers who produce a significant amount of the world’s wheat are now fighting Russians.

He also stated that the war in Ukraine is turning ‘the breadbasket of the world to breadlines.”

Geoeconomic RoundTableScreenshot from Geoeconomic RoundTable: War in Ukraine – Political and Economic Forum, March 2022Geoeconomic RoundTable

Senator Wells added,

“It is imperative that we establish a long-term strategic plan to address this situation as well as plan for the future as this crisis has changed the playing field possibly for generations.

Canada, as the fifth largest supplier of wheat in the world, is a key player and can participate in a long-term strategy.”

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And, you can help Senator Wells by optimizing a series of videos that explain Ukraine’s absence from the world’s grain market will cause “a significant dent in world supply” and a problem in price.

“This will be a huge issue for the world’s poorer countries – particularly in Africa and Asia,” he said.

There are many other ways SEOs and digital marketers can #standwithukraine.

Miranda Miller outlined them in her post, “SEO Community Support For Ukraine & How You Can Help.”

In short, do something.

You can’t control who lives, dies, or tells your story, but you can influence all three outcomes.

More resources:  


Featured Image: Darya Lavinskaya/Shutterstock

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SEO

SEO Tips For Expanding Into German-Speaking Markets

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SEO Tips For Expanding Into German-Speaking Markets

So, you’re ready to expand into the land of wheat beer, sausage, and potatoes?

I’ve got good news for you!

With a large and affluent consumer base, Germany is an attractive market for many businesses.

But there’s one little catch: you need localization.

What’s localization, you ask?

Well, it has a lot to do with adapting your messaging to meet local cultural standards.

And while that first and foremost includes the language, it also covers traditions, humor, market expectations, and more.

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Regardless of whether you’re looking to expand into Germany or another country, you must understand your audience’s unique needs and how to reach them before you can successfully market your business to them.

So, before you go and start directly translating your English content strategy into German, you should know that adapting to German SEO is far more than just a translation job.

German consumers have different search habits, preferences, and intent than English speakers.

Simply translating your existing content strategy is only about 10% of a true German market expansion.

To succeed in German-speaking markets with SEO, you must create a German SEO strategy from scratch.

In this article, you’ll learn:

Why A German Market Expansion Is Worthwhile

Even though localization requires additional effort, Germany is one primary market that’s absolutely worth it to invest in. Here’s why:

  • The German-speaking DACH region (Germany, Switzerland, and Austria) is a thriving consumer market. Thanks to each country’s large GDP per capita, they enjoy a high standard of living – which means consumers have more money to spend on new products.
  • The DACH region has a 93% average internet penetration, which means there are 94 million internet users in the market. In a nutshell: comprehensive internet access + high standard of living = more money for your brand.
  • In Germany, 91% of internet users rely on Google for their search needs. This makes SEO in particular a powerful tool for reaching German consumers.

Important note: When expanding your business into the German market, it is essential to work with native speakers to build your SEO strategy, because that’s your direct line for understanding local messaging requirements.

Developing your SEO strategy based on your target market’s needs helps you create quality content that resonates with your audience.

It may even give you a first-mover advantage, especially if your business is in a new and niche industry.

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How To Craft A Winning German SEO Strategy In 6 Steps

Learning how to hang with the Germans at Oktoberfest may seem intimidating and challenging at first.

But with a few key steps, you can create a German SEO strategy that can immensely impact pipeline growth in this burgeoning market.

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The 6 Steps For Building A Winning SEO Strategy In The German Market

Localize your business strategy Prep your site structure Find your German competitors
Do German keyword research Localize your keyword map Localize your content

1. Localize Your Business Strategy

Let me give you a concrete example of a real business that was recently looking for help expanding in the DACH region.

Due to the U.S. and U.K. being their primary markets, international markets come second place in terms of investment but are still required to bring in high levels of new business.

After looking through their website for about 30 seconds, I noticed a major problem:

Although their website is translated to German (emphasis on the translated, not localized), their chatbot was only offered in English.

I tried typing in German in the chatbot. No reply.

It kept trying to force me to book a call with a person in the U.S.

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I then wrote, “Does this person speak German?” in the German language, but again no reply.

Now imagine this scenario for the potential German customers of this business.

They’ve come to the website from Germany, read through the website in German, and now, do you think they feel comfortable booking a call with an English-speaking salesperson in the US?

I can most wholeheartedly tell you it’s a big “no.”

That’s why it’s not enough to just translate your existing content into German.

You also need German-speaking salespeople and customer service representatives who can interact with buyers in their language.

It’s crucial to localize your entire business strategy, otherwise, your target audience will continue choosing your competitors who do offer the buying experience they expect.

2. Prep Your Site Structure

Now that we’ve gotten the business stuff out of the way, let’s move on to SEO.

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Before creating any content, you first need to check that your website is set up for multiple languages, which is most often done with the URL structure.

There are two options for this:

  • Option 1: example.com/de (the subfolder approach).
  • Option 2: de.example.com (the subdomain approach).

Whenever you have the option within your CMS (content management system) and technical infrastructure, always opt for the subfolder approach.

This helps transfer DA (domain authority) from your main .com domain to your German website, which means you’ll be able to rank for German keywords faster.

Once your site structure is set up, it’s also crucial to use href lang tags on your pages.

This way, you can assign a page to each market. By doing this, you’re more likely to appear in search results for German users looking for content in their language.

3. Find Your German Competitors

When it comes to competitors, localization is a major factor yet again.

While you may already know which websites you’re competing with in your native market, it’s important to understand that they will likely not be your organic search traffic competitors when you enter the German market.

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Let’s say you’re a marketing automation software company that wants to expand into Germany.

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SEOquake is a helpful plugin for comparing SERPs (search engine results page) in different languages and countries.

The main keyword you’d want to rank for in English markets might be “marketing automation tool.”

Here’s what SEOquake shows me as the English SERPs for the U.S.:

Screenshot from search for [marketing automation tool], Google, June 2022

Now take a look at what I get when I search for [marketing automatisierung tool], the German equivalent for that English term, in Germany:

German SERPs for “marketing automatisierung tool” using SEOquakeScreenshot from search for [marketing automatisierung tool], Google, June 2022

This difference is precisely where your opportunity for German market expansion lies.

When you localize keywords and your content to compete against local SERPs, you position your SEO strategy to generate leads and sales with localized high purchase intent keywords.

Just rinse and repeat this strategy for your main keywords and you’ll start to see trends about who your top German search competitors are.

But make sure that you follow up with these readers by offering them a buying experience that’s entirely in German.

4. Do German Keyword Research

Once you have a list of your German competitors, it’s time to do keyword research.

Keywords are the heart of your expansion strategy because that’s where you connect content to the high purchase intent keywords I mentioned above.

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To help you do your keyword research, try the following steps:

Step 1: Set your keyword research tool (here shown with Semrush) to the German market.

Example of Semrush’s keyword overview tool for German keyword researchScreenshot from Semrush, June 2022

Step 2: Using Semrush’s keyword magic tool, type in a German keyword.

I always recommend starting with a vague head keyword, because then you can view the whole related keyword cluster in a list.

Example of Semrush’s keyword magic tool for German keyword researchScreenshot from Semrush, June 2022

Step 3: Then select longtail, search intent match keywords here that have search volume and could potentially fit into your strategy based on the content you’d like to create.

Step 4: The best way to determine where and how certain keywords fit into your content is to check their SERPs by using SEOquake as I showed in the previous section.

One caveat: Semrush can be a bit limited for German SERPs data, so if you’re planning to heavily expand into Germany using SEO, it might be worthwhile to purchase an SEO tool with a more robust German database, such as Sistrix.

The key thing to remember during the keyword localization process is that you shouldn’t just translate keywords from your brand’s first language to German.

While just translating content easily leads to content that’s never even read, the process I described ensures that your content production resources focus on localized keywords that have the opportunity to rank and impact your leads and sales in Germany.

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5. Localize Your Keyword Map

After the initial keyword research is done, it’s time to build your keyword map.

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This means crafting German keyword clusters by search intent and ensuring that your German keyword map reflects your target audience’s needs across the sales funnel.

Here’s an example of how my team and I typically lay this out in Google Sheets:

keyword map using google sheetsScreenshot from author, June 2022

 

Doing this also allows you to determine which content from the original English-language website can be transcreated (translated and localized with specific keywords), and which new pages should be created in German.

Some pages in English won’t even need to be transcreated to German if your keyword research shows it’s not relevant to the German market – which is a primary reason why localization is much more laser-focused than pure translation.

6. Localize Your Content

The final step to developing your German SEO strategy is to localize your content.

For each content piece you plan to develop for your German audience, do the following:

Do your research.

Understand what Germans are searching for online, what kinds of content they engage with, and the messaging style they’re used to. One quick example is that German is often much more formal than U.S. and U.K. English.

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Repurpose your top-performing existing content.

If you have existing English content that’s doing well, consider transcreating it into German if the topic is also relevant to the German market.

Make sure to optimize it for local German keywords that have search volume and match search intent to give it the best possible chance of generating leads and sales.

Write new German-specific content.

Creating new and original content is especially important if you’re targeting Germany as a foreign market because there will be elements in Germany that don’t exist in the U.S. and U.K. markets.

When you show the German audience that you understand them by investing in content that’s specifically relevant to them, that’s a significant trust builder that brings them much closer to purchase.

Track your progress.

Track your SEO strategy’s performance in the German-speaking markets using a tool like Semrush (shown in the image below).

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Use the data to find your top content opportunities in this market and continuously update and improve your content plan.

Example of Semrush’s keyword position tracking tool for German keywordsScreenshot from Semrush, June 2022

Efficiently Expand Into The German Market With SEO Using A Proven Process

Expanding your business into new markets can be a daunting task, but it’s also an incredibly rewarding one.

When you break through to new frontiers, you open up a world of opportunities for your business.

So, don’t be afraid to venture into German-speaking markets – with the right SEO strategy in place, you can see amazing success.

More resources:


Featured Image: Stanislaw Mikulski/Shutterstock

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