Everything you need to know about SEO, delivered every Thursday.
The Life Of A Dual Personality Keyword
In my last column, I described various “language quirks” which could cause problems for keyword researchers, either because a certain keyword is used in different ways in different languages, or worse, because it has a completely different meaning. This time I’m reprising my presentation this week for SMX Advanced London looking at the life of one keyword and examining how Google treats it in various tools. That keyword is “casseroles”.
The first question is what language claims ownership of the word “casseroles?” As you’re reading this column in English, you might assume that it’s English—and indeed it is, typically meaning a meal created in and served from a large saucepan. However, “casseroles” did not start life in English, but rather as a French word later adopted by English speakers. At the same time, those English speakers changed the way they used the word taking it largely to mean the food served from the saucepan—the French word actually means “large saucepan.” This process of adoption and meaning change is very common and is one of the reasons you should never assume that an “English” word adopted in another language means exactly the same it did in its original form.
Gaining multinational keyword insights
From a keyword research point of view, the important question is how does Google treat a keyword with different meanings? The best way to do a quick check on the locations and languages where a keyword might have search volumes it to go to Google’s Insights Tool and to run a check there.
The mapping of the “casseroles” keyword very quickly reveals the importance of the French market to the global search volumes for the term. So what language does Google think this term belongs to? Google Translate helps to provide an answer. Within Google Translate there is a setting to “detect” the language which is placed in the input box. As you can see from the graphic below, when you place “casseroles” into the input box and allow Google to “detect” the language, it decides that it is French.
So, now we know that Google believes that this term is essentially French, we can look to the Google Keyword Tool to give us more detailed insights and actual numbers. In its new guise, the tool has hidden the language and country settings behind the “advanced options” link. To facilitate our understanding of the figures, I have dipped into those advanced settings and used various different language and country combinations for “casseroles” and charted them to make comparisons easier.
What the numbers reveal is that on an average monthly basis, the total exact match volume for “casseroles” is a massive 60,500—probably not the term which is going to make us rich but nonetheless useful for gaining a better understanding of multiple personality keywords! When we split the English and French languages Google tells us that the global English monthly search volume is 33,100—the French language equivalent is 27,100. The two combined add up to 60,200 which is almost—but not exactly—the number which Google gave us for the whole world.
While that’s all reasonably clear, it illustrates very clearly that the Google Translate tool is unconnected with the keyword estimation tools since this is the only explanation of why the detection technology, which Google uses in its translation technology, would choose French as the first default language for “casseroles” when our research showed that global monthly search volumes are greater for English than French.
One word but two language identities
The figures from Google’s research tool also reveal something very interesting—searches for “casseroles” in French in France total 27,100, but there are also 110 searches for exactly the same term “casseroles” searched for in France but which are classified as “English.” The key learning here is that the same word, searched for within the same country, spelled exactly the same way can and frequently is classified by Google’s systems as hailing from different languages at the same time. From experience, I can share that this situation is frequently the case in non-English speaking markets.
A good way to think about this is to imagine that next to every result we review in Google’s Keyword Tool there is an invisible language tag that defines how that keyword is being treated.
What does this mean for keyword research?
Keyword researchers should take care that sometimes, the global results they are looking at may not actually relate to the keyword meaning which they are seeking. Equally, there may be opportunities in other languages which are hidden from view in the initial research phase and which may represent a good reason to localize your marketing efforts. It’s good advice to always verify the results of your research by using the mapping facilities of Google Insights for Search.
So let’s get cooking and turn this recipe for success into a cocktail—rather than a soup!
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.