KNOWLEDGE BASE International SEO For Germany
International SEO for Germany
Why should you localize your SEO for the German market?
Does your website have to be localized to be successfully optimized for German website searches? The answer for consumer brands is clearly yes, but for B2B brands it’s less clear. Some companies have had success without localizing their websites but we recommend localizing if Germany is an important market for your brand.
People often assume that their website will have the same level of search result globally as they have for searches within their home market but that’s not the case, even if you’re going to another English-speaking country. Google, the search engine owning nearly 95% of the search engine market in Germany, gives preference to local websites to make searches more relevant within different countries and they also give preference to websites that have been localized for the people and language spoken there. Google’s primary objective is relevant search results. In order for people to be able to find you when they do web or mobile searches, it’s a good idea to have a solid international SEO strategy for your digital products.
Even beyond SEO, Germans are skeptical about new brands and startups that haven’t been proven to be trustworthy and enduring brands. Taking the time to localize shows respect and your company will be taken more seriously if you have a high quality, localized site. Google Translate is not an acceptable approach for Germany where professionalism, quality, trustworthiness, and data are highly valued.
Having a global SEO strategy increases your chances that prospects will find you in Germany. You’ll still have to put in the effort to rank highly for relevant keywords in each market, and a strong SEO approach is a great place to start.
There are different ways of approaching SEO. For consumer products, we strongly recommend you optimize for the different languages, cultures, and customer groups you’re targeting in each market. If you have a B2B product, you may be able to use English as your primary language but localize for the market. Some companies use a hybrid approach and add localized elements into their English site. Your resources and prospective customers will dictate in part how you proceed, but a targeted SEO optimization strategy in each country is ultimately your best approach for success.
SEO for Germany
While we’re approaching Germany as one place, it’s actually made up of several states with unique cultures and variations in their language and words used to search. Sometimes instead of searching for Germany or Deutschland as it is called there, people will search for the individual states such as Bayern (Bavaria), Rheinland-Pfalz, Nordrhein-Westfalen (NRW), and even city focused search terms should be considered for the larger areas such as Berlin, München (Munich), and Düsseldorf. The people in Germany have high levels of Internet connectivity, especially in the cities, and are looking for products online. Localized SEO should be part of your marketing strategy, and US-based sites and apps can be effective by localizing their websites and mobile applications.
Popular search engines in Germany
- Google.de is the most visited search site in Germany and Google.com is the second most visited
- Other search sites popular in Germany include Web.de, Bing.com, Lycos.de, and The Open Directory Project (ODP) www.dmoz.de.
Visit Alexa.com to see the top sites in Germany.
People are connected and have the opportunity to search for information and products online
- 51% of the German population uses the Internet to search before purchasing (Google Consumer Barometer 2015)
Recommendations and steps to implement SEO for Germany
As you plan out your strategy, here is a high-level list of steps you should take for international SEO in Germany.
In order to develop a strategy for international SEO, it’s important to understand the statistics for your current website and mobile application. Create a simple report that highlights the following by country. If you are currently only in one country, you can still learn a lot from evaluating the following:
- What countries are you currently getting traffic from?
- What language do the people speak in those countries?
- What is the traffic volume you are receiving and how has it trended over time?
- What are your top international referral sources?
- What are the keywords people are linking off?
- What are the top pages they are linking to?
- What is the landing page conversion rate by country for each offer?
- How is the behavior for each country different from your current customers?
- How do you rank for your top keywords within each country’s search engines?
Knowing this information will give you a baseline from which to plan a go-forward strategy.
Pick your language strategy for Germany
Picking a language strategy for Germany is important. For B2C, it’s expected that your site be in German and truly localized to a German consumer. For B2B, you could keep your website in English and localize specific sections, but having it fully localized sends the message that you are taking the market seriously, are planning for a long-term commitment, and that you respect the cultural and language differences.
Decide if you plan on creating an SEO strategy using only English, or if you plan to localize using German.
Understand the German industry you are targeting and the competitive landscape for that industry
If you plan to expand into Germany, you can start by becoming familiar with the market and focus your site optimization efforts. SEO requires time, energy, and constant focus in your own country, and SEO for Germany is no different. Some of the aspects you’ll want to understand about an industry include:
- How big is the industry?
- Who are the key companies in the space?
- How do the other companies market online?
- What search engines do the people use in your target countries?
- What devices do German customers use to go online?
- You can use Google Consumer Barometer to get an understanding of the research and device habits of the people in Germany.
- What are the top keywords being searched?
Figuring out how people search online in the country and region you’re looking to attract is important
Resources: Google’s Keyword Tool can help you look at top keywords and if you use Moz.com, their tools also can assist with this research. It also has a Keyword Translate tool but it’s most helpful to have a local language specialist help you with keywords instead of using machine translation
- What are the identifiable search trends? Is there seasonality?
Resources: Google’s Keyword Tool
Identify your target audience in Germany and understand them for SEO
The Globig Knowledge Base provides you with an overview on the culture and demographics of Germany, but for a truly effective laser focused marketing plan, you will want to know even more about your specific target audiences so you can create content that is relevant to them, promote that content where the prospective customers can be introduced to your content, and market to them in a variety of ways.
Understanding search and buying behavior for your target audience is also important. You can then optimize for the best keywords so your site will be one of the top results of their searches.
Create a plan that you can follow diligently and measure to see how effective your efforts are
Start with your local competitors. Identify their most popular content, pages being linked to, and by which sites. It’s also helpful to see if your competitors have AdWords campaigns to see the keywords being used for lead generation. To spy on your competitors AdWords campaigns, use SpyFu.com. By understanding what’s working in the German market, you can then see how best to approach your own strategy. Sites that link to your competitors are also great prospects for you if you reach out to them.
It’s important to articulate how your product and company will be different from your competitor by clearly doing so in your SEO and marketing efforts. Otherwise, customers won’t understand why you have a better solution.
Prepare your website for International SEO in Germany
There are several very specific on-site optimization efforts you’ll want to implement in order for search engines to recognize your website in global markets, including Germany.
A. International domain strategy and country specific website
You will have to decide how best to internationalize your domains and prepare your website. Here are the basics:
- Make sure that the site is easy to crawl so it can easily be searched and indexed by search engines
- Make sure the site is easy to index, having a well-organized international site map helps as does good internal linking
- Each country should have their own web structure if your International SEO strategy is by country
There are several options for setting up your website(s) for different countries. Most important is that you have unique page URL’s so search engines as well as your website users can easily identify the country and language. We recommend not using translation tools that automatically translate in a site for international SEO since search engines won’t be able to identify that you have unique pages for each country and point them there.
Option 1- Unique Domain Names
The first option is to purchase the different domain names in each country so you have the top-level domain with the appropriate country code. Examples of this would be Globig.fr, Globig.sg, Globig.uk, Globig.de. This is probably the most expensive and complex way to manage your international pages and also requires the most work for your internal team.
Option 2- Country Specific Sub-Domains
Another option is to have the same country code top-level domain but use different sub-domains for your different sites. Examples of this would be fr.globig.co, sg.globig.co, uk.globig.co, de.globig.co. A subdomain is typically easier to manage than buying the different top-level domains and requires less work for your team.
Option 3- Country Specific Sub-Directories
The third option is to set up sub-directories for each different country. Examples for this would be globig.com/fr, globig.com/sg, globig.com/uk, globig.com/de. This choice is also easier to manage from a corporate headquarters as compared to using unique domain names.
B. Localize Your Website for Germany
For best results, engage native speakers to assist with translations or even modifications instead of using only translation tools. In Germany, the expressions, words, and spellings are different enough that having local translators is helpful. Many of the online translation services offer native speakers to assist with automated translation tools. Another option is reaching out to university students for their input. The elements to localize can include:
- URLs- language localization
- Title & meta description
- Website branding
- Company contact information, currency, time, delivery info/maps
- Menu and navigation
- Content- reviews, descriptions, articles, videos
- Easy to crawl and navigate menu in new language
- Localized content
Having native speakers help to localize your website and content will make it more appealing and optimized for search.
Pay attention to technical SEO considerations
- For search engines, note the country and language in tags such as hreflang annotations
-Include annotations in XML site map
- Consider using a country specific Internet Provider if you can. Some larger companies offer this as a service, especially for email marketing
- Make sure your site is mobile optimized and responsive design
Maintain ongoing site optimization for Germany
- Monitor your SEO keywords to see how you’re trending
- Monitor your competition
- Monitor overall SEO trends and Google changes to their algorithms
- Evaluate your efforts to see what’s working and what isn’t
- Test, test, test
We’ve found that one of the best overviews and resources for you to learn how to optimize your international sites is MOZ.com. They have excellent guides for International SEO and step-by-step instructions to follow.
Visit Alexa.com to see the top sites in Germany
SpyFu.com to see your competitors’ AdWords campaigns
KNOWLEDGE BASE International SEO For Germany