by Sandra Lara, Production Manager

A few weeks ago my colleague Carlos started introducing a highly topical and important subject: SEO and its use as a digital marketing technique. As he explained, when we talk about SEO we have to distinguish between two clearly distinct areas: one is technical and the other is linguistic (content enrichment, transcreation etc.), relating specifically to the content itself. This time it’s my turn to offer a slightly more comprehensive introduction to the concept of SEO, from a linguistic viewpoint, and explain how to write proper content for SEO campaigns undertaken on any website.

Once you’ve met the technical requirements of the website in question, it’s time to work on the content itself. How is SEO used in content? How is it done and what does it entail? When anyone carries out a search on a search engine, it saves and classifies the search terms. This results in statistics being generated that provide extremely useful information: how people search and what they find through that search. Let’s focus on the most popular search engine: Google. For example, if a user wants to buy a bear costume, they could put « bear + costume + [their city] » in Google if they want to physically buy it or « bear + costume + online sale » if they wanted to look for it online, or they could even look for it in another language, like Spanish. When we enter those terms into Google, the search engine searches for the terms in its indexes, from all of the information that the Google spiders have periodically collected in the past, according to the Google algorithm (this is explained in depth by my colleague Carlos here). These indexes gather all of the suitable textual content (when the Google requirements have been met) from a website, so if the keywords that the user is looking for are on a website, that website will appear in the search. What position it occupies on the endless list is another thing altogether: this is where linguistic SEO comes into play.

As I said in the previous paragraph, Google saves these search terms and records them. These are the keywords. In other words, the search terms that enable a user to find your website among the countless other websites on the internet. Put as simply as possible, the aim of linguistic SEO is to attract potential users through these keywords. In other words, to get inside the head of the users who you want to attract to your website and work out how these users might search for your services. Also, how you adapt the content can differ greatly, depending on the language. The target culture and the profile of the potential users are crucial to selecting these keywords and defining their importance on your website.

The simplest way of understanding this process is by analysing a hypothetical example. Imagine you have a website on which you sell organised trips to Spain and you want to publish the website in Mexico and the U.S. A. Let’s assume that we’ve configured all of the technical elements of SEO required by Google: tags, web structure, sitemap etc. What we have to do now is insert keywords into our content so that Google can index them and they appear in the results of our potential customers’ searches. Firstly, you need good knowledge of the target culture. For example, if I want to sell trips to an American user, I’ll have to be very aware of how American users perceive Spain and how this user might search for me, including possible interpretation “mistakes”. In other words, a Mexican user might search for the service I provide as “viajes organizados España” (organised trips Spain), while an American user might search for the services with “organized trip Europe”, “organized trip to Spain” or even “English speaking organized trip”. Keywords are designed to anticipate the user’s search and attract users who perform similar or related searches. Choosing and selecting keywords for your website is a very difficult task: it requires in-depth research into the habits and “wishes” of your potential customers, according to where they come from and the country in which they live. Of course, it’s not only about using obscure keywords (however effective they may be), but also trying to reach the largest possible audience with the textual content or, to put it another way, your target audience.

And how can I tell if the keywords that I’ve researched are suitable and the best ones for my content? Moreover, how do I know what the users are looking for? Fortunately there are numerous tools on the internet that help us with this task. Google AdWords has its own keyword planner, for example, and there’s also Google Trends (which provides information about the most widely-used terms). Another alternative tool is Keyword Tool, which even allows you to perform searches in the App Store. Mari Vállez, the Professor of Documentation in the Communication Department of Pompeu Fabra University, is the author of an interesting article (in Spanish) on research into keywords which, despite perhaps being a little outdated at present (it’s from 2011), offers the necessary keys to understanding how they work, in addition to useful tools and methods for finding the right ones.

When you’ve finished researching keywords, incorporating them into the content is not a simple task either. The keywords must be distributed according to priority (using the most important keywords first) and density criteria (they have to appear several times, but always in logical and suitable content). And there’s no point trying to cheat:  Google penalises anyone who indiscriminately inserts keywords, resulting in the website being removed from search results for a certain period of time.

When your content is well-written and the keywords are fed to it, it’s vital to understand that you need to keep checking and adapting it over time as trends change. Your website may also change and your intention to target specific audiences. The data provided by Google on visits to your website, where the visits come from, the time spent on the website etc. through its Google Analytics tool allows you to more specifically define your target audience and determine the results that you are achieving with your website.

I hope that this brief introduction to the fascinating world of keywords has been of help to you. In any case, any online search will bring up thousands of articles and tons of interesting and detailed information about it, as well as handy tools that will help you with the difficult and challenging task of enriching content.