Shimon Sandler

How to Build a Foreign Language Keyword List

If you’re conducting a PPC campaign that is internationally geo-targeted to specific countries, then this post is for you. Especially, if you are unfamiliar with their native language.

Let’s take a PPC campaign geo-targeting Germany. Obviously you’d want to build a keyword list in German, and run it on

First, I tried using Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery. They don’t work for building a foreign language keyword list. I generated the top 1000 search terms related to the word, “music“. The german word for music is, musik. It wasn’t listed at all. As a matter of fact, no foreign language was on the list. Just try generating a German language keywords. Or, try japanese. It’s just not happening with Keyword Discovery or Wordtracker.

Which led me to use the German Google Keyword Tool (Notice the .de extension on the url). My Google team told me within the Google Keyword Tool in Adwords, the default is United States only. “If you use the geo-targeting settings, you will be able to pull keyword data for the countries that are available. If you’d like additional ideas to the keywords that you’ve inputted, this can be done by clicking on the “Use Synonyms” option.”.

However, the Google Keyword Tool doesn’t seem to work.
I went to German Google Keyword Tool and logged in with my adwords login. Type in “music”, and “Use Synonyms” option. Surprisingly, there isn’t one german language word on the list! Google will not translate the words that are generated!

So, here’s 3 methods to generate a foreign language international keyword list.

Method #1:
You can use Google’s Keyword Tool to generate foreign language keyword lists by entering a website URL into the Keyword Tool to crawl for similar words. As a test, I used

Although I have to admit, I can’t speak German, so I don’t know which of those keywords I want to bid on. Even though I can’t speak German, I’m lucky that my co-worker Carmen speaks German fluently. And, besides speaking German she is my queen of Google Analytics.

Within the tool, you can see how Google automatically groups the terms into adgroups for you. I inputted this URL into the Google Tool:

Method #2:
Quantcast for “Similar sites”, then use Spyfu to mine the keywords.

Method #3:
Generate your keyword list in English, then use Yahoo Babelfish to translate all the terms.

I have not been able to find a Keyword Volume Tool, similar to Wordtracker for foreign language countries. But following the above methods, you should get off to a good start.

Even after you’ve built your foreign language keyword list, unless you speak the language you won’t know how to group them into adgroups. At that point, you should make a connection with somebody who speaks the foreign language fluently.

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  1. Great article – too many issues arise it seems when doing an international campaign but this clears much of it up!

  2. Great article mate. Working outside your language is always a challenge and I agree that ultimately you have to have help from a native speaker

  3. Shimon, welcome to my world. Only thing I would change is make a connection with somebody who speaks the foreign language fluently first. Definitely wouldn’t have to use babelfish and will save yourself a lot of time.

  4. Interesting article, with some good tips and links. I am doing it the opposite way, working in Germany and doing keywords in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and English. I would use babelfish for some words, but knowing the language is of course the way to go. Or knowing someone who speaks the language, as in your case.

  5. I’ve been confronted with this challenge before. Due to the wide variables in language I initially concluded that it would not be ideal for me to create the ads or to run them myself. The problem being that I wouldn’t be to understand WHY certain words weren’t working with the the text.

    Later, I realized that once an ad has been translated, the Content Network is a wonderful place to run the additional language. The only analysis that would be needed was which ad copies were working and which sites didn’t convert.

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