Keywords, acronyms, and expanding into European markets - guidance for tech marketers



If you work in the tech sector you probably know your BYOD’s and UI’s backwards and forwards – your marketing strategy has taken market trends and competitors into account, your site is optimized for the right users and terms, and your paid search activity is looking good.

Everything works like a well-oiled machine… until you’re looking to expand into non-English speaking markets.

Well, technology is a global language, right? Wrong. Before expanding into a new market (or jumping into hasty conclusions as to whether the same tech acronyms or terms are used in it), check out our ultimate guide to avoid pitfalls like accidentally competing with recipe sites or big banks.

The idea

With the tech industry dominated by acronyms and technical terms, we wanted to compile a list of the most common ones and discover how they perform in five top European markets (Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands).

Each market has its own rules, so we wanted to explore two questions:

  • Where local language versions of English tech acronyms or terms exist, how do search volumes compare?
  • Can acronyms have different or multiple meanings in different markets, and therefore result in irrelevant website traffic?

The methodology

We compiled a list of the 100 most common English tech acronyms and terms, and identified search volumes in each European market.

Our in-house native linguists then used their personal knowledge and local search engines to identify local language versions of the acronyms and terms, and then identified search volumes for local versions in each of the five markets.

We also used our local market knowledge to explore alternative meanings and connotations for each term.

Our findings

English vs. local terms

  • Unsurprisingly each country was very different, although on average in all countries the English terms received higher search volumes than the local alternatives.
  • In Germany and Spain, a little over 1 in 10 of the local alternatives (11%) receive higher search volumes than the international, English version.
  • In Italy, English terms prove more popular with only 8 out of 100 terms being more popular in the Italian version.
  • France was the market where we found a strong preference towards local search terms, with almost 1 in 5 tech acronyms or terms (18%) being Googled using the French term over the English one.
  • The Netherlands presents a completely different picture, though, with 100% of the English terms experiencing higher search volumes than their Dutch equivalent.

Alternative meanings

With the first stage completed, it was now time to explore our second question. Do our acronyms and terms have the same meaning in these markets as in the UK and the US, or does a company optimising for them risk targeting terms that are completely irrelevant?

Our research revealed some interesting points. We've highlighted them in the PDF you can access at the bottom of the page, but here are some of the more interesting ones:

  • “VDI” (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) receives 14,800 searches in Germany, but not all of them may be relevant to this term, as VDI also stands for “Verein Deutscher Ingenieure”, which is the Association of German Engineers.
  • In France, "BYOD" (Bring Your Own Device) has two other versions, “PAP” and “AVEC”. When we looked into the former we discovered it gets an astonishing 673,000 searches per month, however, a big part of these users would more likely be searching for a very popular house selling website (pap.fr). “AVEC” receives no search volumes each month, but it also means “with” in French.
  • A similar story happened in France with MSP (“Managed Services Provider”), which is googled 1,220,000 times per month, which we thought looked high for such a technical term. When we looked into the relevant SERPs, we discovered that Google associates this term with a number of different things, such as Movie Star Planet (game), Maîtrise Statistique des Processus de Santé (Office of Statistics for Health Processes) and a specialty in medicine for doctors in the Firefighters Corps (Medecin Sapeur Pompier).
  • “Business Process Management” (BPM) presented high search volumes in Italy (165,000 average monthly searches), however, the majority of these refer to Banco BPM, a large bank. Similarly, in the Netherlands, searches for BPM mainly returned content around car and motorcycle taxes, and across all markets “BPM” is also used for “Beats Per Minute” (music).
  • In Spain, “ATP” (Advanced Threat Protection) receives 74,000 searches, but the intent behind a lot of them would be to discover content around the homonymous Tennis Association.
  • Time for our favorite: In the Netherlands, if you’re targeting “UI” (User Interface”) you might find your brand competing with cooking sites and food retailers, as “ui” also means “onion” in Dutch. You will have no issues with voice search, though, as it’s pronounced entirely differently.

Key takeaways

If you work in the SaaS sector and thinking of going global, don’t assume technical terms are used consistently across different countries: do your keyword research using local experts. This way you can expose opportunities to optimize for local terms instead of, or alongside, English search terms, and avoid over-investing in keywords that will generate irrelevant traffic.

James Bentham, our Head of SEO Account Management, recommends conducting a thorough competitor analysis at the initial stages of your research, too. What are your main competitors optimizing their sites for in these markets? Make sure you target those terms with your on-site content and meta-data, too.

When you discover search volumes that look “inflated” you need to start researching into the causes behind it. Does this term have an alternative meaning in this market? Is it a brand term?

Here’s what Pete Whitmarsh, our Head of Paid Media, recommends in these cases:

  • For acronyms, use Acronym Finder, or a local-language equivalent, to check what else the acronym could stand for.
  • Give it a test. Put a small PPC test budget into the keyword, see how it performs, and then decide whether it’s worth retaining longer term.
  • Bid on longer-tail, more specific variations of the keyword to avoid ambiguity. While these may have lower search volumes, PPC is all about return on investment, so more specific terms tend to lend themselves better to a well-managed PPC account.

Analyze Google SERPs for your targeted terms. Does Google associate them with different industries and/or intents?

  • In this case, James Bentham suggests using relevant terms and variations of your keywords in your content and metadata. Publishing relevant content will help Google match your site with relevant user intents and long tail searches.
  • For your paid media strategy, Pete Whitmarsh suggests avoiding bidding on these terms. Google and other search engines are good at providing relevant listings to their users, so they will generally show ads and natural listings that relate to what most users are likely to be looking for.

 

Download our full PDF report, covering 100 of the most common tech acronyms and terms in France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Spain

To access the full details of the analysis please download the full report.