- 1 Introduction
- 2 Why Expand into Germany?
- 3 How Not to Enter the German Market!
- 4 Other Ways in Which a Professional German SEO Agency Can Help
- 5 Webmaster, Web Design and Support for Germany
- 6 Localisation, Culture and Translation into German
- 7 Image from Gregory Warner “Rough Translation”
- 8 Search Engine Optimisation for Germany
- 8.1 Can a Good SEO Service in Germany improve sales?
- 8.2 Keyword Research
- 8.3 Which on-page factors affect rankings in Germany on Google.de?
- 8.4 Other technical details to help you rank better in Germany
- 8.5 Content Research and Creation for Germany
- 8.6 How to Get Good Backlinks for German Content
- 8.7 Other ways to build links get links in Germany
- 9 Pay-Per-Click (Google Adwords) in Germany
- 10 About Vision64
- 11 Conclusion
- 12 Resources
Germany. The most populous country in the European Union. A place where more than 60 million internet users buzz away in one of the continent’s most highly developed nations in an ever-changing sphere of innovation and evolution presenting boundless opportunity for businesses and consumers alike. What’s not to get excited about?
For businesses both domestic and international, or anyone with an involvement in the digital world; Germany should not be ignored. Yet, when we think of Germany we think of complications, cultural differences, strict privacy laws, language difficulties and more. With this guide to German SEO and Google, we set out to answer all of the questions you’re likely to be asking yourself about digital marketing in Germany.
This complete guide aims to inform anyone considering embarking on a digital strategy in Germany and includes a number of useful insights into search engine optimisation and pay-per-click marketing in Germany. It also includes insights into content research and marketing in German as well as ongoing cultural considerations to take into account. Given Google’s absolute dominance in the German world of internet search, we’re going to be focusing exclusively on it.
Why Expand into Germany?
Before start searching for a reputable German SEO company, you might be asking yourself why should you want to expand into Germany in the first place? Well, Germany has a host of advantages that could make it the optimum choice, here are just a few:
- A strong economy
- Germany’s economic freedom score is 73.8, making it one of the world’s most economically free countries
- The German economy is the world’s fourth largest with a GDP of 3,2 trillion dollars
- A low unemployment rate of just 5,3 percent
- A low inflation rate
- Impressive performance of German companies
- German companies are well-respected and tend to perform very highly when compared with other organisations within their specific sector. It’s estimated that 1500 German companies are positioned within the top three of their market segment worldwide. Even more impressively, German businesses occupy a top-three position in two-thirds of all industry sectors.
- Untapped markets
- Whatever the focus of your organisation, it’s likely that you can find an untapped market in Germany. But it’s even more likely to succeed if you’re able to offer a product or service that’s less commonly available there.
- Favourable Business Climate
- Germany also offers a very favourable business climate into which you can expand with some confidence. The long-running recession has thrown up all kinds of difficulties for those trying to grow and expand their business, and sometimes branching out into a totally different market can bring great dividends.
What are the keys to success when expanding into Germany?
So, if you’ve made the decision that Germany is a market worth exploring, what can you do to maximise the chances of making a successful expansion?
Make sure your website is translated well
It goes without saying that you will need a well-translated website. While it’s certainly true that most Germans speak excellent English, and would have no trouble accessing any information on your site, having clear, professionally translated web content is nevertheless an absolute must.
Foster trust with good use of German
Having a high-quality German language translation on your site shows you are serious about becoming an integral part of the German business sector. It’s a mark of respect that you’ve gone to the effort of having your site properly translated – a poor translation implies a lack of professionalism. Poor use of German will also discourage potential customers.
Optimise your website for Germany
Efficient use of German SEO is critical to how well your website will be ranked by Google and other search engines and ultimately how much traffic you will get. It’s not enough to have interesting and well-translated content – you also need to ensure that your content is optimised to a high level. For example, make sure you have researched the most effective keywords to use in your content, titles and meta tags. All these elements combine to boost your site’s visibility.
Create good German web content
Your content must flow well, making it easy for your visitors to read and understand. You must ensure that everything written on your site conveys the unique message about your brand leaving customers in no doubt about what you can offer them.
Localise your site for Germany
Location is also important, so make the most of location services to target potential customers that are in your geographical vicinity.
Naturally, ensuring your website meets all the criteria above is a complicated and time-consuming task. If you opt for professional services, which is often the best solution as they are experienced in juggling all the various aspects of creating a top quality website, then you will need to budget accordingly.
Why Prioritise SEO in Expansion Plans?
Search Engine Optimisation is not just important, it’s essential. It’s likely the best marketing investment that you could possibly make. Just ask yourself whether you think the internet and Google will still be around in 5 or 10 years time? Do you think that people in Germany will still be using Google.de or other search engines to find what they are looking for?
Regardless of how good your product or service for Germany is, no business can exist without sales. Sales are the lifeblood of most businesses. Making a commitment to improving the visibility of your website in Google.de, to improving the experience that you give to your users and to the future sustainability of your most potent sales channel is the smartest move you can possibly make.
But why SEO?
I could write so much here. But perhaps the following two reports from two real customers of ours from last year will make it crystal clear why organic traffic is cheaper, more effective and much more sustainable than the paid alternatives. __________
2017 total number of contact requests: 1,648
Organic (SEO): 1.133
AdWords (Paid): 515
From where the contact requests came:
Organic (SEO): 69%
AdWords (Paid): 31%
Organic: 24,500.00 EUR
Google AdWords: 37,897.00 EUR
Total: 62,397.00 EUR
Cost per contact request
Organic: 21.62 EUR
AdWords: 73.59 EUR
2017 total number of contact requests: 3,010
Organic (SEO): 1,420
AdWords (Paid): 1,100
SEO: 15,500.00 EUR
AdWords: 63,634.00 EUR
Cost per contact request:
Organic: 10.92 EUR
AdWords: 57.85 EUR
How Not to Enter the German Market!
Case Study: Wal-Mart
The supermarket giant opted for a strategy of making acquisitions in the German market rather than building their presence from the ground up. In December 1997, it took control of the €1.2 million revenue Wertkauf chain, made up of 21 retail stores, for around $1.04 billion. Wal-Mart then, the following year, acquired Interspar’s 74 hypermarkets, with combined revenues of €850 million, from Spar Handels AG, the German subsidiary of France’s Intermarché group, for €560 million.
Unfortunately, Wal-Mart’s approach to entering the German market was plagued with strategic errors. These errors begin with the decision to follow up the Wertkauf deal, which was highly successful, with the purchase of market-trailing Spar. Spar had the lowest turnover of any German supermarket group, with stores located in less well-off areas, and a poor brand image to contend with.
The problems didn’t end there. Wal-Mart’s management style, widely considered to be far too hubristic, was clearly doomed to fail. The senior executives relocated to Germany by the company didn’t speak any German, and insisted upon English being spoken at management level. They also entirely ignored advice from German executives on navigating Germany’s complex legal technicalities, which led to the resignation of the top three within the first six months.
Wal-Mart also found that their pledge to deliver “every day low prices” wasn’t as well suited to the German market as to the company’s home nation of the USA. By directly taking on long-established discount retailers such as Aldi and Lidl, the company found that they were unable to undercut the competition, and, indeed, their products were still of a lower quality. All in all, Wal-Mart’s value proposition in Germany did not stand up at all well to scrutiny.
It therefore resorted to making redundancies of surplus staff. However, once again it failed to acknowledge the cultural differences between doing business in the US and in Germany. In the US, Wal-Mart’s workforce is strictly non-unionised; only 12 of more than one million staff are known to be union members. In Germany, however, trade unions still wield a considerable amount of influence, and Wal-Mart found that laying off their staff was fraught with difficulties.
Finally, the company’s repeated noncompliance with a number of fundamentally important German commercial laws led to a barrage of bad PR and a consequent plunge in brand perceptions among consumers. The company has either been accused of, r fined for, infringing widespread regulations including those preventing firms from systematically selling products for less than they cost, requiring firms to disclose basic financial information and requiring firms to implement a deposit-fund system for certain bottles and cans.
Conclusion of Wal-Mart Mini-case
Wal-Mart tried to apply its US success formula in an unmodified manner to the German market. As a result, they didn’t have sufficient knowledge about the market structure and key cultural/political issues. In addition, structural factors prevented Wal-Mart from fully implementing its successful business model. Also, there were some instances of product or service failure. The final outcome was that Wal-Mart had to abandon its offerings in Germany.
Other Ways in Which a Professional German SEO Agency Can Help
Which TLD? Choosing the right domain name
Under which URL should we host the German-language version of our website? This is often one of the first questions that crops up. We have dealt with this issue many times.
Everything being equal, we recommend registering a new German domain name with the .de ending. We’re convinced that the advantages of this strategy outweigh the disadvantages.
- It creates a clear distinction between the German version and other (English) versions of the site
- It creates a stand-alone presence and cuts out a great deal of frustration and technical issues that come from translation modules etc. Often websites will be slightly different in both content and products and having a separate domain name makes it easier to handle
- Better search visibility. In our experience, Google tends to favour dedicated German domain names (.de) over language versions of a website that are hosted in a subfolder or on a subdomain
If you’re a non-German speaker, you may well want help to choose the right domain name to represent your business in this new international market. Even the decision to use a brand name might have unintended consequences in a different country. When I first moved to Germany, I thought it was really funny to see vans with clear signage declaring “Krapp Kitchens”.
Where is the best place to host?
Germany. On a fast server. The actual geo-location of the server might or might not be a ranking factor for Google. But if there’s no compelling reason why you shouldn’t, then hosting in the same country as your target audience is the best decision.
Webmaster, Web Design and Support for Germany
Does it make sense to hire a webmaster specifically for Germany?
Clearly, there would be some advantages to having a native speaking German webmaster. For me, this question hinges on your current set up. If you are really satisfied with the work, the communication and the skill level of your existing web agency, then it probably makes sense to stick with them.
Finding a webmaster is easy. Finding a good web agency is hard! Over the years we have worked with a large number of different web-design agencies in Germany and the UK. We’ve also been involved in finding a new agency for some of our customers here in Germany.
If you decide to use your existing agency to take care of your presence in Germany and none of your team speaks German, then you will either require an in-house native speaker of German or a company such as ours that can help and advise you with language-related issues.
What are the challenges facing a non-native-speaking web agency?
The German language. At the end of the day, everything that involves language will need checking and approving by either an in-house native speaker, a translation agency or by a company such as ours. The scope includes images, website copy, headers, logos, URLs, meta titles, meta descriptions, product names etc. etc.
Good advance planning can save a lot of headaches and make the whole exercise relatively straightforward. This applies in particular to the translation process (more about the translation process below).
Your current web agency will want your support. Good planning, professional translation and native-speaker support will take care of virtually all problems that come along.
Where can I find a good German web agency?
As a good SEO agency for Germany, we’re in a fairly unique position in that we get to experience firsthand the work of a large number of different web agencies. Both in Germany and the UK. We would describe the work of just a small minority as excellent.
The problem for many agencies and SEO consultants in Germany is often workload. The better a web agency is, the more contracts they win, the more work they have. Even the very best companies end up prioritising their best customers. We have customers that are very renowned and expensive agencies and yet the communication or work is really poor or progress painstakingly slow.
The best approach is to ask a company such as ours, with an insight into the work of many web agencies, which web agency we would recommend.
Localisation, Culture and Translation into German
Pay attention! Why good translation is crucial
Translation enables companies to trade successfully in other countries, to reach new customers and to realize their full marketing potential. A good translation can make the difference between winning or losing a contract, between encouraging and preventing a sale and ultimately between being taken seriously or not. A good translation of your website into German is crucial.
For a UK business, finding a good professional translation company is essential. This is one of the fastest growing sectors of the UK economy, with many organisations specialising in translating web content and business language accurately. A service like this will not only use correct vocabulary and grammar but will also be able to retain the underlying meaning of any text you have on your site. We recommend a German translation service such as twigg’s translations.
A good example of bad translation
You need to look no further than the cascade of spam emails that clutter your inbox for a good example of a bad translation. Most spam originates outside Europe and invariably the content has been translated from another language either by someone who lacks the necessary expertise or, more likely, using a free software package. The resulting content is consistently clumsy and lacking in coherence. A poor translation inevitably fails to add any value to your online presence other, perhaps, than unintended comic value.
Of course, we expect spam emails to be badly written, in fact, that helps us to identify them. But what about something really crucial like a website? For a business hoping to trade in Germany, it is equally vital to make sure that the translation is very good. Anything less than this does nothing to enhance the image of your business in the eyes of your customers and potential customers.
Cultural differences to consider
Many Germans are meticulous timekeepers. Forward planning is very highly valued in Germany, and so it’s typical for Germans to know precisely where they will be and what they will be doing at any given time. Foreigners may observe that Germans often devote a great deal of thought to a project, thoroughly dissecting each element, and so few German business initiatives are ill-considered.
Unexpected changes to a pre-agreed plan can be unpalatable to Germans. Making an abrupt amendment to a business transaction is not likely to be well-received, whether the outcome is agreeable to them or not. Commerce is considered to be serious and important, and it’s generally fairly rare for Germans to approach a transaction with humour. Correspondingly, business associates do not expect the manner of complimentary small talk found elsewhere, and are typically unenthusiastic about bridging the divide between professional and personal life.
Punctuality is, of course, very highly valued in Germany. Tardiness can cause annoyance among Germans, particularly in the context of a business appointment, and a delay of even a few minutes can be badly received. In these situations, calling ahead to explain, and to manage expectations, is important. Being five to ten minutes early for a business meeting is the cultural norm.
How can I get an excellent German translation?
The digital world is awash with translation agencies advertising their services and several online translation databases can also be consulted to reveal more. The best agencies will offer transparent and easily accessible information about their business profile including translation methods and services, country of origin, quality control systems and some guidance on their translation pricing policy.
Perhaps most important of all, you should probably take the time to track down a translation service that specializes in German. Most of the largest agencies offer translations into every conceivable language, which can cause serious quality issues. As with everything else, you should also steer clear of cheap translation offers. Professional translation does not come cheap and choosing what seems like a good deal may well come back to bite you. There is nothing worse than having to pay twice for the same work (not to mention the time and frustration it can cause).
Those who are (understandably) nervous about entrusting important translation work to an unproven agency on the strength of nothing but a supercharged web presence would be well advised to either seek out word-of-mouth referrals within their own industry or else contact two or three smaller translation agencies by telephone. Like Twigg’s Translations who offer direct contact with the owner, this type of agency provides a more personalised service and will welcome an informative and reassuring discussion about their services with a potential new client.
Search Engine Optimisation for Germany
Helping our customers to make more sales in Germany is our business. Strangely, one of the most effective methods is one of the least understood. Since 2012 Google has done an excellent job of convincing everyone that SEO is dead and that all you have to do is create a good website and you will rank naturally. This is untrue.
For those businesses that are prepared to invest in improving their organic rankings in Germany, the rewards can be substantial. We have a great deal of expertise and consider ourselves to be one of the best SEO services in Germany when it comes to supporting and giving value to our English-speaking customers. We’d love you to get in touch with us to see if we are a good match and whether we can help you.
But maybe you or your staff want to do it on your own. Below you will find what I hope is useful information about the steps you can take to improve your rankings in Germany.
Can a Good SEO Service in Germany improve sales?
Yes. Organic SEO is not like Adwords. You don’t have a budget limit, you don’t have a geographical limit, you don’t have to pay for clicks, you don’t have to worry about others outbidding you. Achieving good rankings gives your website the chance to attract customers 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. Not only that, people often trust the organic results far more than the paid ads. Basically, good SEO in Germany can turn your website into your most valuable salesman.
Although you can expect to see ranking improvements fairly quickly, the real power of SEO is in its longer-term potential. Investing in SEO is like building a pipeline to replace a bucket. A large number of companies have become convinced that spending on Pay Per Click (usually Adwords) is the right thing to be doing. And they are often right, especially for the short-term. But spending on Adwords is like walking up a hill every day with a bucket to collect water rather than concentrating on building a pipeline. SEO when successful is like building a pipeline that will keep on delivering and delivering over the years. SEO is the ultimate marketing tool.
Modern Search Engine Optimisation makes finding your website easy for your customers. Not only that, SEO helps create a better experience for your customers when they visit your website. Much of modern SEO is focused on the user experience.
Which tools are available for keyword research in Germany
Sistrix Keyword Research
Sistrix is a very powerful tool for Germany. Its database is far larger for German search terms than for other languages and we love using this tool. There are different ways to research new keywords. You can, for example, use the ranking data with filters for your research. Or find new keywords through your competitors.
Often you are only able to figure out just how complex a topic can be, once you have done your keyword research. The SISTRIX Toolbox helps with the keyword research to quickly get an overview of complex topics. It’s easy to find additional search terms. Clicking on a keyword will open the SERPs for that keyword, where you can conduct a deeper analysis.
Google Keyword Planner
This tool is often used for SEO experts not only for paid advertising but also to research and analyze keywords for organic search. Google Keyword Planner provides estimates of average monthly searches of individual keywords. The tool can focus results on specific geographic areas and is therefore very helpful in multilingual search engine optimization. This article on the international business and technology blog goes into more detail about the performance of the Google Keyword Planner in German.
This tool is also very useful for carrying out keyword research in Germany. This tool acually has a great deal of potential, which is often overlooked even by SEOs with many years of experience. This article by ahrefs on how to use Google Trends for keyword research is just as relevant for Germany as it is for English-language research.
Google’s Search Suggest is a wondrous feature for Germany, too. Not only does it save humans beings around the planet millions of key entries each day, it’s also a phenomenal keyword research tool for marketers. For reasons that likely centre around its commercial intent bias, Google’s Keyword Planner Tool often doesn’t show large swaths of data around keywords. But you can leverage Google Suggest to produce some fantastic insights. This article by Rand Fishkin explains in more detail how to benefit from the insights that Google Suggest offers. You can use this tool for Google suggest.
Answer the Public
Answering the most commonly searched-for questions about your product/service will provide value to your readers and solidify you as an industry expert. Answer the Public also works in German and provides valuable insights.
Moz Keyword Explorer
Keyword Explorer is a time-saving keyword research tool that takes the often-inaccurate data and the repetitive busywork out of keyword research. You can use it for free for two keyword searches, otherwise, you’ll need to pay. The Moz Keyword Explorer also has German-language searches covered. Here is a guide to the Keyword Explorer…
This article in German lists a number of other keyword tools that can be used to help you with your research.
Keyword research in German when you don’t speak the language
Native language support
You will need continuous language support during the process; from the confirmation of keyword research, to help with on-page analysis and optimizing content. Keyword research is much easier when you have a native German speaker to help you and easier still if that person is also a web marketer who understands the process you’re following.
There are several free translation tools that can be used to help you carry out your German keyword research. Always keep in mind that this is not a substitute of native language support. Translation software can give you some work independence and help you to advance quicker, with more confidence; nonetheless, the real meaning of a phrase or paragraph can easily get lost, so be careful.
Research your keywords, rather than translating them
Keyword research should be the first step to identify potential markets and show levels of competition. Of course, the best option, especially if you don’t know the language at all, is to hire SEO specialists.
But if you’re on a tight budget, you might want to do it yourself with the assistance of native-speaking translators or copywriters. One common mistake is to assume that direct translations of keywords will work just as well in other languages. This isn’t always the case. For example, most Germans search for “Handy” rather than “mobile phone”.
Start by translating your keywords and brainstorming similar terms. Then check with a native speaker for suggestions. Remember that languages, such as German, often tend to use English for technical terms. Ask yourself whether the keywords are relevant to the site content and likely to translate into sales.
Which on-page factors affect rankings in Germany on Google.de?
Content of a page
More than ever before, the content of a page is what makes it worthy of a search result position. It’s what the user came to see and is thus extremely important to the search engines. This means, then, that it’s essential to create good content in German. But what is good content? From an SEO perspective, good content has two attributes; it has to supply a demand and it should be good enough to attract links.
Good content supplies a demand
Just like in virtually every other economic field information is affected by supply and demand. The best content does the best job of supplying the largest demand. Google attaches a great deal of importance to user behaviour. You should want to create content that people want to read and which genuinely provides value (like the article that you are reading now).
Good content is linkable
There is no point in creating good content if people cannot link to it. Google.de still uses links as a ranking factor so we want our content to attract as many links as possible. This means creating our content in a format that makes it easy for others to share. Surprisingly this is not always the case. A few examples of this include AJAX-powered image slideshows, content only accessible after logging in, and content that can’t be reproduced or shared. Content that doesn’t supply a demand or is not linkable is bad in the eyes of the search engines—and most likely some people, too.
Title tags are the second most important on-page factor for SEO, after content. We highly recommend you get native language help to research and write your German title tags.
Title tags serve two very important purposes. Firstly, Google uses them as a ranking factor. This means that the words that you use in your title tags will affect how well your website ranks on Google. Secondly, Google displays the title tag in the search results. This means that the title plays a large part in motivating potential visitors to click through to your website, this, in turn, affects rankings. The more people click through to your site and like what the find, the better Google ranks your website.
The way you structure the navigation of your website and the way you name the URLs can impact the findability of your site on Google. You will also need to think about how to handle German “Umlauts” (see section on Umlauts above).
The better your site structure, the better your chance of higher ranking in the search engines. If you are intentional and careful with your site structure, you will create a site that achieves search excellence.
Why structure matters
Site structure is often overlooked – and this is a great shame. Because on the one hand, it’s one of the most crucial aspects of a site’s SEO performance, but on the other hand, few webmasters and owners understand what it means to have a site structure that enhances SEO.
During the structuring of your site for Germany, you’ll need to think about how to name each of the different navigation elements. This is important for both a user friendliness point of view, but also from an optimisation perspective.
We give our customers full support with site structure and we help them to create the very best user-friendly and search-engine-friendly set-up
Along with smart internal linking, SEOs should make sure that the category hierarchy of the given website is reflected in URLs. The following is a good example of URL structure:
The URL above clearly shows the hierarchy of the information on the page. This information is used to determine the relevancy of a given web page by the search engines. Due to the hierarchy, the engines can deduce that the page likely doesn’t pertain to seo in general but rather to that of finding keywords. This makes it an ideal candidate for search results related to keyword research. All of this information can be speculated on without even needing to process the content on the page.
The following is a bad example of URL structure:
Unlike the first example, this URL does not reflect the information hierarchy of the website. Search engines can see that the given page relates to titles (/title/) and is on the IMDB domain but cannot determine what the page is about. This means that the information provided by the URL is of very little value to search engines.
URL structure is important because it helps the search engines to understand relative importance and adds a helpful relevancy metric to the given page. It is also helpful from an anchor text perspective because people are more likely to link with the relevant word or phrase if the keywords are included in the URL.
How to handle URLs with German “Umlauts”
are special characters in the German language that are not part of the ASCII character set originally used for web pages and URLs.
Since the beginning of the internet, several ways of representing umlauts in a way that conforms with a limited set of characters have been created, from the HTML-code equivalents of ”Ä (Ä) to UFT character replacements such as %C3%84 (Ä). But even before that, since the early days of typewriters, there was an easy way of replacing umlauts that is still widely used by German speakers when forced to type on a keyboard that lacks the correct keys: adding a “e” to the character without the dots on top “AE” (Ä).
When it comes to on-site keyword use, umlauts mainly are of concern for URLs, as it is still common to form these using only ASCII characters for ease of use and to avoid the risk of misrepresentation in certain web browsers as well as non-functioning links.
For URLs the simplest and safest method is to substitute umlauts by skipping the dots and adding an ”e” instead. Google understands these keywords to be the same as the correct spelling. Thus we should use these in URLs and file names wherever we are unable to use UTF characters.
What should an ideally-optimized page include
An ideal web page should do all of the following:
- Be highly relevant to a dedicated topic
- Include the topic or main subject in the title
- Include the topic or subject in the URL (be careful with German umlauts)
- Include topic or subject in image alt text
- Mention the main subject numerous times throughout the text content
- Provide unique insights into a particular topic
- Link to its category page
- Link to its subcategory page
- Link back to the homepage (normally accomplished with an image link showing the website logo on the top left of a page)
Other technical details to help you rank better in Germany
How to use the Hreflang tag for German-language websites
If you have a website that serves content in German, then you need to know how to handle the hreflang (pronounced “herf-lang”) tag for proper implementation. Google and other search engines use the hreflang tag to better understand what content to serve to users in other countries.
If your main website is in English, for example, but you would like to target users in Germany and have the page written in German, this is when the hreflang tag is crucial to use. The tag can ensure that German content will be served to the user. It also creates a more user-friendly experience that will satisfy your customers.
Options for Implementation
There are three different ways below to implement the hreflang tag.
- HTML link element in the header. In the HTML <head> section of http://www.example.com/, add a link element pointing to the Spanish version of that webpage at http://es.example.com/, like this:
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es” href=”http://es.example.com/” />
- HTTP header. If you publish non-HTML files (like PDFs), you can use an HTTP header to indicate a different language version of a URL:
- Link: <http://es.example.com/>; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”es”
- To specify multiple hreflang values in a Link HTTP header, separate the values with commas like so:
- Link: <http://es.example.com/>; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”es”,<http://de.example.com/>; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”de”
- Sitemap. Instead of using markup, you can submit language version information in a Sitemap.
Achieving fast page load speeds in Germany
Page speed can be described in either “page load time” (the time it takes to fully display the content on a specific page) or “time to first byte” (how long it takes for your browser to receive the first byte of information from the web server).
No matter how you measure it, a faster page speed is better. Many people have found that faster pages both rank and convert better.
Google has indicated site speed (and as a result, page speed) is one of the signals used by its algorithm to rank pages. And research has shown that Google might be specifically measuring time to first byte as when it considers page speed. In addition, a slow page speed means that search engines can crawl fewer pages using their allocated crawl budget, and this could negatively affect your indexation.
Page speed is also important to user experience. Pages with a longer load time tend to have higher bounce rates and lower average time on page. Longer load times have also been shown to negatively affect conversions.
Use of Schema.org structured data or other markup
Schema.org is the result of collaboration between Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo! to help you provide the information their search engines need to understand your content and provide the best search results possible at this time. Adding Schema markup to your HTML improves the way your page displays in SERPs by enhancing the rich snippets that are displayed beneath the page title.
Structured data can be used to mark up all kinds of items from products to events to recipes. It is most often used to provide additional information about the following:
- Creative work
Structured data is one of the areas in which you will only need limited native language support. There are some instances, however, where a knowledge of German will come in useful.
Read more about structured data here: https://moz.com/learn/seo/schema-structured-data
Optimising for mobile
Germany has also seen a huge surge in the numbers of people using mobile devices and tablets. And yet many websites still aren’t designed to account for different screen sizes and load times. Mobile optimization involves site design, site structure, page speed, and more to make sure you’re not turning German mobile visitors away.
Mobile SEO best practices
If you’re reading this article there’s a good chance your German website is still at the planning stage. This is ideal because optimising for mobile will save you lots of time later. Here are a few additional things that you should consider for mobile optimisation:
Site design for mobile
Mobile devices are simplifying and revolutionizing the ways sites are designed. “Above the fold” no longer has meaning in a world where we scroll endlessly
Don’t use Flash
The plugin may not be available on your user’s phone, which means they’ll miss out on all the fun. If you want to create special effects, use HTML5 instead.
Don’t use pop-ups either
It can be difficult and frustrating to try and close these on a mobile device. This might lead to a high bounce rate.
Design for the fat finger
Touch screen navigation can lead to accidental clicks if your buttons are too big, too small, or in the path of a finger that’s trying to get the page to scroll.
Optimize your German titles and meta descriptions
Remember that you’re working with less screen space when a user searches using a mobile device. To show off your best work in SERPS, be as concise as possible (without sacrificing the quality of the information) when creating titles, URLs, and meta descriptions.
Use Schema.org structured data
Because of the limited screen space, a search result with rich snippets is even more likely to stand out than on a desktop.
Mobile site configuration
Probably the most important decision you’ll make when setting up a site is deciding whether you want to use a responsive, dynamic serving, or separate site configuration. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Google prefers responsive design but supports all three options as long as you have set them up properly.
Content Research and Creation for Germany
Why good content is an essential part of SEO for Germany
Over the many years that I’ve been involved in SEO there have been many changes and Google’s focus has shifted a great deal over the years. If you want to rank well in Google now, you’d better make sure that you are publishing good valuable content that will please your visitors. This is important because Google attaches a great deal of importance to user behaviour.
You’ve probably noticed that Goolgle is always pushing you to be logged into your Google account. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is that Google wants to track your behaviour. Google wants to see which pages you like and which pages you don’t, which pages you revisit and which pages turn you off. This data plays a key role in how websites rank. In fact, it’s almost better to have no content than really bad content. So there you have it, if you want to outrank your competitors in Germany, you have to think seriously about good content.
Ideas for creating great content for a German audience
When it comes to creating great content, most companies fall short. Whether it’s a service or a product you’re selling you can probably improve on what the majority of your competitors have online. The reason that good content is often missing is that the person with all the real insights and knowledge is often too busy on other things to write about it. In addition, business owners or specialists in any given field are not necessarily writers.
For instance, we’ve been working for a plastic surgeon in Berlin for many years. He has a great deal of knowledge and a deep insight into his field. But he’s not a marketing guy and he has very little time to write. But he is the best person to create content, to tell his prospective patients about each OP and to explain the process to them.
It usually takes someone outside of the business to point out what content is missing and make suggestions about what should be there. This is what we do for our customers. We take a look at the existing content and try to work out what’s missing. There are many tools both in German and English that give deep insights into what people are searching for in Google. One example is Answer the Public. Using this tool you can add a keyword and see all of the questions that people are asking around it.
Content creation process for Germany
Step 1: Find out what content is missing. What is your most important product or service? Do you have good content online around that product or service? Do you explain well what it does, how it can help your users and what makes it so special? Have you gone the extra mile to help your users? Is there content missing that could help your German visitors? Content doesn’t have to be in the form of text. It can also take the shape of a video, infographic or drawing.
Step 2: Find out what people are searching for. You can use a large number of keyword research tools (see the section on keyword research above). It’s absolutely amazing to see all the questions that people ask about different topics. When we have been involved in a business or certain sector for many years it’s easy to forget that most people might not have the first idea about what’s involved. Our job is to answer questions and provide information that is useful.
Step 3: Write the headlines and then the content. This is a very simplified guide to a complex subject. We have found that it’s far easier to write the content when the headlines are written. It adds structure and motivates you to write the next headline. This approach can make creating good content more straightforward and easier to digest.
What’s an “Impressum” page and is it a legal requirement?
There is a visible link on every German website with the name “Impressum”. Click on this link and it will take you to the “Impressum”, which is required by law and must be published on websites in Germany and other German-speaking countries. This applies to all domain names and not just .de websites.
It is essentially a page that discloses information about the publisher of that website, similar to an Imprint. It was done in an aim to fight spam, data protection and illegal content and conduct on the Internet by making webmasters disclose who they are – but it has also created some problems regarding the privacy of webmasters.
It became compulsory in 2002, and in 2007 was altered specifically for the online sector with the implementation of the Telemediangesetz (Telemedia Law).
Do you need one?
You need an Impressum on all commercial websites in Germany, Austria and Switzerland – so if you want to publish a website in any of these countries, you require one.
The information needed on an Impressum page
The main points that are required on an Impressum page include;
- Publishers name
- Telephone number or Email
- Trade registry number
- VAT number
There are websites that allow you to create your own German “Impressum” page for free, including these two, which let you create one in German and English:
If you would like us to help you create an “Impressum” for your website, please get in touch.
Source: What is an Impressum?
Link-building and SEO. Germany is different.
1) Mentality: All cultures have their own mentality and it’s no different for Germany. Generally speaking, it’s far easier to build links in the English-speaking world. Germans tend to be more cautious when it comes to adding a link. German websites are required by law to have an “Impressum” page, which makes the website owners more responsible. There is even a law that makes you responsible for the content of the pages to which you link.
2) Data protection laws: As mentioned above the data protection laws in Germany are far stronger than in most other countries. This adds extra friction to the willingness of companies to link to other content.
3) Size: The German-speaking world is far smaller with far fewer resources. The blogging world is also far smaller so the amount of scope for reach-out is also far smaller.
4) Money: Many German magazines and large blogs still expect payment for a link. Even when you deliver good content.
Building links in Germany is far more difficult than in English. However, there are also some opportunities because many of the good linking techniques that work well in English are not being done in Germany anything like as much. This provides an opportunity for companies with the patience and willingness to actively go out and promote the excellent content that they have created for their websites.
Despite the challenges mentioned above, there is still a large number of link building opportunities in Germany. Most of them depend on good content for success. Given that we don’t need anywhere near as many links to rank well as we used to, we can pour more of our energy into creating great content.
You’ll find more on creating good content earlier in the article.
Performics.de published an informative article on creative link building in Germany. For most of these methods, you will absolutely need the support of a native speaking SEO company in Germany that understands the culture and language. We know firsthand how challenging link building can be even with all the language skills, experience and cultural knowledge.
Pay-Per-Click (Google Adwords) in Germany
Ideas for overcoming the linguistic challenges of a German PPC campaign
What is Pay-Per-Click?
The term pay-per-click is used to describe online advertising where the advert is displayed in the search results of Google after the user has initiated search. Payment for the advert is triggered by the user clicking on the advert. Google Adwords is the official name of pay-per-click on Google. This form of advertising is also very popular in Germany.
How are PPC adverts and campaigns created?
Much like organic SEO, one of the first steps in setting up a PPC campaign is to identify the search terms that are most likely to garner the largest return on investment. There are a number of things that need to be taken into account when doing keyword research for Germany. There is a section in this article (above) on how to do keyword research in Germany.
After collating a list of relevant keywords, appropriate adverts are created and grouped in different ad groups according to the specific topic they are targeting. So, for example, if we are working for a company which sells furniture online, the different ad groups could be ‘Wohnzimmermöbel’, ‘Badezimmermöbel’ and ‘Gartenmöbel’. Several adverts will then be created for each group so that different adverts appear after a specific keyword has been searched.
German Ad texts
Often the first thing that a user sees on Google after making a search is a special set of results which are discretely marked (Ad) or in German (Anzeige). These are made up of different lines or elements, as shown below.
The first line is the title and has a limit of 25 characters. The title is designed in exactly the same fashion as the organic results and is displayed prominently in blue. The third and fourth lines are reserved for the description of the service or product. These are used to describe the offer in more detail and create a call to action. The last line is for the URL of the offer. This is often a fictitious URL that advertisers can design to get the best response for the advert.
Linguistic challenges for Germany
We at are Vision64 are fluent in German and have native-speaking people to help us craft the best possible ads for the PPC campaigns of our customers. There are some differences that need to be taken into account when creating Adwords for Germany (including cultural).
Adwords limits the number of characters that we can use to design our ads. This can create problems in German because on average German words tend to be longer and use a lot of compound nouns.
This linguistic diversity can create problems when having to translate or create texts with a limited number of characters (as in adverts for a PPC campaign). However compound nouns can also help us with our Adwords campaigns and Germany actually is able to include more information in a smaller chunk of space and can be considered as ‘privileged’ language for PPC campaigns as they require less struggle from linguists compared to some other languages.
The availability of a native German speaker is absolutely critical for the success of an Adwords campaign. The availability of mother tongue linguists will allow the adverts to sound natural and be perceived as reliable to the users, which will in turn make them more likely to click on them.
Another thing is linguistic freedom. Even if you already have all of your Adwords text ready in English this doesn’t mean you can simply translate them into German. The German language differs greatly and just because something works in the UK is absolutely no guarantee that it will work in Germany.
It’s probably better to give your native German-speaking Adwords team some guidelines on how to conduct a PPC campaign and details of what your goals are. They will also need a list of your most important search terms (see the section on keyword research above). This way, they will gain creative freedom and the final adverts will surely sound more natural than if they were created starting from a source text.
It’s really important to tailor PPC marketing campaigns differently for Germany as the cultural contexts are extremely diverse, as are peoples’ expectations and reactions to adverts.
How much will Pay-Per-Click in Germany cost?
The price you will pay for PPC in Germany depends on a number of factors, over some of which you have control and over some of which you don’t. The first thing to bear in mind is that the majority of your spend will go to Google. If you want a professional agency such as ourselves to optimise and get the very best return on investment for you, then you should also calculate a management fee. Factors that determine how much your Adwords campaign will cost you:
- Your budget. You can set your own budget and tell Google to stop delivering ads when your budget has been reached
- Cost per click. The factors that influence the most the cost of each click are: the amount of competition and the size of the profit margin in any given industry. In markets with small margins, the cost per click is lower
- How well your campaign is managed: It’s easy to spend a lot and waste a lot in AdWords. It’s also possible to make Adwords work very well for your company. When Adwords first started in the year 2000, it was very simple and could easily be managed by yourself. But now it’s very difficult to set up and manage alone without making expensive mistakes.
How much will Adwords management in Germany cost?
Just like in the UK, the cost of AdWords management in Germany will vary greatly. A typical agency will charge around 400 EUR to set up your campaign and then a monthly fee based on the size of your overall Adwords budget.
For a budget of 2000 – 3000 EUR you can expect to pay an agency fee of around 260 EUR. Lots of agencies charge a fee as a percentage of the overall Adwords spend. So if you spend 10,000 EUR a month, you can expect to pay the agency 1000 EUR
The good news is that our fees are very fair and won’t leave you feeling that you are being ripped off.
How to Find a Reputable German SEO/PPC Agency
Paid search management is very likely something that you will want or even need to outsource if your native language is not German. Also in Germany, the developments in Adwords is rapid so even without other responsibilities, keeping up with campaigns on a daily basis and all the developments in the technology and market environment is very demanding. When your time is already at a premium, finding a qualified AdWords agency in Germany can make a world of difference.
Here are some ideas for finding the right Pay-Per-Click Agency to manage your campaigns in German.
Perhaps one of the simplest ways is to search Google.de for “Google Adwords Betreuung“. You will be presented with pages and pages of agencies based in Germany that offer Pay-Per-Click services. If you’re not fluent in German, look for sites with an English-language version of their site. Then it’s a case of ringing up and asking them how they can help you and whether or not they have other customers based in the UK or outside of Germany.
There are several considerations to bear in mind when choosing yourself a good Pay-Per-Click company.
Don’t look for the cheapest but look for a good service at a fair price. Remember – low-priced companies are far more likely to manage your German PPC campaign in a quick and dirty manner. Our prices for Adwords management…
Some AdWords-management companies only work in specific geographical areas, so they understand the local market and can offer you a more personal service. Vision64, for instance, is specialized in the German market. We make it easy for our customers in the UK to market themselves online in Germany.
Try to find out about the companies you are considering, by looking for independent reviews or by asking trusted colleagues for recommendations. Word of mouth is often an excellent way to find out about the success (or otherwise), of individual PPC management companies.
A good PPC company should be able to provide references from satisfied customers. Don’t rely on these alone, but they are a useful starting point in gauging whether they can offer you a good service.
Ask whether the company has any experience of managing accounts for businesses in a similar field to your own. Do they have experience of working with non-German companies? If so, they should understand the world in which you are operating, and may already have some ideas about how to improve your Adword’s campaign.
Obtain a specific quote that details exactly what you will get for your money, so you can compare like for like when making your decision. Contact us here for a quote…
Spend time talking to the companies – your gut instinct can often be a good guide as to whether you can build a good professional relationship with them. Give us a call, we’d be happy to speak to you about your plans. Tel. 0114 2999 259
Getting the very best Pay-Per-Click service to manage your Adwords account is too important a decision to be left to chance or undertaken lightly. The whole future of your business may rest on the choice you make, so take the time to investigate all the ramifications and your various options very carefully before taking the plunge.
Making an informed decision will result in finding a great Adwords management company that can help give your company the prominence it deserves in the German-speaking market, letting you focus on what you do best – growing your business.
My name is Alan Twigg and I’m the author of this article. Vision64 is made up of a team of Germans and Brits. Over the years we’ve helped a very large number of companies in Germany and the UK to improve their rankings and grow their internet business.
If you want to optimize your website for German users, especially if you don’t know the language or culture, you are going to need help. You’ll want your website to speak and appeal to your users and this means firstly making sure that it professionally translated. Then there are all the other important aspects such as keyword research, title, description and content optimisation.