Today we’re going to take a closer look at SEO in Germany, which is gracefully known in this country as Suchmaschinenoptimierung. This entry is undoubtedly worth reading, taking into consideration that even the German SEO professionals unanimously agree that the local market is rather demanding. So, open up your digital marketing notes, and let’s get it started.
German users – who are they and what search engines do they use?
Unsurprisingly, Google, with over 94% of all searches, is the leading search engine used in Germany. Bing, the second on the podium, is preferred by 2,79% of users, and Yahoo with less than 1% of all searches is an almost negligible search engine. Moreover, 88% of Germans use the Internet, which gives approximately the same proportion as in the United States. That definitely shows that digital marketing is a way to win quite a market share. The Internet is used mainly by young people – among those aged 16 – 34 over 90% regularly browse the net. However, later there is a noticeable decrease – 81% of people under 44 years of age and only 70% of those over 45 years of age use the Internet. Compared to other European countries, Germany is a relatively highly computerized society. So for example, in Poland, only 60% of those over 45 years of age use the Internet and the older the population gets, the less often they use the Internet.
… And what websites do they prefer?
When planning SEO in Germany, it’s important to remember about differing visual preferences of the German users. What previously worked when it comes to your social media graphics or website design may no longer be effective while aiming at the German market. While the English Internet users find minimalist website designs pleasing, Germans are fond of extensive descriptions. According to SEO professionals, Germans tend to treat websites as product business cards. So if they’re thoroughly prepared, they can convince the users of the high quality of the products or services. Therefore, when creating a text for a German user, first you need to emphasize the quality of the product and only then you can talk about its price.
Language – the key to the German SEO
What is absolutely necessary to run an SEO campaign on google.de? It’s the knowledge of German. According to what most people say, it’s a very demanding language and without its knowledge, you can’t really count on success. Although language barriers are omnipresent when it comes to foreign SEO, they’re particularly visible in Germany. If you decide to contact a client or an influencer, you must remember about linguistic and grammatical correctness of your message. Otherwise, there might be no response, which, in turn, translates into a failure of marketing activities such as content promotion which is based largely on building relationships on the Internet. Discourse typical for Germany is another important factor. Local businessmen are said to value clarity and transparency of information. Therefore, building any online relations with the use of ambiguous messages may be misunderstood.
Characters such as Ä, Ü, ß which aren’t present in English are another challenge – it’s difficult to use them from the default settings of the English keyboard. Although Google search engine is able to recognize words even when special characters are replaced by U or A, it’s worth following the rules while running the german SEO campaign as correctness is one of the criteria taken into account by Google robots while assessing a given website.
German SEO – Keyword research challenge in Germany
When it comes to German, choosing the right keywords is a particular challenge. Sometimes, difficulties appear even when it comes to the number of words. For instance, the English phrase “search engine optimization” in German is written with only one word “Suchmaschinenoptimierung”. Challenging as the phrase looks (and sounds) it’s also a challenge in terms of the SEO process. Now, SEO professionals have to make the decision whether to optimize the content on the website for the whole phrase written in one word, or for its individual components. The German SEO specialists recommend not forgetting about component optimization.
The power of long-tail keywords
Thanks to the flexibility of the German language, users can precisely communicate to Google what they need and this must be taken into consideration while conducting keyword research and creating a list of key phrases. According to experts, SEO for long-tail keywords is much more effective. Moreover, German-speaking users sometimes tend to use “Englishized” word forms when entering queries in the search engine. And even if these words aren’t 100% grammatically or linguistically correct, they can have a significant volume of searches and must be taken into account when building a list of key phrases. To conclude, many SEO professionals point out that language is the main challenge when it comes to german SEO. The help of a native speaker would be an ideal solution to the problem – maybe you know someone who is bilingual, willing to cooperate, and would be happy to provide you with some SEO services?
SEO in Germany – practical tips
One of the typical, basic solutions present in International SEO is to convince the search engine geolocalizer about the target range of your website. If you’re using the top-level domain with the extension specific to Germany: .de, it’s worth hosting your website on the Rhine. Putting the website on a server in Germany costs from 10 to 20 euros for the first year. If for some reason you can’t change the domain to .de, and you position the site in one of the gTLD domains (including .com), remember to use the hreflang tag and Google Web Toolkit to determine the location of your site in Germany. Providing a German address and phone number in the contact tab is also helpful for geolocation.
Germany and nearby German-speaking countries – killing two birds with one stone?
If you decide on SEO in Germany, other German-speaking markets, such as Austrian or Swiss, can become your secondary targets and this might be also desired by your clients. However, in such a case you need to note certain language differences. The German spoken in Berlin and Vienna vary in technical, business, or legal vocabulary.
The German market, like many others, has its own specifics. That’s why when you’re thinking about expanding your business there, you need to make sure to explore and learn all the characteristics. The things you should learn will vary for different industries, depending on what’s your core business. However, I think the most important is to understand the cultural context and learn as much as possible about shopping behavior, search engine differences, and rules that apply to your industry. This way you can start optimizing your website while adjusting particular elements of the SEO process to the local audience. That’s exactly what we did while working with one of our clients, Superloko, when we suggested implementing the “Trusted Shop” protocol – one that is very important for customers on the German market, while on the others may not be so crucial for gaining customers’ trust.
Building a link database for German websites. 3 basic methods
Below you can see various SEO techniques used in Germany while building link databases. In the case of country-focused SEO, there’s a general rule that external links to a German website should come from other German sites. Otherwise, you’re risking not being visible for search engine bots. So which sources are worth using while building a link database and which should be avoided?
- Directory entries. Although in many countries this is one of the most popular ways of gaining positions, it may not work in Germany as the directories are usually paid and cost even up to 50 euros. Below you can see some of the German directories, including the free ones:
- http://bellnet.de – this directory advertises itself as the oldest German Internet directory which has been operating for almost 15 years. If you don’t do SEO for a church, charity, sports club or university, you’ll be charged a one-off fee of 50 euros.
- http://oekoportal.de – a directory for ecologically oriented companies and free of charge. However, if you decide to use it, it requires placing a banner on your website with a link to the directory.
- http://www.rss-verzeichnis.de – RSS feed directory. Adding your own RSS feed is free but it works only with German feeds.
- http://www.schlaue-seiten.de – company entry in the “business” category is free of charge but works only with German companies.
- http://www.seekxl.de– entry is free of charge but requires a backlink.
- https://www.bunte-suche.de -the first entry is free of charge. However, the site requires placing a banner that meets special requirements and a link to the directory.
- Remember to add a description of your website with the physical German address of the client for whom you run the SEO campaign to WHO.IS.
2. German websites with press releases – they allow you to post short information about your activities, thematic entries that resemble blogging, product descriptions, reports on your presence at trade fairs, conventions, industry meetings and many more.
3. Link exchange systems. Basing your german SEO strategy on them is rather risky. More than a year ago Google officially admitted that it had taken action against link exchange systems, which are considered to be a black hat SEO technique. Rankseller.de and teliad.de were among the systems punished at that time. Therefore, if such a situation occurred once, we should expect that this type of SEO is burdened with significant risk.
The take-home message
When considering SEO in Germany, remember that it takes patience to enter this market. It’s not only a matter of cultural differences but it’s also about the german SEO practices. The activities described by Google as impermissible are still being used on the German Internet. This, in turn, means that the competition on the market is rather sizeable and tends to use black hat SEO alongside other uncertain digital marketing practices. Nevertheless, let’s trust Google that it’ll improve its algorithms and implement direct actions that will eliminate such illegitimate behaviors. Then, websites that use SEO properly, should be ranked first in SERPs. Perhaps it’s worth taking such an approach and preparing yourself to wait a little longer to see the effects of your work.