As a localization provider I have talked with many companies and SEO agencies who like to use Google Translate to translate their keywords. Other companies use someone in their office for keyword translation. In either case these are not the ways to run an effective global content marketing program.
Machine Translation Shortfalls
If you are using Google Translate or another similar machine translation tool for keyword translation you may be getting a translation with a different meaning or context than you are intending. Google Translate now offers some context clarification for single words, but not for what may be full search terms or long-tail keywords and phrases.
Google Translate is also not specific to a locale, so if you are translating text from English into Spanish, you won’t be able to specify if it’s for Latin America or Europe.
A few examples of single English words with double meanings are: solution, hatch, season, patient, and charge. If you don’t have a professional human translator that understands the context of your message, your message can easily get lost.
Don’t Skip Keyword Research
Companies that use a native speaking staff member to translate their keyword list might think that seems like a great option to assure proper context, and while it perhaps is a step above using a machine translation tool, it is still lacking in providing effective localization. The person often doing this translation is just translating the keywords from the list and is not doing keyword research to see how searches are being performed in a given market. The way something is searched for in Argentina may not be the same as in Mexico or Spain, even though they are all using the Spanish language.
For example, in English, coffee shops is a common phrase, which is translated into Spanish as cafeteria, but in Spain, when someone is looking for a place to drink coffee the term café is searched for in much larger volumes. A professional translator familiar with the language and locale would be able to provide you with the correct term for your target audience.
For each target market you should do keyword research to effectively localize your keyword list. If you are running a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign you will want to be paying for the terms that the local marketplace is searching for and for the proper context otherwise you will be wasting your PPC budget. If your SEO results are not meeting the level you expect in the global markets you serve you may want to evaluate how you are developing your global keyword lists and develop a new strategy.