Dialects, Diversity and Keyword Research

In 1755, the British expelled the Acadians from their land in modern day Nova Scotia. They made their way down to Louisiana and soon became known as the Cajuns.

Today, the Cajun population is estimated to be between 2 million and 5 million people. That’s about the population of Ireland.

So what does this have to do with search marketing? Well, if you ask most Americans what a Cajun is today, they will tell you it’s a spicy food. Marketers who venture into global search marketing often make the same mistake; they will use an auto translation tool and make assumptions on a single list of keywords in a target market general language before really getting to know the cultural dialects and linguistic diversity that may impact the results they get from their own keyword research.

Cajun is as a perfect example because it not only has dialect challenges, but also issues of linguistic diversity within a country where the majority speak English. Who would have thought to use French keywords as a way to target Americans anyway, even if there are millions of them?

Keyword research outside of the English language is usually difficult. Most languages don’t accommodate our vocabulary when you perform direct translations. We have hundreds of words related to “happiness,” where many languages have only a handful.

According to AskOxford, when asked if it’s true that English has the most words of any language, the response was:

“The reason for this is historical. English was originally a Germanic language, related to Dutch and German, and it shares much of its grammar and basic vocabulary with those languages. However, after the Norman Conquest in 1066 it was hugely influenced by Norman French, which became the language of the ruling class for a considerable period, and by Latin, which was the language of scholarship and of the Church. Very large numbers of French and Latin words entered the language. Consequently, English has a much larger vocabulary than either the Germanic languages or the members of the Romance language family to which French belongs.”

Let’s face it, we have a ton of words — therefore a ton of opportunities in search marketing for the English language. So how can utilizing linguistic diversity and dialects help expand your dismal list of non-English keywords?

Understanding Linguistic Diversity

Linguistic diversity is basically mapping all of the languages spoken within one country. It may stem from ethnic minority languages, such as Hungarians who live in Romania, to official multi-lingual countries like the French Canadian and English in Canada. In India, English is spoken as a common language, as is Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, and Tamil.

This diagram provides an overview of the percentage of national populations where the home language isn’t an official language.

Linguistic Diversity

From your research, you need to create a linguistic diversity list within your target markets. Chart out each language and the population of that language group.

Once the chart is complete, you can utilize a linguistic expert or a native translator to then expand on these new keyword lists and test. Make sure you create different ad groups to get the true value out of your keywords and specify geographical targeting if you can.

Fortunately, global search to this level is small, so don’t be nervous trying new things. As you find value, you can then move on to more optimization tactics, such as newly translated, locally-specific landing pages.

Analyzing Your Target Language Dialects for New Words

Pulling out dialect related words within a language isn’t always easy and best left to an expert to identify. Once the new dialect list is created, classifying the dialects to their corresponding regions, even on the lowest local level, will be necessary.

For example, in China there are many different dialects.

Where the Main Chinese 'Dialects' Are Spoken

When we launched a major brand into China, we identified 15 different dialect related expressions for that one keyword across China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

Keyword Comparison


International keyword research can be difficult when you’re trying to expand to the same level as English. You can greatly improve your ad groups by researching new opportunities through linguistic diversity and language dialect expansion.

Because this level of targeting is relatively new, you may not find a ton of traffic. However, if “long tail” is important in your English campaigns, then globally expanded keywords shall be equally important in your internationally targeted campaigns.

So with that said, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” (“let the good times roll” in Cajun French).

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