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With a plethora of internationally powerful German brands like Volkswagen, Adidas, and Jaegermeister, Germany is the strongest economic force and largest budget-contributor in the European Union. If you want to enter such a highly successful and competitive economy as a foreign entity, then you better be prepared to bring your best German SEO game to the table, which includes knowing the German market and German customer inside and out.
Germany is the eighth largest European country. It covers over 137 thousand square miles in central-western Europe and has a population of over 82 million.
Germany had a 1.5% GDP growth in 2017. While the country has been a unified global economic force since the fall of the Berlin Wall, it's not exactly a homogenous market. There are 16 distinct German states, with each region prizing its own industrial developments, cultural habits, holidays, culinary tastes, and even languages.
It's such regional variations that pose a tremendous business and marketing challenge for foreigners trying to address the German market as a whole. For example, your Berlin home base may be closed for a public holiday that's not recognized in Bavaria, leaving your Bavaria customers frustrated if they can't reach you on what's a normal business day for them.
Germans are among the top 10 nationalities with the highest smartphone penetration rates, and it's easy to see why. Germany is the largest ecommerce market in Europe and the fifth largest worldwide.
Studies have shown that social media users in Germany check or log on to their accounts multiple times a day, with Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter being international social media favorites. Local German social media favorites, such as KWICK!, Yappy, and Xing, shouldn't be overlooked by foreign business owners. Xing, for example, is a German social media network geared toward careers. It now has over 10 million German users (a great statistic of German Social Media User in the infographic below - Source: de.Statista.com), which makes it LinkedIn's largest competitor.
How do Germans search the web? A local search engine, T-online, looked like a promising runner to beat out the global giants, but it was ultimately gobbled up by Google, which now powers it. Google, with a 94.5% search share, remains the top search engine dog in Germany. Bing and Yahoo also perform well, however.
Germany does rank ninth of 90 in English proficiency by the EF's English Proficiency Index Campaign. However, German remains the main language used in business conducted in Germany. Understandable, right? Anyone conducting business falls back to their native language as an assurance that they understand important facets and are confident during negotiations.
German is not only the predominant language used by Germans, it's also an official language used by nearby Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and other German speaking regions. Various German dialects have emerged from its widespread usage across Europe, each of which carries various pronouncements, colloquialisms, and such.
Hochdeutsch is a business's best friend in navigating this German language challenge. Also called high German or standard German, Hochdeutsch is the universal pronunciation key because it's universally taught in European schools with the same universal standard for pronunciation and word usage. This is the variation of German that will be expected for business transactions and dealings in Germany. Using Hochdeutsch on your multilingual website ensures that German-speaking customers across all of Europe are attracted to and able to use and understand your website.
German is a language with a rich and extensive vocabulary, and all these words often do not have an English language equivalent. Be mindful of not only using Hochdeutsch, but ensuring the translations are correct. A mishap in translating a keyword can be disastrous for your website by hiding it from relevant traffic and causing search engines to rank it poorly because the keyword isn't actually relevant to the website's content.
Also to consider, like the English language, the German language has many words that often convey the same premise. Discount is a good example. In America, words like discount, sale, markdown, bargain all convey the same premise. German is no different with rabatt, gutschein, and angebot all conveying the same premise.
So how do you know what word specific keyword to use among so many variations? You do research. Evaluate the search volume for the various options and find which one(s) provide the proper context and optimal performance level to become your keyword fit.
You must consider misspellings and broken compound words and phrases since German is a language that often merges multiple words together to form a new word, which is called agglutination.
Some Germans use split phrases to get more relevant results in their online searches.
Umlauts are yet another consideration of the German language. These are the little dots you'll see with vowels a, o, and u, and they signify that a back vowel is to become a front vowel. If you omit German umlauts or do not transcribe them out in longhand with the letter "e" when writing in German, then you can lose the meaning of the word. Losung and Lösung are perfect examples. While Lösung means a solution, Losung means a motto.
Think mountaintops - Swiss Alps. When discussing German business and market dealings, Germans hold two things in the highest regard - high standards and punctuality. If you don't deliver, then you should pack your website up and move it to a lesser demanding market, but do keep in mind that these demands are so ardent simply because they're backed by serious purchasing power, which is the only environment a business can thrive within.
To ensure that your business etiquette and standards are congruent with Germany, you'll need to keep some cultural considerations in mind:
Germans have their own unique quality to price relationship, which typically entails them not being highly attentive to price so long as the product contains all the necessary and desirable features.
Great economic success has left Germany with a perfect trifecta of strong purchasing power, high consumer demand, and high competition amongst goods and service deliverers. Basically, German consumers have the luxury of leisurely choosing and comparing services and products from a vast offering to find both quality and value on their own terms. Since it's launch in 2000, many German consumers use the price comparison site Idealo to ensure they're getting the best value for their dollar.
Don't be afraid to use discount sites as a marketing and branding tool. Germans don't have a prestige bias when it comes to discounts. Instead, it's rather an expected offering, regardless of the caliber of the business. Coupon and discount websites like Gutscheine.de, Mydealz.de, and Sparwelt.de are favorites in Germany.
Where's the certificate? Germans have increasingly become ardent followers of the quality certificate trend. If it can impact health and wellbeing, then most German consumers demand a quality certificate accompany the good. This is particularly true with food goods. Do your research to determine if your offering should have a quality label and take the necessary steps to acquire it.
Test.de or Stiftung Warentest is one of the most popular quality review sites used by Germans. The independent site tests, compares, and reviews everything from bank loans and electronics to child safety seats and drinks. German consumers utilize such sites quite often in making purchasing decisions, meaning it's invaluable to have quality reviews on these sites.
Transparency International ranks Germany 10th among 176 countries in transparency. The Corruption Perception Index is an astounding 81%.
The bottom line is that Germans abhor pitchy, obscure, and high-sale language. Don't take a German around the block to tell them the fundamentals because you will lose them along the way; they'll politely wave, however, as they pass by with a shopping bag from a competitor with a more appropriate marketing strategy.
Clearly, Germans favor transparency over pressured selling language. You'll need to keep a congruent sales plan in mind as you conduct negotiations and business with German entities. Online prices including the German VAT in the price, for example, will be a must for you.
It's not all about price and content. It's also about tone. This is important to consider in content marketing where so much attention is paid to what is being said over the tone in which it's said. There's a higher standard in how, or rather the tone in which, the German consumer wants to be addressed. If you look at CTA buttons on top international brands, the German CTA is quite different than it is for other countries. In German versions, the copywriter most always has a thumb on German etiquette, which includes cordially and directly addressing the shopper in a casual manner.
Germany is the strongest of the economic forces and contributors behind the EU. As such, the public and political arena strongly favor a pro-EU consumer attitude. Only 39% of Germans had a neutral attitude toward the EU during the latest EU public opinion poll.
In consumer preferences, there are some areas where U.S. products simply don't fall in line with German standards. Software is a prime example; Germans value strong privacy standards that U.S. software doesn't deliver.
EU law on standards related to marketing, food, telecommunications, etc is also a consideration. EU country members must adhere to EU laws that promote free movement of services and goods and capital within the EU. Thus, they maintain a strong market.
Back to the software example, The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is legislation that set data privacy rules, and Germany adheres to these and even more strict local rules. U.S. software products are still viewed as suspicious by the German government and public following the huge scandal over the NSA performing unauthorized surveillance of German politicians.
You'll need to carefully examine such market and niche caveats to determine how your offerings will be accepted and perform in the German market.
Unlike other European markets, the German market has some very highly developed SEO tactics due to the volume of competition. It's become a standard, not just an option. In fact, it's so entrenched that SEO professionals from all over the world arrive in Munich to attend SEOktoberfest during the traditional Oktoberfest season.
Much like the U.S., Germany is overflowing with specialized SEO services targeting the needs of various cultures and subtypes of the German population, especially where digital marketing is concerned.
Boostabilty, EliteSEO, and Yando Consulting were ranked the top three German SEO companies by Clutch. And, the price point is extremely reasonable, with top-ranking SEO services starting at $25 an hour and topping out at $150 an hour.
The German SEO scene even has its own gurus in the field, such as the founder of Searchmetrics. They've been on the German SEO playing field since SEO's inception and have been key developers along SEO's journey to becoming the standard in online marketing.
With this level of commitment to SEO in the German market, you simply must bring your SEO A Game to the table and familiarize yourself with German local digital marketing and the entirety of the German SEO scene. The ideal place to start is in learning the terminology unique to German SEO, including:
Translation is Semantic Core. Basically, it's a keyword bundle of the most frequently used words related to a specific product or service. This is a technique that helps you optimize your content and cut down on copywriting timelines within your marketing strategy.
How do you find these keywords to bundle? Google Keyword Planner and Google Search Console are two excellent tools that are easy to use. Whatever tool you use, make sure that you consider the query competitiveness, seasonality, impressions, frequency, and bounce rate of the potential semantic core keywords.
No, not WTF, IDC - it does tell you what and you do highly care.
WDF stands for within document frequency. IDF stands for inverse document frequency. The combination is a formula used to determine the ratio of given words within a body of text. This is important because this right balance of keywords is an on-page SEO optimization booster that helps search engines recognize your webpage's content as most relevant to a searcher's queries.
WDF alerts you to the frequency a given term is used within a document, or keyword density. This provides you a percentage of each word and a ratio for all words used. IDF steps in to compare this frequency to determine how relevant a document is to the particular keyword. Applied together within a large database portal, and you have the keyword importance of a given document as it relates to all documents with the same keyword agenda.
Why, yes, the bigger to eat you with, my dear. That's one big, intimating word, but the English translation may be more friendly - SISTRIX Visibility Index. If you're familiar with Google Analytics, then you may need to sit down for this one.
This is the German SEO tool to display how well a website is performing in Google's search engine. The SISTRIX Visibility Index allows you to compare domain stats from your website with your competition. The data is more reliable because it factors out season trends like holidays and weather incidences.
Most seasoned marketers understand the concept of U..S. semantic priming, which is basically the same as Germany's semantisches priming. Marketers influence an onlooker's response by taking partially conscious associations and memories from XX to influence the response to X. It's done through semantic categories. A person sees and thinks about an item and the brain stimulates concurring thought about similar items within that same category.
An obvious example would be if I used the semantic prime word "cat" and you thought of lion or tiger. But, marketers often use primes to connect more seemingly unconnected word and image associations to propel desire without telling you that you desire it.
SemanticSEO experts can help you determine the types of keywords to use and their placement to best reach your target audience and trigger their desire associations.
You've likely gathered that Germans are prudent shoppers and business partners with a rather fastidious adherence to proper etiquette. You only get one chance to make an excellent first impression, and with so many Germans using the web as their go-to get to know you tool, one of the simplest ways to make a stellar first impression is by having a highly creditable website. Here's what you should know:
Establish credibility by pointing out your business partnerships and associations on your website. Take a look at some of the leading German startups, such as SMACC and Candis, and you'll see that they proudly display their business partners within a banner at the end of their pages to give them more local credibility.
To make your content cleaner and more creditable for SERP, you'll need to be cautious of NoFollow and DoFollow links. You don't want search engines to label you as spam because all of your links are tagged as DoFollow.
German Google performs routine checks for what they consider worthless, spam, useless content, and they'll penalize your website for it no matter how prominent or large your company may be if you don't have creditable, quality, relevant content.
If you don't believe it, then just ask BMW about how they were blacklisted in 2006 for using doorway pages to BMW's official site against users searching for "used cars," which was absolutely unrelated to a new BMW. And, that was before google updates like Penguin.
The lesson? Don't use black-hat SEO tactics like doorway pages. Google's updates have made it virtually impossible to go under the radar, and the risk in rank and credibility simply isn't worth the extra traffic.
Instead, focus your efforts on relevant content, clean website structure, avoiding duplicate content, avoiding spam backlinks, and ensuring your website is optimized for your target audience.
German companies are skeptical about link exchanges, especially with foreign, unknown business entities that may impact their own standing through nefarious SEO practices. They pay careful attention to selecting their own creditable SEO company to perform link building. You should follow suit. Ensure your website is up to par and exhibits a high standard of practice if you want a chance to exchange links with established, authority sites.
When creating a German website, you'll need to follow German Impressum. This is legislation that demands commercial websites follow six rules in listing their contact information on their website, which include:
There are online impressum generators should you find it difficult to create the appropriate impressum mandatory info.
Anyone that says German SEO is a cake walk hasn't likely seen very productive results on their website. Germany is a world-leading economic market with tech-savvy consumers expecting you to follow their rules of engagement. If not, there are just too many options and deals available for them to waste their time, money, and energy on the sub par.
Use this German SEO guide to help ensure you understand German expectations, are transparently delivering on your website, and reaching potential customers by implementing a quality German SEO marketing strategy.
Remember that it's okay if you can't manage it alone. Whether you need a German SEO expert or a German translator to ensure your content is translated appropriately and most advantageously, we have the resources, knowledge and experience to help you successfully navigate your German business endeavors.