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I have two questions regarding the terms listed under Content Keywords in Google Webmaster Tools:

We've recently lost a lot of ranking in Google search after we changed our e-commerce platform and added translations to foreign languages. We run a US site, but most of our content is translated into Spanish and French for customers' convenience.

Recently, we realized that the top 3 "significant" keywords are all in Spanish. 99% of our customers use English as their first language, and our Google search results ranking has dropped significantly for terms listed at much lower significance in Google Webmaster Tools (e.g. listed at number 8, 13, etc...).

So my questions are:

  1. If the quality of our English content didn't change but we added foreign languages to it, would the "foreign" content take away from our ranking for English terms? The top Spanish terms don't even display our site when searched on in Google. I know this isn't an exact science, but I'd like to hear some feedback based on experience. I read in this article that there is no relevancy between this list and actual search engine ranking (however, the author is suspicious).

  2. At rank number 4, we have a keyword "____", which is literally just an underscore. What does this mean?

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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The reputable source quoted in the article you referenced is actually a member of this site: John Mueller :-) His Google Webmasters Central Blog on Working with Multi-regional Websites may also be helpful to you by the way.

Ranking is "determined based on hundreds of factors", and as John Mueller put it, keyword count is not representative of your site's relevance:

...it is purely a count of words from crawling (so if you see some words there which are common on your pages but which you find irrelevant, I wouldn't worry about it).

Adding foreign language versions of your site shouldn't impact the ranking of your English version, as each page is weighed on its own merits based on numerous factors. It maybe helpful however to organize the content according to the guidelines presented in John's blog and in the following so it can be indexed properly: Google Webmaster Tools - Multi-regional and multilingual sites

Without knowing the specific changes you made regarding this and the e-commerce platform you added, it's impossible to speculate why your rankings changed, or even if these correlate to the changes you made, changes in Google's algorithm, or changes in your competition...

As for blank keywords, this can occur if the search term was not available because it was done under an encrypted search, such as when logged into an account on the search engine's website. See the bottom of this, and here for more: Google Official Blog - Making search more secure.

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Thanks for the answer! –  Youn Jul 23 '13 at 23:42
    
You're welcome, hope it helped :-) –  dan Jul 23 '13 at 23:43
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From what I've read, and in my limited experience, mixing languages on you website can hurt your ranking if there is not a clear delineation in the domain or url.

  • /en/ or example.com for English
  • /es/ or example.es for Spanish
  • /fr/ or example.fr for French
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Yeah, we're currently doing this. –  Youn Jul 18 '13 at 23:49
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In relation to trying to rank similar content in multiple launguages, you shouldn't get penalised for adding translations so long as they are translations are done by a native speakers and not translated using a tool. By having different translations of pages you are improving the users experience and therefore you shouldn't get penalised.

It is important, however, that you indicate to Google that they are alternative versions of the page by using the rel="alternate" hreflang="x" which is used to specify similar content in different launguages.

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