Why does it matter?
Getting your SEO strategy right in Holland is important because even though around 90% of Dutch speakers speak English, over 90% of Google searches for eCommerce products are in the local language. Seventeen million people live in the Netherlands: so that’s a lot of searches!
Many companies that plan to operate in Holland only take into consideration the number of English speakers and will say: "The Dutch all speak English; we should not focus on Dutch SEO."
We will explore how Dutch SEO matters for your company and why you should focus on local SEO. We will also give you Google's most relevant language based ranking factors to break into the fourth largest online economy in Europe.
The Dutch online marketplace is booming
In 2019, the Dutch spent €25.8 billion online. In total, 258 million purchases were made online. Anyone can see that this is a market that should not be ignored.
We looked at 25 eCommerce searches in the Netherlands with high search volumes, after filtering out words where the English and Dutch translations are identical. We then compared the same search volumes (again from the Netherlands) for the English translation of the keyword.
What we found is that at least 90% of searches were in Dutch (90,500 monthly searches for “jurken”, vs. 9,900 searches for “dresses”). In several cases less than 1% of searches were in English, as the table below shows.
Monthly search volume from the Netherlands
The above table is based on data from Semrush.
If you want to target the Dutch market through search engine optimization (SEO), you should not limit yourself to English only. English is widely understood and spoken fluently by most people. However, if you want to stand out as a company and tackle the Dutch market, your SEO should be optimized for both languages.
The locals are still number one
In the Netherlands, there is a strong sense of identity. So, while the Dutch have the highest English proficiency scores, the Dutch language is alive and well. This is also why we see Dutch companies doing well.
Although Amsterdam and The Hague are the central business and government areas in the Netherlands, most Dutch people live outside those areas.
The two largest consumer electronics e-commerce companies in the Netherlands, Bol.com and Coolblue.nl, are far more prominent in the Netherlands than Amazon in terms of business volume.
Why is this?
Simple, these websites are in Dutch, and their entire SEO profile and cultural presence is geared towards the Dutch language, while they also have an English presence. The fact that two relatively small companies can outrank a behemoth like Amazon is a testament to Dutch SEO's importance.
These companies do have the edge over those that operate in English only. Part of this is trust, a company that operates in your language and which the consumer feels is closer by is more likely to be trusted. The biggest reason these companies are incredibly successful? They get the language right.
The difficulty of getting Dutch SEO right
In general, Dutch isn't very hard to learn, particularly if you speak English. It's certainly easier than German, as grammar rules are much easier, and many words are the same in both languages.
A mistake commonly made by companies is to take the English keyword research that works for them, translate these into Dutch, and expect the same results. It could very well be that English keywords that give great search results will not rank in Dutch, and vice versa.
This is particularly true for longtail keywords, technological terms where there are multiple expressions for the same thing, or simply phrases that are popular in one language, but not the other.
Getting the language of the Netherlands right is one of the many factors that Google uses to determine where your site ranks on SERP. From your TLD domain to spelling and grammar, it all matters.
What ranking factors are most important in Holland?
So, what are the Google SEO ranking factors that matter when it comes to building a solid SEO strategy for Holland?
These are the six Google ranking factors that influence where you rank locally:
- Your Country TLD extension matters: Having a Country Code Top Level Domain (.nl) is one of many factors that helps sites rank for Dutch search engine results pages. Keep in mind that it could also limit the site’s ability to rank globally. This is one factor that needs to be carefully considered.
If you have a multilingual website, see our guide on whether to choose a .nl domain, sub-folders or sub-domains.
- LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) Keywords: These are keywords that, in a broad sense, are related to each other. In the old days, Google used to find one keyword used multiple times, indicating what your page is about.
These days, Google looks for related keywords. How does this matter for Dutch keywords? Well, if your page is about trees, Google will not merely look for the word tree and rank you high because you mentioned the word tree 30 times. It will look for keywords related to trees like soil, pruning, fruit-bearing, etc. Google use this to determine user-intent.
So, anyone who can have the main keyword for tree (boom) and include keywords that have a specific meaning in the Dutch language like wortels, boomstam, bomen, berk, etc., and specific long-tail keywords like 'hoe groot wordt mijn appelboom' will rank higher in SERP.
- Image Search Optimization: Search engines look for relevant signals in images like file name, ALT text and caption. They can also read text that is part of an image. Making use of relevant local imagery on your webpage could mean a considerable boost in traffic. Image search is an often overlooked but essential part of SEO. An incredible 63% of the people searching Google for something end up visiting the website where the picture originated.
- Incoming Links Quality: Google place equal value to the on-page content of your site and the backlinks you have. This is because incoming links are a sign of how respected your website is on the internet as a whole. To rank well on Google.nl, it’s therefore essential to build local backlinks from high authority sites with good traffic from Holland. If your site has lots of link building from other countries, but no links from Holland, you won't rank well in Holland.
- Outbound Link Quality: If you’re translating an English external link, then don’t forget to find a local site to link to instead. A recent study shows that linking to authoritative websites helps you rank higher. Ensure that you have a directory of trusted and high traffic Dutch websites that you can link to in your content. Keep in mind that you need to be extremely careful about how many links you place; too much can cause you to 'leak link juice’.
We all know that link building is essential, but how much importance have you placed on outbound links?
- High-quality grammar and spelling matter: Google looks for spelling mistakes and grammar and has been gearing towards ensuring their SERP are built on trustworthy websites. So merely putting English texts through a translating website and hoping for the best won't work anymore. Google’s English/Dutch automatic translations are also very poor compared to some language translations.
Google has more than 200 factors that matter on whether you rank high or not. Knowing which of these factors are most important and being able to implement these into your strategy is extremely important. This will not just help you with Google, but also with search engines like Bing, Yahoo, and more.
Even more important to someone who wants to break into a new market is how SEO strategy can be substantially different by country and region. Do you want to learn more about how your SEO strategy can build your business?
Indigoextra can help you with your Dutch SEO strategy from start to finish. With a dedicated team of SEO experts, SEO writers, link builders and strategists, there is no need to look elsewhere.
Veel geluk toegewenst met deze tips en trucs (good luck with these tips and tricks).