Te reo and SEO

Organisations are increasingly using both Māori and English language in their website content. With best-practice SEO we can reach the largest Google audience, and connect with users who are becoming increasingly fluent in te reo. How you use Māori language in your website is a cultural decision, but understanding how Google treats your content will help you make informed choices. 

When planning a bilingual strategy, consider how people will find your content. Google is the largest source of traffic for most New Zealand websites, and by using both Māori and English language in your Google titles you’re in a good position to reach the widest audience. 

  • Use popular search terms in titles, content and image alt text. See How to SEO your content for more guidance.
  • Find popular search terms in the Google Keyword Planner, which shows demand for both Māori and English language terms in Google search.
  • If more people are searching for English than Māori language terms, you’re likely to reach more people if you include English terms in your title.
  • If Māori language searches are popular, check whether people are looking for English translations – unless your site offers translations you are unlikely to connect with this audience.
  • Include both Māori and English language terms in your Google titles – as usage of te reo increases you’ll be positioned well to connect with this audience.
  • Use Google Search Console to see which Māori language terms are already leading people to your website, and ensure that you offer valuable content to these visitors.


Consider bilingual titles

Using bilingual Google titles means that you can connect with both Māori and English speaking audiences.

For example Te Uru Rākau is the New Zealand government forestry agency. They’ve included both Māori and English terms in their Google titles, and are getting significant Google traffic for both terms. Searches for ‘Te Uru Rākau’ accounted for 1.4K visits to the website in a six month period, while ‘forestry’ searches accounted for 3K visits.,

Find demand for Māori language searches

If you’re thinking of using te reo in your content, look at Google Keyword Planner to understand the demand and context for Māori terms. The ‘People also ask’ function in Google also helps. Only use te reo content if you are the best destination for this audience – using te reo to get more traffic to sell your products will undermine your business rather than enhance it.

Find demand for Māori language search terms in the Google Keyword Planner, for example here’s the report for ‘tikanga’ searches:

The ‘People also ask’ function in Google search also provides insight into search demand:

Māori language searchers are often seeking translations

Tupu.nz is a site which helps whānau connect with and cultivate their whenua Māori. Data showed that thousands of people search for ‘whenua’ in NZ Google each month, indicating that we could use this term in Google titles with no need for the English translation.

Further analysis revealed that these searchers are looking to understand the meaning of ‘whenua’. There are 100 – 1K searches for ‘meaning of whenua’ per month, and dictionary results come top in results in a Google search for ‘whenua’. 

The search ‘Māori land’ is also popular, and Google results are geared towards practical information about accessing records, understanding protocols and claiming whenua which is more relevant to Tupu.nz. 

We included the term ‘Maori land’ in titles to connect with the audience who are searching for this term, as using the term ‘whenua’ alone may mean the content wouldn’t appear in results for this audience.

Google Keyword Planner shows that there are high volumes of searches for ‘whenua’:

Further research shows Google demand is mainly for translations:

Use of te reo is increasing

While people searching for Māori language terms are often looking for translations, behaviour is changing. The Google Trends graph below shows that interest in te reo is increasing each year, especially during Māori language week which is on each September.

By including both Māori and English language terms in your Google title, meta descriptions and page content you will be well placed to meet the demands of an audience who are increasingly fluent in te reo. 

Are you already getting traffic from Māori language searches?

Government and educational sites often attract Google traffic to unexpected content, for example waiata lyrics or a buried page covering Māori greetings. Review the Google searches leading to your site using Google Search Console, and make sure that you’re providing valuable content for these visitors.

Think of each content page as a potential landing page from Google – even pages buried in your site information architecture can get traffic from Māori language searches, so ensure they’re up to scratch.

Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss te reo and SEO – we’d love to hear your thoughts.

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