Introduction Creating International Search Strategies You’ve decided to go global! The view has expanded considerably and you’re breathless with expectation. Making that decision is an accomplishment in and of itself! But, now what? Where do you even start? In the pages that follow, we’ve laid out the key considerations and questions brands and businesses need to answer as an organization before going global. (Enterprise SEO Software -by Linkdex)
Research & Planning Begin by researching your target customer. How are they different from your domestic customer? Research that country’s cultural and social trends, demographics, purchasing behaviors, market volatility or stability. Determine how “strong” you would like to enter the market. • Are you giving it your all or just testing the waters? • Who are your competitors? • What are your competitors’ strengths and what strategies seem to be working for them? • What is your competitive advantage as you enter this foreign market? • How are you going to price your product? Are you looking to expand into several countries that have the same official language? If so, then be sure to address the nuances and differences in language. Deciding to target a language rather than a country can definitely save you some time as you won’t have to create as many websites or landing pages.
However, Google as a search engine is going to look at your site from a local, country-based standpoint, so consider it carefully. Keyword research, and the Google traffic data behind that research, will give you a sense of opportunity. Learning more about average click-through rates and conversions for your products in the market is also a determining factor. So many questions! But where do you find information to help answer these questions? Whether you’re researching competitors or foreign markets some free resources are industry experts’ market overviews published in online news sources. Contacting distributors, wholesalers, or retailers for valuable advice can even result in unexpected opportunities. As another alternative, why not seek out partners? If your product complements their product or service you may even develop an advantage. Of course, for deeper and heavier data you can contact research firms that can guide you through the process.
Define Goals & Create A Strategy After completing your research, look at your strengths. Brainstorm how you can fulfill a need, if any exists, in your brand’s industry globally. If you would be competing for a currently unmet need in the foreign country, think short term as well as long term. If you’re a pioneer for that type of product in that country, look at ways to give yourself an edge over future competitors. Determine what role paid search, paid display, search engine optimization, content, and social marketing will play in your overall marketing strategy. • Do you have a strength in connecting socially with your market? • Or maybe you have a big budget and little time and think paid search will be a better use of your time? • Will you be hiring a local marketing agency to manage your campaigns, or do you currently have team members that can offer valuable preliminary insight? If you have a multi-lingual team member make sure their knowledge of the language extends to knowledge of the culture and social trends.
Choosing The Right Keywords Before you begin choosing keywords, decide which search engine you would like to use to run your campaigns. Though Google has a wide reach, Yandex is doing its best to dominate in Russia, Naver is popular in Korea, and China has Baidu. How prepared are you to tackle these unfamiliar search engines? Different search engines have different search rules and manners. For example, Baidu optimization requires high quantity and quality content. Most importantly, Baidu requires your content to conform to Chinese government censorship laws. Another unique detail to Chinese keyword search is the way the keyboard is set up. With more than 40,000 characters in the alphabet, the Chinese individual uses the quickest way of typing a character, which can take quite a few keystrokes per character.
Now that you have done your research and defined your goals, it’s time to take a look at those keywords you will be pursuing in your campaigns. Go beyond simply translating existing successful keywords and look at how you might change the combinations of those keywords to create phrases. Consider using your brand name as a keyword. Maybe you already have a significant customer base from a foreign country that has been purchasing from your U.S. website. People use search differently than translated terms. Have a native search-marketing expert discover the correct market keywords for your products.
Create Domains How will you set up your international domains? If you’re targeting a country (rather than a language), you have three options: • ccTLDs: Use a country’s extension at the end of the URL – for example, globalbrand.com or globalbrand.ag • Subdomains: Use a country’s extension at the beginning of the URL – for example, ag.globalbrand.com • Subdirectories (or folders): The foreign country’s extension is added after your “home” website’s extension – for example, globalbrand.com/ag
If you’re targeting a language across multiple countries, you have five options: • ccTLDs with subdirectories • ccTLDs with subdomains • Subdomains only • Subdomains with subdirectories • Subdirectories only The Advantages/Disadvantages Of Each ccTLD advantages: • You build critical trust. • You are more competitive. • Google favors local over international. ccTLD disadvantages • Expensive and needs maintenance • Lose global link juice and power.
• Uses some of existing sites authority.
• You can leverage internal linking to build authority.
• You can use Webmaster Tools to advise Google which language belongs to which URL.
• Attribute tags specify the country for each language.
• Makes linking difficult for backlinks.
• Difficult to manage. Subdirectory advantages:
• Leverage main sites.
• Domain authority.
• Webmaster Tools and Hreflang tags.
• Less issues with duplicate content.
• Compatibility – each country/language/culture responds differently to usability.
• Link building.
If you’re targeting a language, make sure your website content would be relevant to each country with that spoken language. Country targeting is the most suitable approach when location is a factor in the sales and delivery process.
Designing a Website Before you rush out to create the flashiest or the most visually-attractive website, take a moment to consider your target customer. What are their preferences when it comes to color, style, layout, or font? I had an interesting call with one of our customers who was looking to translate their website into Japanese. Our local Japanese web developer brought up a few interesting points in regards to the Japanese’ perception of what is visually attractive and appealing in a website: • The black background appeared too hostile and was recommended to be replaced with a gray. • Sans serif fonts should be used appropriately as they are commonly used in China and the Japanese are slightly wary of these fonts that appear to them as somewhat outdated. • The developer also recommended a news section, as this would help establish authority in a foreign market.
When it comes to optimizing your website for search engine visibility and rankings internationally, start by localizing your site content and structure. This includes your: • Page titles. • Meta descriptions. • Navigation bar. • Headings. • Page text. • Alt attributes for each image. List prices in local currency and display a local address, phone number, time, and/or weather update, if applicable. When you have multiple domains, maintain an ease of “crawlability” between the various pages by offering suggestions to redirect to the local page, rather than automatically redirecting the visitor. Use the rel= “alternate”hreflang=”x” annotations in your site to specify the language and/or country you are targeting and add the “contentlanguage” meta tag. If you’re targeting a country, don’t forget to geolocate as well. You can use your search engine’s options to target your country.
Create Landing Pages Before you start your paid search campaigns, you need to create your landing pages. Note that there is a difference in function and appearance between landing pages and websites. What is a landing page? A landing page is the page that loads after a visitor has clicked on an ad; it may be the home page of your international website, or it may be related to the ad the visitor clicked on. If you’ve already created an international domain, why bother designing a landing page specific to an ad? There are several benefits of creating landing pages: • A visitor has expressed interest in either a specific product or service by clicking on an ad or banner and wants more information before making a purchase. Your landing page may go directly to the product page, or it may contain additional information about a service with the option to complete a form to be contacted by one of your representatives. • A home page may distract the visitor from his or her initial interest in a product or service. They may be overwhelmed by the high volume of information or products on your first page and may simply click the “back” button. They may begin to browse your site and end up forgetting why they initially decided to visit your site.
But how are international landing pages visually different from “home” landing pages? To optimize ROI for your paid search or display campaigns you will definitely need to test what works for your brand, but the following are some tips to get you started:
- • Make your page as simple as possible by not including a navigation bar or links to your full site.
- • Consider placing your form near the bottom or the side of the landing page. The visitor wants to receive information from you first, before he or she decides they want to give out their information and be contacted by your brand.
- • Use images that serve a purpose and help to convey your message, rather than just taking up space. If you’re selling a product, offer the benefits first, not the features. Tell your customer how your product will solve their problems, rather than bogging them down with an extensive list of product features. Show off those reviews and customer testimonials! Enough said. Use images to create a visually-appealing product. Consider photographing models using or wearing your products, rather than simply displaying the product on a blank background. Each image should serve a purpose and add to the written content, rather than just fill up space.
Understanding Social Platforms Will you have a social media account for each country you target? If you choose to have only one account per social media platform, beware of translation blunders! Each country has its own favorite social media platform. You might be surprised that the Chinese equivalent of Facebook is Renren. In Korea, Twitter is dominant, with double the world average active user rate. Russians spend their time socializing on VKontakte. Or you can take a “glocal” approach. Take, for example, Starbucks. They have a global Facebook page that is in English and then separate pages for each country it serves. A nice way of keeping the conversation local, don’t you think? But going a step further from simply knowing which social media platform to use in which country, the biggest challenge is translating your campaigns. And by translating I include addressing cultural nuances that can make or break your campaign that you initially created for your home market. You will need to tailor the campaign to each country or even create a campaign specific to each country.
How will your social media approach vary from country to country? Consider the culture as well as your business objectives for that country. Understand that country’s degrees of formality, their social media usage and habits as well as the ways they are influenced to help you start posting and analyzing the performance of your posts. As you become more familiar with that country’s social media platform, learn to adapt. Learn to listen to their questions, address concerns, and prepare to alter your business strategy. Social media has the potential not only to indirectly boost SEO rankings but to guide your brand in a natural direction for that country and help establish your authority in your industry.
Creating A Search Marketing Strategy
Assuming you already have search marketing campaigns in place for your domestic customer, let’s take a look at how you should adjust your existing campaigns in line with your international strategy. How do you know if you should start your international campaigns with PPC, CPA or CPM? And how do you determine the mix? The answer to these questions would be reminding yourself or your goals. If you would like to increase brand awareness, then paid impressions (CPM) are a good place to start. If you would like to increase sales, use Cost-Per-Click (CPC) or Cost-Per-Acquisition (CPA) campaigns.
If your domestic campaigns are focused on increasing sales, rather than raising brand awareness, then your international campaigns might be focused on first raising the brand awareness. On the other hand, if you have a significant customer base abroad, you may want to run campaigns that do both.
Some helpful tips:
• Consider running your campaign in English as well: There are many English-speakers living abroad as well. But create separate campaigns for each language.
• Be aware of language mash-ups: Often times, an English word may be search in conjunction with a phrase in the local language.
• Take advantage of local holidays: In 2012, for example, Ferrari took advantage of the Chinese year of the dragon and created a line of limited edition cars with the dragon emblazoned in gold on its interior as well as exterior.
• Adjust keyword bid price: The keywords you may have used in English most likely cost a lot less internationally, as there is less competition for international search marketing. Some tools to help you would be the Google Keyword Tool, the Google Traffic Estimator, and the Google Global Market Finder.
International SEO Strategy What’s Vital in 2015 & Beyond
Marketing sans frontiers is a reality in our flattened world economy, and the Internet is to blame. Even if you aren’t marketing to customers beyond your borders, you can be sure your competitors overseas are reaching out to your customers in your own back yard. For example, both Japanese online retail giant Rakuten and Russian search engine Yandex have made growing inroads to U.S. markets. Global SEO isn’t for the faint-hearted, nor can it be accomplished successfully on the cheap. Multi-country multi-language campaigns are complex and require specifically dedicated resources.
Like all good strategy, the basics of an effective international SEO approach hasn’t changed much since Kristjan Hauksson and I wrote “Global SEO Fine Tuning your International Search Marketing” in 2012. While some new tactics have emerged, the underlying strategies every brand must engage to market online beyond its own borders remain fundamentally the same. As we said in the introduction to the book: “It’s true using search engines for marketing has always had a steep learning curve. Expanding into multiple languages and cultures turns this into more of a vertical ascent. As with mountain climbing, success with SEM depends on detailed preparation, careful attention to technique, the right equipment, and supportive teamwork. “ Here is what is most important to know about the road ahead as you set out to go global. Each Country Is A Unique Market And Must Be Approached Separately Consider Latin America. Even though in all but one country Spanish is the official language, there are significant cultural and linguistic differences among those countries. Brands risk their reputation and equity if the fail to address these differences, particularly if they seek to attract consumers in those countries.
More Languages, More Opportunity The top two languages used on the Internet are English and Chinese, but together they account for barely over half of all Internet use. Clearly, opportunities may well lie in other languages, principally Spanish, Arabic, and Portuguese. That said, opportunities in some languages far exceed usage growth among English speakers. Chinese and Russian speakers’ use of the Internet has grown five and six times more than English speakers since 2000. This is enormously outweighed by the use by Arabic speakers, racking up 2501.2 percent growth in the same time period. Even Portuguese has grown three times faster than English, doubtless as the Brazilian economy takes its place among leaders of world economies. After considering your products target markets, international trade regulations, fulfillment and a host of other details, you may find you your next opportunity may well be in a language not native to you.
Use The Right Words The right words are the keys to search rankings and conversions, but not always the way you might think. Often, English words are used in searches, for example “cloud computing” in Germany, where there is no German equivalent. On the other hand, translating keywords is risky; in Germany the direct translation for “cell phone” is “mobiltelefon”, but far more Germans search for the colloquial “handy” to satisfy their mobile phone needs. More Than Google While Google is the dominant category leader in much of the world, in five key markets – China, South Korea, Japan and the Russian Federation countries – Google trails local favorites – Baidu, Naver, Yahoo!Japan and Yandex, respectively.
2 Vital Elements Of Successful Global SEO
• Coordination between in-country manager experts, your web developers, and search marketing team. To maintain brand integrity set a uniform strategy from a centralized search team, but serve the local with in-country teams, with sufficient effective communication among teams and command central, sharing keywords, analytics, and competitive data.
• Individually targeted content for each country, starting with unique keyword research, site design, and selling propositions. Cultures can vary widely even among neighboring countries. The Dutch love a good deal, while in Germany “economical” is equated with “cheaply made”.
Arabic countries read right to left, and you would be surprised how many travel sites don’t take that into consideration in their calendar functions. Asian Web visitors expect lots of choices on the pages they view, so much that we Westerners would call them overwhelmingly busy. Ideally, every country you target would have its own site. Even those countries that share English (e.g., the UK, India, and Australia) have different approaches to design and word use. The fastest way to fail is to put off your desired customer with design or pitches that are one-size-fits-all. 28 Forecasting Success Brands looking at entering new markets via SEO need to do their homework to assess their opportunities. Can they support the language? Is there sufficient market online? In some countries Internet use is low – as low as 10 percent in India, despite the allure of a middle class there numbering 350 million. The best bet is to engage someone in-country to research competition.
For one thing, searching a foreign website from a U.S. office won’t give you reliable results; Google will serve you results based on attempting to engage your intent in your location. More importantly, in-country experts will help you understand search engine use, language, and culture in their individual countries. Setting Goals & KPIs Setting goals and KPIs are just as critical for International SEO, if not more so, because of costly complications from working in different languages and cultures. Brands and businesses must find the right tools for each market. While Google and a number of subscription-based analytics provide data for many countries, markets such as China and Russia will require tools specific to their search media and languages. 29 5 Key Tactical Considerations So much SEO is tactical, and this is just as true for multi-country multilanguage efforts. Tactics often drive strategic decisions for resource allocation, so here are a few tactical considerations in your planning.
Many of these are based on questions I hear over and over again.
• You don’t need to host your site in every country you target, with one major exception, the People’s Republic of China, where the government can and often will block access to sites hosted outside the Mainland. Qualifying to be hosted in the PRC is itself a dauntingly complicated process, with a tortuous array of registrations, permits and licenses, generally requiring facilitation by an in-country party-member agent. While you are salivating eagerly over the potential of what is arguably the largest and fastest growing consumer population on the planet, best not to count your Renmibi Yuan too soon. And then there’s the language; citizens in the People’s Republic use Simplified Chinese, while those in Taiwan use Traditional Mandarin, and Hong Kong residents use both. Each will need unique content.
• You must set up separate domains for each country to help guide Google to the content you wish shown there. Hanging directories or subdomains off your brand domain works as well as top-level URLs with specific country extensions in place of the “.com”, and often more practical to obtain. Beware of regional domains. While “.eu” or “.asia” may be an extensions Google recognizes, they are considered to be non-country specific, like”.com” or “.org.” And “.latam” means absolutely nothing to Google. Nada.
• You may translate your English content, but never translate keywords. Instead research keywords for each market separately. After you have translated your content, you must have a native speaker localize it to capture cultural and linguistic nuances.
• Many languages are spoken extensively outside their homelands. And many are spoken in multiple countries. Spanish is the official language of 23 countries, and widely spoken in many others, such as the U.S. Google now provides a way to code your content to indicate the target country and language called HREFLANG. You don’t have to know how to do this, but whoever is coding you content must know how to apply these properly. • Links from sites within each country to your site for that country are essential to building traffic to it. Fundamentally, brands and businesses expanding their SEO beyond their home countries must treat each country as a new market, employing local support while maintaining centralized strategic oversight.
Gianluca Fiorelli Senior SEO & Web Marketing Consultant Gianluca Fiorelli is an SEO and Web Marketing Strategist. He operates in Italian, Spanish, and English speaking markets. As a freelance and independent consultant, he has worked with clients of every kind, from SMBs, to Fortune 500 companies, to startups. He also works regularly as independent consultant with bigger international SEO agencies.
International SEO Challenges Boost Your Global Digital Marketing Results & ROI In a globalized world, not considering the opportunity of expanding the borders of our business so to target international markets can result in a missed opportunity, which cannot be regained in a second moment, especially if we left our competitors to occupy those same markets. Businesses, then, can find in International SEO the perfect ally for: • Starting their international expansion. • Consolidating their global or country-targeted presence. • Expanding their brand recognition internationally.
With all that said, it’s easy to understand how International SEO should not be used only because of a voracious appetite for organic traffic, but because it really responds to a business need. Remember, going international is not just a question of doing great International SEO, but also (among others things) a question of: • Having a well set international logistic plan if you are an Ecommerce or sell services internationally; • Knowing the international legislations (eg: in Germany a site cannot use Google Analytics to track users as we are used in UK or any other country); • Having a customer care able to deal with markets often culturally very different for our national one. Why Your International SEO Strategy Will Fail Or Underperform The biggest reason why a brand’s international SEO strategy fail or underperform is localization. A site, in fact, can be perfectly optimized in all its international SEO technicalities (geo-targeting, hreflang implementation et al), but it simply can’t connect with the targeted audience because of wrong cultural approach.
This issue is quite ironically caused by the same concept of globalization. Brands, in fact, tend to consider that a message can be used the same way and understood without problems in every part of the world. That idea, though, is deeply wrong. Globalization, in fact, must be referred to the facility businesses have nowadays of communicating, selling, and influencing potential customers all over the world, not to a mythical global culture that makes people in China and in the U.S. think and desire the same things. Instead, we should talk of glocalization, meaning with that businesses now can easily reach out and target a global audience, but that must do it localizing their marketing messages so to make them fit with the cultural mindset of the targeted audiences.
Other Top Global SEO Challenges
Usually the top challenges of international SEO are related to:
• Duplicate content issues and, therefore, to the correct implementation of the hreflang annotations. By itself, the usage of the hreflang isn’t too complicated for those with technical knowledge to understand, but – possibly because of the very confused communication, Google did about it in the past – SEO and developers tend to commit silly mistakes that make the hreflang useless.
• Understanding that content marketing or link building tactics that work in our national market won’t necessarily work in another country. For instance, it’s relatively easy to exact target journalists and news site with our content marketing campaigns in the UK or U.S.; this isn’t so in countries like Italy or Spain. Therefore, the biggest problem is understanding why and how people share, mention, and link to branded content on a country by country level.
Improving Your Results After Launching Even before launching your international site, you should have done an in-depth analysis both of your competitors in the targeted countries (or languages) and of your audience interests and demographics. A good content localization (not a just a plain translation) plan and a good technical international SEO implementation are also critical before launching. International SEO – despite its own peculiarities – isn’t that much different from “national SEO.” The principles are the same, and what can differ are the approaches and tactics to use. From the very first moment after launching, you need to start creating connections with people and sites able to influence your international targets, so to have them helping us in making our brand known amongst our audience from the beginning. Creating a synergy with social media, whose “international” relevance also for international SEO we should more aware of, can be a strategic win-win action to commit in order to quickly make our business brands known.
The Keys To Long-Term International SEO Success The biggest mistake a brand commits is usually on a budget level. Unfortunately, it is quite common to see assigned to International SEO, maybe targeting many countries at once, a budget lower than the one assigned to the “national” market. If this is can be justified in the short term, in the long one it can kill the opportunities of making the international sites grow. Business choices, again, should govern every decision, and business choices should be data informed. That meansthat if you see that a specific country is delivering stronger ROI than another one, the best solution might be investing more into the first country so to consolidate it and, somehow, making its website somehow independent and able to take its own decisions, albeit maintaining a consistency with the global image of the business brand. Data, data, data. Only data can tell us why we should invest more, how, and with what actions.
Consumer Behavior & Culture: Lessons Learned From Speaking Around The World International SEO isn’t the easiest trade. It might seem easy; if you Google “international SEO checklist” you’ll find links to plenty of great tips to help you get under way, some more obvious than others. Understanding Your International Audience
But before you start thinking about all the different search engines, site structure, technical SEO considerations, and link building, everything starts from understanding the international audience. Yes, there is keyword research to be done in the different countries, and there are content strategies, but none of them will work if you don’t truly understand your audience first. In the past few years I have traveled the world to speak at conferences. I encountered new people, new ideas, and new (or should I say old) habits and cultures. The one thing I noticed throughout all my travels is a strange dual situation: everyone is different, and at the same time, everyone is the same. We’re dealing with people and people tend to react the same way. Yes, we say everyone is “different” or “unique,” but honestly we aren’t so different. Just take our goals: we have the same things we want to accomplish. Simply put, in most cases, it’s happiness and money. It’s more complicated than that, of course, but I think that best describes it. There are similarities between how people respond. At the same time we are different, for cultural reasons. One thing, which I found to be hugely important in all the different countries I visited, is the background of people, how they were raised, their cultural values, and how these values are then ‘mirrored’ in digital marketing and search in specific. Let me give you a couple of examples.
Links Matter: Different Rollouts Of Google
When speaking in the Ukraine I quickly understood a big difference from other countries I had spoken in: that of what SEO tactics still work (or not). I was doing a session on influence marketing, a topic that doesn’t directly involve technical SEO or link building (though in all fairness can be related). I was warned before: the audience will be looking for “oldfashioned types answers.” And the organizers were right. After my talk the first question of the audience was not about my talk at all. Their question: “Where do you buy links?” This showed the difference in culture, but mostly it showed that “old” tactics still work. In some countries, like the Ukraine in this case, search engines haven’t updated like they have here. You have to take that in account. That doesn’t mean you will also need to go and buy links, not at all, but you will have to realize for example, that your competitors might. And you will also have to realize other tactics might also still work. Knowing this can be an advantage: you can do things different, but you can also be prepared as one of the first when the changes do happen. It’s like having knowledge about the future.
Making It Local The first time I went to Iran before my first session I talked to the wife of the organizer. I asked her to tell me how to say “thank you for having me in Iran” in Farsi (the language spoken there). I used that at the start of the presentation. I try to do this in most countries I speak, because it instantly shows that I make an effort to get closer to the audience. I try to use their language. It always helps getting closer to the audience, they are all more willing to accept what I have to say. This isn’t just about localizing the language. It goes beyond that. In Iran I also told a story about a World Cup match between Iran and Argentina in a presentation about storytelling. Whenever I talk about celebrities, I try to pick the local celebrities wherever I can, and if there are local cases I present, I will. The lesson here is to really localize your content. Make it so they will recognize themselves in it. If you don’t, the distance between you and your audience will be bigger; if you do, your audience will be more easily convinced to listen to what you have to say. Be Careful What Images You Use I’m used to using a lot of images in my presentations. I try to do the same with my other content – after all, visual marketing is “hot” right now, and we all know an image is worth a thousand words. But you have to be careful to understand what that image actually says in a specific country.
Before my presentations in Iran I was asked to run through my slide decks with interpreters. Those interpreters, however, turned out to be just a bit more than just interpreters. They were also “filtering” my content. Don’t get me wrong: they weren’t censoring me, they were just making sure I didn’t “break any rules.” So I was surprised when they “advised” me to take out some images and even videos. I had been careful not to select images that might offend people and yet they found one of the dancing woman in the background had a bare shoulder. Seriously? Yes, seriously. I had to edit the videos and images so I could stay within the rules. This might sound ridiculous to us in the Western world. But it is highly important in their world. And I was smart to change it as well. Why? Because if I hadn’t, they would’ve looked at me differently and wouldn’t have trusted me. The same goes for websites and marketing in general: if you use the wrong imagery, or even the wrong content for that matter, you lose trust. And if there’s one thing you can’t lose in marketing, it’s trust.
Audiences (People) Respond In Different Ways When speaking in the Nordics I found an interesting difference with for example speaking in the Netherlands, the UK, or the U.S. The first time I ever spoke in Sweden I was smart enough to sit in with other presentations at the conference I was speaking at. What I noticed was that the audience was quiet. Very quiet. The jokes that were made, which actually were funny jokes, didn’t seem to “land.” What was going on here? I informed with local people and found that, in contrast to other countries, the audience was much more “held back.” They wanted to absorb, but not be part of the session itself. This meant that whenever you tried to ‘involve’ the audience, they wouldn’t respond. Sure, they would laugh at some jokes, but the one thing I avoided was trying to get them involved. I didn’t aim for questions, I didn’t ask questions to the audience, I just gave them knowledge and made sure to tell them that if they would have any questions, I would be available afterwards. This worked perfect. They loved my talks and came up to me afterward because I told them they could. How does this relate to digital marketing and search? Even in SEO, when optimizing your content, you should consider how “involved” audiences want to be. The Dutch want to be able to have a say, like the U.S. people. The Nordics seem to lean more toward “subtle” ways of responding, so don’t throw “share this” in their face. Be more subtle in both your on site content as your search results, for example.
We Know It All Or We Don’t Know Anything As said above, in some countries when you speak you will find that the audience responds in different ways. In the U.S., people in the audience will ask questions not to learn from you, but to hear themselves speak and show off. They are confident they know stuff, whether that’s true or not. In Spain I encountered the opposite. At first, they were afraid to ask questions and most of the people only came up to me after my talk. And when they did they were very humble. Almost ashamed they had to ask a question. It turned out, however, that the questions they asked were much more sophisticated than the ones I got asked by the U.S. audience. And the Spanish people actually understood what they were talking about, they were just afraid to show it. What can we learn from this? There is always more than meets the eye. You have to make sure you find that.
Assuming your audience doesn’t know things (or even worse, does know things) is probably the worst you can do. You have to research the knowledge of your audience. Find out if the content you’re delivering meets their standards. Also, it’s very important to give the audience the opportunity to “express” themselves in the right way. The Dutch, for example, always need a form or email contact to complain. Platforms Might Differ Looks can deceive. When I traveled to Iran I was asked several times ‘why would you go and speak in a country where Google, Twitter, Facebook and other social media are banned? What is there to talk about?’ Well, did you know there are 17 million people on Facebook in Iran? Or did you know that the president of Iran himself tweets? It turned out to be a completely different world behind the scenes. So I could talk about Facebook strategies and I could talk about Twitter, but if I hadn’t done my research I would’ve probably chosen not to. Which would have been a shame. A valuable lesson is to realize and research what platforms are actually used. Where do people actually go to online, what social networks are best, do people use Google or maybe something else? And what do people actually do on those platforms?
‘That Is Not Possible Here Because…’ There is one thing that has come back in almost every country I visited. Whenever I share cases or examples of things I or another marketer has done, I almost always (except for maybe in the U.S.) get the remark “well, that’s a nice example, but that is not possible here because…” And then they give me a reason. Sometimes a solid reason, sometimes a bad reason. This however doesn’t necessarily mean that I chose a bad example in my presentation. It could be that some things are possible, but people are just hesitant. But also, and this is very important: you might be able to change things. With this I don’t mean you can change regulations or culture. But you can make a difference with inspiring people to think differently. To think outside of their own boundaries. Maybe with a little twist on things, maybe in a different way, but I always try to tell my audience to look at the example, project it onto their own world, and see how they can use it. Because, after all, that is why they get me over, to inspire, to show them how others do things. When doing international SEO this is something you can do as well. You can lead by example, show the new potential and be the one that finds new territories and niches. This will make that you don’t compete with what is there, but you create your own market. Success guaranteed!
The Most Important Lesson Of Them All… Really make an effort to understand your international audiences. Make sure you don’t just understand keyword research, but also the cultural differences as well as the similarities. Stand out by getting close to them.
Adapting Strategies for New Markets: Coca-Cola in China In 2013, Coca-Cola China were looking for a strategy to increase sales during the hot summer months. They wanted a message that was suitable for China’s unique market, and that would integrate digital media with consumers’ buying experiences. China is a fascinating market because advertising is a relatively new phenomenon there, in contrast to how it exists in the West. As a result, brand identities are not as mature, and companies need a way to stand out and define themselves.
Re-imagining “Share a Coke” Following a hugely successful trial of “Share a Coke” in Australia, Stephen Drummond, Senior Director of Integrated Marketing and Communications saw an opportunity to tap into the local Chinese culture of gift-giving, and leverage growing from personalized marketing. However, Chinese names and different to Western names; there’s a huge variety, and often names composed of a fairly unique combination of two Chinese words. Coca-Cola solved the problem by allowing Chinese consumers to choose nicknames for their digital personals. The company put 60 different digital nicknames on 500ml and 600ml bottles, allowing customers to choose the names they felt were most true to them. To generate buzz, they sent custom bottles to hundreds of celebrities and opinion leaders, with the recipient’s full Chinese name etched on the bottle – a huge boon in a highly celebrity obsessed culture. The results on social media were exceptional, with Weibo, WeChat, Renren lighting up with millions on celebrity fans. Coca-Cola sustained this momentum by creating stories to go with each bottle and releasing them periodically to spark social media chatter.
• 4 billion social media impressions.
• Sales up 20% from the previous summer. “Coca-Cola Nicknames” was a huge success, and Coca-Cola extended the campaign to allow consumers to etch a name of their choice on the bottle from 40 specialized vending machines. Driving additional buzz and further tapping into the concept of personalized gift-giving. 53 Sources The Mobile Mind Shift, 2014, Schadler, Bernhoff, Ask, Forrester Research http://www.ogilvy.com/news/press-releases/april-2012-cokehandsimagery-invites-chinese-to-celebrate-the-spirit-of-sharing-a-coke. aspx “Coca-Cola Nicknames” was a huge success, and Coca-Cola extended the campaign to allow consumers to etch a name of their choice on the bottle from 40 specialized vending machines. Driving additional buzz and further tapping into the concept of personalized gift-giving. Key Takeaways
• Understand the unique intricacies of cultural markets.
• Adapt tried and tested strategies from other territories accordingly. • Tap-in to preferred platforms, established audiences, and social media networks that enable consumers to share moments.
Bill Hunt President of Back Azimuth Consulting Bill is the President of Back Azimuth Consulting, which focuses on helping companies understand the Voice of their Customer by via their cloud-based keyword data mining and management platform, which aggregates keyword data into a single web-based application enabling marketers to quickly identify actionable insights into the interests and needs of their target market while helping to eliminate inefficiencies and missed opportunities. Bill is considered the top thought leader on Global and Enterprise Search Engine Marketing and is an internationally recognized Search marketing speaker having spoken at conferences in over 30 countries. Press, industry analysts and corporate leaders frequently seek Bill’s advice to effectively leverage Enterprise and Global Search Marketing and Social Media strategy. Bill is the co-author of the best selling book “Search Engine Marketing, Inc.: Driving Traffic to Your Company’s Web Site” now in it’s Third Edition based on the workflow implemented at IBM and other large companies.
Dominate Local Markets By Understanding The Consumer Decision Journey With many of the available tools available to marketers it seems easy to “go global” overnight with the click of a button targeting hundreds of countries in dozens of languages. While it is possible to carpet-bomb the world with your magically translated website, it is quite another to be successful. It is far more effective to identify markets that are aware of your type of products and actively seeking them out. Even the simplest of keyword research efforts can reap huge dividends by knowing if the market is even aware of your type of product. If no one is aware a product like yours exists, then you can’t expect many searches for it. When conducting keyword research for new or existing markets, brands should follow a relatively simple process and not get overwhelmed by understanding the entire keyword universe. Obviously, if you already have localized content for a market you should check your analytics, Webmaster Tools, and site search logs to understand the words people are using to come to your site today. International Keyword Research
- 1 Step 1: What is my product categories called in the local market? Understanding what your product category is called in the market is important. For example, if you want to sell your laptops in Sweden you have to know that they are called bärbar dator in Swedish. Don’t just use Google Translate but look at what others in your category call it on their site and most importantly ask native local language people and partners.
- 2 Step 2: Identify product attributes and descriptors that help define a “searcher journey. The Searcher Journey is that set of queries done from the first to the last to understand a product category. This step helps you understand specific demand for the product attributes of your offer. For example, if the majority of the searches in Sweden are for lätt bärbar dator then you know they are looking for lightweight laptops and that is an important feature and should be included in your paid search and on page copy.
- 3 Step 3: Understand the Purchase Journey of the searchers in each market. Once you know the category and attributes of a market you need to understand if and how they want to purchase especially online. There are many markets where they prefer to research online and buy offline. While others like to touch and feel products in a store but go online to purchase to save money or reduce taxes.
Understand The Consumer’s Journey Buy cycle terms are search query modifiers that help you identify people researching products or those who are ready and looking for a place to purchase. These phrases and data are one of your best indicators of opportunity in a local market. Are people in Sweden looking for a bärbar dator? Are they looking for the price bärbar dator pris or if it is on sale using bärbar dator på rea? If your research finds there are not many later stage buy cycle searches then maybe they aren’t actually buying online, which would require additional research on market viability for an online store – especially one not located in market. The more you understand the consumer’s journey for each market and the more of the query “refinements” you can identify and integrate into your content the more engagement potential you will realize. This is true if you’re selling a product or a service, or if you have an ad-supported site that requires local market traffic. While so far this seems relatively simple it can get fairly complex quickly. Many brands jump into this too quickly and often just translate the site and launch it and hope for the best. This agile method of market launch results in a number of missed opportunities.
Determine Search Demand Most localization companies start the process with a file called a “Localization Glossary” which is simply a list of English words and their local market equivalent. The primary purpose of this document is to eliminate ambiguity on which word to use and enforce consistency. Additionally, many localization firms use translation memory tools that can do a search and replace for these common keywords. Let’s take for example the phrase “monitor.” In one context it is a display on a computer but in healthcare it is to look for changes. Many people will often use “screen” when referring to the viewable area of a monitor. In Chinese there are 21 different character variations for “antivirus” and the glossary ensures the translators use the correct one. From a search perspective, the glossary is where you are able to ensure that the local phrase they use is linguistically correct but also has the highest search volume. For example, a translator used the German phrase “Projektor” to describe an LCD projector. When there were actually 100,000 more searches for the colloquial variation “beamer.” This is why you should review the glossary for search demand before you start the process to ensure the word you choose is linguistically correct but also the most searched variation.
Understand How People Search In Each Market Another often missed opportunity of international keyword research failing to look at both the English and local variations of keywords to understand how people search in the market. It is often surprising to marketers that an English word is more popular than the local versions. For example, in Brazil, the Portuguese word for whisky is uísque. The local market was targeting that phrase in paid search and was not getting many impressions and few clicks. They did a quick Google Keyword Planner check and found that uísque had 5,400 searches vs. the English Whisky had over 90,000 each month in Brazil. Combining the English phrase whisky, with the local language ad creative allowed them to target a significantly larger share ofthe opportunity.
Listen To The Voice Of The Consumer Keywords research is simply listening to the voice of the consumer. Understanding their collective needs and wants, in their language, will give you most of the insights you need to create effective content and the right messages and offers that will connect in the local market. Failure to spend time understanding your target markets search queries can lead to a significant loss of opportunity and costly rewrites and post launch optimization activities.
Motoko Hunt President and Search Marketing Consultant, AJPR Motoko has been working in the search and digital marketing industry since the mid ‘90s. Since she established AJPR in 1998, she has been providing the online marketing services targeting Japan and Asia to companies from around the world, helping them to enter Japan and Asian market using the Internet. Her search marketing consulting services with her extensive knowledge of Asia and Japanese market have been highly valued and made big impact on some of the world’s popular multi-national brands’ search marketing campaigns. A number of her articles have been published on industry websites and printed media. She is a frequent speaker at search marketing conferences globally, and gives seminars and trainings about International search marketing, In-house SEO, and Enterprise SEO. She is a winner of 2014 Best Consultant, US Search Awards.
The Keys To Efficient And Effective Content For Global Brands We all know that web content is an important asset for brands and businesses. However, not many of them have a good content strategy – or any kind of content strategy – in place. Most of the time, brands and businesses focus on the volume and the frequency of content creation rather than the quality of the content, which will bring far more positive results and help you achieve your digital marketing goals. Content Strategy For International SEO
Unfortunately, when it comes to International content marketing, a content strategy is almost always nonexistent. The only real activities happening is the translation of content, which was created for a main market website or objective. It shouldn’t be a surprise when this content doesn’t deliver much success globally in local markets. Perhaps the root cause of many content marketing failures for global brands comes from the diverse concept of main market and local markets. The content strategy is created with the main market in mind, and the local market sites are treated as replicas of a main market site. What Interests People Locally? Understanding local interests and the audience is a key to maximize the business opportunities, and to execute a successful content marketing program for international brands. With the Internet and advanced technology, the world may seem closer together, but interestingly, people seem to have different preferences in each market. For example, foreign tourists always list Mt. Fuji at the top place to visit in Japan, while Mt. Fuji doesn’t even appear on the top 10 list among Japanese tourists. American tourists like to visit Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Museum and Miyajima in Hiroshima, but Chinese tourists like to visit the Golden Pavilion and Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. The differences experienced may be impacted by many variables including local culture, availability of products and services, and even the local calendar and holiday schedules. You can also better understand the local interests and their needs from marketing data, search queries, social conversations, and input from local offices.
International Content: Where To Start? Regardless of the size of the company, it is an enormous task to create different content for each market. You can organize and better prioritize the content creation by identifying the common interests in multiple markets. For example, if you are to create a new content element to be placed in all markets, you will first create assets related to Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea, as they seem to be popular among tourists from around the world. You can also prioritize the content localization by ranking the content by local interests. For example, if you would like to target Chinese tourists planning a trip to Japan, you would localize the Kyoto tourism information first for the Chinese site and the historical sites of Hiroshima for American tourists.
Content Optimization Another key aspect of content that tends to be overlooked is SEO (search engine optimization). After all, even the greatest of content won’t perform well unless it is discoverable in the search results. We know that the majority of people go to search engines to research products and services prior to making purchase decisions. Hence, search engine optimization and keyword research requirements should be integrated to the content strategy and creation workflow. Translation & Localization Another key challenge for content marketing also exists in the translation or the localization process. It is OK to repurpose content that was created for a home market, but oftentimes, well optimized content becomes un-optimized after the translation, because translators aren’t SEO experts, and they are not instructed to follow certain SEO guidelines and best practices during the translation work. Providing a basis primer on relevant keywords and the key places to include keywords will reduce some of the negative optimization that can happen during localization.
4 Essentials Of An International Content Strategy
The successful content strategy for global brands should include:
• Decision of content marketing being centralized or locally managed.
• Audience research for each target market using marketing data including search queries, social conversation monitoring data, and input from local offices.
• Prioritization of content creation and localization for each market based on the audience research and target opportunities.
• SEO guidelines and training for content editors and translators.
A good content strategy helps businesses to carry out an efficient and effective content marketing initiative, and is especially important for global brands.
Ways To Determine Whether Your Strategy & Efforts Are Paying Off According to SEM International China Director, Yao Zhao: For a global brand to measure its international SEO success, it is important to avoid the trap of superficial consistency. While key metrics for SEO efforts tend to be the same, including ranking, visits, and conversions, the underpinning marketing objectives vary from market to market as the brand’s positions in each market are often different. While a mature market tends to focus on conversions from SEO efforts, in a market where the brand is less developed the SEO success would be properly measured by brand exposure to genetic searches of related products and services. Therefore, assigning proper and different weight to different metrics to align with in market objective is often required to measure for SEOs marketing success, not just for the sake of SEO per se.
Measuring International SEO Success
The most important thing in international SEO is to make sure the correct content is found in local search engines in terms of geographical/ regional targeting and language. This needs to be ensured, measured, and monitored for each targeted country and language. Also, you need to make sure that you’re targeting the right search engines in each respective market, last but not least measured keywords should not be simply translated. They need to be localized and adjusted to local search volumes. Most of what you measure, in terms of the effectiveness of your SEO efforts, is the same as domestic. Employ those same strategies and metrics as you normally would. In addition to your strategies, you have a few other things to analyze: Linguistic Keyword Data Linguistic keyword data isn’t about translating, it’s about trans-creating. In other words, it’s about analyzing the words that people who speak different languages along with their local dialects utilize in a search engine. This could be completely different words then what anyone might think, it could be intentionally misspelled words, grammatically wrong words, idioms, slang, etc.
Doing a thorough keyword research project with a few native specialists and then matching those words to real search query volume data is by far the most important part of your campaign. It will provide you with what real people really use and how often so you can concentrate your SEO efforts around the correct terms. Trust Analysis Click-Through Rate (CTR) + Time On Site + Engagement (per country) When it comes to “trust”, all countries/cultures are different in where they are in the trust chain. They can be highly skeptical cultures like Germany or China to the least skeptical like the United States. Realizing that trust plays an important role in not only the success of your international SEO programs, but also plays a role in your digital marketing strategy effectiveness of your campaigns. By measuring CTR, you are learning what keywords and phrases your audience finds most appealing (which, surprisingly, might not be what you translated) as well as time on site to see if they’ve trusted your site long enough to give it a chance.
Local Backlinks Your in-country links should be pointing to your in-country content or your ccTLD URLs. Google will naturally give precedence over local links to what they feel is also a local and relevant site. Think of each country as having their own local version of Google, where everything outside of that local version, is international in order to fill in the gaps of extra content. This is a win-win-win strategy for Google, they allow themselves to be more relevant and marketable to a specific country making people more trustworthy of them as a search brand, local companies get an advantage too and find it less difficult to compete against global brands and users win by getting locally relevant content, products and companies to show up for them in their language. Measuring local backlinks as you would domestically, is imperative for your success in the market. Currency and Exchange Rates It may seem strange to measure exchange rates, yet it’s critical to the success of ecommerce players as currency in itself is an SEO signal, as well as a trust factor.
What’s Different About Measuring International SEO Success? International SEO means things are now more complex. You need to add regions and languages as dimensions of our tracking. Also good tracking needs to be adjusted to local search user journeys. For example, India might be much more focused on mobile than any other market. Or take South Korea as another example. When people use different methods in how they search (on Naver) then measuring a simple ranking might lead to very wrong conceptions and decisions. As SEO in general is turning more and more toward Search Experience Optimization or Search Customer Journey Optimization, we need an extremely good understanding of local cultural aspects in order to ensure we measure the “right” things. Zhao adds: Setting metrics based on local search engine attributes is important. For instance, while obtaining top 3 positions on Google is typically a great target in most markets, applying that goal to Baidu in China may face a unique challenge. Baidu could display 10 paid search ADs before showing any generic results for competitive search terms, making an otherwise equal top 3 positions delivering a much lower click-through rate. Such local variances call for keywords and ranking distribution strategies better suited for the local market.
A key point: once we replace the concept of measuring for SEO success with measuring for the marketing success of SEO, we would find that there is no real difference between international SEO and domestic. However, a common challenge is that management thinking prefers simplifying matters into consistent metrics, and often times domestic SEO measurement has already been very well articulated based on the home market knowhow and is ingrained in management interpretation. It is therefore the responsibility of the international SEO leadership to keep the measurement architected and updated with its root in marketing reality. Challenges Of Accurate Reporting Many tools are focused on the U.S./UK markets and not reliable in smaller markets. Some markets have specific needs that might get forgotten in an international tracking strategy. My colleague Raphael Bienz of Bluglass.ch gave me this great example: “Google Switzerland (google.ch) is available in various languages within just one index. Other markets might be focused on search engines other than Google and not all of the tracking tools allow them to be considered, like Russia or China.”
Often people report the visibility of their page disregarding the local language. A domain might rank very well in a country such as Portugal. But most of these rankings might be from the international version of the website and not representing the local language and/or local website (i.e., the .com domain in English with its U.S. version of the content instead of the Portuguese version). This leads to kind of biased reports. Zhao also noted: When the brand’s website topology is complex, it’s often challenging to have the tracking system to track all visits from each market in a unified way, resulting in data inconsistency. Further, tracking the entire user journey from keywords searched all the way to conversions often proves challenging, and when conversion is a crucial part of success metrics, the issue becomes more acute. The Most Meaningful International SEO Metrics There are a couple of critical metrics: Visibility of the local targeted pages compared to visibility of international (or just main country) targeted pages. Development (and quality) of deep traffic from organic search to local targeted landing pages and the amount of local links targeting local targeted contend.
Increase in target audience engagement, if it can be defined and measured, would be a gold metric to report on. For a conversion-driven SEO campaign, ranking and visits are only second to actual conversions. For a branding-driven SEO campaign, ranking and visits and on-site engagement are all the matters. How Long Will It Take To See Results? This isn’t different from domestic SEO. On-site measures such as hreflang or geographical targeting options do have a rather quick impact. Off-site measures, such as trying to increase the amount of local links and other popularity signals, are typically more like a recurring process and have a long-term impact. Personally, an agency should be given 3 months after implementation of on-site measures targeting international SEO to see whether their efforts are striking. Zhao adds: For a brand term focused SEO program, a site with a sound SEO foundation would see visible improvements (ranked in top 10 with relevant traffic) in 1 to 3 months. For non-branded and competitive terms, it takes 4 to 6 months to enter into top 10 with relevant traffic.
For long tail terms, it takes 1 to 2 months to move into top 10 with limited but high quality traffic. If it takes one month for Google to show visible improvement, it typically takes three months on Baidu. Analyzing The Results, Testing, & Optimizing How do you measure the extent of your social media reach and engagement? Going beyond Facebook, Twitter and Google Analytics, consider using Mention. The opportunity to “monitor millions of sources in 42 languages” across “social networks, news sites, forums, blogs or any web page” can help your efforts to measure your international digital presence. After looking at the results of your paid search campaigns, compare the keywords used for your paid campaigns with the keywords used on your website. Are there keywords you need to add to your website, as they have shown great performance in your paid campaigns? Or maybe delete a few? The opposite can be true as well. If your ads are performing well (i.e., they have a high quality score), your paid search position will be higher and the spend will decrease. If Google, for example, sees that your landing page is loading quickly and you have excellent content on your landing page you will receive more traffic and a lower cost per click.
Are You Sure You Want To Go Global? As your international reach expands it may become difficult to manage those hundreds of campaigns. It is important to have a point of contact in every region or even country to track the results and optimize. Consider using a digital agency that has the resources to manage your search marketing and optimization efforts across the globe. Yes, international SEO seems daunting. But the rewards are immeasurable.