Going global with international search

Search marketing is a global endeavor — after all, your potential customers can come from anywhere around the world. Four experts share tips on how to optimize your international search campaign.

Noah Elkin
Managing partner, Steak

Search marketing moves quickly across an increasingly global footprint. One constant across all campaigns is the need for local knowledge.

Successful search marketers understand the need to work with people who under­stand the local business environment, culture and online customer behavior — particularly what customers search for and how.

Regardless of the size of your organiza­tion, your business is subject to the operat­ing conditions of each market, which vary considerably country to country. Similarly, barriers affect even those who ostensibly share a common language. These factors explain why you need to work with local experts who can get the language and cul­tural nuances right.

An example that showcases this need comes from one of Steak’s clients — a global broadcasting company. In the US, people looking for information on the announc­ers for one its most popular shows search for the “hosts” of that program, while in the UK and Australia, the term of choice is “presenter.” This slight change in syntax has obvious implications for search engine optimization, paid search and Web develop­ment even if the underlying consumer intent doesn’t change.

The bottom line is this: Do relevant key­word research, understand your customers’ goals and optimize your content, creative and landing pages through the lens of whatever country you’re working in.

In an increasingly global world, there’s still no substitute for local knowledge

Brooke Aker
CEO, Expert System USA

It comes as no surprise that Google is the most popular search engine in the world. But for marketers — specifically those inter­ested in international search — there are lesser-known, better alternatives.

The problem with Google and other popular search engines is that they rely on imprecise keyword search technology that does not fully recognize human language in its natural form — clichés, synonyms or brand names, for example. No matter what language or country you’re searching in, the problem with recognizing true search meaning remains.

Semantic search is a highly sophisticated alternative for marketers using online search for intelligence on potential international customers and markets. It works by pulling information like people, places, things, time, money, and other key signifiers whenever a search query is entered. By using cogni­tive algorithms similar to the way humans think and read, semantic search also knows, for example, that magazines are also called publications, that people work for a com­pany and that price is related to cost. The end result is more precise search results in any language.

There are many semantic search engines and applications available today, some free and others priced for industry. The scope of dialects covered and breadth of the semantic search engine’s network (a.k.a. semantic ontology) will determine which semantic search provider best fits your needs.

Niche semantic search engines are key when going international

Mike Gullaksen
SVP of strategy, iCrossing

For international organic search, con­sider whether you own a local domain in the country that you want to do business in (for example: www.domain.de vs. www.domain.com/de). In-country domains are always preferred.

A second consideration is where your sites are hosted. From an SEO perspective, it is best to host sites in the country you are targeting for search rankings.

Finally, does the site use the local lan­guage? Understanding how people search in each country will help weigh what the cost vs. benefit will be in this area.

International paid search is a tremendous way to understand what the opportunity in an emerging market without heavy invest­ments. When testing emerging markets, many people ask if you need to localize. Depending on your industry, there may be sufficient volume of search traffic in English to test and validate an opportunity before having to localize your entire campaign. If it is necessary to target specific languages, make sure to localize everything, including keywords, landing pages and any content you make available.

Use the engine’s geo-targeting capabilities — just because you are expanding globally does not mean you should not think locally in emerging markets. Always keep in mind that international search engines may have things that one might not be used to, includ­ing different interfaces, payment methods and longer approval times.

Embrace both organic and paid search to optimize campaigns.

Chanin Ballance
CEO, ViaLanguage

Reaching a multicultural audience is more than just translating words. To be success­ful, marketers must actually embrace the nuance of a culture. Whether using cul­turally sensitive images or incorporating popular jargon or slang, the most successful marketers demonstrate a deep understand­ing of, and respect for, the vast array of different cultures.

Combining localized translations with effective search engine optimization gets your online presence both seen and under­stood. Tactics that help increase both organ­ic and paid search results include collecting search terms and keywords popular with your potential audience and making them relevant for searches conducted in the target language, hosting your Web site on a server in your targeted country, using a regional domain (such as .co.uk) and making sure to include links from Web sites in the same geographic region.

For quick translations, tools like Babel Fish and Google Language Tools are great, but they can’t account for cultural differ­ences and language nuances. So, consider working with an expert — a good translator or regional copywriter. Consider experience in the target languages, special skills relevant to your field, and established best practices for getting projects done well, consistently and on time. In the US, the American Trans­lator’s Association can provide valuable information and references for companies and individuals in your area.

Don’t be scared to embrace outside resources to enhance international search

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