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Why Marketers Should Think Local When Going Global With Their SEO

The internet has undoubtedly opened up a world of opportunity for businesses to speak to a global audience, and more and more businesses are looking to reach out to foreign markets via their websites, and for good reason.

The global marketplace holds plenty of promise for businesses who might have been affected by the recession, or who are selling a product which is more popular outside of the UK.

For example, a recent report by the prestige brand ‘think tank’ L2 found that people in China were more willing to spend on luxury goods more than most other countries in the world.

And British universities who have experienced major budget cuts are now looking to attract international students in order to bring in more funds.

However, attracting an audience from overseas is not as simple as translating a website. Marketers should consider developing a localised search engine optimisation (SEO) and marketing strategy in order to reach foreign markets in a successful and effective way.

The ways in which different nationalities engage with the internet and search can range vastly. Understanding how a culture types in a search term, looks at a webpage, or even pays for something, can be crucial in ensuring a website succeeds internationally.

First and foremost it’s important to bear in mind that although Google is considered the king of search engines in the UK, this is not the case across the globe. In Russia it is Yandex which is the main contender, and in China it is Baidu.

Local search engines can hold preference to different factors. For example, some search engines prefer sites hosted locally, with country-specific TLD s.

By optimising a website to suit the most popular search engine in the target region, whether that be Google or another, online marketers can improve a sites visibility in a foreign market.

Keyword research shouldn’t be based on translations from English for either PPC or SEO. Oban recently found that there was a ‘perfect’ German translation of a technology term but it had only 140 searches a month on it. Our German team identified a term that was actually being used which had over 40,000 searches a month.

Another interesting factor to look at is how cultures ‘mix’ languages together to create phrases. Italians, who have become famous in the search world for mixing language to derive their search terms, use the phrase ‘lastsecond’ when searching for travel related subjects.

It’s English but used as one word in Italy as a synonym of ‘lastminute’ or ‘last minute’. With over 5000 searches conducted on the primary term alone, it’s the perfect example of how much search can vary in different cultures.

Social media, now considered a primary digital marketing tool, can also be country-specific.

Although the leading contenders in the UK are Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, there are parts of the world where ‘Tweeting’ is unheard of, and where Facebook isn’t the ubiquitous phenomenon it’s become in the UK and USA. and are two of the biggest social media sites in China, in fact it’s estimated that had over 300 million users at the end of 2009 (only 100 million less than Facebook’s international population) and in Latin American countries it’s Hi5 which holds the market share. Developing a social media strategy which utilises local social media sites would be more effective than implementing a generic Twitter or Facebook one for an international audience.

The one key fact to always remember is that localisation is the most important part of international SEO and SEM. Every country uses the internet and search differently, and the differences can be huge.

By researching the culture, the language, and the political and religious practices of a region, as well as the internet trends, marketers will be able to develop an effective and successful strategy for the audience they are targeting.

About the author: By Greig Holbrook, Oban Multilingual: International SEO.

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