Why Homegrown Search Strategies Seldom Travel Well
Guest Blog By Donald L. Dunnington
When you enter the global search-marketing race, it doesn’t take long to figure out that Google isn’t the only search engine you need to focus on. In my own case, one of the first challenges was understanding the different rules for SEO and buying keywords on Baidu, the leading search engine inside China’s Great Firewall. Then it was Yandex, the major search engine in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). I even learned how Yahoo could be a better choice in Japan than Google.
By 2010 I was deep into taking our websites beyond translation and thinking about global search. It was at this point where I discovered that you couldn’t just translate your domestic keywords for search campaigns in foreign markets. The second thing I learned is that the digital marketing strategies perfected for my home market seldom travel well in other countries.
It happens all too often: companies entering new international markets translate the same keyword lists from country-to-country. This expedient often fails on two key levels:
• Keyword translation fails to account for the many different ways other languages or cultures express the same idea
• Keyword translation fails to consider that searchers in different cultures have very different motivations and priorities when they look for a product or service online
Thus both words and strategies for choosing words in search terms have to be customized to each market. Here’s a simple example from the B2B world of industrial equipment marketing: The standard Spanish translation for spare parts is repuestos. But in Mexico, they call it refacciones.
Sometimes, even the best translation isn’t the best choice. Consider this example Oban Digital provided of a keyword analysis they did for a client who planned to advertise on Google Italy. The client wanted to promote their discount airfares in Italy. Experience in other markets told them they should use the term cheap flights. The best Italian translation of cheap flights is voli economici, which Oban’s research showed could yield on average about 33,000 searches per month on Google.it.
But Oban also knew that in Italy you’d find the most popular search terms often use a combination of English and Italian. For cheap airfares, the preferred term turns out to be voli low cost. This English-Italian mashup gets eight times as much search volume, and it even offers lower competition scores. You won’t find insights like this if you’re just translating keywords. You have to conduct local keyword research.
“Your choice is clear,” Oban’s Greig Holbrook says. “If you want effective keywords for your international SEO and PPC, you have to find local experts who know the language and culture and understand your industry.”
Who Do You Trust with Your SEO Localization?
For SEO localization, the cost of relying on the wrong resources can result in crippling search engine penalties. I talked with a global B2C marketing manager who told how his company was once banished from Baidu’s search pages. The company had hired an Asian search company to help improve their search visibility in China, with emphasis on getting better results with Baidu. It turned out the agency employed black hat SEO techniques that worked at first but ultimately led to their expulsion when the search engine tightened its standards.
No one within the company understood what was produced in the Chinese-language SEO campaign. They had no idea what their vendor had done until it all went wrong. At that point they turned to another agency to clean up their website and remove or renounce the offending inbound links. A representative from the new agency then paid a visit to Baidu to beg forgiveness for their client.
Eventually, all was forgiven, and the company was returned to Baidu search results. This makes them one of the lucky ones, but then if they had put their trust in the right people to begin with, they wouldn’t have needed luck. Personally, I wouldn’t trust anyone who claims SEO is easy, or any agency that claims SEO can be automated.
Trust, security and compliance issues are an even greater concern than cost savings for regulated industries. These companies need to know precisely who is producing content for their websites, including freelance translators or SEO consultants.
At a minimum companies require a management process that protects them against fraud and negligence. In the case of banking and legal industries, the regulatory, legal and security requirements can be even more stringent, right down to what country the outsourced work is being done in.
SEO is the new PR and PR the new SEO
When you talk to today’s SEO managers, the conversation frequently turns to the sort of relationship building that was the foundation for the public relations I’ve practiced all my working life. The only difference is today’s SEO-oriented media relations are largely focused on online media, and a major objective is to influence your ranking in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), not just count news clippings.
Quality in-bound links start with producing quality content to which others want to link. But unless you want to leave it to chance that your well-crafted content receives the links it deserves, you need a linking campaign. That means in every market and every language where you’re competing for search visibility, you need close relations with respected bloggers and news sites. It takes time and creative skill to develop these individualized relations on a global level. You only want links from quality news sites and bloggers whose links search engines value. This is something few organizations can do alone.
“We have individual relationships with bloggers, local news outlets and legitimate independent websites that have authority in a vertical market or technical expertise that the search engines recognize,” Oban’s Holbrook says. “Our blog relationships are built on relevancy, quality, and the value they bring to the vertical market they serve.”
He says Oban has to work on these relationships and maintain them even when they don’t have a campaign to send their way. “It requires a personal touch, staying in contact, developing a two-way relationship. We have to understand the content they need and what they expect from us.”
He says that to get valuable links, you have to send your global contacts valuable content that is customized for their needs. “When we have a story for them, we’ll send them a content brief and provide images that are a good fit. We don’t just send an article, we engage in a conversation and provide them the material they need to craft their own unique content.”
Donald L. Dunnington, a member of the Advisory Board for the launch of Oban Digital in the United State, is an author, speaker and consultant specializing in online communication. A special edition of his new book, “HYPER LOCAL SEO & MARKETING: How U.S. Marketers Win Global by Going Local” is available at http://www.obandigital.com/us/hyper-local-ebook/