In the past, many organisations scheduled marketing activity to be executed within a given time-frame. These campaigns typically involved identifying business objectives, conducting market research, formulating strategy, devising methods of execution and finally delivering campaign outputs such as target key terms, ad copy and the creation of campaign landing pages or microsites. Often the results of these activities would not be analysed until the end of the campaign, leading to poor management of campaign budgets and ROI.
This campaign-based mindset is still prevalent in many organisations and budget is often allocated to campaigns which have a beginning and an end. However, this approach doesn’t work well for online search campaigns where users are searching for products and services all year round and organisations are increasingly required to maintain visibility on search engine results pages in their target markets.
To counter this, search marketers need to make the case for continuous investment in search marketing. By analysing keyword search volumes, competition levels, on and offline conversion rates and cost-per-acquisition, budget can be better allocated to ensure greater visibility and ROI are achieved.
This can be extremely complex when running search campaigns in multiple countries and languages. Customers in international markets may have different customs, cultures and expectations. They often exhibit different behaviour and react differently to different campaign messages. To make this process easier we have some tips on how to better manage international search marketing campaigns.
Identify the target market and language
When comparing search volumes across multiple countries, Google’s Global Market Finder is a good place to start.
However, before embarking on expansion into a new international market, you need to identify if opportunities exist within these markets and whether or not your business can compete there.
Does the country’s culture fit your product or service? How do people respond to different marketing and advertising techniques? How many people within that country are searching for related products and services? What languages are being spoken in the country? These are just a few of the questions that would need to be answered.
The official language of a country may not be the language that is widely spoken. Similarly, some countries may have large numbers of non-nationals. A culturalpolicies.net compilation of Eurostat data shows the number of non-nationals residing in countries across Europe with some countries such as Monaco showing up to 78% of the population as non-nationals.
The support of a localisation expert is recommended before your company takes further steps to enter the market in another country.
Conduct multi-language keyword research
Conducting research within your target market is arguably the most important activity when planning and executing search campaigns. Without knowing which key terms your customers are using to find information on products and services, it is impossible to deliver a successful search marketing campaign.
Traditionally, market research was a time-consuming and expensive exercise as organisations relied on focus groups and customer surveys to gain an insight into what their customers were thinking and doing in order to identify opportunities. Thanks to the digital revolution it is now possible to obtain this information directly from search engines and your website’s analytics package.
Remember that successful search marketing is not about receiving large volumes of traffic, but getting the “right” type of traffic. This is particularly important for paid search where organisations are paying for each click and visit to their site but applies to organic search too as ranking for the “wrong” key term results in lower conversion rates and increased server loads and bandwidth costs.
Translating English terms to derive key words in another language should always be avoided since customers in different countries may not use the same terms to search for products or services as their English-speaking counterparts.
Fortunately, there are free tools out there that allow you to determine key word volumes and competition levels across multiple countries. The most well-known of these is probably the Google Adwords Keyword Tool – which can be used for countries in which Google is the dominant search engine.
By correlating search volumes from the keyword tool with previous on-site activity (conversion rate, bounce rate, time-on-site and repeat visits) it is possible to determine high performance key words which can be used in paid search advertising and SEO activity.
However, Google is not always the dominant search engine. In China, Baidu is the most popular search engine, while in Japan; Yahoo has the greatest market share. There are also fewer keyword research tools available in languages other than English so traditional market research approaches may be required to identify target terms in certain markets. At this stage in the planning process, it is important to involve a native speaker of the target language who is knowledgeable about the country’s customs and culture to advise you on a sensible approach.
Employ a professional translator
If you’re attempting to research key terms in a language you don’t understand, particularly if the language uses characters which you’re unable to read (for example an English speaker performing keyword research in Arabic, Russian or Chinese), then you need a professional translator or preferably the support of a professional translation and localisation agency.
Not only will the translator or agency be able to better translate your content into language that is meaningful and appealing to your target market, but they will be able to explain a great deal by providing ‘back translations’ and context for non-speakers of the target language but also local teams who may not have a deep understanding of organic or paid search.
Some countries and languages register insufficient search volumes to appear in keyword tool databases. Google for instance, displays a ‘not enough data’ message in their keyword tool when confronted with keyword data requests of low volume. In this instance it is important to test a number of keyword options which a professional translator will be able to provide more easily.
Finally, some languages don’t have agreement on exact spelling and grammar and a professional translator would allow different options to be suggested, explored and the “right” key terms for your business identified.
Ensure the site is designed for the target language and culture
The first thing to ensure when working with multiple languages is making sure the language is identified in web page’s source code. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines require that the default human language of each web page is programmatically determined.
Assistive technologies such as screen readers and Braille devices are unable to identify the language of a web page from the text alone. These devices recognise the language a web page is written in using an HTML tag within the code on the page. So for these devices to work, the primary language needs to be set using the relevant two-letter language code (e.g. en, fr or de for English, French and German).
In addition to programmatically specifying the target language, the site would also need to use the appropriate character set as specified in the character encoding meta tag.
If site owners don’t use the appropriate character encoding method, they risk displaying characters in their content that may be incorrectly interpreted and displayed. This is not just an issue of human readability – increasingly machines need to understand the data too. Site owners should also check that they are not specifying different character encoding in different places.
More information on character encoding, country codes and details on how to implement the meta tags can be found on the W3C website.
Aside from the code, the design may also need to be adapted to cater for the new target audience. Simply using the wrong colour within a site’s design can result in the wrong impression being created and discourage users from revisiting the site.
The colour red, for instance, can denote ‘danger’, ‘love’ or ‘passion’ in Western cultures; but signifies ‘purity’ in India and ‘good luck‘ or ‘celebration’ in China. Orange has religious connotations for Protestants in Northern Ireland, whilst it also represents ‘autumn’ (‘fall’), ‘Halloween’ or ‘creativity’ in some other Westerns cultures.
Green represents ‘nature‘ and the ‘environment‘ in many western cultures. However, if you’re thinking of depicting a green hat on your site, be aware that this signifies that a man’s wife is cheating on him in China.
Furthermore, you need to ensure that your site is optimised for the majority of devices and browsers within the target country.
Recently internet usage for mobiles overtook desktop in China as over 50% of users were accessing the internet from rural areas. If you intend on implementing a successful search campaign in a country with high mobile internet usage, then creating a website that is mobile-optimised is crucial.
Review and optimise
Regardless of the country or language that your site intends to target, it is crucial to ensure that your organic and paid search campaigns are regularly reviewed, insights gathered and campaigns optimised to improve results.
For paid search, this involves reviewing not only budgets and cost-per-click but keywords, ad copy and landing pages. SEO campaigns also need to be regularly reviewed and rankings, traffic and conversion rates analysed to identify opportunities. This is an iterative process requiring constant attention but if performed successfully, organisations can escape the campaign-based mindset of the traditional marketing approach, improving search campaign management and increasing ROI.
TranslateMedia offers international search engine optimisation and international paid search marketing support to large organisations to ensure that search campaigns are successfully delivered within their target markets. We also offer advice on managing international social media management and monitoring.