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Localising your search engine marketing and adapting to the searcher’s own language can help raise your quality scores, improve your rankings, and boost your click-through rates. If you localise your search strategy, you are likely to achieve more sales, greater revenue and probably reduced costs compared to taking an non-localised approach.
But it’s not as simple as merely translating the language you’re using for whatever market you’re targeting. You also need to adapt your search strategy to meet the search approach and the way that searchers in your target market think. That means taking a wider approach than just translating your keywords into a local language.
For starters, not everyone uses Google. You need to adapt your search strategy to fit the search engines that different markets favour – as well as understand that not every journey starts with a search engine.
Japan and South Korea favour their own search engines. In markets such as China, users are likely to start from an app or social media platform such as WeChat. You’ll need to adapt your search strategy to suit local habits.
China’s search engine market seems a bit complex when you first look at it. For starters, you can forget Google. It’s very much a minority engine here. Baidu is the dominant search engine for China, with others such as Qihoo (aka Search360), Sogou and Shenma as minority contenders.
Although it may seem an obvious choice to focus on the largest search engine in this market, it’s worth considering who you are targeting and what you are trying to achieve.
Baidu may be the most-used but review-focused Shenma is trying hard to be the most trustworthy – something that’s significant in a market where online trust is fragile.
Shenma’s also mobile-focused so it’s good for driving mobile app downloads and for mobile-enabled retailers. Minority search engine Sogou seems to have a more mature audience, so possibly that’s a better choice depending on your product.
To even get started in search engine marketing in China there are some barriers to overcome. Slow internet speeds mean that it’s pretty vital to host your destination website locally or people clicking on ads will find the landing pages load so slowly that they just abandon it.
You’ll need to register your domain name and get a license to host and publish your website. If you already have a physical presence in China, these steps are easier to accomplish.
If you don’t have a presence, you’ll need to find a local partner to represent you, and it will also take a bit longer to accomplish.
Although Baidu does offer a free analytics package, it’s in Chinese, not English, so you’ll need an analyst that can interpret this for you. A strong local partner should be able to help you navigate the local search landscape, overcome the firewall, and explain the results (analytics are in Chinese, so you’ll probably want help interpreting them).
Localising your keywords
Many businesses make the mistake of simply translating their keywords into local language when they move into other markets. It’s really not as straightforward as that.
Local searchers are likely to have their own way of solving problems and that includes how they hunt for products online. For example, they may use local slang terms in their search. Markets will also prioritise product characteristics differently. For example, ‘low cost’ or ‘cheap’ may be a more important component of your search terms in particular markets.
Market maturity is also significant. Inexperienced web users are likely to search in different ways to more experienced ones, and some markets are characterised by higher proportions of inexperienced web users.
Really the best thing you can do it take a test-and-learn approach to your search strategy in each market.
So which parts of your site do you need to translate? It’s pretty essential that your landing pages and product pages are localised but probably less vital to do the same with pages such as the privacy information. As a rule of thumb, any page that’s within the core user journey needs to be localised, whilst ones outside it aren’t a high priority.
This helps ensure your users are more likely to have a journey that’s consistently relevant to them, as well as helping optimise search for your most important pages.
When you’re translating your website it’s important to consider how you’re translating your metadata. You’ll need to consider how many characters fit into the meta description on search result pages.
In translation, your meta description may be harder to fit into the character count in some languages. German, for instance, tends to have longer words and sentences compared to other languages.
If you translate your domestic website into German, you may find your meta description is cut off by the character limit. Make sure you front-load your keywords into the meta description, even if it means reworking the translated description text in translation.
It’s important to take a joined-up approach when you enter a new market, making sure your search strategy is consistent with your marketing campaigns and web presence. You need to make sure that the translated versions of any web pages and landing pages reflect your keyword strategy for that market.
If you’re tackling huge markets such as India or China, it’s advisable to localise at a sub-national level. These markets are too big and complex to tackle with a one-size-fits-all web strategy, so it’s advisable to tailor your search strategy to local areas within these markets.
Localising your search strategy to local markets benefits from the same test-learn-adapt approach as any domestic search strategy. Make sure you take the time to analyse each campaign and adapt your approach based on what works and what doesn’t.
Remember, things change all the time – both in terms of search algorithms but also consumer behaviour. That’s why it’s vital to keep learning from your own experiences and improving as you go.