I’ve written about how the term “global” applies to everyone but identifies no one. Well, that perspective comes from a global search marketing manager seeking excellence across disparate marketplaces. Many are missing the opportunity to succeed globally because of SEO practices that fail to accommodate both technical and cultural components.
My perspective is shaped by an ever-deepening conceptualization of our customers. I’ve grown to understand that they connect through their own languages, through their own cultural icons, within their own religion. When we talk about meeting our customers on their terms , our global perspective (or should I say, “international,” “multilingual,” or “multinational”) has to be forged from market segmentation that accommodates language, culture, climate and other independent variables.
Identifying our customers is the easy part. The tools we’ve built enable granular targeting. But we need to be thinking more locally when we create international SEM campaigns and optimize Web properties.
Research has shown that over 85 percent of international consumers prefer native language webpages when researching prepurchase. In fact, Japan, France, and Turkey strongly prefer local content. We’ve got to do a better job at directing engines and users alike to pages that will convert locally.
I see five common SEO tactics that need improvement.
Believing that localization means translation
Concepts and phrases don’t always translate exactly, therefore, we must use local custom and culture to contextualize and localize effectively to appeal to resident browsers and be relevant to international spiders. For example, Japanese consumers have developed an emotional connection with animated figures such as “Hello Kitty.” Localization practices should address this cultural preference by embedding images and annotations that point to such characters.
Optimizing only for the major US engines
Don’t be satisfied with optimizing for Google, Yahoo!, and Bing, serving translated or redirected pages Danny Sullivan pointed out last year that, whereas Google remains the dominant engine worldwide, with over 65 percent of total searches, alternate spiders make up just under half (45 percent) of “global” searches.
“For December 2012, the search landscape was like this:
- Google: 114.7 billion searches, 65.2 percent share
- Baidu: 14.5 billion searches, 8.2 percent share
- Yahoo: 8.6 billion searches, 4.9 percent share
- Yandex: 4.8 billion searches, 2.8 percent share
- Microsoft: 4.5 billion searches, 2.5 percent share
- Others: 28.7 billion searches, 16.3 percent share”
You see the last line in that list? Global SEO practitioners are missing out on almost 29 billion searches when they ignore boutique, local search engines. Collectively, they are losing opportunities on over 61 billion monthly searches conducted using Google international competitors.
Lacking contextualization for international SE algorithm/interpretation
Structured authoring has become more relevant across most international engines. Although many spiders mimic Google’s algorithm, they each have unique interpretations when serving query results.
Keyword planning should extend across international engines. Many spiders have their own keyword research tools (e.g., Bing’s Keyword Research Tool, Yandex’s Keyword Statistics, or Sogou’s Hot Search List). These tools help to target engine-specific keyword usage.
Due to the multinational variances in terms used when consumers query, you’re going to have more success when you mark-up page data with contextualized keywords specific to geography. For instance, schema markup should accommodate both English and native languages for many developed regions.
Incorrect page serving
You want engines all over the globe to serve relevant webpages, right? We’ve got to make sure we are localizing our metadata annotations correctly.
From a technical standpoint, the href lang annotation has to point to the most relevant page version. Also, language values have to meet up with ISO 639-1 or ISO 3166-Alpha 2 standards. Google recently launched a beta to help webmasters and SEO marketers implement href-lang annotations.
I agree with Google’s suggestion regarding language targeting strategy:
“If you wish to target more than one language or location, it’s important to organize your campaigns and ad groups in a way that supports this strategy. Consider organizing and naming your campaigns by country (such as “Spain”) and your ad groups within each campaign by product lines (such as “coffee products” and “tea products”). Then, tailor your keywords and ads to the intended audience.”
The other major issue I see brands struggle with is that we’re failing to update site structure and page translations to accommodate new search phrases and TLD changes. For example, the new generic TLDs open an opportunity to secure localized domain extensions. We must be vigilant in our optimization as updates to the search environment roll out.
Most organized territories have a unique top-level domain (TLD) country code, so we’ve got to point to the right ones! For instance, if you’re targeting Antarctica (and why wouldn’t you?), the TLD country code is .aq, not .an, which is the CC for the Netherland Antilles. My point is: from URL structure to page annotation, we’ve got to do a better job at directing browsers to localized pages.
Failing to localize all content
Localization should extend to PPC, apps, social media, content feeds, etc., to provide synchronization across all digital assets. Effective multinational search marketing practices don’t stop with organic and paid search. We’ve got to pay attention to all our digital assets. There could be missed opportunities if we aren’t optimizing every asset we deploy.
I think global SEO has some catching up to do, but the tools embedded in the Adobe Marketing Cloud help facilitate localization in an ever-simplified way. I have some thoughts on how to best approach localization for international search engines. That’s for another post. Remember to think and act in a customer-centric way!