Five Tips for Running International SEM Campaigns
English was once touted as the “language of the web.” Anglophone tech-enthusiasts predicted that a global communications network would need a global language, and English would forever be our digital lingua franca.
As it happens, they were dead wrong. English now accounts for less than 50 percent of global search traffic. Around the world, people increasingly use their local version of Google (or Google equivalent) to access content in their native language.
This is important for anyone interested in search engine marketing (SEM). To reach a global audience in 2012, you can’t do search marketing exclusively in English. That business model has expired. These days, your campaign must be localized in multiple languages and targeted at different search engines around the world.
We’ve put together a list of five tips for getting started in international SEM.
#1: Beware the Perils of Literal Translation
It’s tempting to assume that a popular keyword search in English will translate directly in another language, but this is rarely the case.
“Low cost flights” is an extremely popular search term in English. So we might assume that the corresponding Italian would be “voli a basso prezzo.” In fact, Italians are far more likely to use the English loan phrase and search for “voli low cost.”
These little nuances can make or break your international SEM. Before you decide on a keyword strategy, understand what local web users are actually looking for. One way to do this is to translate a small portion of your keyword list, then use Google’s free keyword research tool to find more popular alternatives.
#2: Advertise Like a Local
A pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaign is an important counterpart to your SEM efforts. But you need to identify the web properties where advertising will deliver results. Google AdWords and Facebook Ads are unknown in many parts of the world.
Consider China. Facebook is banned there, and Google holds less than a quarter of the local search market. China’s advertising hotspots are websites like Baidu and Weibo. (Ever heard of them?) Before investing in a foreign PPC campaign, familiarize yourself with the local web landscape. Your language service provider (LSP) will have in-country language teams who can advise you on the local search market.
#3: Monitor Your Competition
Pay attention to the local search terms that your competitors rank for. Knowing what works for other companies is valuable intelligence for your own international SEM. Global Site Explorer is an excellent free tool for tracking the SEO performance of other websites.
#4: Test, Test, Then Test Some More
The only way to genuinely gauge your performance and improve returns is through constant A/B testing. This is true for all SEM, both at home and across the globe. Google has a suite of free tools for researching keywords and evaluating search campaigns. Use them all.
#5: Keep English in the Loop
English is present, to some extent, in most non-Anglophone countries – especially places like Dubai and Singapore. To achieve maximum exposure in these markets, you should run localized and English SEM side-by-side.
Valarie Badame is the Junior Marketing Manager and Social Media Co-ordinator at Milengo, a Language Service Provider providing translation, localization and related language software, website and documentation localization. Valarie specializes in International SEM and SEO, machine translation technology and website localization strategies. She is also the moderator of the Linkedin Group, TALKE - Translation and Localization Knowledge Exchange. A group for business professionals involved in managing translation and localization for their respective organizations from the client side. Outside of work, Valarie can be found cooking or with her head in a book. Follow her on Twitter @milengo.