My best piece of advice for search marketers considering the German market stems from one German proverb -- "Kümmere dich nicht um ungelegte Eier: Don't cross your bridges before you come to them."
For the purpose of this article, we'll look at a good German site that sells coffee beans to consumers.
Tip 1: Focus on the Long Tail
German is quite a descriptive language. When it comes to German keyword research, you'll find your best results by emphasizing longer tail keywords rather than shorter tails. This is mainly because of how vocabulary rich the Germanic language is, as well as how culturally they are set up to research situations.
Tip 2: Think Quality
As with any product in Germany, quality is the most important trait. Above all, Germans will seek out quality over price.
When developing your site, focusing on price can actually hinder your ability to convince your audience that there's a level of quality around your product or service. A lower price in many cases causes questions about quality levels.
Provide high quality imagery and quality rich descriptions as much as possible. Other items that show quality, such as quality ratings or awards, also help build this level of necessary credibility.
Tip 3: Content Rich and Descriptive
Many English sites utilize the "less is more" theory. Sites in North America might have a clean page, a captivating headline, and a few bullets as a descriptor, and it may do reasonably well.
However, the opposite is true in Germany. Clean looks are fine, but offering as much information and being as highly descriptive as possible will not only gain a benefit in usability, it will benefit in search optimization as well.
Tip 4: Be German
I've never met a German who wasn't proud of who they are, where they come from, and what they have accomplished. Like the Japanese, to win them over, you need to establish trust. The only way to really establish trust with a German is to be German (or as close to being German as possible).
Start by setting up German hosting and having a German top-level domain (TLD). It's also important to show clarity of your location and provide as many methods of contact possible in terms of phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
Tip 5: Search has a Long Way to Go
The art of good, white hat search engine optimization (SEO) has been adopted a little slower in Germany in comparison to other countries. So on the positive side, your ability to execute campaigns by following the rules will get you long-term benefits.
On the negative side, because a lot of black hat SEO practices are deployed over there, you may find your competitors getting pretty ruthless. The mentality is that search optimization is more manipulation than it is an art or a science. Stick to your guns, compete with them on quality and content, have a little patience, and eventually you'll find that it's one of the best markets in Europe.
In part two next month: more in-depth insight into the German market, as well as some top strategies recommended by pro-German search specialists. Stay tuned.
Optimising Digital Marketing Campaigns with Search, Social and Analytics
At SES London (9-11 Feb) you'll get an overview of the latest tools, tips, and tactics in Paid, Owned, Earned, Integrated Media and Business Intelligence to streamline your marketing campaigns in 2015. Register by 31 October to take advantage of Early Bird Rates.