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Planning your Search Strategy for the Latino Market

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Our previous articles covered the opportunities and challenges for search engine marketers looking to enter into the fast-growing, yet complex and challenging, U.S. Hispanic and Latin American search markets. In this segment we present recommended preparation strategies by established search marketing professionals in the Latino arena, along with a resource list of how and where to start your own Latino search marketing and optimization strategy.

A special 3-part report from the Search Engine Strategies Latino conference, June 18-19, 2007, in Miami, Florida.

How to search: Starter guidelines for your Latino search market research:

Learn where Latinos are searching.

Distinguishing between the Latino search population and the general U.S. population is important. Many SES Latino event speakers concurred that both U.S. Hispanics and Latin Americans have much greater prominence in search verticals that provide for consumer user-generated content.

This includes both general and specialty search sites; examples of the latter include socio-information search sites like Yahoo Answers/Repuestas, and multimedia social search such as YouTube and MySpace – all of which are indexable for search results in multiple search engines, languages and regions.

Even if your target audience is just U.S. Hispanics, you should still be researching Web sites outside of the U.S. SES speakers concurred that many U.S. Hispanics are going to international domains and Web sites; as they want to invest more in learning about their homeland, and getting news from the right source. So if you want to reach U.S. Hispanics, SES Latino speakers agree – tap into those international Web sites.

Distinguish between Latino search user segments

According to Paul Saffrey, managing director of SilverDisc Chile, "Behavior and demographics data is very important to use for the Latino search market. It's important to gather demographic, consumer profile, and search research on how different U.S. Hispanic and Latin American groups (local, age groups, and gender, to name just a few) consume online media differently."

One user segment that stands out tremendously is the youth sector. According to research data provided by MidiaClick, nearly a whopping three-quarters of the current of Latin American search market is under 34 years of age.

Sarah Bernier, Spanish language search marketing consultant for FindLaw, adds that younger U.S. Hispanics – especially second and third generation – have much different search and online behavior than older generations. "While different U.S. Hispanic consumers may be searching for the same thing, they want to interact with different content in different ways," she says. "That's a very important distinction when putting together a search marketing campaign."

Customize your keyword research for the Latino market(s)

Before you do any actual optimization work, you need to know what keywords your target audience will relate to in their native language and local dialect. Bernier, a presenter on the "Search Research and Targeting" panel, says "the trick is building a robust keyword list with an eye to target audience insights – cultural differences, language stratifications, and location."

Bernier offers these tips on finding out what keywords are "hot" in Spanish (and Portuguese):

  • Understand Seasonality. Look for key dates around holidays, special events, other seasonal items in the regions and cultures you are looking to target. Keyword searches are shown to have a heavy spike when approaching seasonal items.
  • Search in Spanish. Query Spanish-language versions of search engines. A significant portion of the U.S. Hispanic market prefers to search in Spanish. Commonly use Spanish language versions of popular search engines (Google EspaÑol and Yahoo Telemundo)
  • Understand your data sources. Are they coming from the U.S.? Global? Are they individual regions or portals, or a combination of regions?
  • Use keyword research tools only as guides, not as factual data. "For Spanish keyword research, you can't even assume that the proportions are accurate. You will have to experiment and measure on your own, with your own web analytics tools." says Bernier.
  • Keep your research simple. Right now the Latino market, especially the Latin American market, is several years behind the U.S. market in complexity of search queries. (Meaning, more general terms and shorter word counts). Bernier advises that you don't need to do strands of keyword lists.

Francis Petty, Online Marketing Manager of LaNacion S.A. offers his company's keyword research strategy for effectively reaching the Latino market:

  • Start off with a glossary of keyword phrases.
  • Have translators provide variations of those keyword terms; and check them against a search term database.
  • Work with native language speakers who are familiar with cultural happenings and trends of your target audience. Certain keyword terms may carry different cultural meanings in translation, and may result in a considerably different impact between English and Spanish language audiences.

Distinguish gender-specific searches

Dialectical nuances are important in distinguishing search and user behavior with Latinos, especially with gender. For example, the word "latinos" itself would refer to either just men, or both men and women; the word "latinas" would refer to just women.

"Gender-specific searches are a particularly good example of distinguishing how Spanish language can also be gender-specific to refer to the same general keyword terms," says William Alvarez, marketing manager for Torrenegra Internet Solutions. "You can create specific keyword lists for gender groups, and better communicate at their level."

Consider "native" search marketing talent

You also have the option of work and partner with search marketing firms already established in the Latino market. Many speakers at SES Latino have headquarters or branch offices right in the U.S., many with additional offices or partners in Latin America. Christian Van Der Henst, CEO of Maestros Del Web, explained that there are Latin local communities that help you find very region-specific talent. Webmasters Mexico is one such example, particular good for finding local copywriters, and some with at least a basic understanding of search.

Where to search: Latino industry resources

Latino Market Reports

Latino Industry news & marketing resources

Latino News headlines

Popular Spanish-language Latino search engines and directories

Lucas Morea, CEO for LatinEdge Inc., says, "Look at the sites that show up prominently and regularly for Spanish search terms." For example, "Monografias is a very popular site in the Spanish language market, more than Wikipedia."

Go to popular web sites in the target region or country, and see what results regularly turn up in your search queries.

Social search Websites

Social search Web sites are a highly populated and hugely impacted area with U.S. Hispanics, according to Rafael Jimenez, general manager, Advertiser & Publisher Group, Yahoo Hispanic America. "20 Million users in the Latin American region have registered with Yahoo Answers in less than a year. Yahoo's Latin portals also integrate Yahoo Answers information into traditional search results."

Marcelo Sant'Iago, director of business development for MÍdiaClick, says, "Social search, blogs, video, and other consumer-generated media is very popular with Latin America market. You should really go deep into CGM – there are very good options there."

A couple of the more popular Latino social search sites include:

SEM Blogs & Forums

If you're Spanish-language proficient, check out the SEO/SEM blogs by search marketers and search aficionados of native countries. Some of the more popular blogs shared by presenter Christian Van Der Henst of Maestros Del Web, include:

Next: Producing, Promoting, and Testing your Latino-optimized search campaigns.

Grant Crowell is the Senior Project Director for Grantastic Designs, and a contributor to the Search Engine Watch Blog, focusing on video search topics. Grant also serves as a video production and optimization consultant, and produces documentary video content for Walking Eagle Productions.

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