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Search Marketing in Europe

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Search marketing is increasingly global, but a local focus is still vital to achieve your goals. What does it take to have a successful search marketing campaign in Europe?

A special report from the Search Engine Strategies conference, August 2-5, 2004, San Jose, CA.

A panel of experts at the Search Engine Strategies Conference in San Jose recently discussed what's involved when you take search engine marketing across the Atlantic. Here are some of their observations and recommendations.

Why are marketers making this move? Some are seeking a first-movers advantage in this fast growing market. Others are looking to expand their efforts via additional search inventory (both natural and paid), and many pay-per-click advertisers want to avoid increasing bid prices in the US.

Whatever the specific reasons, Europe is definitely a viable, growing market for search marketers. To put it in perspective, Massimo Burgio, San Francisco Branch Manager at the European-based firm Ad Maiora, shared a few interesting statistics:

  • Market size: There are approximately 200 million internet users in the US, and 225 million in Europe.
  • Search volume: Google estimates that one-third of all queries conducted on its network are in a European language.
  • Search advertising spend: The UK, currently experiencing record growth in online advertising, stands out as having the largest search ad spend in Europe, partly due to the ease of expansion for US marketers.

Are your products or services appropriate?

Of course, the primary consideration, according to Harrison Magun, Managing Director at eonMedia, is whether your products and services are well suited for online sales in Europe. Marketers should make sure there are no legal restrictions, and must consider shipping limitations. A few examples of good candidates for international sales include: downloadable products, travel-related services, health and beauty items, and B2B wholesale products.

Success requires a localized strategy

Before you rush out and expand your PPC campaigns or submit your site to country specific search engines, take into account the complexities of moving an advertising campaign into another culture and another language. Success will require a well-thought out localized strategy.

The central issue, which affects most campaigns migrating overseas, is that people like to search in their native language. All the experts on this panel agreed that the best approach is to focus on local search engines and conduct your marketing in the local language. This means that, for instance, the French prefer google.fr over google.com. It also means that marketers must create and manage ads and websites in native languages.

IBM's approach offers useful guidelines. Bill Hunt, a search strategist from Global Strategies International and head of IBM's Search Effectiveness Team, explains that the company presents its website in no less than eighty-three languages! Furthermore, there is a rigorous process and an internal council responsible for ensuring accuracy and consistency across all of these sites. Bill offers the following advice to search marketers:

  • Do native language keyword research. Don't just translate your English keywords. Understand the way people actually search in each country.
  • Translate your entire website. Find a highly qualified translator capable of rethinking your message based on the local audience. Keep in mind that most translators are not website optimizers so effort must still be made to incorporate sound optimization principles into the translated sites.
  • Make sure your eCommerce functionality can handle the various currencies you will need to accept.
  • In general, avoid using multiple languages within a site. While it's fine to incorporate a few English words that don't translate well (such as brand names and high-tech terms), it's not a good idea to combine English pages with native language pages, as this can confuse crawlers.
  • And, as always, make sure your translated websites can be easily indexed. For example, a flat .HTML page is preferable to a pop-up or pull-down menu that allows users to select a country/language.

Where to go for help

If you decide that expanding into European search markets is a viable strategy for your company, you don't have to go it alone. Many ad providers, international search engines, and marketing firms will help clients implement European campaigns. Here are a few companies that already offer European-targeted services:

  • Overture has a team of people ready to assist advertisers who are trying to break into new markets.
  • eSpotting's European editorial team will help define your local ad strategy, conduct native language keyword research, and implement European campaigns.
  • Mirago, a European search engine, provides a full suite of services for marketers including: pay-per-click advertising, website optimization, paid inclusion, and trusted feed.
  • eonMedia offers technology, methodology, and expertise to help marketers optimize international campaigns.
  • Ad Maiora, a full-service European online marketing and advertising company, also provides native speakers and linguists to help marketers understand and respond to the local culture.
  • Global Strategies International, a search marketing consultancy, provides advice, training, and local market implementation services.

Successfully reaching out to Europe is more complicated than translating keywords, page titles, and META tags. The experts agree that to succeed, you must be willing to devote the resources necessary to develop a truly localized ad strategy. This includes: understanding the local culture and audience, conducting localized keyword research, and effectively translating ads and entire websites. But remember, all this may be well worth the effort, as you stand to reap the benefits of this rapidly growing and potentially very profitable marketplace.

Good luck, or rather, bonne chance... viel Glueck... buona fortuna!

Want to discuss or comment on this story? Join the Search Marketing: Reaching out to Europe discussion in the Search Engine Watch forums.

Patricia Hursh is a search engine advertising consultant and workshop facilitator with SmartSearch Marketing in Boulder, Colorado.

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