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Opportunities in the Latino Search Market

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While U.S. search marketers have devoted most of the attention to optimizing and advertising opportunities in the major search engines of the dominant country and culture, there are certainly fast-growing new markets and untapped opportunities from multicultural audiences in their native country as well as abroad.

Should Latinos be your next target market? If you want to explore new search marketing opportunities, expand with growing economies, and reach young, Internet-savvy consumers, tapping into the Latino market may prove to be one of the best strategies out there today.

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

Defining the "Latino" market is not an easy task. The term "Latino" today is commonly used to describe both U.S. Hispanics and Hispanics living elsewhere in North, Central and South America; or Spanish-speaking residents of Caribbean islands.

The term "Latin America" is used loosely to refer to all of the Americas south of the U.S. including countries such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Haiti. Just beginning to understand the Latin American market can become a history lesson in itself.

The Online U.S. Hispanic Market

Presenters at SES Latino all agreed that U.S. Hispanics have very desirable and young demographics that are extremely advantageous for search marketers. Some notable demographics and Internet behavior stats include:

  • U.S. Hispanics are more intensive than the U.S. general market. The average U.S. Hispanic spends 20 percent more time online, with 25 percent more pages viewed. They're using the Internet more than 17 hours per week, and more than half that time is spent on sites written in Spanish. In fact, U.S. Hispanics now spend more time online than they do watching television.
  • According to a 2006 Interactive Advertising Bureau study, U.S. Hispanics are slightly younger, better educated, and more tech-savvy than non-Hispanic respondents.
  • Roughly half of U.S. Hispanics speak Spanish fluently, and roughly half of Latino adults (7.1 million) prefer Spanish language sites.

Now, here's what makes U.S. Hispanics especially desirable for search marketers:

  • 89 percent of U.S. Hispanic online population searches. That's the highest ratio compared to all other worldwide regions.
  • While the U.S. Hispanic market is just 2 percent of the total search market worldwide, they are growing by 5 percent year over year. (Compare that to just 2 percent yearly growth of overall U.S. population.)
  • U.S. Hispanic audiences are highly penetrated and growing audiences in the area of search. They are quicker adopters of new online media, and heavy users of social networking sites with search. They are also highly engaged audiences to target messages and services through search.
  • Significant portions of the U.S. Hispanic market prefer to search Spanish language sites, including Spanish language versions of popular search engines (Google EspaÑol and Yahoo Telemundo) and search portals based in their own country of origin or heritage.
  • Video Search has a high penetration with the U.S. Hispanic market. MySpace Video is number one with the Latin American market, and YouTube recently came out with Portuguese and Spanish language versions with Latin American regions for video search.

The Online Latin American Market

Latin America has the highest engagement level online compared to all other parts of the world. Brazil, Argentina, and Columbia are ranked first, second, and fourth respectively.

For some regional stats:

  • The top 3 online traffic levels: Brazil, Mexico, Argentina
  • The top 3 Internet penetration in terms of the overall population: Argentina (26%), Mexico (18%), Brazil (17%). (Compared to 15% of Latin Americans as a whole.

An average Internet penetration of 15 percent is not something that by itself will turn any heads in the online marketing industry. But further research turns up some enticing results. According to an April 2006 report by comScore Networks, while Latinos make up just 7 percent of the total search market worldwide, but they are posting double-digit increases in terms of growth, with a 16 percent increase from the previous year. Latinos represent over 45 million unique visitors (ranked #2 in the entire world), and are predicted to grow at even higher rates for 2007.

Of course, traffic figures themselves are irrelevant without the monetization aspect and security of e-commerce transactions, both on the customer and client sides. At SES Latino, all of the conference speakers were in agreement that the Latin American economy is a much better and safer for investment now than ever before.

According to Marcello Sant'Iago, director of business development at MidiaClic-Performance marketing, the Internet is an especially favored source for final brand decisions among most online Hispanics. Over 77 percent of online Hispanics use the Internet to compare products, and more than 72 percent use the Internet to compare prices.

Martin Maslo, founder and CEO of Resultics, considers Latin America to have very high-quality traffic. E-commerce in Latin America is rapidly growing, with over 50 percent of Internet users having already purchased a service or product online. More people than that research their purchases on the web. Over 60 percent will purchase through more traditional methods after completing their online research.

Now for some especially good news – this rapidly growing Internet audience and e-commerce opportunities are being matched with high search activity. According to Jack Flannigan of comScore Networks, three countries in Latin America – Colombia, Brazil, and Argentina – have search levels per user almost double that of the U.S. (Likely due to the newness and growth of Internet usage in these countries).

As for the search portals, The major players have already settled in the region: Google set up shop in Argentina just 2 years ago, yet it is the most dominant search engine by far, with a whopping 72 percent of the total pageviews per share in the region. Yahoo is second with 17 percent of total page views, MSN is 3rd with 2 percent, and local search market players make up the final 9 percent.

Like their U.S. Hispanic counterparts, the social search and search networks (blogs, video, forums, and mobile/cell phone) is are wildly popular and leverage user-generated content to combine the best of regular search and social search results. According to Rafael Jimenez, general manager of the advertiser and publisher group for Yahoo Hispanic America, "Social search has had huge success in the region. Twenty million users in the Latin American region have registered with Yahoo Answers in less than a year. Yahoo feels that this reflects the engagement and curiosity of the Latin Market."

More advantages to early penetration of the Latin American search market, according to Emerson Calegaretti, VP of client development, Latin America, at Acronym Media:

  • Latin Americans have the highest online user-to-search penetration per capita: Over 81 percent of Internet users in Latin America use a search engine (totaling 68 million unique users.)
  • The amount of optimized, quality search content in Latin America (including in Spanish and Portuguese) right now is very low, and wide open for search optimizers.
  • There are many local players in the SEM industry, and they are growing a lot.
  • Market expansion is going to grow along with user penetration. More and more companies are seeing the value of the local presence and will be entering the market.
  • The search engine market is expected to show 100 percent growth year-over-year, with search advertising growing almost five-fold in just 4 years.
  • Less competition means search engine advertising's average cost-per-click (CPC) in Latin American countries is very low compared to U.S.

According to MÍdiaClick's Sant'Iago, advertising in Spanish is significantly more effective when targeting Hispanics than advertising exclusively in English. William Alvarez, marketing manager and team leader at Torrenegra Internet Solutions, outlined many advantages of search marketing (advertising and optimization) in both Spanish and English:

  • Besides U.S. Hispanics, you will also reach users from Spain and Latin America.
  • Your message will reach your target audience in their preferred language.
  • You can optimize both content and keywords in each language, without having that content treated as duplicate content by search engines.
  • There is less competition and cost in the Spanish-language pay per click (PPC) market.
  • According to the Roslow Research Group, most of the U.S. Hispanic market with dual language abilities demonstrated better ad recall, persuasion and communication when the ads were in Spanish.

Ready to Move Forward?

There is definitely a fast-growing opportunity for search marketers with the U.S. Hispanic and Latin American markets. But to really capitalize on the potential of this market segment, search marketers will need to carefully plan a strategy that will help reach Latinos, and that takes into account the complexities of multiple languages, nationalities, cultures, gender and age demographics, and acculturation levels to the United States.

What is understood is that this market appreciates and responds to sites that have made the effort to reach them on their own terms. It is a market that is just starting to realize its potential, and search marketers reaching out to the Latino market today may find themselves to be the major players in a thriving and dominant market for years to come.

Coming next, Part 2 of 3: Challenges of the Latino search market.

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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