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Implementing your Search Strategy for the Latino Market, Part 1

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Our previous articles covered the opportunities, challenges, and essential planning strategies for the US Hispanic and Latin American search markets. In this final two-part article, we discuss ways to implement those strategies as recommended by established search marketing professionals in the Latino arena, and offer a resources list to help you promote your content in Latino Web sites, vertical search services, and Latino ad and social networks.

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

Production: Developing a Latino-optimized Web Site

Localize Your Web Domain Structure

The first place you should start with any site development is your domain setup. According to Ian McAnerin, CEO of McAnerin Networks, the best method for showing up in your targeted country's search results is to have a site with the country code top level domain (ccTLD).

The TLD identifies the origin of a domain name. TLD are divided in two different kinds: Generic (gTLD) and Country Code (ccTLD). ccTLDs are commonly used to identify the location of a site. Examples would be .mx for Mexico, .br for Brazil, and .ar for Argentina. McAnerin explains that having a ccTLD in you target country will provide a considerable boost to being indexed and optimized for both country- and region-specific search engines. "Search engines give a ranking boost to local sites relevant to the local search," says McAnerin.

A business should register ccTLDs in all of the countries in which it plans to develop or have a commercial presence. However, certain requirements may apply. For example, in Brazil, the owner of the domain is required to be native or to be a resident of that country. This means obtaining a ccTLD may require partnerships with businesses (and residents) in those host countries. (Customer support centers are sometimes used for this purpose, as they typically have office locations in those host countries.)

If you can't obtain the ccTLD of your target countries, McAnerin recommends as a workaround that you host your site in your target country with that target country's IP. "After domain names, the search engines use IP geolocation. Yahoo, MSN, and Ask all use link analysis as a final backup," says McAnerin.

And if you can't do that, McAnerin says to get lots of links from other sites considered relevant to your target market.

McAnerin recommends setting up your Web site following domain structure:

  • Separate regions on separate ccTLD domains. (Using the example of Mexico, yourwebsite.mx)
  • Separate languages on subdomains (Example – es.yourwebsite.com)
  • Separate topics or audience groups in subdirectories (Example – yourwebsite.com/ush for targeting U.S. Hispanics)

You can also create combinations of subdomains and subdirectories for multiple target audiences in multiple languages. For example, a site in Spanish targeting both U.S. Hispanics and Latin Americans could show the following URLs: es.yourwebsite.com/ush, and es.yourwebsite.com/la.

Create a Spanish (and Portuguese) Language Web site

Search marketing is about delivering the most customized and relevant information. Sarah Bernier, Spanish language search marketing consultant for FindLaw.com, says that developing copy in your target audience's preferred language is the foundation for accomplishing this.

"Providing copy in Spanish gives the Spanish speaker a unique experience," says Bernier. Even if people who can speak Spanish prefer to use your site in English, having the Spanish language option works as a powerful acculturation model that shows you can identify and relate to your audience.

Emerson Calgaretti of Acronym Media says you should also know when to use "neutral" Spanish, versus "regional" Spanish – i.e., Spanish with a regional dialect spoken by your target audience. "There's a 'universal Spanish' that's neutral to regions and accents. It's mostly known as 'Colombian Spanish' because people in Colombia have a neutral approach to the language," says Calgaretti.

However, if you're promoting a consumer product, Calgaretti says to make sure that the audience you're targeting understands the neutral translation of your product's description and brand. "Some consumer products do not translate to neutral Spanish and can damage your marketing effort. In this case, it's better to target regional audiences," he says.

Building up an additional language Web site is considerable work, so if you can't create it all at once, do your work in stages:

  • Level 1: General content
  • Level 2: Product/service content
  • Level 3: Regional audiences and dialects.

"Building content naturally also lets you receive traffic from Spain and Latin America." says William Alvarez, marketing manager of Torrenegra Internet Solutions. "It's perfectly allowable to optimize translated content and keywords in multiple languages on a single Web site or across multiple Web sites, without it being treated as duplicate content by the search engines."

However, keep in mind that it you still will not be able to submit duplicate in the same language, even if they are on separate Web sites with separate ccTLDs. Optimize for just your most popular domain for each individual language; exclude any duplicate content sites from being indexed by the search engines by inserting a robots.txt file with "no index, no follow" on each of them. (Simply follow this rule – have only one indexable site per language.)

Want to reach over a third of the Latin American population? Optimize in Portuguese as well. Portuguese is the native language of Brazil, the Latin American country with the highest population of Internet users at 32 million, according to marketing data provided by Calgaretti. That's roughly equivalent to the entire population of Canada.

Looking for assistance with generating fresh copy? Francis Petty, online marketing manager for LaNacion S.A., strongly recommends letting your users generate content for your site. Petty explains that Latino audiences are strongly into social search networks. They are the ethnic segment most likely to contribute feedback and create their own social and community circles on your Web site, should you make it available to them.

Optimizing Your Web Site for Latino Audiences

It can be tricky determining what you should optimize in Spanish, and what you shouldn't. According to Matt Williams, VP of Prominent Placement, model numbers and English name brands are things that will still optimize better in the English language with a Spanish language audience. "Spanish language speakers will type these things in English," says Williams.

"Don't worry about using special characters with the U.S. Hispanic audience" for any perceived keyword optimization boost, says Bernier. "U.S. Hispanic Web users don't generally use accents in their searches, due to keyboard issues." However, that's not to say to not have them at all on your site. "We always use special characters in our client sites' metadata," adds Bernier. "This is good for call-to-action purposes. It shows you're culturally astute and speaks volumes of your professionalism; you want to show your knowledge of the language with your target audience."

Lucas Morea of LatinEdge adds that if you do need to show accented keywords in your body content, "use them in places users won't read very carefully. Don't use them in places like the Title tag or main body of content."

Francis Petty, Online Marketing Manager for LaNacion S.A., offers these on-page SEO best practices:

  • Optimize for multiple synonyms from your English language counterpart.
  • Translate all of your title tags, meta descriptions, and image ALT tags.
  • Before submitting your site to the search engines, conduct quality assurance checks on your optimization work with native language speakers; and preferably, with native language professional copywriters.

Tomorrow in Part 2, we'll finish up the series with a look at some marketing strategies for your site, offering a resources list on promoting your content in Latino Web sites, vertical search services, and Latino ad and social networks.

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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