All of us in international search will tell you that if you want to go international, then you’ll have to be international. In other words: don’t skimp out on localization and translation.
Several businesses would like to implement search marketing abroad but either the translations would be too expensive, there are too many unfamiliar market/export regulations and/or shipping costs dig into revenue. In my view, failure rests only in the lack of trying. When it comes to international campaigns there is no better or cheaper alternative then testing out an international search marketing campaign.
Hopefully, today’s article will open your mind to the possibility that you can still go international with an English only strategy, the results might not be as good as if you were local, but it’s still very possible to succeed.
Learn About Your Industry
The most success in an English-only strategy fits well in industries in education (English schools, international private schools, universities), business-to-business products/services (industrial goods, biotechnology and technology) and travel/hospitality. People, especially in non-English speaking countries, tend to be suspicious of translated foreign consumer goods sites, targeting an English campaign in these markets may be challenging unless you represent a known brand.
As you create a list of countries to target, you should look at what your biggest multinational competitors are doing. What markets are they in? How do they stack up in comparison to local sites in search? You may be surprised that your competitors are leveraging international markets when you aren’t.
Targeting English Speaking Countries
Targeting the English speaking countries should always be a natural start to your campaign. United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia/New Zealand and South Africa are the obvious choices. Yet there are many others who consider English as their official language even if they speak a variety of other languages. Look at this list of countries where English is an official language () – you’ll find huge markets in the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, and Africa.
Targeting the English Speaking Expatriate Markets
Once you’re done identifying your English speaking markets, the next step would be to identify expatriate markets. Expats are typically migrants from one country to another.
For the purpose of our article, we’ll only focus on the four types of English-speaking expats:
- Professional: Typically job and employment relocations.
- Lifestyle migrant: Retirees and those who choose a foreign lifestyle.
- Students: Students either studying a foreign language, learning English or are attend a school with English as the main curriculum.
- Ethnic communities: A community of people who may have originated from one country living in another country. For example, the Indian community in France or the Jewish community in Australia.
According to a recent www.cartus.com survey of 116 multinational corporations, the top expat destinations for professionals over the next two years are:
- United Arab Emirates (UAE) (10 percent)
- South Africa (9 percent)
- Mexico (8 percent)
- Malaysia and Saudi Arabia (6 percent)
- The Philippines and Vietnam (5 percent)
Targeting expat professionals is a great strategy, not only will you find that these professionals have a longing for English products that aren’t found in their host country, there is nearly instant trust gained for products/services from their home countries. Professionals are typically high earners who are more connected, more wired and more digital then any other consumer segment. Identifying these communities could be challenging since they are spread out so much, but you’ll find many that are based in the most popular cities of their host countries.
This group won’t be as committed to English products as much as a professional, but they are still great markets to identify. Rather elusive, these people who are English speakers chose a new lifestyle because they really wanted to. They are likely to love the culture, land, and language of their host country and will want to fit in as much as possible. Most of these migrants are affluent retirees and you will find many of them in resort destinations in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, South Pacific and throughout Mediterranean Europe.
There are hundreds of thousands of English speaking students who study abroad, those from the families of professionals, college students attending an international college for their bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate, and those who study a foreign language for a semester or two.
Although, you will find the majority of English speaking students studying abroad in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, or Latin America other countries in Asia are becoming more and more popular, specifically China. English speaking students certainly fit into their own category, like professional expats they tend to be very Internet savvy and connected yet not very affluent. Similar to lifestyle migrants, they have a passion toward the culture/language of their host country, yet not as committed for most of them only expect to live in the countries for limited period of time.
The United Nations puts the worldwide number of international migrants at 200 million people. They are the most overlooked markets for marketers, yet for those who master it enjoy an enormous brand loyalty benefit.
English speaking ethnic communities can range from millions of Indians living in France to Irish communities living in Puerto Rico. There is a massive, yet often neglected opportunity to find English speaking ethnic communities abroad and effectively market to them.
Implementing Your Search Campaigns
Once you’ve decided where to go, the next step is the strategy. This is where you have to be particularly careful with your keywords. English is not the same everywhere and as a strategy, you may want to consider what’s known as “International English”.
International English is quickly being standardized as a mix of American and British English; however it isn’t adopted en masse. The majority of English speakers are actually not American, so “colour” is “color”, “labour” is “labor” and so on.
Spelling isn’t the only thing to be attentive to. In Britain, a “bonnet” is actually the “hood” of a car (a.k.a., automobile). “Pants” mean “underwear” and “Willy” is not an appropriate nickname for someone whose name is William.
Your keywords, ad copy landing pages may need to carry enough optimal weight to be standardized for best performance. There are also English terms used in other languages that may mean something else, so do your research and do it well.
The key to this is testing and trying lots of variants of ad copy and landing pages. Evaluate CTR, search volume, and (most importantly) conversions. CTR will give you some idea of relevancy, while search volume gives you opportunity data. Conversion ratios could be problematic when you look at them in terms of ad performance because of so many other issues (shipping, taxation, trust, etc.).
Organic search marketing may work for English speaking markets, but does take time and investment. There are many specific tactics you’ll need to employ but the most important one would be local links to local pages on your site. You might even find yourself ranking in English in a foreign language version of Google however, there are search engines such as Baidu that don’t index English sites into its search engine (instead, Baidu partners with Bing China to provide English results).
Even though there are 1.3 billion speakers of Chinese and Spanish, English with 350 million speakers is still the most widely spoken language of business and international commerce. If you’re thinking of trying out a few markets for your search campaigns, it won’t hurt to do English first as a strategy. Who knows, your learnings gained from testing may even make it worthwhile to localize, oops, I mean “localise”.
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