5 Factors to Help You Identify the Best Global Search Markets

One thing that I constantly see is search marketers rushing to their analytics to determine what country is providing the most traffic to their sites in order to determine which markets to target first.

Although utilizing analytics is helpful, it isn't the only solution. In many cases, you may even miss out in markets that have the most potential buyers for your product or service.

Here are the five key factors for identifying markets:

  • Analytics
  • Keyword Research Data
  • Competition
  • Technical Challenges
  • E-commerce Challenges

In order to break down all of the identification factors, I use a simple spreadsheet to calculate and rank the importance of each one. On one column, all of my target countries are listed. On the top bar, I list each individual factor. I then provide a score baseline of 1 to 10 with 1 being the most challenging to 10 being the easiest. Finally, I add averages to the end.

It looks something like this:

identification-factors-scorecard.png
click to enlarge

Now let's talk about each individual factor, what to look for, and why they are important.

Analytics

Analytics is still important. However, again, it isn't just about which country brings you the most traffic.

China may bring you the most traffic, but that doesn't mean it's that great to target if you have a 52 percent bounce rate.

Also take conversions into consideration. Are they averaging around the same conversion rate as your local site (e.g., if you're in the United States, then the U.S. would be your local site)?

At this point, I simply don't calculate if a country is bringing in conversions or not. If they have no conversions, it may be a different factor like the users in another country can't pay with their debit card or your shopping cart is confusing to them.

For now, keep conversion figures only in your mind because that's our sole objective. We're likely going to be using conversions to benchmark a market we're just getting into.

Low factor scores should be given to the least traffic and the worst bounce rate. High factors should show normal bounce rate and good traffic.

Keyword Research Data

Keyword research is far more than just a straight translation of your highly optimized English keywords.

If you just translate and then throw that in your Google bid tool to come up with more foreign words and traffic data, 9 times out of 10 you'll miss out on a significant portion of traffic. Why? Unless you use a homegrown native search specialist, a direct translation doesn't account for many important factors.

For example, translating the phrase "coffee bean" in French will give you the direct translation, "Café en Grain." Google reports 4,850 searches per month in France for that term.

However, Google the translator never told me that "grain de café" was almost the identical phrase that people use in search. I would've missed out on 3,850 searches if not for my French search engine optimization (SEO) expert. When you get the correct keyword research done by search pros, you'll actually find a lot of hidden opportunity in your initial target country list.

Low scores should be given to the least amount of search data after doing your keyword research. High scores should be for the highest availability of searches in that country. You may want to break this down to an Internet usage per cap.

Competition

There are two types of competition: local and global. It may make sense to make two competitor columns from this.

For your global competitors, you're trying to identify how big they are compared to your company, how many there are, how much more money they have to allocate, if they're just branding, and if you can compete?

Consider all these factors when scoring. The lowest score is for the most difficult to compete against because of the amount of large global competitors. The higher score shows little global competitors.

Local competition is similar in a way, but you would need to utilize your keyword research to find local competitors that are in that market. The more you have, the tougher it will be. You need to factor in that data correctly in your spreadsheet.

Technical Challenges

Technical challenges consist of the resources you may have to endure in order to design correctly for a given market.

For example, in Korea, most people find busy sites appealing. You may need to overhaul your site to make it really effective.

Additionally, there are more technical challenges such as hosting, ccTLDs, and de-duplicating similar language content. Your scoring should reflect this with applying a lower score to a more challenging situation to a higher score to something easier.

Canada, for example, ranks high for me. Besides a little content de-duplication, it's easier then Japan.

E-commerce Challenges

Outside of the U.S. and in many countries, using a credit card isn't the norm. According to a Research and Markets report on global online payment methods in 2010:

  • Credit card (67 percent) was the preferred payment method in the U.S. for holiday online shopping in 2009, followed by debit card (36 percent).

    While German men use credit cards for more than 40 percent of online purchases, women continue to use the traditional direct debit method.

  • Sella (31 percent) was Italy's preferred online payment company in 2009, followed by Cartasi (19 percent) and PayPal (15 percent).

  • iDeal was the most accepted payment method in the Netherlands in 2009, with 89 percent of merchants accepting it.

  • Money transfer (43 percent) was the preferred payment method of B2C e-commerce consumers in China in 2009.

Factor in how well you're prepared to provide e-commerce in your initial target markets on your scorecard. Rank the lowest for the ones you would find the most difficult. Rank the highest to the easiest and most familiar setup you may have locally.

All of these factors can be modified to your business model. If you don't sell anything, then obviously there would be no need for factoring e-commerce challenges. Format how you wish but just make sure everything is equal in weight to each other or your averages will be thrown off.

If you'd like more details, I'll be speaking at several conferences this year about targeting, and also providing examples and case studies on the points made above. Feel free to contact me or catch me at an upcoming show.

Join us for SES London 2011, the Leading Search & Social Marketing Event, taking place February 21-25! The conference offers sessions on topics including search engine optimization (SEO), keyword analysis, link building, local, mobile, video, analytics, social media, and more. Register now.

About the author

Michael Bonfils is the International Managing Director of SEM International, a division of International Media Management Corp.

Since 1996, Michael was one of the early pioneers in the search engine industry, working in-house for a multinational firm prior to being in charge of Search Engine Strategy at Business.com in 2000-01.

In 2001, his International passion led him to opening up his own firm and an office in Asia after recognizing the need for U.S.-based online marketing agencies requiring an outsourced solution to provide services to their clients outside of the United States.

As the demand for his company's services expanded into other countries, he spread out further into Asia, Europe and eventually Latin America. Today, SEM International is a global network of in-country search engine marketing agencies providing a one stop, centralized solution for Intl search engine marketing management.