Top International Search Marketing Failures to Avoid in 2010, Part 2

International search marketing is still relatively new, and like all things new, we learn from our mistakes. In part one of "Top International Search Marketing Failures to Avoid in 2010," we explored two pitfalls: misguided research and not thinking locally.

In misguided research, we learned that establishing your decisions based on the obvious (e.g., targeting by population per your analytics) could lead to failure. Alternatively, using analytics to discover your proper keywords and researching those keywords for opportunities are a much better bet.

Turn Failures into Success
  • Understand your audience. Study cultural attitudes and implement those in your copy, landing pages, and targeted Web sites.
  • Go beyond Google. Sticking to Google's optimization methodology on other engines is a great long-term strategy, but it's equally important to index your site in local engines if you're targeting those particular markets.
  • Avoid translation and localization errors. Get help from good translators and local search marketing experts.

Search marketers must also think locally in every way possible, from language, to the domain name, to having a local office in a country. This is the best way to impress Google or any other local search engine.

Now let's touch on a few other important failures to avoid in international marketing this year.

Failure 3: Not Understanding Your Audience

Every culture across the world is different. So if something works in one country, attempting to mirror it and expecting it to work in another country will certainly lead to failure.

Although understanding your audience is related to target market research, it's important to study cultural attitudes and implement those in your copy, landing pages, and targeted Web sites.

For example, the French consider "price points" as a key to decision making when searching for products online. The Germans look for "quality" in their products as opposed to just price. Koreans look for "technical complexities" as a key decision maker and the Japanese look for the sites ability to gain their "trust."

Although cultural research is probably the most difficult, it's also really interesting and fun to do. There's a lot of information on the Internet about doing business in different cultures.

Try to find a local in your target market. You might be surprised to find out how willing most people are to talk about their culture and what they look for when using search engines. If you find a local, don't forget to send them a thank you gift expressing your appreciation.

Failure 4: Search Positioning the Wrong Way

We all know that Google is a huge market leader internationally, but we don't know how different it is when positioning sites in other markets.

Search algorithms are based on competitive chaos; we set a rule for one keyword and that rule changes based on the competiveness of that keyword.

When I was employed at a search engine years ago, one of the best pieces of advice I ever got was that "search algorithms are based on competitive chaos; we set a rule for one keyword and that rule changes based on the competiveness of that keyword." That explains why long tail, less competitive keywords are easier to rank -- less chaos.

Directories played a major role in gaining link authority in the early days of our industry because there weren't many authoritative, content rich Web sites. However, as our content increased in the U.S., so did search engine reliance on other content providers instead of directories as major "link juice factories."

Outside of the U.S., keyword competition will naturally be lower because there is less content. Directories are still a major factor in providing the "link juice" your site needs. Don't ignore them.

Also, don't forget other search engines -- Baidu, Yandex, Naver, Seznam, and other local search engines are sometimes more prevalent then Google. Although sticking to Google's optimization methodology on other engines may be your best long-term strategy, it's equally important to index your site in those local engines if you're targeting those particular markets.

Failure 5: Getting Bad Help

The biggest failure in international search marketing comes down to translations and poor global communication.

Live by this rule: search engine experts are not translators and translators are not experts in search marketing. Both of them have made tons of hilarious translation mistakes -- from truly incomprehensible to downright offensive.

Your best bet: combine the local search marketing expert to the translator and have them proof each other's work. The search marketer should know the client's products inside and out. They don't have time to translate, but can at least review and offer feedback to the translator. Your local search marketer can also provide localized keyword research on terms that the translation agency might never think of.

As for the translators, don't expect them to know your product and service. Chances are they won't and they'll make some big translation failures during the first draft of their work.

To avoid translation and localization errors (if you're marketing to several global markets), consider appointing a person as the central point of contact for all global search programs. This person would effectively manage all aspects from search partners, translators, and local experts, play a key role in timing campaign launches, and communicate the overall objectives of your search engine programs.

Just Remember

The creation of SEM and SEO was based on the failures of search engines to technically index information on the Web. When we succeeded through our own failures to manipulate the codes on our sites and learn the artificial intelligence of an electronic spider, our sites ranked. My advice to you for 2010: don't be afraid of making mistakes because you can always look at our failures as a form of success.

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 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.