Most search marketers trying to reach overseas prospects obsess over their keywords, localized page content, and how well they rank in the local search engines. Unfortunately, many marketers lose marketing opportunities by not understanding the timing considerations of the local seasonality of their target markets.
Understanding variations in seasons, fiscal years, and popular vacation times is critical to make sure you connect with prospects when they're in the buying mode. Let's look at some factors to consider.
Corporate Fiscal Years
It's important to be aware of the fiscal year cycles in the countries you want to target, especially if you market to businesses or governments. Failure to understand these cycles may force you to wait an entire year to get another shot at them.
For example, in Japan, Hong Kong, India, and the United Kingdom, the government and many corporate fiscal years typically end in March. Therefore, companies will spend surplus budgets in February, as opposed to the U.S. where much of this type of spending takes place in October or December.
Varied School Years
If your products or services target students, parents, or are related to vacation schedules, it's important to understand that these vary widely by country and region due to cultural and seasonal changes.
In Japan and Korea, the traditional school year goes from April to March, with a summer break in the middle. If you sell graduation gifts or run an employment site, you need to adjust your marketing window to accommodate the different seasons in this part of Asia.
For example, a company marketing English language study abroad programs should develop an editorial and marketing calendar around these seasonal variations to ensure they target prospects at the optimal time of the year to take advantage of these breaks and transitions.
Vacations and Holidays
The vacation and holiday seasons around the world vary as much as the language. While Americans typically have two weeks of vacation, many countries around the world enjoy many more. Across the European Union, there are 50 different dates that are observed as national public holidays, yet over 30 of them are observed by no more than one or two member states.
Europeans tend to take extended vacations during the summer and the Christmas and New Year's holiday season. In Italy, it isn't uncommon for most of the country to be on vacation for the entire month of August, with little to no business being conducted. This wouldn't be a good time to launch your new Italian site or campaign, because it's unlikely you would sell much during this time.
Religious or other national celebration holidays vary as well, with the Chinese typically closing for a week in February for the Chinese New Year and a week in October for National Day. Similarly, most of Japan takes off a week in April for "Golden Week," resulting in many Japanese going on vacations away from home. These wouldn't be optimum times for running a search campaign, but the weeks before would be perfect to offer holiday deals.
If you run a travel site or cater to the vacation needs of these international markets, it's essential you understand these key holidays and plan accordingly, especially around your PPC campaigns to target them within the optimal windows.
Religions and Holy Times
There are many considerations you need to factor in when targeting certain countries or large populations of specific religions. Many religions keep Saturday or Sunday free from work.
While traffic surges over the weekend in the U.S. or Japan, it may decrease in countries like Israel or even parts of the U.S. with devout Mormons. Other events follow lunar calendars, like Ramadan, which is a sacred time for Muslims and the starting date of the month-long event based on the Islamic lunar calendar. Singapore accommodates religious beliefs of multiple major languages.
It gets hard to keep up with if you don't have a local calendar. An excellent resource is Wikipedia's holidays by country reference. Also, Google Calendar users can add in holiday and festival entries from many major countries.
We can't cover all of the nuances of global business cycles and holidays in a single column, but the more you understand your target market the better you can understand the appropriate windows of opportunity to reach them when they're most likely to have an interest and willing to engage your product or service.