This year's SES San Francisco Global Search Marketing Best Practices Roundtable was a particularly interesting session, thanks to excellent questions posed by participants and the sheer knowledge and experience of the speakers.
Session attendees had one full hour to ask anything of the panel they wished. Moderator Anne Kennedy fielded audience questions for Bill Hunt, Crispin Sheridan, Rosemary Lising, and Maura Ginty.
Here are seven highlights from this information-packed session.
Localization Requires More Than a Straight Literal Translation
A participant asked, “On localization and translation, what does that mean for you?” Lising noted that in the Asian market, English to Japanese translations, for example, often fail to match local search terms or even the context in which the phrase was intended; localization is a required extra step.
Ginty added that her company tried translation automation, but it simply didn’t work. They’ve started using a vendor to assure an extra step in translation and localizing content when they need it. This vendor works with in-house staff to ensure that synonyms and terms make sense for search.
Use Sitename/Country Folders, Geotargeting, Redirected Links to Remedy Duplicate Content Issues
When asked about the tendency for search engines to ignore multiple pages of similar English content for sites in different countries, using the UK, South Africa, and U.S. as examples, Hunt recommended using ccTLDs, though he notes it’s become less important as Google realizes that can be tough for companies. He uses a series of folders with sitename/country and has consolidated several sites this way into three main sites.
The problem goes deeper, though. Hunt believes Google’s geotargeting is broken and that because of Panda, it finds duplicate content before geotargeting gets in. Even when using Google webmaster tools to say everything in the /uk folder is the same as the main page, he believes Panda is overriding geotargeting and promised it was on his list to bring to Google’s attention.
Another issue that could be a factor in ranking is the tendency for multinationals to use the .com as the English page, resulting in all links pointing to the U.S. page and it trumping all others. Find links that should be going to that market and ask them to redirect links to the country pages.
Mobile, Social Advertising and Organic Social Working Well Outside of the U.S.
“There's a lot of talk about not using social for direct response," Sheridan said. "We tried to see, how far can you push the envelope with direct response without people unfriending us? We found that people registered at a rate of 2.5 times the regular registration rate when posting on different country pages and pointing back to our content.”
Lising commented that 70 to 80 percent of the time, when they listen to the consumer and then make the change, they see a lift; either in better response, or in revenue. They have seen this lift in different markets, where the degree of the lift varies. She credits mobile with changing how they run their programs.
Ginty believes social advertising is probably going to give a bump to search; it's more like display advertising. Her strategy in organic social for two years was to avoid direct response and use it for awareness and customer service.
How Audiences Consume Content is a Factor in Localization
User preferences as far as the volume and formatting of content can vary widely in different markets.
Sheridan used the example of Match.com’s Japan site to highlight the importance of user behaviour in localizing content. In Japan, he says, people will read more information if it’s available; they actually prefer a lot more content than Americans. His company added more content at the bottom of the page to offer value and help with optimization.
Geotargeting Can be a Negative for U.S. Companies Targeting the Canadian Market
An audience member asked, “When it comes to the United States and Canada, where each get a certain percentage of the search budget, is there a best practice for allocating a portion to each market?”
Sheridan recommended the company look at the ROI of the Canadian portion of the search budget and use that data to increase/decrease that share. Further, allot a percentage to the French Canadian market. He noted that Quebec French is not the same as France French and this is a factor in localization.
Geotargeting has the largest negative impact; companies with a .ca are trumping companies without. He recommends setting .ca/en for the English version of the site and .ca/fr for the French to increase visibility.
Buy TLDs Where Possible for Protection
The panel agreed that the expense of creating and managing a separate entity for each TLD can be out of reach for many in their current position. If you have the budget, though, Hunt recommended purchasing the TLDs for legal and brand protection.
“If you have any aspirations to go into any market anywhere in the world, if you think you might have an IPO, if you make over $5 million a year, buy the top level domains. Someone else is going to,” Hunt said.
Redirect TLDs to Folders if Operating as Separate Entities is Unaffordable
If you can't afford the IT, content, and management, redirect them to folders on the English site.
“Take three layers: global content, so it's probably going to be in English. You might be routing people from smaller regional sites to a master English site for some content. The second part is regional-centric content; you may have 60 percent of your product portfolio that isn't translated. Not optimal, but it's there. The third part is your truly local content. That is the tiering of content and it's all sort of neatly tied to market opportunity,” Hunt said.
He also noted that 87 percent of countries do country code and then possibly language. Using the country code allows scalability.