International Search Marketing Guide to the Holidays

When money is tight here in North America, people look for online deals, especially around the holidays. For those of you who run international search campaigns, you may be surprised that culture and buying behavior during the holidays is different in other countries. Not only do people shop online and use search engines differently, they also do things differently during the holidays.

Planning and succeeding with your international holiday search marketing strategy can seem daunting. There is opportunity, however, if you can time things right and present relative offers to this highly elusive global crowd.

Holidays in Asia

Although many Asians don’t celebrate the religious holidays of Western cultures, they almost all celebrate January 1 festivities. For the Chinese, February 14, 2010 is the official date of their Chinese New Year.

There’s much more to it than just firecrackers and tiger dances, although these two pieces of tradition are fundamental. Chinese New Year to China is like Christmas to the West. The Chinese New Year is spending time with family, gift giving, and feasting.

Most search queries skyrocket within two to three weeks prior, and almost every shop in China has a huge sale. Competition in online retail heats up during this time, as well as competition to drive visitors to brick-and-mortar stores.

Similar to the Chinese, Koreans celebrate the lunar New Year as a significant holiday event. Yet, alternatively, they also celebrate Christmas as an official holiday because about half of Koreans are Christian. The only difference is that December 25 is actually the day to party and January 1 is the day of being with family and feasting. Search success in Korea means you can let your campaigns run for a longer time then anywhere else in the world.

In Japan, they celebrate a combination of Thanksgiving plus Labor Day called Kinro Kansha no Hi. Christmas isn’t a public holiday; however New Year’s is one of the most important holidays of the year. The days are spent playing games with family and relatives giving gifts (typically cash) to children and grandchildren.

Other than travel, the holiday season in Japan usually doesn’t reap the rewards in B2C search marketing as other countries might, but B2B in this Asian country during December is quite good as preparations are made and planned accordingly for the new year.

Holidays in Europe

One benefit of growing up in a multicultural household was that I celebrated Christmas starting December 6, which for many countries around Europe is the day that St. Nicolas brings around gifts to stuff in your stockings. Christmas holidays for Greeks officially end on January 6, the day of Epiphany.

As you can imagine, if you didn’t start your Greek Christmas search marketing campaign by mid-November, you’ve already missed the celebratory kickoff date of December 6. However, if you stop your campaign by December 25, you won’t do yourself a favor either because January 1 (St. Basil’s Day) is the day when Greeks commonly exchange presents with their kids.

Now just because many countries in Europe celebrate St. Nick’s day December 6 doesn’t mean that Christmas is over. Quite the contrary, its really just the beginning of a month-long celebration.

Concentrating your search efforts around quality B2C products and services and travel, you’ll certainly find some success. It’s also important to remember that Europeans typically celebrate the month together with family and friends — eating, drinking, and enjoying each other’s company. Gift giving on Christmas Eve is typically limited to just a few gifts per person.

Getting things done on a B2B level, on the other hand, is more challenging because the Euro mindset isn’t so focused on work. Spain, for example, has 12 days of nonstop fiestas leading to the 25th and, like Greece, goes out in style with a huge celebration on January 6, the day of Epiphany.

The U.K. and Ireland are probably the closest to North America’s version of the holidays. Almost equally celebrated on December 26 is St. Stephen’s Day, also known as Boxing Day, when after-Christmas sales are attended to and important football matches are played. You’ll see some online search “wins” here if you can take advantage of the time after Christmas effectively.

Holidays in Latin America

Mexico has many traditions, with festivities starting December 12 and ending January 6. Children typically receive their gifts on the last day.

The rest of Latin America celebrates Christmas closer in style to Catholic Europeans, with celebrations starting from the middle of the month to Christmas Eve. Keep in mind that it’s the middle of summer when Christmas comes around here, so search traffic will already be low.

Brazil, the master procrastinators of all countries, begins their Christmas shopping season usually within a few weeks prior to Christmas. Expect to see a spike in search traffic only to drop off after the 23rd. After Christmas, Brazilians will begin their New Year’s festivities, which consist of millions of people dressed in white on the beach, celebrating with fireworks and huge parties.

The key takeaway while you maneuver around your search marketing efforts on international holidays in comparison to North America: remember that festivities are longer, gift giving is fewer, and the most emphasis is spending time with family and friends and not spending much time on the computer.

As e-commerce, mobile, and social media further converge, we’ll see a much stronger global usage during the holidays in the future. If you would like more information on specific country-by-country Christmas customs, check Wikipedia’s Christmas worldwide. Happy holidays!

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