Why Business Needs to Adapt to Global Search Marketing

The flat world in which 21st century businesses operate has leveled the marketing playing field. No longer can any company that seeks to succeed ignore global opportunity or competition which result directly from growing global Internet access.

Meanwhile, President Obama has called for doubling American exports in five years. The Internet enables businesses to open markets overseas easily and economically; adopting a global perspective on marketing, and in particular search marketing, will achieve this.

However, if businesses are to succeed in countries foreign to them, they better know what differences affect how potential customers respond in different cultures; it most certainly isn’t uniform. How do advertisers interpret analytic data if they don’t know the target languages and cultures?

For example, Icelanders will search on Google but won’t shop online. A campaign that targets Icelanders and counts only online purchases will look a failure if success isn’t measured according to the searchers cultural behavior.

One-size doesn’t fit all for doing business online worldwide:

  • In the U.K., Brits look at delivery options and are repeat buyers.
  • In Germany, privacy policies and local payment options need to be clear on the site to convince them to buy.
  • In France, product pictures are as essential as local language for website content.
  • In Spain, return options need to be clear as well as access to customer services to process those returns.
  • In Italy, brand equity plays an important role.
  • Netherlands searchers need clearly secure transactions.
  • Swedes care about reviews and recommendations.

Nor are the same search engines popular: Google isn’t first choice everywhere:

  • In Russia, Yandex is the search engine to use.
  • In Japan, Yahoo is key to success.
  • For China, the search engine Baidu is the key player. In one test we did for a U.S.-based hotel chain marketing in China, Baidu produced great returns, while Google AdWords produced no measurable conversions.

Most of all, translating keywords and content — and worse, transliterating marketing tactics — just doesn’t work.

  • Online businesses selling laptop computers in Sweden need to know that more than 40 percent of Swedes use local words when searching for a PC. That’s a big chunk of market to miss if they use only “PC” or “laptop,” or even the Swedish translations.
  • More than 50 percent of searches for Brazil in the world are spelled wrong. How can businesses help customers find your Brazilian site in those markets?
  • A company selling football boots in the U.K. won’t get much traffic without targeting “soccer cleats” in the U.S.

Foolish and expensive mistakes are made because multinational advertisers fail to accommodate differences among searchers in foreign markets without thinking through what the target customers might actually be doing or seeing on their sites. For example:

  • While 83 percent of Germans shop online and spend an average of €520 every six months, they don’t use search engines to buy airline tickets as much as those in other European countries. Advertisers depending on PPC to attract German air travelers will realize low return on their investment.
  • English-speaking kitchen refit customers in the U.K. might be attracted to Whirlpool results in Google. Imagine their dismay when the site they click-through to is entirely in Italian, because whirlpool.com is hosted in Italy, and hosting in one of the factors that Google uses to gauge which language to display. Without addressing such technical details, business will lose potential customers.

Learn more at the ClickZ International Marketing Forum on August 20 during ClickZ’s Connected Marketing Week in San Francisco. Businesses looking to enter new global markets must develop marketing strategies that take into account unique regional needs. This one-day forum will examine the latest marketing strategies, including social media, mobile, and search marketing, for global markets with a special emphasis on the Asia-Pacific and Latin America.

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