Hispanic Search Marketing: U.S. Focus, Global Perspective

U.S. Hispanic market Generation 2.0: the hottest market in SEM. Before you commit clients or your company to a bilingual search marketing campaign, slow down. Slow down to avoid getting burned. Do you make decisions based on conventional wisdom? Then the best you can hope for is a conventional campaign.

Instead, consider how to approach the U.S. Hispanic market from a global advertising agency’s perspective.

The U.S. Hispanic population presents a unique opportunity for Web site owners. Conventional wisdom says you need to launch a Spanish language or bilingual campaign to win the trust and respect of the burgeoning Hispanic population. Later, we’ll discuss why that may not always be true.

First, let’s review current demographics and statistics. Market data shows that the U.S. Hispanic population numbers between 43 million and 45 million. Buying power will exceed $1 trillion per year by 2011.

The U.S. Census bureau has identified nearly 1.6 million Hispanic-owned businesses, producing nearly $222 billion in revenue, in 2002. The number of Latino-owned businesses grew by 31 percent from 1997 to 2002 – a rate that is three times the national average.

Major centers, such as New York City with 2.2 million Hispanics, and Los Angles with about 1.7 million, represent opportunities for geo-targeted marketing. Cities with large Hispanic populations could be useful for performing test marketing on a localized basis before going national.

You might assume that targeting this market means you have to translate your Web site into Spanish. However, new data is beginning to suggest that this is no longer the case.

Let me introduce you to Maria Lopez-Knowles, senior vice president of MRM Worldwide. Maria participated in the Hispanic 2.0 panel at the recent Advertising Week 2007 conference in New York.

Maria told me that about 16 million Hispanics are actively online, and 11 million to 12 million of these prefer to communicate in English. That means you should be thinking about cultural issues instead of translation issues.

Appealing to this market requires cultural sensitivity. Once you begin to realize this, you quickly become focused on learning what those differences are. According to Maria, just a few examples of differences are that second generation Hispanics:

  • Are often bilingual.
  • Have stronger identification with religious icons.
  • May have multiple families under one roof.
  • Consider the kitchen central to the family.
  • Tend to have matriarchal families.
  • Likely have different music choices.
  • May have different dietary and lifestyle choices.

One strategy for maximum reach is to offer a Web site that provides content in both English and Spanish, with a bidirectional toggle to change it on the fly. This provides you with the opportunity to address all generations at once.

One key thing to understand is that this is a group with their feet in both worlds. They are bilingual and bicultural. Messaging that takes these differences into account can be very effective.

Second generation Latinos also influence the buying decisions and brand loyalty of the first generation. You can reach several more people by focusing on the second generation.

The opportunity to target messaging to the bilingual and bicultural audience is most likely transient in nature. Typically, cultural ties to their origin begin to weaken significantly in a third generation group.

One site that Maria cited as doing a very good job is MSN Latino. The first thing that emerges quickly from a look at the site is that there is a language toggle at the top right. If you click on the English link, it takes you to the regular MSN site.

What you get is more than a language change, because there are some content changes between the two versions. Chances are that these are managed in some automated way to make it manageable, but things have been done to tailor the content to the different audiences.


The Hispanic 2.0 market offers excellent marketing opportunities. Surprisingly, many Web site owners fail to seize the day. For savvy Webmasters that means a less competitive environment. Less competition translates into higher ROI for search marketers. Struggle less for attention, secure more qualified traffic. Optimizing a site on Spanish words could provide a very interesting opportunity to grab some traffic that a smaller number of people are fighting for.

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