Go Local to Go Global

The Importance of Localized SEM for Global Marketing Campaigns

504029489In this guest blog,  Huw Aveston and Andrea Barp from Traffic Optimiser, look at how brands running global marketing campaigns need to get to grips with SEM and the major search engines in all of the territories in which they want a presence.

Any brand looking to run an integrated marketing campaign will turn towards digital marketers to ensure the online presence of their campaign has been optimized. They rely upon their expertise to achieve two crude goals. First, that people can see it. Second, that when they see it they want to interact with it. Digital marketers are experts in achieving these goals. They know how to optimize assets to the particular nuances of an online ecosystem and to the tastes and preferences of the people using that ecosystem. Know your platform; understand your audience. This is where running global SEM campaigns become interesting. As many brands have discovered too late – one language or culture does not fit all.

A brief note on definition:  SEM is a term which causes some confusion. For some, search engine marketing has been used to exclusively refer to paid search campaigns, known as PPC. Here we are using it more widely to refer to all search activities: PPC, SEO (organic search) and the new and increasingly important kid on the block, App Store Optimization (ASO).

Know your platform

Here in the West, the dominance of Google is such that some digital marketers are afforded the luxury of giving scant regard to the likes of Bing and Yahoo when formulating client strategies. Lazy – but true nonetheless. Unfortunately, this does not translate to global campaigns.

Google might have the lion’s share of global search: 66% (1); however, that does not translate to dominance of the search landscape in every country. Four countries which immediately come to mind are Russia, Japan, South Korea and China, in which Yandex, Yahoo, Naver and Baidu respectively, rule the roost.

China is particularly interesting. Google’s market share is estimated to be as low as 0.43% (2); Baidu dominates with 54% (2) whilst other players such as Qihoo360, Sogu and Soso fill out the landscape. Experts in Western search, both paid and organic, can’t simply transfer their skills to running successful campaigns on Baidu. Even the very notions of paid and organic search, as created through a Google-centric understanding of SEM need to be put aside and a thorough, uncorrupted understanding of how SEM works on this entirely different ecosystem.

Brands running global campaigns need to get to grips with the basics of the major search engines in all of the territories in which they want a presence. What factors help sites rank organically? How are paid and organic search integrated? What paid search products are available? And importantly, what other products do the search engines provide and how do these integrate with the central search mechanism?

Take Naver for example, Naver Café, Naver Blogs and Naver Webtoons are all incredibly important products for brands looking to market online in South Korea. Yet, there is nothing in our Google-based understanding of SEM to which we can draw a direct comparison with these products.

Brands have to invest the time to understand the peculiarities and opportunities of the major search platforms they’ll be working with during global campaigns – there are no shortcuts.

Understand your Audience: Marketing, Not Translation

Getting to grips with platforms is one half of the battle. Getting inside the hearts and minds of the local demographic and understanding what appeals to them is the other. At the heart of this is the copy which underpins your campaign. This copy cannot simply be translated. If it is, at best your campaign will not perform as well as it could, and, at worst, you run the risk of alienating and offending those you seek to engage. Understanding cultural foibles is of the upmost importance to any global campaign.

Campaigns need to be crafted (or transcreated) to convey specific cultural knowledge which native marketers, not translators, bring to the project. For example, aggressive calls to action may be demonstrably effective in one market, but they might be equally off putting in others. Successful marketing is all about the details – and tailoring the linguistic style of your copy to fit cultural specifics is the starting point for successful SEM campaigns.

It is also essential that linguistic considerations take in to account search volumes. For example, we know the importance of keywords to the various app stores. We have tools at our disposal to show us how many searches are made for any given word. Using this information we can select the appropriate keywords and assign them to an app to ensure it is found by the maximum number of people (simplistic but essentially true). If we take these keywords and straight translate them, we are shooting in the dark. We no longer know the volumes in which they are searched. You cannot assume – despite the fact that many companies do – that the translated word is the one which receives the most search requests. Market-specific research is the only fool proof answer.

Nor should a fully localized SEM campaign stop at linguistics. A truly optimized campaign must dive deep into the habits of a targeted demographic. When and where do they search? At work during the day? At home in the evening? What medium are they using? Desktops in the office? Tablets on the sofa? The more localized information which a brand has at its disposal before the start of a global campaign, the more success it will have in achieving their global marketing goals.

Knowledge and research, not assumptions, are the key.

Huw & Andrea


Traffic Optimiser are experts in multilingual SEM and online digital marketing for global brands and are one of Welocalize’s SEM partners. Huw Aveston is Managing Partner & Commercial Director and Andrea Barp is Translation Director at Traffic Optimiser.

(1)  http://www.netmarketshare.com/search-engine-market-share.aspx?qprid=4&qpcustomd=0

(2)  http://www.chinainternetwatch.com/11772/sougo-chinese-input-method-launched-new-version-obtain-traffic-for-sogou-search/