I typically don’t jump on the annual prediction bandwagon since too many cycles are spent defending some of the crazy things I come up with. However, I will go out on a limb and predict that 2010 will be the year of global search marketing.
I have been advocating the use of the internet to reach overseas markets since 1994 when professors and students laughed at me while defending my business school thesis on that topic. A year later, an international marketing journal published an updated version of that paper. This time I was even more out there advocating the pure craziness of using search engines as the mode of entry.
Shortly after publication, I was invited to speak in Wuhan China as part of an international trade delegation from California. There I met the CEO of a transportation company who was looking to find used city busses to import to China. Searching for “used busses” on AltaVista, via the painfully slow China Online satellite internet connection in the business center of the hotel, we found two companies, one in California and the other in Italy, sent emails and the next morning had quotes from both companies for the exact busses he wanted.
This experience was the highlight of the trip for many on both sides of the transaction, since it changed the whole concept of how they would source products in the future. Unfortunately, I did not have the foresight to spin out an Alibaba or Global Sources. What made this simple action so special was a traditional import/export company had been trying to source these busses for six months with no luck and we were able to it in less than ten minutes.
Today, nearly 15 years later, the opportunities for companies to expand into new overseas markets, using search, are even better than I imagined. The first place companies’ look to source products is the internet or one of the global sourcing companies already referenced. We can point to hundreds of companies, large and small, that are leveraging this great opportunity for expanding their businesses.
So what is giving me so much hope that the time has finally come? The first sign came this summer when comScore released its Global Search Marketing report indicating that there were over 100 billion searches per month globally. The eye opener to many was not just the volume of searches but the realization that North America’s volume was third behind that of Europe and Asia. Both regions have nearly 10% more searches than what’s occurring in the US.
Companies have taken notice of the opportunities and are aggressively working to capture their share. In November I spoke with twenty or so global Fortune 100 search marketing managers who all indicated their top initiative for 2010 was to get a better handle on global search marketing. They want to understand how to manage it, execute it and get more opportunities out of it. Many of these companies are finding search marketing (paid and organic) to be their best modes of entry and delivering the highest yields. Many of them admitted to using search query volumes and leads generated in the local language or country as a proxy for overall market opportunity. They are especially happy that they can do it without huge advertising, focus group or other research investments.
International search marketing is not in demand just from big companies. Conversations I’ve had with international trade advisors from around the world all indicated there has been a significant increase in interest from small and medium sized companies on how they can leverage search and the internet to reach new markets. The US Commercial Service’s Export.gov, the government department tasked with helping US companies export their products, has had so much demand for web globalization and localization services that they are even putting on their own eventthis summer in Boston to help companies learn how to optimize their sites to better interact and sell to overseas audiences.
Whatever the reason for this increased desire to go global, be it increased awareness, Google’s global domination or a bad economy forcing companies to think outside their natural boarders for business, site owners are scrambling for information about going global. No matter what the reason, the reality is that the time for global search marketing has finally arrived. Search consultants, agencies, conferences and organizations like SEMPO need to seize this great opportunity and offer services and information that will position them as a go-to entity to help companies looking to expand to these new and exciting markets.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.