Last week, I was lucky to join a number of great speakers at the iLive conference in Riga, Latvia. As with all conferences, I learned a lot. (I simply can’t relate to those who go to a conference and say they’ve heard it all before.) I learned at least as much from the people I met and chatted with — as well as from the people of Riga and Latvia — as I did from the conference itself.
Latvia — A Country With A Population Less Than Houston, Texas
Latvia is a very small country with a population of just over 2 million people — around the size of a smallish Chinese or American city. The country has a very checkered history with a Nazi occupation, being absorbed into the Soviet Union for over 47 years and then finally achieving full independence in 1991 — just 22 years ago.
Somewhere around 25% of the population speaks Russian as their native tongue, but they are still “Latvian.” What this means, in practical terms, is that many Latvians are bilingual, and some speak three or more languages. When you jump into a taxi in the capital, Riga, one driver will be listening to the radio in Russian (I just managed my directions in Russian), while another will be listening in Latvian (directions to him were in English).
When you land at Riga, you can just about see Estonia in the distance; when you take off, you are rapidly over Lithuania long before the plane has finished climbing. Latvia shares borders with the Russian Federation, Belarus, Estonia and Lithuania, and is just across the Baltic Sea from Sweden.
When A “Local” Isn’t Necessarily “Local”!
What, exactly, does this have to do with local/global search marketing? It’s very simple. What most people mean when they say “think local” is that you should work with someone who is “local.” But, if your country is so small that going to dinner sometimes means crossing a national boundary and speaking a different language, then who really represents that “local” person?
In this crazy, mixed-up, increasingly complex world we live in, thinking global and acting local is no longer a useful idea — though the principles behind it were valid (and in many cases, still are).
The main problem with “acting local” is that it you run the risk of putting vastly different customers with vastly different needs into the same “box” based solely on geographic location. And, as Latvia shows us, geography isn’t everything. A more useful way to target such a diverse customer base is by developing personas that represent each different group of customers within your target market. Today, the Web is all about personas — even if you don’t work with them, they still matter.
Keywords & Personas
Keywords and personas are linked. Yes, it would be great to have much more data about keywords and the people who use them available easily online, but if you’re clever and you structure your website around clearly defined “personas,” then you probably have more data than you actually realize. (And, by the way, Facebook is a very useful tool to help build a better picture of your personas, even if you are not advertising.)
Personas are closely aligned with SEO needs. If the information presented in a SERP is appropriate to the targeted persona, the click-through rate will be higher, ultimately improving the traffic and ranking potential of that particular result.
Different personas will respond differently to the same content. For optimal success, you must consider how to differentiate your approach for each of your target groups.
Defining Personas Is Possible For Everyone
Going back to Riga, we could define our customers and potential customers in the following ways. Note how the personas become more precise and more closely defined as you work your way down the list:
- Potential customer – speaks Russian
- Potential customer – speaks Latvian
- Potential customer – product group A – speaks Russian
- Potential customer – product group B – speaks Latvian
- Potential customer – product group A – visited description page B – speaks Russian
- Potential customer – product group A – visited description page A – speaks Latvian
The above list is only to give you the idea in very simple terms. If you have different “description” pages which describe the same product in different ways, then you are already personalizing your Web content to some extent — but is your SEO also personalized? And, do you think about your content and SEO in terms of personas?
I should add that, in my example above, I split the languages to demonstrate my point — but there are cases where it may not make economic sense to target every language. It all depends on your organization.
However, my key argument is that personas take your SEO efforts to the next level. Moving your messaging from “global” to “local” is naturally followed by “personal” — and that that’s where the edgy, fast-moving businesses are going as fast as their coders can take them!
One final note: the word “international” itself means different things to different people. In conversations with those I met in Riga, people did not generally use the term “international” to refer to working between Baltic states. On several occasions people said to me, “there are not many international firms in Latvia,” which was odd to me, looking at a country which bordered with so many others speaking so many different languages. I think it would be fair to say that they often saw “international” as outside their region rather than outside their nation.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.