As the first of the International Search Summits of 2012 looms large (at SMX West next week) I felt it was time to review what seem to be the most significant 10 issues for search marketers at this time. What’s interesting to note is that just one year ago, this list was very different.
1. Understand That Keywords Cannot Be Translated
Yes I know, this is an old chestnut which I’ve been pronouncing out since the Vikings invaded Britain. But let’s just recap. Keywords are a fundamental building block for an international search strategy and nowadays also for social media strategies.
So if keywords are so desperately important and represent a key pivotal point in a search campaign, then why are so many marketers not listening?
We still get requests daily for translations of keywords – which to us is like someone saying, “How many search engines do you submit to?” Now that question has largely died out but it’s lasted a good decade after the point where that wasn’t a part of your services.
Here’s a quick metaphor to try and explain. You’re a builder, building a six foot long wall. The red bricks lying on the ground are all six inches – so you need twelve sets times the height of your wall. Another building has yellow bricks of four inches and they need 18 sets times the height of the wall.
Those bricks represent words. The nearest translation is that one Yellow brick roughly equals one red brick – but as you can see, that won’t get to the right answer on its own!
2. Are You Appearing Where You Should Be?
Susan Moskwa from Google is speaking at the next International Search Summit on Hreflang tags and geo-targeting, so that will hopefully give us more clarity to share on those areas. However, the fundamental goal remains the same, regardless of the technique.
Whatever it takes, we need to ensure that our website appears in front of our target customers at that critical moment, namely when they search for a critical keyword. Thanks to personalization, that now means more than just understanding the difference between “The Web”, “Pages in Germany” and “Pages in Germany.”
3. Check Out Your Google Places Presence
In my experience, Google Places has had a more profound impact on international SEO campaigns than anyone realises.
As this has rolled out across the world, it has presented many opportunities for local businesses to pick up on searches that are associated with some generic keyword or brand name that in many cases they are not really entitled to. This is particularly the case when searching the maps themselves.
The above shows that Google Places results push down the other organic results for such searches as “tüv neuss” – a form of test for technical certification.
Sometimes the organization itself has not allowed, in its number crunching, for the fact that Google Places has brought exposure correctly, but at the expense of not having those visits land on the main target site.
Sometimes, this is due to local teams listing their business with Google Places without realizing the broader implications. Indeed, this may have been the right strategy for the organization, but simply got lost in the analytics.
4. Keywords Can Exist In More Than One Language
If you do a search for Lufthansa in the UK and then in Germany, you get English results in the UK and German ones in Germany. How does Google know the difference?
From a search point of view, that’s not so difficult. They can use the fact that you used Google.co.uk or Google.de to decide which language you were expecting to see. But the point is that the results for that one keyword are very different in English or German.
With a brand name, that’s easy to appreciate. But is also applies with keywords which exist in more than one language. “Casseroles,” for instance, means something very different in French and English. And if you were targeting “Landing Pages” in France, you might be surprised to find that a term you think of as English, is actually being used in a French context.
5. Use Google Search Plus Your World
It’s pretty clear from all the noises coming out of Mountain View that Google Plus is here to stay and that we’re all going to have to live and work with it. From an international perspective, I cannot remember a Google product which rolled out internationally so quickly.
When researchers are phoning me up to ask, “Is it possible that there are 30 million Google Plus users in China,” then you know that something is going on, even if that figure is not wholly achieved yet. None of us have a totally clear idea of the impact this is going to have on Google’s results in Thailand, Nigeria or Uzbekistan.
What is clear is that a train is coming down the track and we either have to get on board or get run over. What that means is we have to give people access to Google+ buttons throughout the globe today and not next week.
6. Make Your Content Clickable
The quality of your content just became even more critical. If someone doesn’t click through to your content when they see it listed in Google’s results, they’re neither going to share it nor are they going to give Google signals to promote via Google’s click through measurements.
7. Trust Me Now, You Need Trust Symbols
Trust mainly means providing symbols in each country which show you are a credible supplier. The correct currency, correct credit card symbols, correct local offices and a language they understand (not some auto-translated approximation).
8. Link Building Still Makes Sense
Citations, reviews and social sharing may have been added to the mix – but nodody said that local links had become less important. They’re all signals, they all matter to the search engine – so don’t throw the baby out with the bath water by not seeking local links.
9. Investigate Your Mobile Performance
I’m sure you’ve already heard from people that mobile is now a really significant factor; but what they might have said is that in parts of Asia, Africa and South America, mobile is even more important because smartphones can provide more reliable and available connections to the Web and everyone needs a phone.
10. Play Locally with Baidu, Yandex, Naver and Seznam
Google is very, very important but there are opportunities in Russia, China, Turkey, Korea and the Czech Republic to take a slightly different route where the approach will not be helped by Google+ of Places!
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.