5 Annoying International Search Assumptions
Search Engine Optimisation

5 Annoying International Search Assumptions

23rd July 2013

We’re all guilty of making assumptions – sometimes they’re right, and sometimes they’re not. However there are some fairly common assumptions when it comes to international search which aren’t correct and which can be hugely detrimental to the success of global campaigns.

1) Everybody speaks English

Of course a lot of people do speak English, and in my experience, many non-natives speak it better than a lot of natives. However regardless of how fluent they are in English, the majority of people prefer to search and browse the web in their native language – and are quite likely to dismiss sites and products that are only available to them in English in favour of sites with a more “local” flavour, available in their local language. Don’t alienate potential customers before they’ve even seen what you have to offer.

2) Language = Target Market

It’s a mistake to believe that you can target all speakers of the same language with one set of content. While languages like French, Spanish, Arabic and English are spoken in multiple countries around the world, there are many, often significant, variations of those languages used in different regions.

And it’s more than just dialect; the content you use to target a Portuguese speaker in Brazil will be different to what you use to engage with a user in Portugal. From currency to cultural references to legal restrictions, your web content needs to reflect the locale and the audience you want to reach.

3) Analytics tells me all I need to know about which markets to target

Analytics tools are worth their weight in gold for digital marketers, and they definitely have a role to play in international search planning and expansion. However, relying solely on what your analytics are telling you, might see you missing out on major opportunities as they don’t take all of the factors into account.

The data shows you which countries you are currently performing best in – but that is based on your current content and existing web properties and campaigns. What it doesn’t tell you is how much better you could be doing in other countries if you targeted different keywords, created country-specific content in the native language etc…

So while you should consider analytics data when choosing new target markets, you should also look at other factors such as keyword usage and volume, competition – both local and international, technical restrictions and logistics to assess the overall potential and viability of a market.

4) You’re in France, so you must want French pages…

Urm, probably not if I’ve typed a .co.uk URL into the browser. The notion that it’s helpful to automatically redirect a user to a particular page based on their IP address or browser settings is far from correct and is often more of a hindrance and annoyance.

It’s great to give users an easy way to switch to the “local” version of a page, but give them the choice so that they can have the most appropriate on-site experience possible. After all, if I’m on holiday in Japan, and get automatically redirected to the Japanese version of website, I’m unlikely to engage much with the site or the brand (just to clarify…I don’t speak Japanese!)

5) Believing domestic success is enough

By simply assuming that your domestic success will automatically guarantee success in new markets; well you’re setting yourself up for a fall. This isn’t to say that you can’t replicate your success internationally, however it probably won’t come easy, and certainly not because you’re well-known back home.

Just as you will have needed to develop brand loyalty and customer trust in your current market, that is what you will need to do in every new market – present an offering tailored to the local market which will give them reason to trust you and choose you over the competition, some of whom may already enjoy the same standing that you do domestically.

The challenges will of course be greater in some countries and sectors than others, however one thing is for sure, arrogance and relying on past achievements is not the way to go.

So now it’s your turn! Which assumptions have you been guilty of making? Or which have you been on the receiving end of?

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Written By
Gemma Birch has been working in international search since 2007 and leads WebCertain’s marketing team. She is responsible for managing WebCertain’s online marketing activities around the world as well as organising and programming the International Search Summit.
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