Speaking in Tongues: Mastering Multinational Search – SMX London 2011

Speaking in Tongues: Mastering Multinational Search – SMX London 2011

17th May 2011

Good afternoon everyone. Here is the last panel I’ll be covering for you folks from SMX London but keep your eyes on the blog for more updates and more posts from the rest of the team.

I decided (in spite of all of the International Search Summit coverage coming your way from State of Search) that I would cover the session on Speaking in Tongues and how to handle multinational search. This is something our team has been working on a lot lately and have been trying to figure out the best way to integrate across our global offices and make use of local market knowledge. Really excited to bring you this topic!

Image via: apbeatty on Flickr

We’ll be highlighting the best tips from the panel which includes Eric Papczun of Performics, John Mueller of Google, Richard Falconer of Big Mouth, Preston Carey of Yandex and Andy Atkins Kruger of WebCertain.

Top Tips from Eric

1. International SEM channels are going to no doubt grow faster outside of North America. Although the US is presently a big market it will be growing faster externally.

2. US focussed companies or companies with US audiences really need to look at the Hispanic market (very important to understand trust and respect as well as family values).

3. Always know regional and local laws about content, tracking, etc. before sticking your neck out.

4. 3 keys to success are understanding regional and local behaviour, match strategies to each region/locality and tailor communications to local markets (use UGC).

5. Hub and spoke model (Global Hub, EMEA (or Americas hub) as well as an APAC hub tend to work quite well.

6. Getting organised is the most important step when dealing with an international or global campaign for a large brand. Determine global budgets and how to track things as well as setting up tests and evaluation processes to make sure that the brand sets global standards (with their agency) and replicate it where appropriate to do so. Once this has been taken on you can get deeper integration.

Eric also did mention that the structure does very much depend on the client.

7. Translation != Transcreation. Transcreation is not about saying the same thing in another language, often it is not possible you really want to get the same reaction in each language and preserve the emotion/tone of a campaign (source).

8. Start central and then transcreate down from the Central team (who starts with the strategy) and then figure out with the local teams how to make it work there.

9. Conversion Optimisation is a place where we can really put effort into localisation. Use IP detection on country to use geo-specific messaging.

10. To build a local team in market the very first thing you need to do is hire the person who will run search and build the team. They must be an entrepreur, they must be inspiring and passionate about what they do, may not be too focussed on the details but rather prefer strategy, perhaps best at team building and sales. Hiring the wrong first person is a crucial mistake.

The second hire should be a completer/finisher who is a good communicator and focussed on hitting deadlines.

Top Tips from John

1. Don’t cloak, one URL per piece of content, give the user a choice about languages (and can access all different versions), help Google with geotargeting.

2. Google’s crawlers do so without an “accept-language” HTTP request header, they don’t use HTML attributes for languages, etc.

3. DO NOT let automatically translated content get indexed (e.g. internal translation or pages) as it will be treated as spam.

4. Make it easy for Google to recognise your geographic choices for each part/region.

Google uses (FIRST) country specific TLD, you can use GWT for gTLDs, Server IP location and various “soft factors” (Google Places listings, address listed on site, etc).

5. Segment your site either by having ccTLDs or gTLDs per country, subdomains on gTLDs or subfolders but do not use URLs.

6. Google does NOT use HTML attributes for locations.

7. Do not force redirect a user, give the user a choice. And let users and crawlers view all content unless there are legal issues you need to worry about.

8. Geographically restricted content is “OK” by Google, however you need to make sure you do not cloak so if it’s not viewable in the US you have to block Googlebot. A work around would be to create a more generic nonblocked page that then points to the specific content (this one sounds a bit tricky… but I asked about this in Q&A and he confirmed that a stub-page here would be fully permissable in the case of legal issues, seems contrary to Google best practices I had heard to have “gateway” style pages but I’m sure there is an appropriate way to do this).

9. Geotargeting is not 100% certain, you should give users information and help them get to the right site.

10. DON’T CLOAK (seems Google is not messing around on this one and sound very inflexible about any “mistakes”). Bottom line is not to do it.

11. If you need multi-region and multi-language sites you should really consider how important it is for you to do so – you better be prepared to support/maintain this content or you may be creating more problems than you originally had!

Top Tips from Richard

1. You need more budget and you need more time to get an international project than you do for doing a project in your local market (where you’re based).

2. Accept that your content will NOT be perfect for the other markets. You definitely need to cut down on it intelligently – prioritise content in each country, avoid slang and jargon where possible, don’t localise the same content twice (i.e. straplines, just translate them once!).

3. Include as many innovative localisation techniques as possible.

4. Find new technology solutions… but be careful. Duolingo trying to harness the efforts of language learners to translate things.

One of the solutions here may well be crowdsourcing! UGC can be built over time using Q&A’s, reviews, or comments. Make sure UGC is always sitting on the page rather than being pulled in using iFrames or Javascript.

Use Google’s Alternate Language Link Element.

Prepare images in such a way that you only need to do it once rather than localise them each multiple times. (i.e. do not put labels ON the image, use number labels or something like this).

5. Use your resources wisely to maximise effect. As it turns out (based on his case) 83% of searches in Canada are done in English so be careful how important a language REALLY is before getting involved. [Editors aside: obviously worth noting that NOT doing this can irritate/anger local markets so probably worth doing it still, just be careful with the prioritisation].

6. Never forget the 80/20 rule (80% of effects come from 20% causes). For most sites 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients. 80% of webspam comes from 20% of SEOs, etc. You need to figure out and prioritise around what these clients want.

Top Tips from Preston

1. There will always be a need to make some trade-offs, it’s about figuring out which trade-offs maximise the returns.

2. If brand is your key target most brands/companies use local partners most if you are most concerned with conversion you are most likely to be a “Global Command & Control” model of business where you are making optimisation and efficiency a mathematical game. Brands or comapnies that use “Regional Hubs” tend to spend their money a bit all over the shop.

3. Understanding local search engines requires having local expertise and a presence in those markets (in spite of international assistance for SEM from the search engines).

Top Tips from Andy

1. Google is by far the strongest and most significant global search engine but there are others to watch. Baidu in China, Yandex in Russia, Seznam in Czech Republic, Naver in South Korea. Andy thinks the most important of these would be Baidu and Yandex.

2. Geo-targeting is about making sure your site is appearing in front of ALL relevant searchers. Google filters “The Web” based first on domain (more so than IP), by keyword and language of the keyword (language tag) and finally by IP address.

3. It gets tricky with brands as Lufthansa (a German company) but an international brand with no true meaning. Google.de and Google.co.uk (both searched from UK) provide different results for a search around Lufthansa and return the site in German for .de in spite of this.

4. Keywords have a hidden language tag which can be hugely important in searches (use the image search for Casseroles in Google.fr as opposed to Google.co.uk or Google.com) – very interesting!

5. When it comes to target choose whether country or language is more important. “World languages” include English, French, German, Spanish, Portugese, etc. These languages are used in more than one country so please be wary of the duplication issues. However, sometimes people overdo this and focus too much on one country (i.e. Polish people live everywhere and may search that way outside of their country).

6. In Yandex you could use local domains or .coms, for Baidu you need to be in China for hosting (Hong Kong won’t do!).

7. Local domains are much stronger when you can use them. However, obviously there are a number of multilingual countries. Do not use Webmaster Central for telling Google about local languages based on domain in these countries, it will foul it up.

8. Linkbuilding does NOT work without great content. Good content needs to speak to the local audience and local links are essential.


Written By
Sam Crocker is SEO Associate Director at OMD UK. Sam focuses on increasing traffic and conversions for websites whilst always keeping his eye on a company’s bottom line.
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