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International Search Campaigns

Date: October, 2011 --


As was made very clear at the US DMA:2011 conference in Boston October 2nd to the 5th, and as CEO President Larry Kimmel said, it’s all about all media all the time, and it’s the time for direct marketing to be recognized as the center of marketing.  One of those media is the internet, and one of the tools is search engine marketing (SEM).  International SEM has its own challenges that one needs to keep in mind as you look to invest in keywords in foreign markets.

Translation.  First, with the possible exception of the UK and bits of Scandinavia, you will have to find new keywords.  Google Translator is useful to begin that search, but don’t think you can simply translate the keywords you use in the US and Canada into French or Chinese and deploy them directly.

Keywords need to be the words consumers in their own markets and languages would use to express the same thoughts and behavioral reactions to your propositions.  Even in English, in the US and the UK “trunk” and “boot” have only one common meaning, and each has a variety of different meanings.  In the UK, “the guns” can frequently be a reference to the hunters, not the weapons.   

It is equally unlikely that professional translators will be able to help, although they could help begin the process.  Translation is the practice of making something expressed intelligibly in one language similarly intelligible in another on a “current culture basis”. 

Thus, beware using foreign nationals who reside in the US and have been here for a number of years.  They might be losing touch with the colloquial daily evolution of their language.  One major US company almost named a magazine it was launching in Poland “Choice” in Polish, on the recommendation of a Polish translator based in New York. 

What the company thankfully discovered before investing very much in the term was that it was a codeword for “abortion rights”, at the time a major political issue in that country. Being associated with that debate was the last thing the company wanted.  And a SEM campaign using that term would have been at least pointless, and in this age of blogs, Twitter and Facebook, potentially disastrous for its brand positioning.

Like magazine titles, successful keywords have an emotional content factor that doesn’t translate or transfer across languages very easily.

Other search engines.  You should be aware that “Google Adwords” doesn’t have universal reach, and although Google translator can help identify and translate foreign keywords, it is unlikely to be successful at generating and deploying them in a foreign language.  In China you would look to the dominant search engine Baidu.   In Russia, Ukraine, some of the ‘Stans and Turkey, use Yandex, which is apparently expanding into Western Europe.  In Korea, Naver is dominant with some 60% of the market against Google’s 2% or so.  Japan has a plethora of US exports in the search market, one of the biggest being Overture.     

Response management.   It goes without saying that if you are driving prospects to a registration or purchase destination and you need to create excitement, interest, or a response, you’ll have to create a welcome in the prospect’s language. All that investment in local language keywords is wasted without it.  Building and deploying effective websites in other countries and cultures is its own acknowledged specialty. One look at any Japanese or Russian site will convince you of that. 

As with any web-based lead generation program, data quality is of paramount importance and Data Services will work to ensure address accuracy at the point of capture as well as at the database level for address data from 240 countries & territories.