Everyone is so familiar with the expression “When in Rome…” that most people don’t even finish the statement. Yet this piece of well-worn advice is sometimes ignored or forgotten in practice. Emerging markets around the world are growing and attracting U.S. attention in every industry, and search engine marketing is no exception. Online marketers, like other business professionals, need to ensure they have a good understanding of the local market they are targeting and interacting with in order to effectively market to them. This SES San Jose session gave a good introduction to the international markets of China, Japan and Latin America from an online marketing perspective.
Moderator Anne Kennedy of Beyond Ink introduced our three presenters, each with an extensive professional background in online marketing to one of the highlighted regions.
When in China…
T.R. Harrington, Director of Strategic Direction & Product Development at Darwin Marketing, kicked the session of with an in-depth examination of the current Chinese Online market. Harrington drew attention to the misconceptions many Americans have about Chinese culture in general, and Chinese involvement in the online marketplace. Contrary to widespread belief, China’s market is growing at an incredible pace. As of July, China had 254 million Internet users, making it the largest online Market in the world by number of users. By 2010, online marketing in China will represent a 1.4 billion dollar industry.
T.R. pointed to the political state of China as a potential reason for the Internet’s popularity.
“The Chinese users are relatively more engaged, they’re more involved when it comes to the Internet because their choices in other media
are limited,” T.R. said.
Due to government restrictions on more traditional media, the Chinese have turned to the Internet as a primary source of both information and entertainment. In terms of search, China’s current interfaces are less sophisticated than those in the U.S. Baidu, the largest Chinese search engine is similar in function to Google three years ago, according to T.R. As Baidu grows, it is adding more applications, however T.R. claimed that not many consumers outside of large SES agencies are demanding more advanced search functions.
For a foreign company looking to optimize a site for the Chinese audience, both organic and paid search present challenges.
“When somebody sees something is working in a particular industry, all of the competitors have a tendency to jump in behind,” T.R. explained.
As a result, keywords can face sudden cost-per-click spikes as more and more competitors compete for a term with a proven success rate. For organic search, the wide range of differences across the Chinese provinces can prove difficult when trying to effectively translate search terms for which to optimize. As analytical tools in China are still in the early stages and fairly unreliable, monitoring the success of optimization efforts is difficult.
Yet in spite of these difficulties, T.R. believes China offers a bevy of opportunities to online advertisers as the Chinese online market continues to grow.
When in Japan…
From China the session moved on to Japan, where Motoko Hunt, founder of Japanese Search Marketing Strategist, took us through a detailed look at Japan’s online use. Like China, Japan also has a huge potential for growth in the online sector. Currently, Internet penetration is 70 percent, with 85 percent of that being broadband connection. Not only is Japan online, their fast connection speeds indicate Japanese users are very involved with more intricate web applications.
Mobile Internet has seen huge grown in Japan.
“There’s more access to Internet through mobile than PC in Japan,” Mokoto said.
For many users, young females in particular, mobile phones are the primary source of access to the Internet. eCommerce is another huge venue for Japanese Internet users, with the average user spending $110 on eCommerce in a given month. Blogs and Social Networks are also extremely popular. Some of the most widely read blogs have been converted into books and premises for TV shows and movies.
Those looking to move into the Japanese online market need to be very conscious of the intricacies of the Japanese language. With four sets of interchangeable letters and characters, multiple spelling variations and no spaces between words, sites in Japanese can be difficult to optimize. However, unless your site is in Japanese, it will not rank highly in Japanese search engines.
Mokoto recommends looking beyond exact translations of words when selecting keyword phrases to use in Japanese SEO. Marketers should check the popularity of the various spellings and characters of a given word and ensure they are effectively optimizing their online marketing efforts for the terms most relevant to their audience.
When in Latin America…
The next speaker took us to the other side of the globe from Southeast Asia, to what moderator Anne Kennedy referred to as “the great sleeping giant.” Alicia Morgan, CEO of Consorte Media examined the Latin American online marketplace and made it especially relevant to American marketers.
“A lot of what’s going on in Latin America is a precursor to what’s going on in the U.S. Hispanic market, ” Alicia observed.
Hispanics are the fastest-growing Internet users in the U.S., with the average Hispanic user spending more
time online than the average general Internet user. This group is also extremely young, something marketers trying to reach the online youth market should take into consideration.
Though the number of Spanish-dominant U.S. Hispanics are growing, Alicia says the majority of Hispanic
Internet users generally respond well to ads in English, as long as they are culturally relevant. U.S. Hispanics
are also equally comfortable searching in English and Spanish. Websites work better with this population when mixed; Hispanic users spent more time on eCommerce sites with Spanish descriptions, but were more trusting of an English checkout process.
For marketers looking to reach this online population, Alicia recommends an integrated strategy.
“Search is another tool in your box, but not the sole thing that’s going to make it happen for you in
reaching this market,” she said.
Banner ads still work well with the Latin American and U.S. Hispanic market, so marketers may want to
consider some of these more overt forms of online advertising. And as with Japan and China, keyword
translations can be problematic. Every Latin American country has specific dialects of Spanish,and some
countries such as Brazil speak other languages like Portuguese, so Alicia recommends working with a local from the specific area you are targeting in order to get it right.
These three very different online marketplaces underscore the vast world that is online marketing today. While each market is in a different place in terms of their search sophistication relative to the U.S., they all share similar challenges for U.S. marketers. One thing all three panelists stressed was the importance of working with local experts in order to ensure cultural sensitivity and proper translations for keywords and optimization. Clearly no one-size-fits-all package exists for U.S. online marketers can export as they move abroad.