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Finding efficiencies with integrating Search and Display advertising Greenlight reveals its top 10 predictions for Natural and Paid Search in 2010 10 th Feb 2010

Thinking of going global…multilingual Paid Search.

"Going global is not an act of good will; it is a smart and necessary business strategy. Establishing a global web presence provides one of the most affordable means of tapping into the international marketplace. 

An information-rich, well published web site sells your products and services to potential clients around the world 24/7. In addition, multilingual content optimises the effectiveness of your site by communicating with your customers in their language." 1


The potential in the global marketplace is huge, with almost two billion people (1,733, 993, 741) accessing the internet, of which up to 70% will speak a language other than English.  Asia for example, has the biggest internet population with over 738 million internet users.  Research studies prove however, that when a user searches the internet, they are still most comfortable with native search engines.  Although this doesn't mean to say the big three (Google, Yahoo! and Bing) are struggling to make an impression.


In fact a recent study by Greenlight - 'How search engine market shares look around the world' - illustrates that Google has secured more than 50% of the market share across most of Europe and North America.  That said, local engines continue to take the lead in Asia and Eastern Europe.   



For example, 62% of Russia's internet population prefer and trust Yandex - Russia's local search engine.  While Google still commands almost 35% in this market, most users will use Google for research but buy in Yandex.  The same occurs in China; Baidu takes almost 52% is prefered  for making purchasing decsions. In addition the recent events where  Google is threatening to pull out of China, could allow  Baidu to pick up the remaining share.  Similar to Russia and China, we found this to be an increasing trend in other countries, including Germany many years ago when (a previous local engine) was in operation.


This is further supported by a recent study published by the Center for Retail Research (CRR) - who state that 'UK shoppers spent more online than anywhere else in Europe during 2009, accounting for almost a third of all European sales, according to new research.  UK consumers spent £38bn online in 2009 or an average of £1,102 per shopper'.  Furthermore, online sales grew by 12% in Britain during 2009 despite the recession - with online purchasing accounting for 9.5% of all retail sales, and showing signs of continued growth into 2010.  The study then goes on to exploring the differences in Europe, confirming that Germans were the second biggest spenders online (spending £29.7bn in 2009) while the French spent £22bn in 2009.  Poland, Finland and Norway didn't fall too behind in terms of spend - however the difference between the UK and the rest of Europe once again highlights the slow uptake into trusting online from a conversion perspective.  While all of Europe will use search engines to research and compare products and services - added to the fact that, there is growing confidence in online purchasing.  There is still some work to done around gaining trust - before the rest of Europe follows the same trend as the UK market place. 

So you're thinking of going global and want to understand the best approach to achieving a genuine but also profitable strategy.  The first step begins with research.     

Do your research…

It's essential to have a strong and accurate presence in the global, cultural and multi language online marketplace but that is no simple task!  Almost every territory has its own preferences as already mentioned.  Experience however, has taught us to localise a search strategy - translation simply doesn't work. 


Localisation is described as the process of creating or adapting a product to a specific locale, i.e. to the language, cultural context, conventions and market requirements of a specific target market.  For many brands approaching this subject it begins with where they feel they should be advertising as opposed to where their users are searching (geographically).  With this in mind do your research.  When building a multilingual strategy start with where your users are coming from, referral data from sources such as Google Analytics or any other analytics tools will report this information.  Your analytics data should provide an insight into achieved volumes, revenue drivers, performing keywords - and how the consumer buying cycle differs from one country to another.  The supporting image below illustrates Greenlight's approach to researching new markets. 






The next step is to map your own brand learnings to understanding the market itself - what do the consumers look like, how do they shop (keywords used, at what times of day/week do they search etc) , what are the trends and preferences?  For example, users in Italy and France  will research heavily online but prefer to buy offline.  As briefly discussed there are trust issues when it comes to buying online, and therefore any investment into search may appear fruitless however there is a direct correlation between increased online activity and offline sales.  Using a client example - a contact lenses retailer - saw that as soon as they included 'McAfee SECURE' (Tested Daily) logo on its site, there was an increase in the conversion rates - gaining consumer's confidence in the security of the site and their transactions.


Looking at the search channels specifically, you will also need to investigate regulation and laws that may affect you.  Over the last three years many local search engines have followed Google in banning gambling advertising across their networks.  Although Google reverted its policy allowing gambling across key countries, many local engines have still prohibited the advertising of gambling since. 


Brand considerations…

Once you've identified the best locations (target markets) - can you actually service these new markets properly?  Part of this consideration should also include full localisation of the site - language and dialect.  Furthermore, you will also need to explore options around delivery fulfilment - this should be localised if possible, as overseas delivery can be seen as an obstacle. 


Having a country level domain is also a worthwhile investment.  Going back the previous client example (contact lenses reseller) obtaining a German domain was critical to their multilingual strategy, as the .com domain wasn't seen as authentic enough.  Brand trust and awareness, and your new competitor market place - is pivotal to any multilingual strategies.  We have seen instances where brands that are well known and hugely successful in the UK, have struggled to make a dent in a new market.  Certainly for countries such as Germany, Italy, China and Russia - consumers are brand focused when it comes to buying online, and therefore will only research but not buy from what is considered a 'foreign' brand.            That said these challenges should be viewed as new opportunities, with each new location having its own unique selling points.


Building a campaign strategy…

In spite of the fact that Google has about 55% of the world search traffic, each market has its characteristic issues.  A good localisation strategy is built from the right research and development in order to make sure the process is up to date and sensitive to all changes in the global market.   Each campaign prepared for a given product or brand has to be designed and disseminated very specifically with a tight focus on the targeted territory.


To communicate and sell in foreign audiences and markets you need to speak in their language.   So, although your customers can find your website, they have to understand your products and brands, otherwise they will turn to a locally based competitor.  Therefore when putting together a campaign start the process from the beginning - getting to know your consumer all over again is important to identifying which opportunities are available. 


A local level keyword analysis is essential.  Research the terms used by consumers to search for your products/services and brand(s).  Match types, keyword variations including singulars and plurals, and mis-spellings are all options in each market but will work independently. 


Again having that social, cultural and in some cases political awareness can make all the difference.  In addition to the language, think geographically.  In this global multi-lingual landscape, web locale is the combination of language and culture that makes an area unique.  For example:



  • Switzerland has three main locales: French, German, and Italian.
  • A search for pages in German may bring up results from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
  • A search for pages in French may bring up results from France, North Africa and Canada.
  • A search for pages in Spanish may bring up results from Mexico, Argentina and Spain...


Many people are bilingual or multilingual, but it is necessary to assign only one language per person in order to have all the language totals add up to the total world population (zero-sum approach).  In these scenarios it may also be a case of adjusting the language to wok better in the different cultural environment.  Using another example, UK English and American English varies quite significantly in how we spell the same words but also how we describe particular products.  The word optimisation would become optimization (spelt with a 'z' in the U.S).  Handbag (small bag) would become purse in American English.  Similarly, the term 'credit card' is the same as 'credit cards' in Japanese - plurals not having the same effect as the English language.  Again these variations just as you would include misspellings, plurals and singulars in a UK English campaign would be vital to adjusting your campaign to the chosen market and its culture.


One other vital point is volumes will fluctuate per country, as the keywords are localised.  With keywords playing a different role in the buying cycle and having different meaning's - there importance may vary, as will the demand and consequently the associated search volume - again another reason not to translate but to localise.


Following on from the keywords, the messaging (ad copy) must also hit the right mark.  Having cultural knowledge is critical to communicating the right tone of voice.  Again a translation isn't going to work.  For example the term 'cheap' goes a long in the UK market, with many consumers seeing this as a great incentive.   Using the same term in French 'pas cher' doesn't actually work, as translated 'pas cher' means 'not expensive' and therefore you can see how translating this from English to French would breakdown. 


Last but not least - the usability of your site should also present itself in a local tone.  Again going back to delivery, this should be localised if possible taking away any unnecessary logistical blunders.  Landing pages should always be relevant but localised accordingly.  Going back to a previous example, if you are a 'foreign' brand - proving your site is secure and trustworthy is critical - and goes a long way to gaining credibility.


Budget Management and Targeting…

Certainly if you're advertising via a local engine, the media currency will be local.  However our recommendation is to always operate in local currencies (if possible) with Google, Yahoo! and Bing.  Converting currencies when working out your true cost per sale can become confusing.  From a targeting perspective its worth opening up your options here, especially if the campaign is appealing to multiple consumer types and nationalities.  For example, a Greenlight client (International Mobile Operator) uses their multi-lingual strategy to target ExPats in the UK.  We've also utilised the contextual networks to target Polish customers in the UK via Polish websites.  Having a multi-targeted approach will lead to wider opportunities.       


Final Advice…

Whether it's a full replica site or a micro-site or a project involving different countries and languages, the localisation strategy should work to ensure the multi-lingual side of the offering is as effective as possible. Consumers see the internet as an engaging and important part of the advertising mix, so the point of Internet localisation is to understand the consumers & then to use this understanding to correctly deliver content to each varying locality.


…so if you are thinking of going global remember to localise.  Whether it is booking a train ticket, sending a request for quote or comparing product features, your customers don't always see your physical presence, just your campaign then your site content.   Both the paid search campaign and the site content stands in the frontline and represents your organisation, so at the very least do it right.


Five considerations for a multilingual paid search strategy


  1. Understand local cultures and consumers
  2. Research local search partners and search channels
  3. Choose new targeted markets based on existing analytics
  4. Localise don't translate your keywords and copy
  5. Invest into localising the site - including the domain and delivery



1[Source: Maximising Visibility for Multilingual Websites, Huiping IIer]


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