For companies interested in reaching global markets, a multilingual strategy can pay dividends. Jacob Laurvigen, MD of search engine optimisation specialist Standoutmedia, explains why.
For companies interested in reaching global markets, a multilingual strategy can pay dividends. Jacob Laurvigen, MD of search engine optimisation specialist Standoutmedia, explains why companies need to think beyond English-language search terms and Google when planning an online marketing drive.
Multilingual online marketing (affectionately known as MOM) is simply optimisation of websites in more than one language. It’s no different in principle from the techniques that have been used to optimise off-line advertising.
MOM works because people are different – they search differently, have different shopping habits, and so on. And language remains the single most effective way of telling cultures apart online.
Although English is considered to be the language of the web, the fact remains that almost 70 per cent of the global online population is non-English speaking. Furthermore, users with English as a second language tend to enter search terms in their own language before trying their luck with the same term in English. Danes, for instance, who generally speak pretty good English, would probably enter the Danish term ‘billige cowboybukser’ rather than the English phrase ‘cheap jeans’ when using Google.
Of course, there’s always an exception that proves the rule. Sportswear brand Hummel has their largest market in Germany, a country known for staying true to its own language. However, Hummel’s primary demographic is young people and the company found out this particular group preferred Hummel in English.
According to Steve Leach, the group CEO of digital marketing agency Bigmouthmedia, cultural differences are just as important as linguistic ones. ‘For example, people are very relaxed about their personal data in Spain, whereas in Germany they are not,’ says Leach. ‘These crucial details can mean the difference between success and failure, yet few campaigns seem to address that level of detail.’
A good MOM strategy should also account for differences in search engine preference. Google, while impossible to ignore, is not the be-all-and-end-all of search. In the Russian search market for instance, Yandex.ru is by far the biggest search engine, accounting for more than half of the nation’s search traffic in the first quarter of 2008.
No matter how wide you wish to cast your search net, tracking and analysis should be the foundation of your decision as you consider the costs and potential benefits of going multilingual.