I was reading today a very interesting post from Search Engine Land today which discussed the differences that exist in Europe not only in terms of languages but in terms of culture.
The article describes the different challenges of producing content (and translating) in more than one version for each language, as there can be local differences in terms of French, German, and also cultural behavior which might prevent users from using a website just because of the local domain extension.
There are similar issues in Latin America, like the ones described by Search Engine Land. Often times people think is only about targeting Spanish, so Spanish is the same everywhere right?
Well no, there are several differences if we go country by country. In Mexico for example, they have adopted terms from English and make them part of the vocabulary. In Spain, people still use a big castillian vocabulary. In Latin America, the vocabulary was simplified and also took not only English but words from several dialects (nahuatl, quechua, and even from European languages, etc.)
If your industry is very technical maybe you won’t need many versions of Spanish, but the more generic you go, you will need a native from each country to guide you, not only in the proper use of Spanish but also to produce appropriate call to actions for your website or campaigns. There is a huge difference between Mexico and Central America’s Spanish, compared to South America, from the use of pronouns to grammar.
Common words that for one Latin American country can be totally harmless or meaningless, in other countries can be a huge insult, so you want to be very careful to know these differences.
There is also a regional response from the users, meaning they will click in a website that to them looks like a local one (with the proper country extension/local domain), than using a generic Latam domain, or from Spain.
Just to mention Brazil, there are also huge differences between their Portuguese compared to the one in Europe. Similar to Latin America, Brazil has adopted local dialects, European languages that also result into a different grammar and spelling.
However the issue that Brazil generates is that as they are a bigger market than Portugal, the country captures a lot of the searches. This might result on the adwords keyword tool giving both “Iberian” and “Brazilian” Portuguese terms as suggestions.
As Bas van den Meld points about the European users being very active and sophisticated, also Latin Americans have different ways of using the web, and the searches are becoming more longtail in the quest for more relevant information.
In summary the point is that when a multinational US-based company wants to roll out an SEO, PPC or Social Media Strategy is not as straight forward as just translating. We need to look at cultural issues, content (if it makes sense to the local user, the terms they use for search etc.). Also what do people like to do in that country, do they prefer to be contacted by phone, or email or better to arrange a face to face meeting.
All of these points have to be taken into account when localising web content, rolling out Multilingual SEO, SMO and PPC strategies.
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