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25 top takeaways from the International Search Summit @ SMX East

Top Takeaways from International Search Summit New York

This week saw the latest instalment of the International Search Summit and delegates at the event were treated to a full day of tips, tactics, insights and best practices for delivering effective and successful global search campaigns.

With speakers travelling from as far afield as Germany and India, and covering topics from geo-targeting to content marketing, there was a lot to take away from the day.

Here are my top 25 takeaways:

Global search management – Bill Hunt, Back Azimuth Consulting

1) Use the same template across all global sites and just modify it for each country/language. When changes are then made to the template, it can be updated globally with ease.

2) Do not waste time auditing each country site, when you are using the same templates. All of the technical issues will apply globally, so you will get the same results over and over.

3) Create country specific XML site maps – this will ensure you are giving the search engines the right information but also makes it much easier to see where you are not being indexed and identify any issues.

4) Do not waste useful, quality links, so fix broken links before worrying about building new ones. Ensure they are pointing to the most effective page, and avoid having all links pointing at your homepage.

Geo-targeting – Andy Atkins-Krüger, Webcertain

5) Google’s hreflang attribute is a useful tool for international marketers – but deploy it strategically. It is not needed, or useful, in some cases so do not blanket use it on your entire website.

6) Local domains are the strongest signal for telling the search engines which country your website is targeting (according to Google!)– so it is advisable to use them where possible. However, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to geo-targeting, it depends on the website.

Russia and Yandex – Preston Carey, Yandex

7) 62% of Russia internet users will research products online – and online transactions are increasing. However, 55% of all goods are still paid for by cash on delivery, so this is something ecommerce brands need to account for when selling into Russia. It also makes it much more difficult to measure online performance.

8) Search terms in Russia are generally shorter than in other languages, however the complexity of the Russian language means that one term can have multiple possible extensions. Yandex is very good at dealing with these language issues – and has more match types than Google and Bing for PPC, in order to ensure advertisers reach the right audience.

Demystifying China – Justin Tsang, Pacific Tech Ventures

9) China has a Galapagos effect – it is an entirely different internet landscape once you get inside the Chinese firewall. Search engines, social networks, ecommerce platforms, video sites etc… are all very specific to China and you need to be leveraging them in order to generate visibility.

10) There is a massive divide between the urban and rural communities in China, and how they use the web, so you need to consider this when you are targeting the users. For example, desktop usage is quite common in Tier 1 cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen but internet access is virtually entirely through mobile in rural areas.

11) Hosting your website on a .cn or .cn.com domain within China will have a huge impact on both website speed and search engine rankings, compared to those sites which host elsewhere.

Digital marketing opportunities in India – Vivek Bhargava, iProspect2Communicate

12) English is the business language of India – so lack of knowledge of the 22 different Indian languages is not a barrier to entry.

13) You can charge a premium for goods and services – as long as you deliver value. Indians are prepared to pay, however, they expect quality in return. Failing to do that will damage your reputation, as they will let the world know about it through social channels.

14) Success in India does require getting to know the local culture, understanding the needs of your audience and adapting your offering accordingly. A good example is McDonald’s not serving beef, as most Hindus do not eat it and incorporating Indian flavours into their products.

International paid search – Laetitia Kieffer, Mediacom

15) In the display URL on your ads, make it clear that users will land on their local site, rather than a global one as that will improve click-through rates.

16) Even if you are just launching a product in one market, it may be talked about and shared in other – leading people to go a search for it. So talk about it globally, use coming soon pages and generate interest through paid search ahead of time.

17) Do not assume that return will be the same for the same term around the world. Costs-per-click will vary by country – with factors like seasonality and local competition having an impact.

International content marketing – Motoko Hunt, AJPR

18) Use local teams and resources like Google trends to identify what topics are “hot” or interesting to each market, and create content around it.

19) Content is not just body text. When localising content you need to consider all elements of the website such as image text, videos, downloads and make decisions on what does or does not need to be localised.

20) Use real data to get management buy-in to support content strategies, by demonstrating the number of searches you are getting compared to the number of searches for a phrase. Adding actual revenue forecasts will further enhance your case.

Scaling international search – Andy Atkins-Krüger, Webcertain

21) Benchmarking between countries does not work – as you are not comparing like for like. You need to compare yourself to your competition to really understand how you are performing and where the opportunities lie.

22) Targeting personas is a great way to scale international content marketing, as you can create relevant content that will appeal to distinct personas, and replicate it globally. You still need to localise but the core messages are the same.

Global ranking factors – Tom Schuster, Searchmetrics

23) Google and Bing both attach huge importance to social signals, when it comes to ranking factors. You cannot cheat social – and people share content because it is relevant, interesting and appealing to them. This indicates quality to the search engines.

24) Backlinks are still a key factor in rankings but it is essential to have a natural backlink profile – quality matters more than quantity.

25) Across Google, Bing, Yandex and Baidu, social and backlinks are consistently important and play more of a major role than on-page optimisation such as using keywords in titles and descriptions or ad links.

So, there you have it! A round-up of a full day of great international search content and plenty of food for thought for anybody working on global campaigns. There were many more tips, ideas and tactics that I could not share here, but check out when there is an International Search Summit near you and join us next time!

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Gemma Houghton

Director of Marketing at Webcertain
Gemma has worked in international search marketing for over 14 years and is Director of Marketing at Webcertain, overseeing all marketing activities for the Group. She also organises and programmes Webcertain's International Search Summit, a search marketing conference focusing on international and multilingual online marketing which runs across Europe and the US. Gemma holds a Professional Diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, a Diploma in Management and Leadership from the Chartered Management Institute, and a BA joint honours degree in French and German.

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