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Living La Vida Loca! Top Tips For Online Success In The Spanish Speaking World

With 153 million users, Spanish is the 3rd most used language online, trailing only English and Chinese. However, the variations of this language, along with the cultural diversity of those using it are vast, making the job of the search marketer all the more challenging.

Ani Lopez, a native Spaniard working as an SEO Manager at Cardinal Path in Canada, will be speaking on the topic of keyword research for Spanish speaking markets at the International Search Summit @ SMX West on February 27th in San Jose. Here Ani shares important insights and tips for marketers targeting a Spanish speaking audience anywhere in the world.

Does the Spanish language create any particular difficulties for search marketers?

Sure! All languages evolve over time, but some are more diverse than others. Spanish is one of these that, growing richer, make it more difficult to manage when targeting multiple markets.

Its distribution is pretty blurry and jumps across continents, cultures and media. For instance, Spanish is the official language in 21 countries and an unofficial but widely spoken language in many others: There is the same number of Hispanophones in the US as the population of Spain and Spanish  is the 3rd most used language online (153M users) after English and Chinese.

With types of Spanish, like formal or colloquial, plus regional dialects and varieties, the idea of just using ‘standard Spanish’ is something that I don’t to buy into. Even grouping them – trying to make it simpler – leaves us with too many variants: Caribbean, South American Pacific, Central American, Highland American and more.

The rapid growth of Spanish speaking internet users is spicing up the language a bit, but it is the diversity that Spanish has achieved due to historical factors, different cultures crossing its path, geographical reasons and such, which makes it so intricate.

What are the major challenges of targeting multiple Spanish-speaking markets online?

Writing Adwords copy in Argentinean for a market of Spaniards is not going to be successful unless, of course, you are deliberately targeting Argentinean people living in Spain. Incorrect localization makes potential clients lose confidence in your company and raises brand reputation issues.

Besides the fact that grammar and vocabulary may change, you get very different dialects and accents. These, of course, do not severely prevent understanding among the educated but – big warning here – very common words in one country/language group may have not only different meanings, but vulgar or absolutely inappropriate ones in others.

In this complex scenario the real challenge is localization, something which is nothing new to advanced international marketers, but it becomes even more critical for Spanish speaking markets. This doesn’t just apply to grammar and vocabulary, but also style or the way we phrase ideas. While Spaniards are more direct and succinct, Uruguayans can be more creative or indirect in their expression. With Argentineans you have to read/write between the lines.

Are there any characteristics that are consistent across all markets where Spanish is spoken?

Formal Spanish is a little easier to cope with as it maintains a bit more consistency across borders and cultures. That’s a small relief when managing content strategies for corporate sites.

Other than that it is hard to find consistencies across markets. If you want to sell sneakers (that’s trainers in the UK) to teenagers in Mexico the Spanish you use is going to be completely different than the one you should be using addressing Argentineans or Castilian users.

What opportunities can organizations exploit in those markets?

It depends on the region. Nobody doubts, nowadays, that Latinos in US are a big demographic target. Proof of that is that big companies in many different market sectors have already translated their sites into Spanish. Victoria’s Secret, Papa Johns, Best Buy and Citibank are all good examples.

A different story is what’s happening south of the US. Fortunately, Latin American countries are awaking from a troubled past and poverty has continued to decrease over the last 10 years. Nothing makes me happier!

Therefore, there is a market of 572 million people, of which Spanish makes up about ~66% and Brazilian-Portuguese,~33%. Of course every country in the region has its own particularities but opportunities are already there for those who want to expand.

What tips can you offer marketers trying to reach Spanish speakers in the US?

That is even more challenging. ‘Hispanic’ in US refers to people whose origin is Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Spanish-speaking Central or South American countries, or other Hispanic/Latino, regardless of race. It is truly a melting pot of different cultures which must be considered – although Mexicans do represent a majority.

H.G.Wells in his future history “The Shape of Things to Come” predicted that, in XXI century, English and Spanish would become interchangeable languages. Well, more than interchangeable, we now have a new variance on top of this complex linguistic situation: Spanglish. Living la vida loca!

First Tip: Start planning using Hispanic demographic data in the US, but don’t expect your audience’s behaviour to mimic this data.

Second Tip: Listen carefully to your analytics’ tools to find more reliable trends and outliers.

You’re speaking specifically on keyword research for Spanish speaking markets at ISS. What will delegates learn from your session?

I’ll be explaining how to use free online tools to help you localize Spanish correctly. When it comes to localization, there is nothing better than having native speakers do the work, but even they have to double check localization of words and expressions to make sure their Paid Search or SEO campaigns target the right Spanish audience and yield the desired revenue.

Finally, why attend the International Search Summit?
That’s an easy question to answer. Simply because it is the best summit for those who will have to get their hands dirty planning or executing international online marketing campaigns.

Three reasons to attend:

1) It is organized by a company that knows the challenges of internationalization.

2) It has high level presenters and presentations offering fresh data and real cases.

3) Last but not least, the size of the event makes it very easy for everyone to mingle and chat with presenters and attendees. This is what makes it very exciting for me, because I love to exchange information and experiences.

Early Bird Rates for the International Search Summit and SMX West are available until January 28th. Others sessions include Google: A New Markup for Multilingual Content, Global Domain Strategies and The Other Search Engines.

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Gemma Houghton

Director of Marketing at Webcertain
Gemma has worked in international search marketing for over 15 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 and International Social Summit, Barcelona-based conferences focusing on international and multilingual digital marketing. 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.

6 Responses to Living La Vida Loca! Top Tips For Online Success In The Spanish Speaking World

  1. […] Living La Vida Loca! Top Tips For Online Success In The Spanish Speaking World […]

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  3. Zeph Snapp says:

    Hi Brian,

    It is an interesting question. As you know, the Google Keyword tool allows you to choose language, region and country. So if we are doing a campaign that has to work for all of Latin America, we will perfom the keyword research for at least three countries to confirm our list. It actually helps us create a larger list of words to target!
    I have a blog post about it here: notjustseo.com/blog/spanish-seo-keyword-research-on-a-budget/
    If you have any questions or need further information on this topic I will be glad to help.


  4. Brian says:

    Hi Gemma Birch,

    Nice article.

    How do you distinguish between the different Spanish speaking areas in your keyword research?



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