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Local Factors That Can Mess Up Your International SEO Strategy

Local FactorsSearch marketing campaigns in different languages and for different markets often pose unique challenges which cannot always be foreseen when the initial strategy is defined. And sometimes local factors emerge that create the need to slightly change the strategy after the initial keyword research has been completed.

Some of these factors are fairly obvious and can be taken into account from the start, while others will show up first when we look at the different markets. One particular problem appears when we research very small markets, especially when using data from larger markets as reference points.

Market Size and Search Volume

This might seem to be a no brainer but it’s not always thought of nonetheless. Smaller countries will normally return much less search volume for most search queries, simply because there are fewer people searching. So what can appear to be a low search volume for a country like Germany, would in fact be very high for a country like Sweden, considering the population of Germany is more than 10 times that of Sweden.

But it doesn’t end here. A smaller base of queries for the maths behind a keyword research does affect much more than the numbers in the search volume column, it makes it actually harder to find suitable keywords at all. Normally, we assume that the best keyword is the one that is highly relevant to the content of the page we are optimising, but still has enough search volume to attract a reasonable number of searches.

For small countries, these keywords very often do not exist, because there is not enough search volume altogether to show anything else than very generic keywords. Instead we need to make a choice between either targeting the generic keywords or pick more specific keywords out of the blue without any statistics to underpin our choice. Here the expertise of native researchers who know the markets and languages well can offer invaluable input.

Local Differences in Language Use

Many online marketing campaign strategies start from an English, or American, viewpoint. This can lead to some interesting challenges in a lot of industries that use a varied and, in lack of a better term, very word-rich vocabulary. This applies to industries as different as fashion and financial services. For English speakers it’s not always easy to accept that what for them is a jumper a long sleeved top and a sweater, for a Swedish person this is all just “tröjor”.

This is not only a challenge for the keyword researcher, who will struggle to find different keywords with search volume for a term that is basically the same in the local language, but might in the end mess up the whole website structure, where sub-pages might address what isn’t perceived as something different enough to deserve a page in the local language.

Missed Opportunities

Even in a very small market, there can be opportunities that can be missed if the initial strategy is too narrowly defined. Sometimes a researcher might want us to look for keywords that describe how a product is used rather than what it is called. But it should always be done from a local rather than global perspective. Say you have a company that sells construction equipment like earth moving machines, or something as particular as a road grader. These are futuristically looking vehicles used to create wide flat surfaces in road construction. While doing a keyword research for these machines for the Swedish market it turns out that exactly the same machines can be, and are, used for something completely different: moving large amounts of snow, for example to create temporary roads over frozen lakes during the winter. In other words, here is an opportunity that can be missed if the requirements for the research contain too strict categories in which this use of the vehicle would not fit.

These are just some examples of the challenges we face when rolling out global campaign strategies in different languages in general – and small markets in particular. These challenges are best dealt with by making the most of the expertise of native people with a thorough knowledge of their language and the local market. Additionally, strategic requirements should be flexible enough to take local factors into account. Thus we can ensure that we create the most effective campaign for the specific market – and don’t miss any opportunities.

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Jens Kuhn

Operations Manager at Webcertain
Jens is the Operations Manager at Webcertain. He was born in Germany and moved to Sweden when he was 19, where he lived for 20 years before moving to the UK. Having worked as a journalist and magazine editor for many years, he has always had an interest in the internet and created his first webpage in 1993. Working for Webcertain since 2010, Jens has made his way from SEO Project Manager within the Keywords department to working more strategically with improving processes and efficiencies across the operations departments.

One Response to Local Factors That Can Mess Up Your International SEO Strategy

  1. kenn says:

    nice post. More people are taking notice of local SEO this year. One reason is that more and more local businesses are now recognizing the usefulness of having a website and being accessible over the Internet.

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