Every brand wants to be a global powerhouse, right? But of course, breaking into other markets is easier said than done.
Marketers must keep the diverse needs and cultures of consumers in mind, optimizing their web presence and content strategies accordingly. From an SEO perspective, that requires specific action plans separate from those executed in the U.S.
Conductor surveyed marketers in various industries, most of whom (53.3%) operate on a “micro-global” level, working in two to five countries, primarily with Western search engines such as Google and Bing. The SEO platform found that most marketers plan to expand into more countries, soon.
The challenges of expanding
While most marketers plan to expand, 43% find it difficult to get insight into how their content performs regionally.
According to Conductor, 30% of global marketers consider website organization and navigation their biggest challenge. Even more (40%) admit that their current technology stacks don’t allow them to easily compare search terms and results across regional search engines. And more than half don’t think their team has sufficient training on regional SEO practices.
Another significant challenge Conductor found is that 45% of marketers don’t have the website structure to effectively organize region-specific content.
With these obstacles, how can search marketers break into other markets? Though many don’t feel adequately prepared to solve global SEO challenges, they can think of search marketing in conversational terms. Just as hand gestures vary in different countries—Americans equate crossed fingers with wishing for something, while the same thing is considered a vulgar reference to a woman’s genitals in Vietnam, for example—regional search marketing also requires cultural considerations.
Let’s zoom in on Chinese Baidu and Russian Yandex, the world’s largest regional search engines.
Spotlight On: Baidu
Marketers looking to expand into Asia can’t forget that Google is blocked on mainland China. There is a “Google China,” but it doesn’t enjoy the same dominance it does in the rest of the world. Over the last year, 91.25% of worldwide search queries took place on Google. But during that same period in China, Google was the number five search engine, with only 1.9% of queries.
Another key difference is that Baidu has a Brand Zone, which allows advertisers to purchase their branded keywords and essentially dominate the SERPs. While American brands can purchase their own keywords, so can other companies. When you Google “Calvin Klein,” the company’s ad is the first result. However, “Calvin Klein Shoes” brings up search ads from Macy’s and Zappos, with Calvin Klein’s own website ranking third. The brand’s own website is also missing from Google Shopping.
Ecommerce is also vastly different in other countries. In the U.S., ecommerce is basically synonymous with “Amazon.” While Amazon does operate in China, the world’s largest ecommerce market, it doesn’t dominate. Chinese consumers do more shopping on Tencent, JD.com and Alibaba. In November, the latter’s annual Single’s Day generated $25.3 billion in sales, more than five times Black Friday in the U.S.
Spotlight On: Yandex
While Google is more popular in Russia than it is in China, it’s not the search engine there, either. Last month, Yandex—the world’s fifth largest search engine, after Bing and Yahoo—accounted for 53.66% of search queries in Russia. Yandex is also Google’s biggest competitor in other Russian-speaking countries, such as Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Given Yandex’s heavy regional concentration, the search engine prioritizes geo-targeting. Google search engine results pages (SERPs) generally display the same results regardless of location. On the other hand, Yandex divides queries into geo-dependent and geo-independent categories. This means that in many cases, Yandex only displays websites from a certain region, without the common Google practice of adding “near me” to a query.
Yandex also tends to prioritize user behavior more than Google. While both search engines value content quality over anything else, Yandex prizes popularity. Higher ranking is given to sites where users spend more time per visit.
Something else to consider: According to Statista, the worldwide average for smartphone searches in January was 52%, about halfway in between China (61%) and the U.S. (41%). However, in Russia, the number is 21%. While Google famously overhauled its algorithm three years ago to favor mobile-friendly sites, Russia doesn’t have the same smartphone penetration. During the first half of 2017, Russian ecommerce business was worth 498 billion rubles. That sounds like a lot, but translates to “only” $8.5 billion, or one-third of a Single’s Day.