Frank Orman

4 Tips for Online Marketing in Foreign Countries

Posted by Frank Orman November 24, 2010
Categories:Internet Marketing Training, Keyword Strategy, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media | No Comments

China’s population is over 1.3 billion. India’s is over 1.1 billion. Russia’s is over 140 million. Wanting to tap into these foreign markets as an online marketer is an entirely understandable ambition, but it’s important to go about this with care.


It is absolutely not as simple as translating the critical pages of your website, tweeting daily in a foreign language and otherwise replicating online marketing solutions that work in the UK or USA. Many factors must be taken into consideration, including local search engines, local social media, local cultural attitudes and word usage. Here are a few starter points if you’re considering an online marketing campaign abroad.


1. Search engines


Google is the dominant search engine in the UK, with Bing and Yahoo! also enjoying great popularity. However, this is not universal. In mainland China, Baidu is the most commonly used; in the past Google has been available but censored, while mainland Chinese users are now redirected to Hong Kong’s Google. Baidu’s chief executive spoke earlier this month about his decision to accept censorship and other mainland limitations in order to do business. We strongly disagree with censorship of search engines, but any online marketing solutions that want to target China must take this into account.


The thriving Russian giant is Yandex. It works similarly to Google, but not identically: it analyses banner ads on your website, penalises websites for pop-up ads, as well as pop-up windows and too many links that require a user to leave the website, places value on outbound links along with inbound links and it analyses the style of Russian language being used on the website.


In both China and Russia, understanding the local search engine is essential to online marketing solutions. Marketers must do thorough research into search engine usage for any country they intend to target.


2. Social media


As with search engines, social media platforms are not identically popular around the world. Some services we consider vital to a social media campaign aren’t even available. Facebook is banned in China and Syria, while its service is very intermittent in Vietnam; other countries’ governments have banned it in the past and will probably do so in the future. Twitter likewise is seen as a problem by the governments of countries such as China and Iran.


In other cases, differences are merely due to local preference. While Facebook recently overtook Orkut as the most widely used social media platform in India, dedicated Indian online marketing solutions would be unwise to ignore Orkut’s mass popularity. vKontakte is the biggest social media platform in Russia by a wide margin, with almost ten times the number of unique users as fourth-popular Facebook.


3. Local content


Saying that different countries have different cultures may seem obvious, but it is too vital to marketing campaigns for us to neglect mentioning. What is considered acceptable in our society might cause offense, or just disinterest, in other countries.


Let’s say that a travel company offers wine tasting tours. “Lovely!” a British customer might think, already imagining the glasses of Pinot Grigio or Chianti. But some religions, countries and regions forbid or frown upon the consumption of alcohol. These potential customers need to be pointed towards different holiday packages.


These factors change around the year. Promoting a lavish foodie holiday during Lent in parts of the Christian world or during Ramadan in the Muslim world might be considered poor form by some.


Far more subtle and unexpected cultural differences will have equal impact on online marketing solutions abroad. We recommend consulting with someone who lives in the country being targeted, or who is highly familiar with it, in order to prevent any problematic errors.


4. Word usage


As vital as getting the search engine right is getting the key phrases right. Assuming that a direct translation of your most successful phrases in English will work in foreign languages is dangerous. For instance, the Italians are known for using the phrase ‘lastminute’ in their travel-related searches – all one word, alongside Italian phrases. Even the English language is different around the world. A travel company offering tours by pick-up truck in Australia will have to talk about “utes”, for instance.


In conclusion


We hope that the above points serve to illustrate the need to conduct thorough research before embarking on online marketing solutions in other parts of the world. They are by no means exhaustive, but hopefully we’ve given you some starting ideas to pursue.

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