As the internet market in Asia continues to experience rapid growth, more and more foreign companies see the opportunities in doing business in Asia in 2010. At the same time, this trend will create opportunities for companies in Asia to grow locally and abroad. 2010 will be a year of global search marketing.
One of the beauties of the internet is that it is available for everyone regardless of the size of your company. If you do it right, a small company can run a very successful business in foreign markets. However, it is a fact that even a globally operated corporation often struggles to handle the challenges that come with operating in a foreign market. My advice is to first go with a couple of test markets rather than to kick-off campaigns and businesses in large numbers of markets at once.
Here are five points to consider so that you can ride the trend rather than be left out.
1. Test the market
Pay-per-click (PPC) search advertising is one of the best and easiest ways to test a new market. Create a couple of landing pages in the language(s) spoken in the market you would like to target. You get a pretty good understanding of the opportunities and interest within a month or so, even with a small budget. This approach gives you an idea of which keywords perform better, and what messages are more appealing to the market. You can then apply what you learn from these test campaigns to your general PPC campaign and SEO project.
2. Study the market trends, conditions and potential
Thanks to the internet and increased adoption of social media, it is easy to obtain real-time information about ecommerce, online advertising, the overall economy, etc. for various foreign markets. Search using keywords related to your business on popular social media sites in the market such as Facebook, Friendster and Twitter to see if people have any feedback or complaints, as well as unmet opportunities.
It is also good to know if people search online then purchase offline, or if they convert online. If most people convert offline, it doesn't make sense for you to invest too much money on PPC, and you should probably use SEO and social media to create brand awareness and to engage with potential customers via a local partner.
The types of advertising and marketing services available in each market may vary. Use the resources available online such as local trade organization's websites or free government agency reports to obtain the market-specific information.
3. Check out the competitors
Find out what your main competitors are doing internationally. Which markets are they operating in? How well are they doing? Also, you'd want to determine the potential competitors in the markets you'd like to target. Key information such as the keywords your competitors' are targeting, the publishers they are using to advertise, and their activities on social media, give you additional data to make an educated decision on whether you should target a particular market, and how you should approach it.
4. Understand the issues that come with globalization
There are many issues to manage in order to be successful on web globally. In addition to the obvious linguistic challenges, you'll need to deal with various technical issues such as duplicate content when you target multiple markets that speak the same language. With Google shifting the search results to more and more location-based ones, you should consider using country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) and local hosting. If this is not practical for your company, you need to at least set the correct geo-targeting using Google's webmaster tool.
Set your company policy and standardize who is responsible for which marketing programs, and how they are operated, to reduce confusion and increase efficiency.
5. Use all means available online -- optimizing all assets
The good news is that you now have more than your website and the PPC campaign for the search marketing. All major search engines now present blended search results showing not only web pages, but also images, videos, news articles, blog articles, etc. Also, people conduct searches outside the search engines, at sites such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. You can and should optimize all of your online assets to maximize the opportunity to be found in the search results no matter where they are searching.
Motoko Hunt is a Japanese search marketing strategist and founder of AJPR.