With Google's recent acquisition of Motorola Mobility, it seems that nothing can stop the search engine powerhouse from taking over the world. But even in this digital age, there are countries where Google is a struggling minority in search terms. Yes, really!
Whether through brand loyalty or superior knowledge of non-Latin scripts, local alternatives to Google exist, and for global digital marketers, these can be a veritable gold mine.
With less content on the foreign-language internet, the relatively small amount of competition means it is easier for your brand to appear on foreign-language search engines. While translating your content into a foreign language will get you a solid foothold in the overseas search engine market, it doesn't stop there.
Marketing to these countries involves wrenching yourself out of your Google SEO comfort zone, and tweaking your strategy to consider local differences. But where do you start?
Let's look at some of the biggest international markets.
Google's reign in this huge market share (nearly a quarter of internet users speak Chinese!) is lost to Baidu. If you're after a share of Baidu's search market, getting your site past China's infamous censorship regime is the first step. Do some reading on what is and isn't allowed before you simply translate all your content. Moreover, translating into the preferred language is a must since Baidu (and most Chinese-speakers) prefers simplified Chinese to English or traditional Chinese.
When it comes to back-links, where Google takes into account the popularity and quality of a site that links into you, Baidu is a little less selective. While it is not keen on link farms, you can afford to get more links from sites you might not usually consider. This is vital to Baidu success. Having a locally hosted domain name (like .cn or com.cn) is absolutely imperative as this will instantly give your site priority in the rankings.
Yandex is Russia's most popular search engine. Location is a big factor in its algorithms, and it looks at your domain name and IP address to determine exactly where you are.
Unlike Baidu, it allows for geo-targeting, meaning local hosting isn't as important. Your location is automatically assigned by Yandex, but by submitting your site to the Yandex Catalogue (the YaCa), you can manually select up to seven different regions.
While Yandex used to thrive on paid links, this practice is slowly being phased out. But phased out doesn't mean gone, and you might find that you need to shell out some cash to get a few well-placed links to your site. If you absolutely must, top media outlets seem to hold the most Yandex influence. It's also worth noting that if you choose to do this, your link won't be forever. They tend to sell on the scale of a few months to a year.
You can see which sites are worth linking from by using the Yandex Toolbar in conjunction with its Quotation index (Qi). The Qi is like Google's Page Rank, except it goes from 0 to 150,000. Much like Google, higher-ranking links will work more in your favor.
Okay, so technically this one is a little bit of a cheat. Many websites will tell you that Yahoo is the market leader in Japan, which it rightfully was until it decided to merge with Google.
Yahoo maintains, however, that their search algorithms do differ slightly, and a few quick searches tend to come up with differing results. So it seems that Yahoo has combined rather than poached directly from Google.
Yahoo likes to place much emphasis on keywords, so make sure you choose the right ones. Having a native speaker on hand that can help brainstorm relevant keywords is a plus. It's not quite as simple as merely translating your English keywords into a foreign language. After all, people search in different ways, too.
Once you have your keywords, place them properly. Where Google puts less emphasis on meta tags, Yahoo loves them. You can also afford a higher rate of keyword density, around 7 to 8 percent, compared to Google's preferred density of 2 percent. But as the old adage goes, content is king, so make sure it's going to read properly before overstuffing your finely crafted web pages with keywords.
Ensure that you regularly update, too. Yahoo's spiders need to be able to find you easily. Keeping a blog is a great way to ensure new content, as well as give people new reasons to visit your site.
Much like Google SEO, it's not brain surgery, but a few insights will greatly increase your chances of making it to that coveted top slot on whatever search engine your customers use.
Christian Arno is founder and director of translation services provider Lingo24.
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