Anders Hjorth will be speaking on the first day of the Search Engine Strategies conference in San Jose in the following track:Search Around the World – Part 2: The UK & Europe. Anders took the time to delve into some large International SEM questions and give clear advice to those who are participating in SEM internationally right now, or who are thinking about it in the future. You can find more information about Anders at the show or using the links at the bottom of the interview to get in direct contact with his company or see other SES 2008 Interviews here.
What is your background and what are you doing for Relevant Traffic?
I am part of what I would call the first generation of Europeans embracing cultural and language diversity. I was born in Denmark, travelled in my youth and studied in 4 different countries and in 4 different languages before beginning my career in France.
After having worked mainly in the French internet sector in various companies and functions, I became one of the founders of Relevant Traffic Europe, a Europe-wide Search Engine Marketing agency delivering technology solutions, search campaigns and consultancy in 11 languages and over 20 countries.
I today head a team of experts residing in various subsidiaries to accumulate and distribute know-how within client delivery and for tailor-made client solutions.
What are key issues to think about into the UK & Europe SEM market?
The key issues to think about for doing SEM in Europe are three-fold: user constraints, language preferences and cultural flavour.
User constraints are really about understanding the context the user will be in when doing a search. Mobile internet is more important in Europe due to a high equipment rate and although this is not as omnipresent as in advanced parts of Asia, this could be a good example of a user constraint. More relevant user constraints are those in relation with the buying experience: what are the most common means of payment or delivery of goods in the country – what is the currency used. Will there be problems with VAT or import taxes, what will be the connexion speed, will the keyboard lay-out work with the application. All of these elements of user constraints are quite essential as they could represent an completely blocking obstacle in the conversion funnel.
The second element to be dealing with can be equally blocking. It is of course the language factor. You will need to be addressing web users in their own language, that is, if you are not marketing entirely indispensable services (most people are of course not)… The language issue can be quite complex as it dictates the keywords and key phrases that you will be using in SEM. The language dimension not only important for the SEM efforts but more so on the destination web site. In some cases a language specific microsite explicitly stating that the remaining service will be in English language can be a solution. In most cases, however, if your web site is only in English, you might as well not market towards a specific region at all.
The third element is somewhat softer – it is the cultural dimension of your marketing campaign. Culture is often considered to be something difficult to grasp but in SEM the cultural dimension is very concrete. It furthermore ties into both the user constraints and language issues. As an example an English language Ad from a US campaign may not be efficient in the UK market because of both different word connotation and politeness. A message can be more or less direct and in this way be considered more or less aggressive by two different audiences in different cultural settings. Another dimension to the cultural context is the type of message used in other marketing channels both on and offline. The type of message your competitors are using will add to the cultural flavour. From our experience within Relevant Traffic, a higher cultural immersion into the local jargon and standards of communication will always give a higher return. The cultural dimension will allow you to tap into the long tail.
So to sum up, if you miss out on the user constraints you might as well not start marketing to a geographic area (sell in Euros to the UK where they will pay in Pound Sterling). If you have got the user constraints right you will get some initial marginal returns even if you haven’t fully managed the language dimension (you can get away with targeting the UK with a copy and paste US campaign). If you want to compete within high volume business areas, you need to also consider the cultural dimension. “When in Rome, do as the Romans”…
What are the hot issues surrounding international SEM at the moment?
The hottest issue around international SEM is an extremely boring one called organisation. According to the level of branding against conversion required in a Paid Search strategy, an entirely different set-up could be required. For highly competitive international SEM, it will be necessary to have feet on the ground in every major language/country segment and establish an efficient command line and an aggregate reporting. For a brand campaign with mainly visibility objectives a more centralized organisation and a stronger command line can be established with less feet on the ground. Major international organisations with multi-national presence are today struggling with a major headache issue of finding out how to organize international SEM internally as well as how to work with international agencies externally. For each organisation the setting could be different.
How do you decide which markets to move into next with your global marketing plan?
When building an international marketing plan, timing is often a problem so let’s forget that and just concentrate on how things should be: For each country/language segment, a comparison of adaptation costs with market potential would easily give a prioritized list of markets to target. For a US company, this equation will very often generate a prioritized list starting with something like this:
2) United Kingdom
3) Australia NZ/EN
4) Mexico & Central America/ES
After that it get’s harder and the following markets will involve Asian (Japan, China) and Western European markets (Germany, France, Spain, Italy, …)
What are some international SEM resources on the web that you recommend?
I will mainly recommend e-consultancy.com which is a great resource with in-depth reports. I have also had great use of the European Interactive Advertising Association’s market information: http://www.eiaa.net/
What are some great non-US blogs to read for international search gurus?
I spend very little time on non-US blogs so I won’t recommend any.
What is the latest “flash in the pan” meme in search marketing?
There have been so many Flash in the pan meme’s out there both in paid and natural.I like the recent “Google can now index Flash” one. My feeling is Google always could and never really will index Flash in the way they should… but at least this will get the SEO industry more ways of making it all sound very complex 😉
What is your blog or a place that people can get in contact with you?Anders Hjorth, International SEM, Search Engine Marketing, SEM, SEO, SES 2008