Commentary

Why Does Google Send U.S. Hispanics To Foreign Web Sites?

Put yourself in the shoes of a bi-lingual or Spanish-preferring U.S. Hispanic and try searching in Spanish on Google, Yahoo or MSN and what do you find? A good portion of the results, sometimes approaching 50%, come from sites based in Mexico, Spain, and other Spanish-speaking countries.

Let's look at some examples I found recently on the first page of natural (not paid) results on Google.com:

1) Vuelos a Nueva York (flights to New York): 9 out of 10 were foreign

2) Restaurantes en Los Angeles (restaurants in L.A.): 6 out of 11 were foreign

3) Recetas mexicanas (Mexican recipes): 5 out of 10 were foreign

4) Computadoras baratas (cheap computers): 6 out of 10 were foreign

Globalization of Information and News

However surprising this may be, we need to look no further than Google's corporate mission statement to see why this is the case: "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." Google and other search engines index sites globally while we marketers, agencies and media sellers work within the economic and political borders of the U.S.

A search engine robot ranks results in each language by keyword ranking, the quality of the content and the number of sites that link to that site (with a possible preference to sites based within that country's borders). So, when a Hispanic searches for a niche subject that a Hispanic publisher hasn't provided in Spanish, where will a U.S. search engine send them? Wherever else in the world that content exists online in Spanish: Mexico, Spain, Argentina, etc.

Why is this happening?

In addition to the globalization of media, this highlights a number of trends in consumer behavior and lessons for U.S. Hispanics marketers:

  • Spanish-language sites/pages based in the U.S. may not be optimized for search engines as well as sites in other countries where Spanish is the main language.
  • Many U.S. Hispanics search in Spanish and may prefer visiting sites from their country of origin, depending upon their level of acculturation.
  • Spanish-language markets that invest much more with local, Spanish-language online publishers, like Spain, are more likely to have content online and therefore appear more often in search results.
  • U.S. Hispanic advertisers have lagged behind in moving their budgets online and therefore have provided less of an incentive for U.S. Hispanic publishers to post a wide variety of content online.

Nevertheless, even though English reigns supreme as the most utilized language online, Spanish may catch up soon as computer prices continue to fall and publishers bring more content online. New Netbooks today, for example, cost around $150, making it much easier for Hispanics to check email, use the Internet and call their relatives via Skype or MSN.

Solutions to this problem

The good news amidst this seismic change in consumer behavior is the opportunity that this presents to marketing professionals who are ready to try new and more sophisticated ways of marketing to U.S. Hispanics online. Here are some questions to ask yourself and your media partners for managing this issue:

1) Are you buying U.S.-only geo-targeted inventory on your search and banner buys? Or are allowing your publishing partners to serve those impressions wherever they have visitors across the globe?

2) Is your Spanish-language site (or pages) optimized for search engines?

3) Are you reaching U.S. Hispanics on country-of-origin web sites through ad networks or exchanges as they land on content pages (once they've clicked on search engine results)?

4) Are you applying additional layers of targeting like behavioral, contextual, or language targeting to further segment and understand your Hispanic audience online?

5) How does this consumer behavior with regards to search engines inform the way your brand reaches Spanish-language consumers online both domestically and globally?

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4 comments about "Why Does Google Send U.S. Hispanics To Foreign Web Sites? ".
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  1. Carlos Vanegas from Self, May 14, 2009 at 11:57 a.m.

    Can't search engines identify where the search is performed from and spit out results accordingly? Of course, if there is no content to show for the search from the nearest geographical area, by default the search engine will go to the next big thing.

  2. Joe Kutchera, May 14, 2009 at 3:29 p.m.

    Carlos - great question. While search engines can identify where a search is performed, clearly they see a lack of content online in Spanish within U.S. borders. Try doing a search for the same subject on Google.com, Google.com.mx, Google.com.ar, and Google.es and you'll find different results. But the difference is that those markets where Spanish is the native language will have much more content online (in Spanish).

  3. Raquel Tomasino from MarTomMarketing, LLC, May 16, 2009 at 6:33 p.m.

    Carlos here is the issue I have with current research based on existing consumer online behavior. If the consumer's future usage is based on the past and the existing model (US English search engines with little to no US Spanish content support) then how can we possibly provide data that allows the industry to really gage the success of change?

    I bow to the innovators, the true visionaries who will "boldly go where no man or women has gone before" for they are the pioneers who will ultimately change the future, chart the territories and challenge where we come from.

  4. Nayadeth Figueroa from Designilosophy, May 29, 2009 at 1:06 p.m.

    I think the first bullet point hit it right on the head.

    That said, large US companies are inadvertently neglecting a niche and losing millions of dollars; Hispanics are after all the largest minority in the US, a large portion of whom are home owners and continue on to higher education.

    The other reason, which this article did not address and which is two-fold, is that most Hispanics are extremely loyal to brands, having a reverence for word of mouth and image, to the point where they use products because of family, friends or colleagues do. After all, Hispanics are a collective society. That being the case, large corporations hire Advertising firms that specialize in the Hispanic market to attract said niche via television and radio spots, magazine/newspaper ads; IOW, via venues they are more likely to be attracted to. One tv spot during a novela is worth more than hundreds of Google searches.

    Then, there is the subgroup, or type of Hispanic. The older generation is also not likely to search online for information; this is more of what a second or third generation Hispanic would do. Second and third generation Hispanics are better acclimated, speak the English language, and thus are the ones searching online. Younger bilingual first-generation Hispanics make decisions based on what their collective group is doing. So, does it really boil down to Google and Search Engines? Perhaps the answer is in why Terra.com hasn't succeeded as well as had hoped.

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