The Meat and Potatoes

Search Focus-The Meat and Potatoes

International campaign development can be the main dish

I'll be up front: I'm not here to make a case for search expansion into new markets. I'm going to assume that your company, or your brand, has a grasp on that already. However, what I am going to do is highlight certain aspects that I've learned from managing campaigns in multiple countries.

Search marketing is what I've cut my teeth on and is a core focus of the agency that employs me. I've put blood,
sweat and tears into keywords, customer path, segmentation and the measurability of it all. In the good ol' U..S. of A., at least.

About two years ago, my career opened up a bit when I was tasked with expanding my clients' search efforts internationally. And for a moment in time, I felt very, very fancy.

Turns out that the "other" market isn't so different after all. Sure, there are some differences. I, for one, don't like peas and sausage together on a regular basis. Other folks? They eat it up. Yet, how we bridge these subtle differences still comes down to a lot of hard work with similar goals - utilizing SEM to get your product to the consumer.

Understanding the Market
First, discover the basic operating premise in each market by leaning on outside resources (that are within your means). Easy enough, right? This is one where you really need to dig in and get as much information as possible. In reality, you'll learn a lot more once your virtual doors are open. But to set proper expectations, it's vital to understand the key differences that have already been studied and proved. At the most basic level, know the online penetration rates that exist in markets of entry.

According to Forrester Research, "More than 80 percent of Europeans have broadband access at home." That's great - but not great enough. The more important question is how comfortable people are transacting with you. Isolating a category like retail, the UK is an obvious crowd-pleaser, with a strong affinity for online shopping and a healthy wallet to indulge it, but that's not to discount some of the other players.

Marketers who have access to these overall trends will be better equipped to formulate key strategies for launching their sem initiatives. I'm fortunate that the agency I work for has solid relationships with folks like comScore and Forrester. We utilize their data to justify and expand our areas of focus, but obviously, for a lot of people, there can be an investment barrier to entry. Outside of the subscription-based models, I've had great luck in relying on other partners and sources of information.

If you're running a decent-size campaign, your Google teams are a great place to start. I would bet they have local presence in any market in which you're operating (maybe even the moon, since we did bomb it for water) and are a great resource on the localization front. Don't forget about the amount of studies and data Google commissions and to which it has access. Lean on Google; connect in your areas of focus and work to form a close bond, if feasible.

Another easy tip is to follow these research firms online. They are in the business of online and have savvy PR campaigns and social media outlets. What does this mean for you? If you start following some of these guys on Twitter, you're going to get a lot of their press releases thrown your way. Information is key - and it's out there to be found.

Understanding the Consumer
The second area of focus is to build on a foundation that is flexible enough to accommodate communication across regions.

Similar to market due diligence, getting to know your customers and their preferences will impact your strategies and tactics. I'm not going to lie - this is the part of my job that I love. I eat it up like our friends across the pond eat up peas and sausage.

Boiling it down to basics, we're trying to get user A to buy product B, regardless of where they're located. However, the path from A to B can vary wildly. At the heart of this is an understanding of what touch points each consumer needs en route to conversion.

Germans, for example, are highly concerned with privacy, but still prefer to do product research through search. If your aim is strictly return, the fruits of your search labor may not be viewed correctly. You'll need to examine if your reporting capabilities are built to realize a cross-channel shopper. Going further, what types of payment methods are preferred, and is your e-commerce platform built to satisfy those individual needs? What types of advertising message resonate with a new market? Some prefer email, while others are turned off and respond better to peer-to-peer information. One market may prefer highly stylized imaging of your product online, while another may need constant affirmations of privacy.

Taking the cue from your consumer on how they want to be messaged is the first step. Having the proper infrastructure to implement change by market will help propel you to the next level of success.

Data at the Center of the Plate
Now that our campaigns are launched based on our knowledge of our markets and the people that inhabit them, the third element to running a successful campaign abroad kicks in: data. Two pearls of wisdom to share here: words and rates.

Invest and rely on good translation and even better localization. You know your product, but you might not necessarily know how it's being searched for. Build your keyword list as extensively as possible, launch it, and then watch the new information come through. Market A might search for "wellies" while Market B searches for "gum boots." Now extrapolate that across 20 different languages and hilarity ensues! Find a good translator, whether internally or through an outside agency and, first and foremost, make sure they're flexible and understand your brand. If you have to use an outside translation agency, think about concentrating its efforts on the meat and potatoes aspect of your campaign: core keywords and ad copy. Consider working with free sites like Yahoo's Babel Fish to navigate through the search-engine query report (SQR).

Further on the translation front: Be ready to work it backward. I keep bringing up Google, but truth is they offer a lot of great information through their tools. SQR just might be my favorite. The report actually shows what users type in order to trigger your ads if you are running multiple match types. By understanding how users are finding you, you can, in turn, bring this into your term portfolio and ultimately reduce costs. The tricky part about this is managing the amount of time you should commit to this element. We typically look at this information at least once a week.

Running search campaigns outside your home comfort zone can seem complex at the outset, but doing the legwork up front will be worth your time as your international campaigns soar to success.

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