Polling Hispanic Search Users

Search isn't just for Anglos.

Much has been made of the targeting opportunities with search, whether it's on a geographic level, or connecting with customers at a certain point in the buying cycle (e.g., someone typing in a specific product name is probably close to making a purchase). Other possibilities involve targeting demographic groups. With extensive input from iHispanic Marketing Group president Ignacio "Nacho" Hernandez Jr., let's look at the opportunities and challenges with targeting U.S. Hispanic internet users.

First, some background. eMarketer projects the number of Hispanic internet users in the United States will rise from 13.3 million in 2004 (7.6 percent of all internet users) to 16 million in 2007 (8.4 percent). eMarketer cites an America Online/RoperASW survey of U.S. Hispanic at-home Internet users' online activities: 54 percent of respondents research health care products, 52 percent make travel arrangements, 43 percent shop online, and a somewhat surprising 19 percent buy pharmaceuticals online. To sum up, they're online, they're bringing their peers with them, and they're spending money.



Who are they? This is one of the trickier areas. Hernandez points out that while 67 percent hail from Mexico, the group comprises members from 22 countries. Many speak mostly Spanish, but most prefer English, according to comScore Media Metrix. This only complicates things. Hispanics searching in English are harder to target. Some sites, such as (founded by Hernandez), offer products that naturally appeal to the Hispanic demographic; Hernandez says 35 percent of the site's audience is Hispanic. The greater challenge is for companies selling financial services or travel packages -- anything with a potential customer base that includes large swaths of the population.

Let's explore the Spanish side of search. comScore reports there are over 2 million U.S. Hispanics online who prefer surfing in Spanish, presenting a large enough sample size for research purposes. Hernandez comments that Hispanic Internet users tend to use the same major search engines that everyone else uses. This columnist's grasp of Spanish barely extends beyond "cerveza, por favor," so eMarketer Web manager Cerelle Centeno pitched in with some translations to aid the experiment.

Centeno offered that "mortgage" is "hipoteca" in Spanish. Overture's Search Term Suggestion Tool reports there were 1,255 searches for "hipoteca" in July 2004 (1,277 for "hipotecas") - hardly a massive base of searches, but a good enough size for testing purposes. Six advertisers bid on the word, one for $1, one for $0.40, and the rest for well under a quarter.

The bid that most stands out is from Ameriquest, the one name brand among them. What does Ameriquest gain from conducting such a small trial? It offers one more quantifiable angle to inform Ameriquest's other marketing efforts.

During July, it may try the copy, "No venderemos su información personal." During August, it may try "Consultacion gratis" (borrowed from another advertiser's text - this is just to illustrate possibilities). Consider this hypothetical application: Ameriquest may have a direct mail campaign going out to 500,000 Hispanics in California, New York, Texas, and Florida. From the tests in Overture, it knows the word "gratis" works better on the East Coast but the other phrase, allaying fears of selling customers' personal information, plays better further West. The marketer now has a wealth of data from search to inform the larger campaign.

"Geographic targeting is going to be a great opportunity for SEM marketers because 72 percent of all U.S. Hispanics seem to be concentrated in the top 20 markets (Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago alone making up 32 percent)," says Hernandez.

Returning to the example, for the keyword "hipoteca" in Google, Ameriquest runs an ad in English. Look at how many more variables that involves. It's a different language with different possibilities for the copy. Perhaps it turns out that English ads convert three times better in Florida than New York, and the Spanish ads receive more clicks in California. The marketing director uses this information to test a TV ad on Telemundo in Los Angeles. Before long, results from relatively small search buys are influencing a campaign spanning six different media that's seen by tens of millions of people. This isn't science fiction. Some of the more sophisticated marketers tapping search are getting very savvy with this strategy.

Zogby International polls 1,000 Americans to find out how over 100 million Americans will vote. A sample size in the thousands can be valid to inform a broader multimedia campaign. The twist here is it involves turning to search first, which admittedly takes some convincing with advertisers who tend to plan budgets for other media far in advance and divvies up the interactive portion as an afterthought.

"It takes a lot more than just correct usage of the Spanish language to take a piece of the $5.6 billion spent online by U.S. Hispanics in 2003," says Hernandez in a report prepared for the Search Engine Strategies 2004 conference in August. "There must be a realistic overall strategy from marketers and commitment to achieve measurable results."

Using search to target Hispanics isn't just about the $5.6 billion - it's about the $575 billion in buying power Hernandez cites elsewhere in the report. Start with search, and you've got a tremendous advantage.

"There are companies that are doing this already and doing it very well," says Hernandez. "Try searching in Google for a book called El Codigo Da Vinci and notice how appears in the top 10 natural results." Amazon places a Spanish ad in the sponsored links, right above an English ad from Yahoo!

Why should the giants have all the fun? The market's yours for the taking.

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