From Russia With Love

Among the least surprising facts I learned at the rather excellent International Digital Forum (IDF) event was that Russian is the fourth-most-spoken language in the world. What might surprise you more is that over 82.9 million Russians are online, meaning the country can boast having the largest Internet audience in Europe, ahead of the UK, Germany and France -- not forgetting its neighbouring countries, of course, with 32.4 percent of Ukraine searching online (probably for tickets out), 44.2 percent in Belarus and 24.5 per cent in Kazakhstan. That’s a pretty large market

However, 82.9 million only equates to 61 percent of Russia being online, meaning that although there are some great opportunities now -- especially for online retailers and travel companies -- the business when the other 39 percent joins will be huge. In line with this it is estimated that in the three years between 2013 and 2016, Russia’s advertising market will grow by $2.35 billion, with the country already ranked as the eighth-largest contributor to the growth of the world’s advertising market. I wonder how many retailers and their agencies are aware of this

It’s clearly a good time to enter the online travel market in this country, but only if brands and their agencies are prepared to understand and appreciate the average Russian travellers’ search behaviour and intent when online and looking for their ideal holiday. The problem seems to be that too many brands have tried to hit overseas markets, thinking in the same way as if they were planning a domestic campaign.

The opportunities for those, for instance, in the travel sector to cross-sell hotels and airline deals are extensive. Any company considering a move into this lucrative market should not be scared to take the plunge but should remember that understanding consumers’ online behaviour and search intent is the key to success in this and any other international market.

The key is to hook into local knowledge, it seems. I spoke with Grieg Holbrook, MD at Oban Digital and host of the event, who said: “Search patterns will differ from market to market. So work with a local prominent search engine like Yandex who will support businesses to accurately target their potential customers by advising on ad copy size and differences with layouts, keyword suggestions and search banners which can affect conversions on paid search.”

Sadly, it seems that too many UK brands take the classic Brit abroad approach to overseas marketing. Running the English copy through Google Translate is the digital equivalent of shouting slowly and loudly in English. So often a brand will already have an English-language keyword list that it uses and generates through translators into a target market’s “language.” These translations are then put through various tools until the client finally believes there’s a multilingual campaign; but the task is not so straightforward.

Yes, it’s about language -- but it’s just as much about culture. Global keyword research will only truly be global if you identify and expose the various idiosyncrasies related to a given market. Different countries have different audiences, with unique dialects, languages, cultures and belief systems. Above all, global keyword research should reveal the online search habits of a market -- the same cannot be said of directly translated keywords.

Search intent -- or customer intent -- directly affects success in any international online campaign. Before you start any keyword research, ensure that you understand the search intent landscape of your target market and its culture. A well-informed international marketing strategy, built from the ground up, is essential for campaign success.

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