Tuesday, November 04, 2008

SMX London: European Search Marketing Challenges

I'm at SMX London for the whole event this year! Gasp. I've been busy on day with my own speaking slots but did manage to write up the European Search Marketing Challenges sesh.

First up...

Lisa Ditlefsen

Lisa is Scandinavian and part of SEO Chicks. Hey; they’re doing well on this session.

Lisa dispels the myth that search traffic is simple one search to conversion process. In reality people will make many searches and visit many sites before converting.

Search should target each stage of the conversion funnel; awareness, consideration, decision as well as purchase.

Lisa uses comScore data to point out that the Fins will search 149 times whereas a Norwegian only 79. Lisa points out there a less SEOs operating in some parts of Europe. In Norway for example, although bigmouthmedia are present (thanks for the plug Lisa), there are few agencies. Search results are of a lower quality than there are in the United Kingdom which is one of the reasons why Norwegians are more likely to use yellow page products and alternatives.

Lisa points out some must-dos;
  • Always host in the target country
  • Must have the TLD too
  • The Google Webmaster Console geographic targeting panel
Highly tipped is;
  • Exact Keyword Tracking from ROI Revolution
  • Educate your translators on all aspects of SEO
  • Get links from sites with the same geographic target as you
  • Switch from link building to baiting
  • Dynamically generating keyword rich URLs with matching titles and h1s

Judith Lewis

Search Director at i-Level and also an SEO Chick! She’s not a lawyer.

She’s talking about legal issues in search. Some companies used social media to push bad results down. Other companies used social media to own more of the search space, gain links or expand their audience.

Judith points out that many of the old school social media techniques would probably now be in breach of The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations of 2008. It is now not legal (probably; Judith isn’t a lawyer) to engage in social media which tricks to dupes a reader into thinking a consumer or member of the public as made a recommendation.

The statutory maximum fine for this is £5k and a two year jail sentence.

If you don't mind the plug; a good prequel to Judith's preso might be mine from A4U Expo earlier this year.

Finlay Clark

Fin’s talking about the corporate side of European search marketing. He's a retail strategist at bigmouthmedia. Here’s his agenda (or some of it; didn't write fast enough!)
  • The domain question
  • Branding considerations
  • Challenges
What if you can’t afford to have a TLD and host your European sites in each country? After all; it costs a lot of money, even for large companies with complex IT infrastructure. There is the Google Webmaster Console, which does allow you to use sub-domains or directories, on a generic domain and geo-target. It will work on Google but it may not be as good.

What if the brand contains a dot-com? For example, Hotels.com is branded as Hotels.com but the website actually used for the United Kingdom is Hotels.co.uk.

Fin points out that directories may rank more quickly than a sub-domain but a sub-domain may also benefit from being that little bit further removed from the main domain. The sub-domain has its own home page, for example.

Link building in Europe can be tricky. Italy doesn’t have many PR Hubs so the tactical use of press releases online in Italy is more limited in that is in the UK.

Fin points out the Google Webmaster Central Blog post that demystifies the duplicate content penalty. In truth it is possible to run multiple sites if each site has different geographic targets.

There are some legal considerations in getting domain names. Some countries require you to have a local business address (or more) before you can register the top level domain. Finlay also encourages the audience to look at their trademarks across Europe.

Fin walks through a real life scenario
  • UK Retailer, based on an dot-com domain
  • Can deliver to mainland Europe
  • Want to start pushing European delivery
  • Unable to have separate localised sites
  • Want to test if there is a way to grow on existing setup

What to do.
  • Aim to raise awareness
  • Use tools to find out if you are getting traffic already
  • Run targeted PPC on brand terms
  • Tie in with display campaign
  • Affiliates could be another bet to test slowly
  • Monitor, track and review sales
Final thought: Put work into it and it should work out for you. He ends with a sly plug for his Retail Right Now blog :P

Susan Hallam

Susan’s here to talk about the small business approach. She’s a permanent alien.

She’s a case study for optimising for ‘hydraulic wrench’... on Google.fr. The second ranking website on the ‘the web’ result for ‘hydraulic wrench’ is in English. It’s an American site.

Susan points out the French searcher may not be willing to order a hydraulic wrench all the way from the States. The searcher then switches to only pages in French. Huh-oh; she’s getting Flemish and French Canadian sites.

Finally the searcher selects “only pages from France” (Susan notes that Hitwise records less than 50% of French searchers both with accents on their search any more). Now we’re limited to pages that are valid for the French searcher.

Susan’s five steps to success
  • Foreign language essential SEO signals
  • Foreign language content generally
  • Country specific domain names
  • Country specific hosting
  • Country specific link building
Susan notes that a recent piece of research shows that Europeans react differently to different web designs. The Scandivians, for example, prefer plainer sites to the British.

Susan recommends Google Global Search from Firefly. Wordpress also gets a plug or two.

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