The International Search Conference

The Meetup-hosted conference was held in San Diego at the University of San Diego’s Manchester Hall. The notable panelists were Michael Bonfils of SEM International, Cinzia Anderson, Rob Bertholf of Auto Anything, and Cassandra Gucwa of iProspect. The focus was on international search and key points were brought up in regards to reasons a company should go international, language vs country targeting, the issues with translating English content, as well as the various search engines and social media platforms across the globe.

The panelists offered advice and tactics to identify international interest. Companies should start with keyword research. When looking at web traffic data, marketers should exclude the U.S. and take note if the traffic coming from a country is 15-20%. This percent range is an indicator to consider expanding into that country. Another point that was brought up was to research keywords to note the purchasing behavior of the country and try to identify the trends and build on an existing movement in that country. When going international, Michael Bonfils reminded the audience that as of 2014 China is the worlds’s largest purchasing power. He also brought up the funnel illustration. Some key elements of the funnel- awareness and engagement, can be driven by display ads and social marketing, respectively. This method works globally, but in different ways across countries. An important key to remember is trust. When entering a foreign market, a brand’s first goal should be to establish trust. Rob Bertholf noted that organic search is more expensive because of time, whereas paid search brings immediate results.

Michael Bonfils brought up a case study involving one of SEMI’s clients, USC. USC’s need was to reach out to and eventually recruit international students within a short period of time. The steps to achieving the goal involved creating a microsite and launching a paid search, display, social media and SEO campaign. USC established a budget and established a conversion rate objective. SEMI started the process by looking at keyword research data and soon found that Brazil had the most potential for success. During the 2nd and 3rd weeks, the focus was building out the microsite in Brazil. The specialists looked at the images, content and landing pages to make sure they would connect with the Brazilian site visitors. During the 4th week, keywords were developed and optimized. Once the keywords were chosen, SEMI started building the search marketing campaign and establishing the target publishers for display. During the 2nd and 3rd months display, paid search and SEO were the main focus. RTB and programmatic display helped build awareness at a very low cost and the social paid campaigns enabled engagement. The takeway from this case study is to think about how the various components can work together, rather than separately. SEMI strategically pushed SEO near the end of the campaign to reach long term objectives.

Max Thomas of Thunderseo, the discussion facilitator, noted that French is one of the fastest growing languages in the world, partly because of French speakers in Africa immigrating and populating countries around the world.
In regards to search engines, Yandex is highly advanced. And as per Cassandra, for advertising campaigns to be successful the ad content must be very localized and the brand should maintain an active presence on social media channels such as Odnoklassniki and VKontakte. Cassandra mentioned that there are rumors that Yandex had stopped looking at backlinking and is just focusing on engagement. According to Michael, even though the algorithms are somewhat chaotic and websites can experience high fluctuations in rankings, if a brand understands the dialect in each region, it is the easiest non-US search engine to work with. Rob pitched in saying that Google can also have spikes when it wants to test the performance of a site’s content. Continuing the thread on search engine search factors, Cinzia reminded the audience that before Google started integrating Wikipedia, the results could be very unsatisfying.

The conference ended with some questions from the audience. When an audience member asked how to scale keywords, the panelists advised that marketers should engage in social media “listening”. Social media “listening” is simply asking a brand’s followers what keywords they use when searching for one of their products. Another suggestion was to ask robots for keywords to use. A final interesting point was brought up by Michael Bonfils in regards to how to identify keywords to be used in international campaigns. When searching for the right keywords, marketers need to go beyond the existing analytics of a brand’s current keywords being used. Brands should be careful when determining the country from which they receive the most traffic. If a brand’s analytics are saying that the Chinese, for example, are coming to the site the most often it may be that it could possibly be the French if only the brand would place the trending “French” keyword on the site. They should look at the trending keywords in a country to identify trends and evaluate their potential for the brand. Brands should also identify the local and international competition along with how much is being spent and their rankings.