Do people actually search in local languages in Southeast Asia?
In an ever challenging and diverse South East Asia continent, it has been a difficult question to answer by marketers - do people actually search in local languages?
The answer lies in trivial human behavior and the history of the way languages have been used across markets, with intrinsic elements of accents, different meanings, or even abbreviations. Take for example - where India calls a mobile phone a "cellphone," Singaporeans term is "hand-phone," and Indonesian's term is "phone." I needn't state more. (You can also use the Global Market Finder by Google to get a more numeric sense of local language influence.)
However, over multitudes of campaigns and across categories from my agency, I've come to the following conclusion as to where to use local languages and where not when targeting campaigns in South East Asia; and it differs by industry vertical. I've left out B2B from this list - as in most countries, English is the business language; and B2B companies do not invest in local versions of their websites; unless it is in Chinese.
Malaysia: A predominant English speaking country and the national language of Malay; Malaysians search in a mix of English and Malay when online. Here is how the split looks like when they are searching:
The next more evident question becomes - what about cost per click (CPC). Are they higher than English keywords? The answer to that is again very market dependent and how many advertisers are actually buying in local languages. However, as a guideline, we've seen in general the local language keywords work out to be cheaper by 10 to 30 percent as compared to the English language keywords. Drive higher CTRs and let the Google Quality Score magic take over.
Marketers believe - speak the language the customer understands and your results will show. And, so is the case in Southeast Asia.
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Prabhvir Sahmey (Prabh) heads the Media Platforms Business at Google India. In his current role, he is driving scalable growth for advertisers and agencies as well as efficiencies with their digital marketing efforts. This includes the entire DoubleClick stack for advertisers as well as the Real Time Bidding platform. With 10 years of experience in digital marketing, Prabh spent six years in paid search across various clients and industry verticals. He was previously with Mindshare leading the mobile and search practice for Singapore and established the Mindshare Center of Excellence for Search Marketing to enable attribution modeling and help clients understand digital via data driven marketing programs.
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