The Asian markets are growing fast and it's a trend that's set to continue. Building a presence in Asia doesn't have to be difficult, although it will take a little more effort than markets closer to home.
Own the Right Top-Level Domains
International top-level domains have become an important part of any foreign marketing strategy. Search engines such as Google have made it a priority to deliver local content to local users, giving people the option to limit search results to pages from their own country only. To ensure you don't get screened out by your potential overseas customers as a result of this process, you need to present your web content as though it originates from multiple countries. Choose which countries you want to be considered a "local" in, and then buy the relevant domains. These might include .kr for South Korea and .in for India. Note that not every country will permit you to acquire their top-level domain, however. For instance, you would need to have a physical presence in China to buy a .cn domain, and Japan restricts the .jp domain in a similar way.
Use Google's Geotargeting
If you can't buy the domain you need, you needn't despair. Google has a geo-targeting service that helps websites that have generic top-level domains such as .com and .net. For content hosted on a generic top-level domain, you can configure your site via Google's Webmaster Tools to associate it with a particular country, which will make it more likely to appear in the "local" search results. Interestingly, the regional top-level domain .asia, which covers both Asia and Australia, is also treated as a generic domain so this is well worth getting hold of.
Speak Your Customer's Language
You are putting serious limits on your success if you market your business only to English-speaking Asians who come across your content in their search results. Even if your target audience is well-educated and used to doing business with English-speaking countries, if a competitor shows up in the results pages and has gone the extra step of creating content in the customer's first language, that rival immediately has the edge.
Even more importantly, in most cases your potential customers in Asia won't be searching for services and products in English, so your careful search engine optimization of your content for English keywords will miss the mark. To remedy this, you need quality content that sets the right tone in your target market's language. You then need to optimize that content to work with the in-demand keywords and search terms in the countries you want to reach.
Whether you like to research keywords first and build your content around them, or create content that you later optimize, keyword research will be an essential part of reaching Asian search engine traffic. As with English-language SEO, you need to use the exact words people are typing into search engines, so don't be tempted to settle for the first translation you find for your English keywords. Not every word has a single direct equivalent in another language, and this issue is magnified when you are dealing with multiple-word search terms.
Cultural differences also make a difference with regard to the features of a product that people search for, meaning a successful marketing strategy for home customers won't always be as effective for Asian customers.
You'll have a better chance of success by treating Asian markets as unique and writing copy with their interests in mind. The Google AdWords tool can be used for your keyword research for Asian languages, specifying both country and language in the options, to keep you on track with popular search terms.
Back-Linking in the Right Places
You probably know that you can help your search engine reputation by back-linking from reputable sites, using keyword-rich anchor text that tells search engines what your content is about. Good back-links can also help you by sending human visitors direct to your content. The key when targeting Asian markets will be to leave those back-links on sites and networks that are relevant to that locale.
Why waste time with a Facebook campaign for Chinese customers when you're far more likely to find them on Renren.com? Or, for a Japanese market, you might want to head to Mixi. But how about South Koreans or Filipinos? Get clued up on the social networks and any key blogs that relate to your business area in the Asian countries you want to target.
Pre-planning will help ensure your marketing efforts for Asia meet with success. If this market matters to you, and it probably should, it's worth taking the time to do it right.
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March 19, 2014