The other day I watched — again — the movie Death of a Salesman. The two primary goals for Willy Loman were to be rich and popular. These are also goals cherished by search marketers. We want to drive revenues for our company and be highly recognized through search channels. I’m here to tell you that it’s tough to obtain either if you’re not delivering value to your markets. Over the years, I’ve developed a few practices that have worked in making Adobe a highly visible, top value enterprise in more than 80 countries.
Make answers easier for them to find. Value these days comes primarily in the form of rapid response. SEO tactics must deliver the responses your markets seek the first time they search. We want to deliver what they expect to find through search activities in a quickly captivating manner. Robots.txt with embedded global sitemaps indexed to meet local traffic patterns is one way to meet market search demand. The canonicals you set should represent the highest traffic levels for each market. Optimization for locales (language and country code) should be comprehensive; metadata must optimize site architecture so clicks deliver value early in the visit. Effective SEO requires deeper localization — more than formatting numbers and translating strings. Audio files, images, video files, etc. must all feed the local culture and get indexed appropriately by local bots.
One team focus I emphasize is “use the tools available to deploy better.” Adobe’s Flex, for example, provides an open-source app framework that breeds cross-platform (iOS devices, tablets, desktop) display of your digital media so assets render uniquely within geo-targeted markets. And Adobe Experience Manager has many geo best practices built in to templates to enable global teams to publish more effectively. Teams that deploy the right tools typically drive more value to their markets.
Next, speak their language accurately. By this I mean optimizing pages and messaging to provide value through better indexing and appropriate messaging. If you’re confusing, misleading, or poorly translated, they’ll move on to competitors who bring more value. I read a post by our friend Jim Yu where he highlighted a few different ways that translation can undermine success across regional markets. Here are a few ill-conceived English campaigns that did not translate well to their local markets:
A Leading Automobile Company
Original: “Every car has a high-quality body”
Translation: “Every car has a high-quality corpse” in Belgium
A Fizzy Beverage Brand
Original: “Turn it loose”
Translation: “Suffer from diarrhea” in Spanish
A Fast-Food Brand
Original: “Finger-licking’ good”
Translation: “We’ll eat your fingers off” in China
You can see why localization is more than direct translation and why value propositions must be tailored effectively.
Although a bit dated, The Culturally Customized Web Site by Singh and Pereira, was the first book to address cultural customization and website standardization in a scientifically validated way. It contains good suggestions about optimizing for cultural diversity. Deploy content that appreciates the different approaches to individualism vs. collectivism, masculinity vs. femininity, and beliefs in power and authority. Market perceptions must be satisfied in order to provide the value you wish to deliver.
Your enterprise should distribute teams locally that know the culture, geography, etc. in order to deliver true value to its local markets. Cultural customization is best practiced with teams that are immersed in the culture. Successful localization goes beyond simple translation and cosmetic adaptation; visitors want to know that you understand their needs, wants, and fears. Teams must have boots on the ground to effectively provide value to local markets.
Finally, you can only deliver value effectively through data-driven analysis. As shared earlier, localization can only be successful when actions are based on thorough knowledge of the search terms and content local markets crave and through tight alignment with internal Web teams, regional stakeholders, and search and content marketing professionals who can enable production and delivery of the most relevant, high-demand content through the most effective channels.