Imagine if you could travel back to the days when Google was still a young upstart in the search engine game, when making your way to the top of the rankings was a comparatively quick and simple process. How would you take advantage of the chance to get in early with the global search superpower to-be?
The fact is that the same opportunities are available right now – in foreign language markets. The web is growing more multilingual with every day, and in many countries the search engine of choice isn’t Google, but a home-grown search behemoth or global Google competitor – for instance, Baidu in China, Yandex in Russia and Yahoo in Japan.
The reasons for these search engines’ local dominance are many and varied – from patriotism amongst users, to lax copyright enforcement, to their optimization for non-Latin scripts, or even just because the search engine established itself in the region before Google.
The key benefit for search engine marketers, though, is that your foreign language internet marketing efforts for Google’s competitors will show a better ROI than your internet marketing efforts in English, due simply to the fact that there is less content online overall in languages other than English, and therefore less keyword competition in these search engines.
This presents a massive opportunity for marketers to get in there before the crowds – the only thing you need to know is, how does SEM for these search engines differ from playing the game with Google?
Here’s a few tips to get you started with the most popular search engines in three of the biggest emerging/established eCommerce markets – China, Russia and Japan.
The best place to start with Baidu is with a Chinese domain name (com.cn or .cn), hosted in China or Hong Kong, to ensure your site is listed as locally relevant. Geotargeting your pages, as you would with Google, does not work – the site must be hosted locally to get priority.
Crucially, for back-linking, Baidu counts incoming links towards a site’s relevance, but it doesn’t weight them by the authority of the linking site, as Google does. Consequently, a link from a top 2000 Alexa site will in theory have the same weight as a link from a top 200,000 site.
While Google now largely ignores metadata, Baidu values meta data highly, including metatags, meta keywords and descriptions, when determining a site’s relevance. Baidu also actively censors its content to comply with Chinese government regulations.
Yandex takes local relevance into account for search results, based on your domain name, IP address and on-page content – but handily you can also set your location using their geotargeting tool.
Yandex’s algorithm shares many similarities with Google’s, so if you follow the same rules of localized keywords, authoritative and relevant back-links and original content then you should do well.
One main point of difference is Yandex’s Thematic Citation Index, similar to Google’s PageRank – it counts out-bound links to authoritative sites as well as in-bound, but doesn’t count any links in or out of web forums, un-moderated directories and other sites with no human controls on the posting of links. The message here is to keep your SEO linking organic, but step up your outbound linking to match your inbound linking efforts. Also, be sure to register your site by its theme in the Yandex Directory.
The SEO rules for Yahoo Japan are the same as for Yahoo elsewhere (except obviously your site and content needs to be in Japanese!). Getting listed in the Yahoo Directory is very important, but the primary rule is that Yahoo loves keyword-optimized content above all other factors, including inbound and outbound links.
While Google prefers a keyword density of 2%, Yahoo likes up to 7 or 8% keyword density, and Yahoo also places emphasis on each page’s meta tags. Yahoo also loves regularly updated content, even more so than Google, so blogging keyword optimized content regularly is a good idea. Lastly, submit your sitemap to Yahoo, as its spider does not search as deeply as Google’s, and this will help them to index your site’s pages correctly.
As you can see, the differences between Google and its major local competitors are small but significant – with the help of a native speaking SEO expert, adapting your established Google SEO campaigns for any other search engine should be a breeze.