Black Cats on Landing Pages and Other International SEO Concerns: The @SurveyMonkey Interview

Searchmetrics Event Interview Series: Eli Schwartz of SurveyMonkey

Search Engine Journal has partnered with Searchmetrics to host a one-day, invite-only executive marketing event in San Francisco: SEO, Content Marketing, & Analytics: The Three Pillars of Online Marketing Success in 2014. One of our speakers is Eli Schwartz, the Online Marketing Manager for SurveyMonkey. His session: “International SEO: You’re missing out if you’re not doing it and it’s not as hard as you think.” 

I had the opportunity to interview Eli about all things marketing and SurveyMonkey, below.

I’m always interested to see what marketing teams at well-known companies are focusing on in the digital space. What are your main responsibilities as the online marketing manager over at SurveyMonkey?

Eli Schwartz, SurveyMonkeyMy primary responsibility is to oversee our global SEO efforts and ensure that we’re always following SEO best practices. Our site is fully translated into 16 languages, which allows us to target customers in over 50 countries worldwide.

To achieve my organic traffic goals, I not only have to develop solutions and processes which help our search traffic grow, I also need to evangelize SEO internally so search engine best practices are incorporated across the entire company. I collaborate on a daily basis with our content and social teams and I feel extremely lucky that I work every day with really amazing people that “get” SEO. I also work very closely with our engineering teams who really deserve most of the credit for our organic traffic growth. They’re the ones responsible for the heavy lifting when it comes to implementing solutions to some very complicated SEO issues.

In addition to SEO, I also work with our paid marketing team on our global advertising initiatives. My work on our paid campaigns means that I’m in contact with employees from international search engines. This gives me access into some great insights on how to grow our international organic traffic.

Your upcoming session at our Searchmetrics event covers international SEO strategies. What are 3 main ways international SEO differs from national SEO?

International SEO is essentially domestic SEO with the added challenges of new languages and search quality that’s a few years behind English search. However, there are many ways that international is different than English SEO.

Here are three top tips to know before you jump in to the world of international SEO:

  1. It’s easier to generate traffic internationally than it is domestically. Not sure about that? Have a look at the search results for competitive search terms in English and you’ll see relevant websites come up in page after page of search results. Do the same query (translated) in another language and after the first page or two, irrelevant results will start to pop up. There are millions of pages fighting for rankings in English, but you don’t have nearly as tough competition internationally. This opportunity can’t last so take advantage while you still can.
  2. Exact match keyword targeting is crucial for international SEO. Synonym matching in non-English is very weak when compared to English. Whether a user searches “online survey” or “online questionnaire” in English, Google knows that the user is looking for an online survey. In other languages the results are significantly different when the synonyms of survey are used. Additionally, there are special characters to consider such as the Umlaut vowels in German. To English speakers, a ü is just a U with some dots, but in fact Google considers this to be an entirely different letter than a U. The rankings will shift if you use a U in the query instead of a ü.
  3. Localization of content and keywords is extremely important. For English content, you don’t have to put too much effort into varying the content when targeting different locales, but internationally, you need to pay far more attention to the intent and wording of content.

We’ve all seen hilarious translation fails on Facebook so you need to be sure that you’re relying on the right experts when translating your content. Otherwise, get ready to be the next fail on Facebook! It’s not just text that should be localized; colors and objects mean different things to various cultures. You’d never put a black cat on a US targeted landing page—superstition, witches and all– but in Japan you might because they’re considered a good luck symbol.

Japanese translation fail

An example of a translation fail

Why has it been so important for SurveyMonkey to focus on international SEO?

SurveyMonkey is in the fortunate position of being a highly recognized and popular brand. There are very few people in the US that haven’t engaged or at least heard of our product since it started back in 1999. When users look for a survey product, many of them will just come directly to us without the need of a search engine. Even when they do conduct a search engine query, we can rely on our brand recognition to help drive more traffic even on non-brand terms. However, internationally, we don’t have the advantage of a well-known brand to deliver traffic directly to us. SEO is far more important because it helps people to discover us right when they’re on the hunt for the type of solution that we offer—designing and launching online surveys!

Kelsey Jones
When she's not editing and scheduling posts, managing the Marketing Nerds podcast, or helping with events and webinars, Kelsey Jones helps clients around the world grow their social media, content, and search marketing presence under her agency, MoxieDot. She has been working in digital marketing since 2007 and journalism since 2004. Kelsey enjoys writing and consuming all kinds of content, both in digital and tattered paperback form.
Kelsey Jones
Kelsey Jones

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One thought on “Black Cats on Landing Pages and Other International SEO Concerns: The @SurveyMonkey Interview

  1. Hi there. Eli makes some very good points here. This is what I always advise our small-to-medium clients and startups: launch a PPC campaign right after you launch the website, learn from it, and apply the learning on the long run into the SEO strategy. This way one cannot go wrong by investing time and money on a couple of keywords that eventually wouldn’t have much ROI.
    Regarding the internationalization of the websites and special characters, my advice is to first analyze how people in a certain country/region search in Google. Even if a certain language has special characters, people might not use them while they search (might be the lack of keyboards with special characters, or other reasons). So if you visitors don’t use umlauts when they search, you shouldn’t use umlauts on your website, Youtube video, blog, etc.