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Marketing Professional Services to US Hispanics June 29, 2007

Posted by Sarah Bernier in Things.
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What follows is basically the summary of my presentation at SES Miami ’07 (first day, June 18th, in the Fundamentals Track: Search Term Research & Targeting).

Translated vs. Custom Content

There will always be the question of whether or not to translate existing content or create custom-written content – in regards to Spanish or whichever language you’re targeting – even though we learned last year (and it was mentioned this year, as well) that you should always “transcreate”.

The reality is it’s considered “easier” to just translate what’s already on your site, instead of worrying about performing keyword research and creating brand-new content. Let’s be honest – you can’t expect a translator to incorporate keywords/phrases you’ve researched while they’re translating…it might not fit into the context or the sentence structure might not work. Their goal is to preserve the content message as much as possible; not try to “keyword stuff” the recommendations from an SEO. They’ll definitely use descriptive terms, though, so it’s not a total wash.

Also, with translated content, I add meta data after the fact – because of course they have to describe the page – which isn’t as “valuable” as creating content from meta data, but it’s still optimized content.

When I’m performing keyword research for Spanish custom content, I start out by using the literal translation of the term (e.g., custodia de niños) and branch out into colloquialisms just as I would for English terms – the majority of the time I’m finding (through the ever-helpful 20/20 hindsight: analytics) that US Hispanics are searching using more a) general and b) colloquial terms. In the example I just used (child custody) the preferred term is actually “custodia de hijos”, but since it’s much more “slang” (jerga) than the legal jargon (which attorneys prefer for some odd reason :). So I’ll use both.

Keyword Research Tools

When choosing your keyword research tools – especially in regards to foreign languages – you need to consider a couple items:

1) What’s the data source for this tool? (Global or domestic)
2) How rich is the data for the language in question (are they pulling from enough of a “pool” to give good feedback)

If you’re marketing to any Spanish-language web user, then a research tool which returns global results would benefit you; if you’re marketing solely to the US Hispanic market, then that information would be at best superfluous and at worst the wrong data for your research.

Global results will return some different data because generally US Hispanics (as well as those web users in Latin/South America) don’t use special keyboards, so the majority of searches performed don’t include accents/special characters (of course, people learn how to create them but it’s much quicker to type in the non-accented version). In Spain, however, their keyboards contain the special characters so their searches will differ.

This doesn’t really matter inasmuch as the search engines are concerned; they recognize what you “mean” and will return pretty much the exact same results – whether you use special characters or not. (I’m talking merely from a keyword research perspective – if you’re looking for ratios of what’s searched.)

I’ve heard people – SEOs! – mention the Spanglish/misspelling tactic and it frightens me this is something that’s being condoned. Adding these terms to content to capture that traffic, that is. Maybe it’s because I deal with the legal industry exclusively, but regardless, I wouldn’t want to recommend to anyone to put misspellings and incorrect grammar/usage into their marketing web sites! If you MUST have it, add it to the meta keywords tag (which is pretty much ignored…). For e-commerce products, this might differ, but for professional services, you’d have to weigh the value of getting the traffic from misspellings to the value of appearing as an expert / professional in your field to the traffic that comes through on “clean” search words.

Linking

Something else you must weigh is the value of information you have to offer vs. usability. In regards to the Spanish content we offer, this means if not all of the English content on the site is also offered in Spanish, do you inter-link between languages (to offer the information to those who’re bilingual) or have monolingual areas of the site (to cater to the loyalty of the language)?

One way to offer the information even if it’s not in Spanish is to add a disclaimer after the link – such as “en inglés” – because switching the reader from one language another doesn’t create a good user experience. That way, you still get that content in front of the visitor, but you’re alerting them to the change in language.

Geo-Targeting Keywords

This doesn’t apply as much to e-commerce as it does to those marketing their professional services. If people have a problem they need to talk to someone about (vs. buying something and having it shipped), they’re going to want to find someone local. This is why it’s important to geographically target your keywords/site. People aren’t looking for a lawyer to help them with their workers’ comp claim; they’re looking for a lawyer in their hometown (or as close as they can get to it) to help them.

Even if the web user doesn’t search with the geographic term, the search engines can return results based on geo-targeting (because of the geography listed on your site, you’ll then have that aspect covered). The only caveat here is that – for now – because of the relative lack of competition for Spanish content out there, sites are more likely to show up for general/broad searches than what they’re targeted for geographically.*

Speaking of showing up for terms, the brand-new sites we’ve released with both English & Spanish content differ in the types of searches and the performance in SERPs. The English content will show up right away for specific name searches as well as, on occasion, VERY niched/specialized keywords, whereas the Spanish content shows up a little bit later but for much more general searches – most likely because, again, the lack of competition makes the content appear authoritative and unique.**

I’ve cut out some of the information I covered, but what I’ve listed here is the information (& questions to think about) I think most people who market professional services would benefit from knowing.

* As more and more businesses/services start marketing to Spanish-language web users and content continues to grow, I don’t foresee this being the case in the future.
** Again, I don’t see a continuation of this in the future because the amount of content out there is definitely growing.

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