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Jun 18, 2001
How To

Top 3 Things North American Businesses Must Know About International Internet Marketing

SUMMARY: As of March 2001, only 47.5% of people surfing the Internet spoke English as their primary language. Yet, many North American businesses don't see this number as cause for alarm. B-to-B marketers say, "Well in our industry, most executives worldwide speak at least some English so we don't need to worry about our Web site."

Read this article to learn why they are wrong -- and how site design, national search engine optimization and email newsletter ads can help you succeed more easily overseas!
Thing is, most business executives in non-English speaking countries not only prefer to be addressed in their own language, but they also are more likely to use search engines in their own language.

We contacted Bill Dunlap of Global Reach, an international Web site promotion firm, to learn more about how North American marketers can be more successful reaching sales prospects in other countries via the Internet. Dunlap's been helping companies such as Compaq and Texas Instruments expand overseas for more than 20 years.

1. Site Design

Download time is critical in Europe and South America because fewer executives currently have access to fast T1 and DSL connections. The best way to make sure your site will download quickly enough for them is to do the "slow connection" test -- hook up a computer to a 56K line and see how quickly your site loads. Dunlap suggests removing any extra images from your site for International purposes.

Many Pan-European Web sites' home pages feature pictures of national flags that visitors are supposed to click on to get to the portion of the site in their own language. Dunlap advises against the "little flags" design because extra graphics slow down load time and flags don't always indicate language (for example, someone in Belgium might speak French or Flemish.) Instead he recommends you invest in software that identifies which country your visitor is coming from and automatically serves up a home page in that language, with a prominent text-link to secondary language choices.

Don't just translate one site entry page for each language. You need to have at least 3-5 pages translated, both for your users and for search engine optimization. Dunlap says, "It used to be search engines would accept one page so Americans would only translate one because it's cheaper. Now you have to create a mini-site with 2-3 different levels. The search engine spiders know if you only have one level and they'll ignore you."

If you are hoping to reach Japanese executives, be sure to make your site (and email marketing) wireless-friendly. That's because many execs spend their commuting time on trains where they can surf the Web and read email on wireless devices, instead of watching the road. Dunlap says, "They just look at their phones and go crazy. Europe is about two years away from that, and America is about five years away."

2. Search Engine Optimization

Yes, many business executives in other countries search the Internet using American-based engines such as Google, Yahoo and Lycos. In these cases, your regular search engine optimization tactics, adjusted for another language, may work. However, that doesn't mean you can ignore local search engines. In fact, they are more powerful than you think.

For example, Dunlap says search engine is "close to God in France", and companies that don't optimize for German search engines including, and are going to miss out on German and some Swiss business. In Japan, you'll need to optimize for, and NTT's, etc.

Also note, many national search engines are still compiled by people-power instead of spiders and software. This means you'll also need to hand-submit your site to leading search engines that won't pick it up otherwise in each country. Dunlap recommends you use a native-speaker to do your submissions for you. (Yes even in the UK -- remember American English is different from British English!)

Plus, bear in mind sometimes it may take longer for your submissions to get listed than you'd like. For example in Europe many search engine staff "really take a vacation all August" so they may not get to handling your submission until the Fall.

Currently there are almost no paid search engine listing services in non-English speaking countries. Dunlap has tested using GoTo for search terms in other languages and results so far have been "not worth the effort." A new paid-for-click search engine launched about a year ago in Italy, France and the UK, but according to Dunlap it doesn't have much traction yet.

3. Email Newsletter and Discussion Group Advertising

Bingo! This is probably the best news you'll get about international Internet marketing today. While Internet users in other countries are flocking to email discussion groups and happily signing up for email newsletters on topics of their choice, most advertisers outside North America haven't caught on yet.

In fact, ads in local email newsletters and discussion groups are probably the most effective online marketing you can invest in these days. (We heartily agree with Dunlap on this point, because so many of our Case Studies have revealed great results at moderate prices.) Plus, since there are very few international B-to-B opt-in lists on the rental market, newsletter and discussion group ads are often your only option to reach new sales prospects online aggressively.

B2B prices are about the same as in the US -- at $25-$75 per thousand -- but because local advertisers are slow to try this media you'll probably have much better luck negotiating prices than you would back home. Plus, you'll be able to get prime inventory, including top sponsorships in top business ezines, without paying extra or being on a waiting list.

And, due to the lack of other ads, your ad may stand out and get better click throughs. Just be sure to have it copywritten by a native and click through to a special landing page for that country so you convert the highest possible number of readers into qualified sales prospects for your company.

Dunlap's Global Reach site includes charts tracking languages on the Internet, a free email newsletter on global marketing and lots of useful articles and links. Check it out at:
See Also:

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