I realize that over the last 12 months, I've spent most of my time talking about Google to the exclusion of the other search engines. Many SEO professionals, myself included, feel that if you can achieve high ranking in Google then you should easily be able to achieve high ranking in any search engine. It seems only natural since Google is the de facto search engine, right?
While Google might be the most popular search engine in the U.S., it's not the most popular search engine in every country. Why not? Simply because Google native language is, well, English. It took Google a few years to figure out how to build a search engine that worked in Russian, Mandarin, French, and every other language... Okay, maybe Google will not build a system for all 6,500 spoken languages in the world, but this list on Wikipedia shows they have 200 country specific domain names used for their search product.
As it turns out, Google is the de facto search engine for all variations of the English language, and it's the most popular search engine in most other countries as well (Source: Internet and Search Engine Usage by Country). However, when you examine the search engines in use according to this list of top 10 spoken languages in the world, we find a few other very popular search engines.
The most popular search engine in China is Baidu. The most popular search engine in Russia is Yandex. It's reported that the Naver engine is popular in Korea and Yahoo! Is still the dominant player in Japan.
Why Does Search Engine Popularity Matter?
We live in a global economy. Consumers are more aware than ever that the products they purchase locally might have a positive or negative impact on some far away local economy where the materials were originally sourced. On the other hand, ecommerce now allows all of us to search globally for the best place to purchase all products.
Those of you who sell a unique product might find a new audience from another country; that is, once you get over your innate fear of foreign currency and payment cards. Google Analytics has a report to show you what countries your website visitors are coming from. It will most likely show that visitors from English speaking countries are your largest audience, which, of course, means that Google is the right search engine to be in.
On the other hand, if you see a lot of visitors from China, Japan, and Russia, then you might want to think about getting into those other search engines I listed above. To start, you'd need to translate your website into those other languages.
Understanding The Global Audience
With 200 different permutations of Google Search, there is a growing potential that your website will appear in the results of another country. Google's search database is not isolated into different systems by language, it's one massive database. This is never more apparent to me than when I spend time in France. Every Google search I perform will commonly return choices from websites in the UK, India, France, and Australia along with all the U.S. based results. Even though I have my computer set to provide "en" results (that's the abbreviation for U.S. English), Google still provides me with, what they feel, are the best search results for my query.
Europeans have a better understanding of the global economy and it's normal for results from other countries to appear in results, yet most Americans would probably be upset if the Google SERP was overloaded with options from other countries. No one wants to click to page 2 of Google search results. Naturally, Google is appealing to the local market, and to some degree, the U.S. consumer has an isolationist point of view, so the U.S. search results are primarily showing results from only U.S. businesses.
Running a local business no longer means that you only generate profits from your local market, you can generate just as many sales, or even more, from ecommerce to the world than you do in your retail store. By the way, if you do start selling globally, then your retail store suddenly becomes your "flagship store," which you can promote as such.
When it comes to your global market, the size of your retail store doesn't matter. Even a hole-in-the-wall 10x10 retail store can look big when photographed with a fisheye lens.
Developing Your Own Global Audience
There are two ways you can attract a global audience. The first is to translate your website into the language used by the country you want to target, and the second is to register your domain name with the top level domain for the country you want to target.
A good content management system should be able to switch domain names easily enough, although most website developers have never attempted to set this feature up.
The more difficult task is to translate your web pages and product information into another language. Don't bother using Google Translate or any other software program for this purpose, believe me, you will be laughed at. Instead, you need to hire someone whose native language is the one you want to target. Don't simply hire a high school student who took 4 years of a language; that just won't work, and again you're website will be laughed at by the people you are trying to target.
The first language we all learn to speak, read, and count to ten in is our native language. A quick test to discover someone's native language is to ask them to count to ten out loud. Even those who become fluent in another language will struggle to use subtle linguistic expressions.
For example, most restaurants in France offer a "Menu." You might be thinking that all restaurants have a menu, but many of them don't. When I ask for the English version of the menu (because I'm one of those mono-linguistic people living overseas) it says "Menu of the Day" rather than "Today's Specials." You see, in France the "menu" is actually their daily chefs specials, rather than the routine list of meals they offer. This is one of those cultural language subtitles that are easy to get wrong, and your website translation will be riddled with these types of problems unless you hire a native speaker to do the translation.
Even translating a few pages of your website will start to attract visitors using Google in those languages. Those of you in the United States might consider translating your website into Spanish, while those of you in Canada might consider translating your website into Québécois. Both scenarios will immediately start attracting a new set of visitors from your own country without any worry of overseas purchase fraud.
Ranking In Search Engines
As it turns out, the way Google ranks a website in one language is different than in other languages. The high ranking you achieved with the English version of your website can't be achieve in other languages unless you apply all the same SEO techniques to the other language versions.
Similarly, a website suffering from an over-optimization penalty in English will not suffer the same penalty in Spanish, unless of course you use the same egregious SEO methods again.
Now that I've covered the topic of global search engine usage, later this week I'll show you my latest measurements for search engine popularity within the jewelry industry.