Eli Schwartz

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Don’t Sell Soccer Balls When Customers Play Football

There are enough marketing slogans and clichés to fill the hundreds of business books produced every year. Most of them you can disregard and just focus on what works for your particular business and industry. However, if you conduct any commerce across borders here’s a strategy you can’t afford to ignore: “Don’t sell soccer balls when your customers play football.”

What this simply means is, name and describe your products exactly the way your customers would refer to them. If you make soccer balls, no international customer would ever find you, even if you make the world’s best soccer ball, unless you refer to your soccer products with the word “football”, as most international countries call the sport.

It makes no difference whether you are marketing online or offline; with organic search or paid media. If you don’t use the language of your customers you can’t possibly access them or sell to them.

For example, Urinal is a product that promotes urinary tract health sold in the Czech Republic. While this product might sell well in its home market, it will be very challenging to market it in most English-speaking markets without renaming the product something a bit more benign.

 

Handy, the German slang for mobile phones is another example where proper international naming is crucial. In English-speaking countries handy just means useful. Without some naming research, an English-speaking product manager or content marketer might not realize that handy is a word that they should include in any German targeted mobile phone product descriptions.

 

So how can you make sure you that you are using the right words when targeting an international audience? Here’s five ways, which are easy and very inexpensive:

1. Mechanical Turk

Post an image of your product as a “HIT” on Mechanical Turk targeted to your focus country/language and ask people to describe the image in a few words. Experiment with per HIT pricing, but you can get quality results for less than $10.

2. Freelancers

Hire two native speaking contractors on a freelance site like Odesk/Freelancer/Craigslist and ask them each to describe your product. The descriptions should be fairly similar, so a merge of both descriptions will give you the best words to describe your items.

3. Adwords Test Campaign

Run an Adwords campaign in your target country for your product using all possible keywords as exact match types. For ad copy, create different product names as headlines, but leave the rest of the ad the same across all variations. Allow Adwords to evenly rotate the ads. Once you have achieved some sort of significance on impressions, the ad copy with the most clicks will likely be your best product name.

4. Adwords Display Planner

Plug your first keyword into the Adwords Display Planner and choose only your target country and then click, get placement ideas. On the next screen, click “placements” under the individual targeting tabs. Check out the website ideas and see if they are related to your products. Repeat this search for all of your word possibilities until you find the competitive set of sites that are most related to your products.

5. Alibaba
Search your keyword possibilities on Alibaba.com, China’s, and possibly the world’s, leading eCommerce site. You can see all products listed on Alibaba from the same search box; for example an English search will also bring up German language listings. You can audit the listings to get a sense of the most common ways of describing your products. You can also try this on Ebay, but you will need to use the specific Ebay domain for your targeted country. (E.g. ebay.de for Germany).

 

If you have any more ideas or tools on how to find the best ways to target a global audience with the most optimum product names and descriptions, please do share.

 

 

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Four Ways To Check International Rankings for Free

There are countless posts published on SEO blogs declaring search engine rank checking is dead, and ranking reports should no longer be shared as a KPI. While I wholeheartedly agree that rank tracking should not be the primary metric one uses to determine SEO success or failure, rankings reports still play an important part in the role of an SEO.

In my own role, I no longer see the benefit of frequent rank checking on a mass scale, but I do conduct many manual queries to better understand who is ranking on some of my favorite keywords. In this post, I will share four ways I get accurate international rankings for free.

Benefits of Rank Checking

Obviously, the goal in creating any piece of web content–provided of course that it is exposed to search engines–is to generate organic search traffic. Without checking rankings, there is no way to be certain that any piece has been correctly targeted for the desired terms. Certainly, you can look at organic traffic in your analytics software, but with Google not sharing keyword data you wouldn’t know whether the traffic is coming from the intended terms. Webmaster Tools will tell you some of the story, but the keyword report often lags and is subject to account personalization.

Automated and manual rank checking in the US is very simple as you can type your queries into a search box or use a variety of software solutions. The real rank checking challenge is to understand how you are doing on non-US Google searches.  Discovering how you rank in the UK is not nearly as simple as going to google.co.uk from an incognito window. Even though your personalized data is not included in Google’s query processing to understand the query intent, you are still physically located in the US (or whatever country) and this is going to bias the results away from what an actual in-country searcher would see.

Rank Checking for International SEO

Additionally, international SEO presents some very complex challenges for someone who does not know the language they might be targeting in an SEO campaign, so knowing precise search engine rankings becomes even more important.  You won’t be as familiar with your list of target keywords as you are with the keywords in your own language, and you won’t have as strong of a grasp of the keyword modifiers and synonyms that you should also be targeting.

Much like domestic SEO, looking into your analytics software to see how much traffic you are receiving is not going to be that helpful.  You can, for example, see traffic is increasing in a target country, but you won’t have very much insight into whether branded or non-brand queries are driving the traffic. Also, if you are in the beginning stages of an international campaign and just need to prove the value of a new piece of non-English content, you will not have the data you need to prove a desired ROI.

Four ways to check international rankings for nearly free

Luckily, there are a few ways to check Google rankings for free or almost free that will show you search results just like any in-country user.

  •  Adwords preview tool.  Although this tool is designed to show if your ad is currently appearing for a specific query term, as with most of Google’s paid search tools, there is an SEO use. The tool allows you to choose the specific Google TLD, country, and city you are targeting. You can see how rankings differ on Google.CA for a specific query in Toronto, ON or Montreal, QB.  For added fun, you can see what might be ranking on Google.co.uk for the same Canadian locations and notice how the rankings might change slightly. You can also choose between desktop and mobile search. These results are completely generic with no personalization and would be very similar to what a user in your target country would see. 

    Adwords Preview Tool

    Adwords Preview Tool screenshot 4/29/2014

     

  • Append parameters to your search query string. Search using your targeted Google TLD (e.g. Google.at for Austria) and then append parameters onto your Google query URL. The query URL tells Google what language interface you are you are using and the physical location of the user.  Here’s an example query string: https://www.google.pt|/search?q=wufoo|&gl=GB|&hl=es&
    Google Search

    Google Parameters in Search Screenshot 4/29/2014

    The first part https://www.google.pt shows that you are conducting a search on Google.pt – Google’s Portuguese TLD. The next section “search?q=” is your actual query. After that is where you would append “gl” which is your Google location. Google uses the two-letter ISO country code for this parameter. (Find the full list here). In my query, I am searching in the UK, which uses the ISO code of “GB.”

    Lastly, “hl=” is where you can append the interface language of your search. This parameter uses the two letter ISO language codes. (Find the full list here.) In my query just to mix things up, I am using Spanish that has the language code of “es.” The interface parameter should match a language of the country you are targeting as the results do change by interface. If you do not add an interface code, the default will be the interface of the Google TLD where you are conducting the query. To ensure that you are seeing the results as the actual user that you are targeting, it is helpful to change the interface language in countries where there are multiple languages as there are in Canada, Switzerland, and many other countries.

  • Browser Based Proxy search. Use a proxy plugin like FoxyProxy on either Firefox or Chrome and use public in-country proxies in the plugin. There are many free public proxies you can use, but many of them will be slow and unreliable. For a few dollars per month, you can subscribe to a proxy service in your target countries and gain access to proxies that are less likely to be on Google’s blacklist. Once you have set up your proxy, use an incognito window to check your IP address location to ensure you are indeed accessing the Internet via your proxy. Once you have confirmed that you are behind a proxy, conduct manual Google searches via the correct Google TLD for your target country. (Ideally, Google should redirect you to the local Google TLD for your proxy country, but it doesn’t hurt to just go there directly.)
  • Access the web via a proxy. Subscribe to an enterprise proxy service that gives you multiple IP addresses for your target country, and run the proxy via your network settings on your computer. This will put all Internet traffic on your computer behind the proxy IP, and you can then run automated ranking tools like Rank Tracker, Authority Labs, and Advanced Web Rankings.

If any of the above methods are too time consuming for you, you can always subscribe to the many paid web-based ranking tools and receive monthly, weekly, or daily reports. The cost will increase based on how many countries, search engines, and report frequency you need. Even with the web-based ranking tools, you may still have to go the manual route just to confirm or screenshot any of the rankings you are seeing in your rankings reports.

I hope that these rank checking methods help with your international SEO efforts, and I look forward to hearing additional ideas in the comments.

 

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Multilingual SEO: It’s Actually a Pretty Big Challenge for Google to Determine the Language of a Query

Originally published at SearchEngineJournal

There are many words which are spelled the same but have different meanings based on language and location.  A very simple example is the word “football”. In the US and Canada refers to a game played with a ball that is thrown in the air and carried towards a goal; while, in the UK and Australia it refers to a game that is played by kicking a ball into a goal (also known as ‘soccer’ to Americans). So, how does Google determine which meaning of a specific word a user is after?

Query Challenge

Every time someone conducts one of these ambiguous searches on Google, Google’s algorithm immediately needs to figure out the preferred language of the user to just understand the category of results that should be returned before even determining the rankings of those results.

While the word football is spelled the same by all English speakers, a human audience would not know which type of game is being referenced in a conversation unless they knew where the person talking about the game came from. In both games, there are similar features like a great deal of running, passing, and even goal kicking.

 

Screenshot of Google.com vs Google.com.mx. 5-30-14

Screenshot of Google.com vs Google.com.mx. 5-30-14

Spoken Advantages

Within a very short spoken conversation or statement there would probably not even be any semantic clues that could help the listener figure out which kind of football was being referenced.  If someone just asked, “What time is the football game?” or “Do you play football?”, the answer would be dependent on the specific kind of football. (When listening to ambiguous phrases, there may be the prevalence of an accent, but this advantage will not exist for typed phrases in a search box.) However, if the conversation is expanded the listener will eventually be able to figure out whether the primary topic is American football or soccer.

Similar to spoken conversation, in longer queries, Google will also use adjoining words to the ambiguous term to help refine the query. A query like “football pitch” would mean that a user is looking for soccer, and “football field goal” would mean that it is an American (or Canadian) football query. Furthermore, Google uses additional query words combined with timing to understand the query. “What time is the football game?” searched on an NFL game day Sunday would be a great indicator of the query intent of the user.

One Word Query

When the query is just one word, this becomes far more challenging. Figuring out which kind of sport a user is seeking is certainly a challenge, but at least both variations are referring to a game.  Google could just return results for both definitions of football, but that would not be a very good user experience. An American seeking the NFL would not understand why there are results for soccer in the search page.

Google is able to get away with returning different categories of results in ambiguous queries like “breadcrumbs” because a user understands that Breadcrumbs could have multiple meanings. In the screenshot below, Google is returning results for recipes, the breadcrumb design element, a product, and a book. All of these make sense, and there is no sense that Google failed to interpret the query.  Adding a result from another culture or language is a lot more jarring.

Breadcrumb Query on Google

Google search for Breadcrumbs Screenshot 5-30

This is an even greater challenge for the dozens of examples where a word means one thing in a language, but has a different meaning entirely in another language.  In English, a “gift” is something nice you give to people, while in German, a gift is poison. In France, “pain” is bread, while in English, it is something we try very hard to avoid. (For some off-color examples, have a look at this Reddit thread.)

Language Prioritization for User Experience

If Google were to return results across multiple languages, the user would probably think there was something wrong with Google and use another search engine. It is even more important in these cases that Google correctly determines the user’s preferred language and returns only relevant results.

If there are other words that accompany the multi-use word, Google can use these to match the user’s language and return the best result. As before, the real challenge is when there is only a one-word query.

To try to parse the user’s language, Google is going to heavily rely on all of the user’s past history with search and most of the time this will be all they need. A user that usually searches in English will most likely want an English result.  A query for “football” that comes fairly close to a query for “Steelers” would be a strong indication that the user is not interested in soccer results.  Going even deeper into the full user history a user that clicked on World Cup results in the past would probably be interested in Soccer results. For those that are fans of conspiracy theories, Google could potentially use data like previous history of watching sports videos on YouTube or time spent on sports site with Doubleclick retargeting pixels to give them a more complete picture of the user.  (See Google’s ad preferences [Canadian link]  for what they know about your individual activities)

Five Levers to Determine Language Preferences

Nonetheless, even with all the data they have gathered on users there will be many instances where past history will not help. For these instances, Google looks at five different areas to help them determine how they interpret the query.  (An Adwords support page claims to only use user settings at least for Adwords, but other language ads will more than likely accompany whatever language they determine to be the query.)

User Account Preferences

If the user has an account with Google, at the time they setup the account they were either forced to choose a language and location in the sign-up process or they were defaulted into one.  If a user’s settings declare their preferences to be English, and US, Google will first assume that the likely language of any query will be American English. These preferences also populate the default search preferences, which can be found under search settings on a Google search page.

If a Google account user decided they wanted to start seeing results in another language or locale they would need to manually change their language preferences. These can be changed just for search under the search settings options or for all Google products under the account settings. Changing language and location preferences will impact anywhere a user conducts logged in searches including other computers and mobile devices.

Browser Settings

Since not all Internet users have Google accounts or always logged-in, if they are Google account holders, Google’s first backup for account level language settings is a similar setting at the browser level. In all modern browsers, there is a default setting which declares a user’s language preferences. Google will use a browser’s location and location preference as the primary clue for a user’s language intent.

In most cases, the language setting is defaulted to how the user installed the browser. If the browser was downloaded in English from a US mirror, it will probably be set to English and US.

For Chrome and Firefox, these settings can be adjusted at the browser level, however, to change settings for IE and Safari, this actually needs to be done at the system level – a pretty big change to just do some Google testing.

Chrome language preferences

Chrome language preferences Screenshot on 5-30-14

Geolocation

Often times, just relying on either Google account or browser settings doesn’t give Google’s algorithm complete confidence in the desired language of a query. To add a higher degree of certainty, they will see where the user is physically located.

Generally, Google relies on physical locations of a user a great deal in order to better target search results.  A user in the US that searches for “Giants” on the East Coast of the United States will see more New York Giants results on the first Google results  – even during the NFL off-season, while a West Coast user will see more San Francisco Giants results – even during the MLB off-season.

For many queries, there won’t be a great degree of difference in the search results conducted on Google.com from various locations, but there will be some queries that see some major shifts. For example, a query for the word “football” will be nearly identical in the US, Canada, and the UK; while, a query for the word “holiday” will be very different in the UK than it is from the US.

TLD of Google Domain

While physical location is an important clue for a user’s language intent, it will very rarely override any of the account or browser level language settings.  However, the Google TLD (e.g. Google.com vs Google.co.uk) where the query was conducted can override these settings.

 

Google.com.br

Google.com.br screenshot 5-30

Typically, a logged-in user will default to Google.com even if they are traveling outside the US. A non-logged-in user will get redirected to whatever the local Google TLD is even if their browser settings indicate that they prefer English and US.

TLD is a very important factor in determining in what language to return results, and if there was a hierarchy in Google’s language determination processing, it could either be first or simply go hand-in-hand with location targeting.  The TLD can one of the best clues Google has for language intent if the user intentionally chose to the specific TLD.

For example, a user in the US who conducted a search on Google.com.br very likely would like to see Portuguese results. On the other hand, it can be a poor clue if the user was simply directed to that TLD by their location as a traveler might have been. In the traveler example, an US resident traveling in Germany that conducted a Google search while logged-out from their account would see Google.de by default simply because of their location. Google relying on the TLD as a determinant of their language intent might end up giving the user poor results.

If this user searched the word “handy” they would see results related to mobile phones because this is what Germans use to refer to a cell phone. The user might very well have been interested in the types of results that Google would have shown in the US, but did not get to see them because of an incorrect language choice.

When Google uses TLD for language assumptions, they always default to the primary language of a country. In Canada where both English and French are official languages, a query for the word “baguette” would return English results even though it is technically a French word. The same defaults would be occur in Switzerland where even though German, French, and Italian are widely spoken, Google always assumes that a query is in German whenever there is any doubt.

Query Parsing and Matching

Lastly, Google tries to break down the word itself looking for any clues as to the language. The algorithm matches the word itself against word matches in the most common languages. Once a language is matched via a keyword, all results will most likely be in that specific language. This is fairly simple when the word is spelled correctly and only matches a single popular language. It is a bit more complicated when it is not a perfect match.

In these cases, Google will look for things like statistical matches towards a misspelling in a specific language versus another. The word “football” can be spelled “futbal” “futbol” and “futball”, so Google will try to guess using all the rest of the rest clues to determine if the user made a spelling mistake or whether results in another language were actually sought. For any technically minded readers, more details about this process can be gleaned from Google’spatent on the topic.

TLDR

SEO’s typically focus on the aspects of Google’s algorithm that decide in what position a webpage should be ranked. In reality, Google’s algorithm is far more complex than an ordering of content based on scores. They actually need to conduct a real-time analysis on every query to determine the user’s language before they can even start retrieving sites from the index and determining the ranking for each of these pages.

I hope this brief look into how Google determines a queries language gave you some interesting food for thought on how hard Google works to satisfy a user and provide a high level of quality in their results. I have not found any Google source which shares how they determine ranking, and the findings above came from my own research. If you have discovered or just know something different, I would love to hear more about it.

 

Featured image via Flickr

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Neglecting Global SEO is Like Only Optimizing for Bing

Originally published at SearchEngineJournal

Introduction: This post is primarily targeted to marketers in the US and other English-speaking countries. Those of you that hail from other locales may be more accustomed to thinking globally.

Prioritize Google vs Bing

In just about every country in the world Google is by far the dominant search engine by market share. Bing is still a great search engine with features like Facebook integration that even Google doesn’t have. However, after five years, Microsoft still has yet to gain significant market share against Google. Microsoft’s challenge might be less a product problem than it is a marketing problem. In blind ‘taste tests’ run by the SurveyMonkey Audience last year, there were a significant amount of users who chose Bing results over Google; nonetheless, Microsoft can’t seem to get the mass of users to start Binging instead of Googling.

Given this reality, most marketers allocate the majority of their organic marketing efforts to optimizing for Google, and when there is a conflict between optimizing for Google or Bing, it would make the most sense to prioritize for Google. Google has the largest market share, so it is just smart economics to go where the most revenue or users can be found.

The same logic of prioritizing optimization efforts should apply to all optimization efforts on your sites. Even the countries and languages you choose to target should consider where you will find the most users and revenue. Restricting your audience to just the United States or only English speakers could be as foolish as only optimizing for Yahoo or Bing.

Internet Population

While the Internet may have been invented in the United States, the US no longer has the greatest share of Internet users. In 1996, 66% of all Internet users in the world were based in the US. In 2014, US Internet users comprised less than 10% of the world’s 2.4 billion Internet users.  The US is a distant #2 behind China’s 640 million Internet users — twice the number of actual people in the US! Additionally, China has very low Internet penetration at just 40%, which means there is still significant room for growth.  India, also in the top five countries with the largest Internet populations, has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in the world at just 19%. Given the sheer size of the Indian population and their current growth rates, it won’t be long before India surpasses the United States as well.

Internet Penetration

Not only is the world’s greatest concentration of Internet users not in the United States, the US isn’t even the most connected country with just about 86% of the population currently connected to the Internet. The US lags other English-speaking countries like the UK and Canada, where penetrations is close to 90 percent.  There are even multiple countries around the world such as the Qatar, Iceland, the Netherlands and Finland with close to 100 percent penetration.

This means your website could transcend borders, but if it is only targeted to US customers, you are potentially neglecting 90 percent of the world.

You can immediately address the targeting by offering global shipping if you sell a physical product (when allowed by law) or creating more generic content if your website product is content. Focusing on the US user only is just like optimizing for Yahoo (for the sake of this analogy let’s pretend it has its own search algorithm!) and its 10 percent user base. Expand your marketing horizons beyond a small subset of users and open up your site’s audience to non-US users.

Global SEO

Now let’s say, your website is in English but isn’t entirely US focused. You might offer global shipping, but only have shipping instructions in English. Your spelling and references are generic enough that they make sense to anyone that reads and understands English. While English is the lingua franca of the entire world, you may be surprised to discover that as a first (primary) language, English is only the third most popular language behind Mandarin and Spanish. Just 6 percent of people in the entire world speak and read English natively.

Multilingual SEO

Luckily, some of the larger Internet population countries speak English, so having English only on your site still allows you to effectively target the 12 percent of the world’s Internet users that live in the US, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and some smaller countries that count English as their official language. Since there are also people in the world that might understand English as a second language (English is the most popular language on the web), your reach might go up to about 20-25 percent. (This is a guess, but please share in the comments if you have a better way of calculating actual reach.) Continuing with the search engine analogy, targeting one quarter of the world’s Internet users is not even as effective as only optimizing for Bing’s algorithm.

According to Comscore’s latest search market penetration report, Bing and Yahoo combined have 29 percent of the search engine market share. It doesn’t make sense to prioritize search engine optimization efforts for Bing’s algorithm while potentially ignoring Google’s 62 percent market share and, with the same logic, it doesn’t make sense only to target English users and potentially ignore 75 percent of the world’s Internet users.

comscore market sahre

screenshot 7-29-14

Expanding the targeting of your site outside of the US and to other languages doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as allowing global shipping and making phone support available during the daytime for other countries. For non-English traffic, just a few translated pages can go a long way to increasing your global traffic.

In a future post, I will dive deeper into how to best internationalize a site, but in the meantime just apply the same logic to country/language targeting as you would for all other optimization efforts. Follow the money.

 

Featured Image: Moyan Brenn via Flickr Creative Commons

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Baidu Expanded into Brazil: Why It’s a Great Decision & What it Means for the Future

Originally published at SearchEngineJournal

Last month Baidu, the dominant search engine in China, announced they launched aPortuguese version of their search engine in Brazil. (You might notice they have opted for a subdomain on their .COM, instead of the .COM.BR Brazilian TLD that Google uses, but that’s for another post.)

Brazil might seem like an odd first expansion choice for a search engine that is primarily focused on the Chinese language, but when you dig into the details, it actually quite logical.

Baidu Expanded into Brazil: Why This Was a Great Decision and What it Means for the Future

Baidu’s Background

For those unfamiliar with Baidu, their algorithm is similar to other search engines in that it calculates a web document’s relevance to a query by using a set of on-page and off-page factors. However, the quality of results is not the same as you might see on Google.

The reason for the lower quality is that Baidu’s algorithm gives far more weight to easy to game factors like keyword density and low quality links, whereas Google is a bit more sophisticated in determining relevancy. Additionally, Baidu has a much smaller index due to their weaker crawling capabilities.  As a result, anyone optimizing for Baidu knows that submitting a sitemapto Baidu’s Webmaster Tools is critical to facilitate efficient discovery of their site.

Some of the weakness in the algorithm could be explained by a lack of competition, which meant Baidu had little motivation to innovate and constantly improve search quality. Google’s departure from China in 2010 was quite beneficial for Baidu, and for a couple of years they easily dominated the search market in China.

Baidu’s Challenge

Everything changed for Baidu in 2012 when Qihoo 360,  a software company known for antivirus software, launched it’s own search engine so.com. Surprising many in the Chinese search world, Qihoo quickly zoomed to a 10 percent market share in their first year of business.

Qihoo is currently the second largest search engine in China with 23 percent of the market. Additionally, Baidu competes against Sogou.com a company that just recently merged their search engine with Tencent’s Soso search engine. The combined Sogou market share is 11 percent.

The new competition has steadily driven Baidu’s market share lower over the last two years.  While Baidu is still the market leader, they now have just 63 percent market share compared to their 72 percent at the end of 2012.

With their market share taking a beating in its domestic market, it makes a lot of sense that Baidu decided to find some growth in what they perceived to be low hanging fruit outside of China.

Why Brazil?

While to some it might seem like a fool’s journey to enter the Brazilian market, where Google currently has a 98 percent market share, there actually are a number of reasons why Brazil is the perfect choice for Baidu’s foray into new markets.

  1. Brazil still has relatively low Internet penetration at only 46 percent, so Baidu’s challenge is less about converting Google users to Baidu users than it is about getting new internet users to start using Baidu. This is the precise challenge that Baidu faces in China where only 42 percent of people are online.
  2. Just like China, Brazil is also a member of the “BRIC” (Brazil, Russia, India, China) nations, which are countries deemed to be at similar stages of economic development. If Baidu had to choose one country to enter, it would make sense to choose a country that has very similar economic characteristics. Furthermore, out of the other three countries on the BRIC list, Brazil is the only country where Baidu has a chance of competing. Yandex, the Russian homegrown search engine, dominates the Russian search and, as I recently wrote, even Google faces numerous challenges at knocking Yandex out of the top spot. In India, a significant amount of search queries are conducted in English, and Baidu is unlikely to beat Google in the English language search for the near future.
  3. Aside from economic growth there are other similarities between the two countries such as a large growing middle class and a highly educated workforce. It is logical that Baidu would consider opening a local office with a staff that has a similar makeup to employees in corporate headquarters in Beijing.
  4. Baidu is a strong mobile company, and their mobile users even outnumber their PC customers. Brazil is on pace to become a mobile first country, if its current mobile connection rates continue, and Baidu might see this as a competitive advantage.

Time will tell if entering Brazil was a wise decision for Baidu, but the real significance behind this expansion is that it shows that Baidu is starting to think and act global. They have already announced that Thai and Arabic are next, and they surely have thoughts on where to go afterwards.

Should Google be worried that they will enter the US market? Probably not right now.

The Baidu algorithm isn’t ready yet for that level of competition, but the recent hire of a deep learning expert from Google could mean that Baidu has every intention on improving quickly. One thing is certain; the next few years will be very interesting in the search market.

 

Image Credits

Featured Image: Wikipedia
Post Image: Wikipedia

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Google Updates “Right to Be Forgotten” Notification

Originally published at SearchEngineJournal

 

In late May, the European Court of Justice ruled that Google is required to remove results deemed to be “irrelevant” and “outdated.” In order to comply with this ruling, Google set up a form that allowed people to complain about specific results. To prevent fraudulent requests intended to manipulate search results, the form requires users to supply documentation verifying their identity.

When results are removed from search, Google sends a message to the Webmaster via Webmaster Tools. The original notification Google sent about removing content from its European index was fairly sparse. The message just stated a URL had been removed and shared the referenced URL, but did not give any more information. Google linked to an FAQpage, but there was no additional information about why results are removed from search.

The tone and lack of context could have been quite scary if you were unaware of why Google was sending you this message. Any message that content is being removed from search results is bound to cause concerns for the recipient.

Updated Notice

Now, Google has an updated message using much clearer language and even provides a method to dispute removal with a link to more information about why results are removed.

right to be forgotten

Screenshot taken October 07, 2014

The message states why the content is removed, informs the you that no action is required, and even tells the you not to bother figuring out why the content was removed since the name of the requestor might not even be in a prominent place on the page. Most importantly, the message should allay any concerns about a penalty since it very clearly says that the page has not been blocked from search.

Interestingly, they state results are only being removed for the exact query specified by individuals in their original request form. For example, if a user only requested to have a result removed for John Smith that showed John Smith’s arrest for a DUI, the result would still show for John P. Smith if it had previously ranked on this query.

What Should You Do?

If you receive one of these emails, you shouldn’t be concerned about any dramatic impact to your site, as it seems from the message Google is doing only the bare minimum to comply with the European law (for now). There’s also no harm in at least trying to make a good case for why the URL should not be removed from Google. To argue your case, head over to thepage linked in the notification and fill out the form.

Right to be Forgotten complaint

Screenshot taken October 07, 2014

You can either show you have removed sensitive content from the story (if you can figure out what triggered the removal) or show why the URL contains information the general public needs to know. Google has stated repeatedly that they will not remove links that provide information that is in the public interest.

It is important for public safety to know an individual may have been convicted of a violent crime; however, a story about someone’s arrest for public intoxication is not really that important. If you can provide a good case for why the removed URL is in the public interest, you can at least provide a counterbalance to the complaint form.

Ultimately, as with any appeal to Google, you may not be successful, but at least you are not just allowing your content to be removed from European search results without a fight.

 

Featured Image: JuliusKielaitis via Shutterstock

Uncategorized

Baidu is Now a Mobile First Search Engine

Originally published at SearchEngineJournal

On October 29th, Baidu, China’s largest search engine, announced their Q3 earnings. In their earnings report, they declared that they had a “very strong quarter,” mostly as a result of mobile, which provided 36% of the total revenue, up from 30% in the previous quarter.

Mobile Eclipses the Desktop

Most newsworthy in the earnings report is that for the first time ever, mobile accounted for more traffic than desktop. Mobile has been an intense area of focus for Baidu, and they have spent heavily to conquer the mobile market. Baidu has paid smartphone makers to bundle its apps in their devices, and they made investments into gaming among other mobile initiatives.

Additionally, over the past summer, Baidu launched an algorithm specifically for mobile search called “Baidu Ice Bucket” which is sort of like Google’s Top-Heavy algorithm. Baidu’s mobile algorithm specifically penalizes sites that have too many ads or show login walls before displaying content – both poor experiences on a small screen.

It appears that Baidu’s efforts are netting them positive returns. They now have 80% of the mobile search market compared to the about 62% of the desktop search market for while its closest desktop competitor, Qihoo 360, only has 2% of the mobile search market.

Baidu also reported that they have close to 500 million active users on mobile. Considering that there are over 1 billion people just in China, it seems that there is still a tremendous amount of upside for Baidu.

Comparison to the US

Here in the US while PC usage may be declining, according to Google’s Consumer Barometerthere is still significantly more desktop usage versus smartphones. The opposite is true in China where mobile has outpaced the desktop and Google has declared it to be a “mobile revolution.” In the US, Online business can still get away with not having a mobile strategy or even a mobile optimized website; however, in China it would be almost impossible to survive without a way of reaching mobile customers. In China, 99% of the online population use a smartphone to access the Internet versus 85% in the US.

Baidu is Now a Mobile First Search Engine

Google consumer barometer. Screenshot 11/4

Why Any of This Matters?

If you already know how foolish it is not to have a global SEO strategy, then you are probably already thinking about non-Google search engines around the world. When you optimize for Baidu, and the Chinese market in general, it is crucial that you put your mobile experience first. If you have an offline experience in China, you can even explore services from Baidu like Baidu Connect which enables retailers to build mini-apps just to connect with mobile users.

Nonetheless, even if you are not yet thinking globally, it pays to keep an eye on Baidu’s growth and innovations. It is unlikely that Baidu will enter the US market anytime soon, but they may launch in another country where you do business. Baidu’s experience in transforming the way people use the Internet in China will be very valuable as they spread their search tools around the world. Baidu recently launched in Brazil, and if they are successful in denting Google’s highly dominant market share there, anything can be possible.

 

Featured Image: Myheimu via Wikipedia

Uncategorized

How to Use Surveys to Build Links

Anyone who has ever dabbled in any link building efforts is keenly aware that the easiest way to generate links organically is to publish unique and interesting content that others want to share with their readers. Yet, many site owners and bloggers are at a loss for an inexpensive method of creating truly interesting data. They don’t have the ability to break news on their own or spend vast sums of money to conduct research.

If this is an issue you’re facing in your link building efforts, a skillfully designed and promoted survey could be your answer. You could easily build a tool with an online tool like the leading survey website, and get started in minutes.

While the primary goal of a survey would be to collect unique data for the purposes of creating a linkable asset such as a data-rich blog post or infographic, there are a number of other business advantages. Surveys allow you to generate feedback from your audience and engage with the very people you are trying to sell or obtain links from. Additionally, a successful survey would guide you in tailoring content offerings to your existing audience and thereby increase the likelihood of getting a link. In the process you may also get some fantastic customer quotes to use in your marketing materials.

Here are the steps you need to get started.

Survey Goals

The first step is to decide your survey goal. What do you hope to accomplish with your survey? Your ideal end result should define the questions you need to ask and the amount of effort you will need to expend in promoting it put into creating it. Would you want to just get links to your site even if they aren’t relevant to your niche?

For this type of content you can run a survey about the latest news event. As an example, ask respondents who they plan to vote for in an upcoming election, or if they approve of recent technology updates on a popular product. Are you looking to better understand your own target market and audience? You’ll need to ask more specific questions that are pertinent to your business.

Armed with your survey goal, you’re ready to start brainstorming questions. If your goal is to better understand your audience, then ask how they use your website, why they choose your products, and what they think of your competitors. Develop specific questions and consider using rich media, like images and video.

Discover how they arrive at your site — by way of search engine or social media? If they use a search engine, is it Google or Bing? Open-ended questions can also be a great source of rich information, but keep in mind that analyzing your data can feel overwhelming if you end up receiving a ton of responses.

If one of your survey goals is to engage influencers, reach out to them directly for their input. Invite them to co-brand the publication of the results if they help you with creating the survey. You can also find great ideas on social media by asking your fans and followers to share the kinds of things they would like to know more about. Are they curious about your company name? Your employees? The source of your products? If you’re really stuck on ideas of questions to ask, build on existing research by probing into specific areas of interest to you. For example, Google vs. Bing is always a hot topic. Research topics to revisit, and look for different angles to dig even deeper within previously published analyses.

Once your survey is complete, it’s time to launch it.

Survey Launch

If you have a mailing list, ask recipients to complete the survey in your next email blast. Promote the survey on all of your social channels, and ask your fans to spread the link. Reach out to your influencers and ask them to share. If you are interested in targeted demographics or you require more respondents than you might be able to get on your own, you can use SurveyMonkey Audience.

Set a deadline for when your survey should close and start to analyze your survey responses once the deadline is up. One of the ways to dig even deeper into your data is with the cross tab feature. People who answered X, did they also say Y? Are women more likely than men to answer Z? As an added bonus to the data you’re collecting for link purposes, if you asked questions related to your business, you can then identify any pain points that your target audience might have with your product or website.

Now that you’re finished analyzing your data, you’re ready to develop your data into a linkable asset. Every survey you complete actually gives you multiple opportunities for building an asset that can attract links and publicity.

Follow These Five Steps:

1)       Publish the results into an engaging and embeddable infographic.

2)       Write a blog post that summarizes the survey results.

3)       Release a summary of the results data in a PowerPoint or PDF that you can share on Slideshare.

4)      Create a YouTube video that explains the survey and the results.

5)      Release the raw survey results in another blog post that encourages people to download and conduct their own analysis with the data.

While inevitably some sites will link to the Slideshare or YouTube links instead of your site, you will at least get brand mentions that could lead to links later on.

It’s probably most beneficial to release each asset one at a time instead of all at once, so each publication can be a new attempt at generating links and exposure. Utilize press releases and social media to spread the word about your survey. If you had the assistance of influencers in the creation of the survey, reach back out to these same influencers to see if they will link to your results on their own sites. You can increase the likelihood of a link from them if you share attribution with the influencers in the publication of the results.

If you’ve been successful at generating organic pickup of your survey results, you may find there have been sites that scraped or quoted your data without giving you attribution. Set up an alert that searches for keywords within your survey, and immediately reach out to any sites that neglected to link to you appropriately.

Survey Conclusions

It’s important that once this process is complete you debrief and figure out what was successful and what can be improved upon. Could your initial research, pre-survey, have been a little bit better? Or were your questions clear with no ambiguity in the data? Use your conclusions to plan your next attempt and make it even better.

 

Uncategorized

5 ADVANTAGES TO YANDEX OVER GOOGLE IN RUSSIA

Before Larry Page and Sergey Brin ever founded Google, Ilya Segalovich and Arkady Volozh had already created Yandex, currently Russia’s largest search engine. Google focused on calculating the PageRank of websites, and Yandex’s ranking algorithm took into account the distance between words and the relevance of documents to a searcher’s query.

Both search engines have since evolved to be fairly similar in how they determine rankings, but Yandex remains the market leader in Russia with 62 percent of the Russian search market, while Google only has 27 percent. Except for Russia, South Korea and Japan, Google is the market leader in every country in the world.

Read on to learn more about Yandex’s reach, and its advantages over Google.

Playing second fiddle to Yandex in Russia is actually quite significant since the country is the largest Internet market in all of Europe with 75 million users. Additionally, Russian Internet penetration is only 53 percent compared to the 80-90 percent penetration in most other European countries, and this allows Russia to continue to have double digit year on year growth for the last few years.

Yandex market share numbers have been relatively stable if not increasing for the last few years, and I strongly believe that Yandex will remain the dominant search engine in Russia.

Here are the five top advantages Yandex has versus Google, which will help maintain Yandex’s share long into the future.

1) Yandex is a portal. Yandex is the largest media destination in all of Russia and for many Russians, Yandex.ru is where they begin their day. In fact, Yandex is the largest media property in all of Russia.

Much like Google, Yandex offers free email, live traffic maps, music, videos, photo storage and much more. Many of these same features are some of the products that Google used to grow its adoption in all around the world by introducing users to the Google brand. Google was able to lure users away from weaker products like Hotmail, Mapquest and even Dropbox to use the Google alternatives. In Russia, Google will not have this opportunity, as the Yandex versions are comparable, if not better.

2) Yandex is better for Russian language search. Yandex was created specifically for the Russian market and is better able to handle specific Russian search challenges. In general, Google is not nearly as effective at parsing user intent over spelling in non-English search, but it is even weaker in Russian.

For example, the Russian language is highly inflected and some words can have up to 20 different endings. All Russian nouns have a grammatical gender, and the gender of the noun will affect the rest of the words in the sentence. Even the spelling of individual’s name could change based on gender. To illustrate, Russian Prime Minister Vladmir Putin’s ex-wife has the last name “Putina” instead of just Putin. While Google’s search only ranks pages that are relevant to the specific user query as it is spelled, Yandex is able to parse the synonyms and user intent regardless of the user’s spelling. As a result, for highly infected search queries, Google is providing the weaker search experience and therefore does not make a solid case for why a user should use Google more frequently.

3) Yandex is even popular on Android. While Google is able to use its Android mobile operating system to grow mobile search due to the embedded nature of Google search in Android, it’s not that effective in Russia. In Russia, Android has 70 percent of the Russian mobile market; yet, Yandex still has 52 percent of the search market on these very Android devices.

Furthermore, last year Yandex launched its own fork of Android, called Yandex Kit, which allows users to use Android without Google. Yandex even has its own app store with thousands of apps. Any user with root access could use the forked version of Android. This version of Android is already being sold by two handset makers, and is seeing growing adoption.

4) Yandex is Russian. While Russians do have an affinity towards Russian brands they also seem to like foreign products. Nonetheless, in the wake of the Snowden/NSA scandal, Russians might prefer using Yandex simply because they distrust Google.

Also, the Russian Duma just passed a bill that restricts exports of personal data. This law, if implemented, could make it very difficult for Google to operate as they do elsewhere. Restricting the data flow and storage that Google uses to improve its search quality could squelch any opportunity for Google to really be successful in Russia. We could see a scenario in Russia similar to China where the regulatory environment might encourage Google to be a lot less competitive.

5) Yandex’s algorithm might be able to better account for spam. The Russian online market is notorious for outright link spam methods. There are countless “ad” agencies that exist just to sell links for the purpose of increasing search rankings. As a result, Yandex announced they will not use links in their algorithms on commercial queries conducted in specific areas of the country. Instead, Yandex will solely use user experience and keyword ranking metrics. This effort by Yandex is still early, but it mayallow Yandex to generate better quality results than Google which undoubtedly filters spam links, but is most likely still giving credit to low quality links.

In summary, while Yandex saw its market share rise over the last few years as its competitors Rambler and Mail.ru stumbled, Google’s market share of Russian search actually dropped slightly. Yandex is likely to continue to grow at the expense of Google due to market realities that just don’t exist outside of Russia.

With the high stakes and benefits that will come from the continued growth of the web in Russia, we can expect Google will not give up the fight (provided they aren’t legislated away). It will be very interesting to see what sort of investments and acquisitions Google will use to try to become the dominant search engine in Russia.

 

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