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Taiwan SEO and SEM Guide

Interestingly, Taiwan is one of the only developed countries in the world that is not a member of the UN. They are quickly transforming from a country that produced low end goods to a high tech economy. Taiwan’s largest economic advantage is its geographic proximity to a massive customer base for their products in China.

  • Population size: 24 million
  • Internet penetration 84%
  • Most popular search engines: Yahoo, Google
  • Currency TWD
  • Language: Mandarin
  • Time zones: GMT + 8
  • Major cities: Taipei
  • Most popular Internet TLD .TW. CO.TW


What you need to know to run successful campaigns: Very similar to Japan, many people start their searches with Yahoo although this algorithm is also backed by Google. In order to run paid campaigns on Yahoo Taiwan you will need to create a separate account with Yahoo Taiwan.



Malaysia SEO and SEM Guide

Malaysia is a former British colony, and when they granted Malaysia independence, they left behind their language and lots of culture. While for the most part Malaysia has a strong rule of law, there have been some recent government scandals that have cast this into doubt.


  • Population size: 31 million
  • Internet penetration 68%
  • Most popular search engines Google
  • Currency MYR
  • Language: Bahasa Malaysia
  • Time zones: GMT + 8
  • Major cities: Kuala Lumpur, Penang
  • Most popular Internet TLD .MY, .CO. MY


What you need to know: Many people conduct all of their conversations on and offline in English, and you may not need to justify the cost of translating to Bahasa Malaysia. For English, use UK English spelling and sentence structure.


Indonesia SEO and SEM Guide

Many might be surprised to learn that Indonesia is world’s fourth most populous country in the world. However, this won’t be your only surprise. Indonesia is one of the few places in the world where companies like Path and Blackberry still have a significant customer base. Despite the potential of this market as the result of its large population, Indonesia is a very challenging country for Western companies to enter. Indonesia scores very high on many corruption indexes and brands like Netflix and Uber have found themselves on the wrong side of the law for perplexing reasons. Indonesia is also quite poor with a GDP per capita of only about $3,500. Despite these negatives, Indonesia is considered by many to be the next decades “China.” The infrastructure and corruption problems have been greatly improved over the last few years.

  • Population size: 255 million
  • Internet penetration 30%
  • Most popular search engines Google
  • Currency: IDR
  • Language: Bahasa Indonesian
  • Time zones GMT +7, +8
  • Major cities: Jakarta, Surabaya
  • Most popular Internet TLD .ID, .CO.ID


What you need to know to run successful campaigns: Indonesia is a place that lives in dichotomies. While there are millions of people living below the poverty line, there is a huge class of educated, high income earning people. These folks will understand English, but you need to first appeal to them in the local language. This requires building out landing pages and optimizing for Bahasa, but you might not need to go the extra step of localizing your products too. As a developing country, Indonesia is also a strong mobile first economy, so be certain that you are optimized for the mobile web.


Korea SEO and SEM Guide

Korea has the world’s fastest download speeds and sports technology innovations such as fully connected homes that have not yet been seen in the West. As a result of a fierce local loyalty, Koreans overwhelmingly buy Korean made smartphones like Samsung and LG which helps drive Android’s market dominance.

  • Population size: 49 Million
  • Internet penetration 92%
  • Most popular search engines: Naver, Daum, Google
  • Currency KRW
  • Language Korean
  • Time zones: GMT + 9
  • Major cities: Seoul
  • Most popular Internet TLD .KR, .CO.KR

What you need to know to run successful campaigns: While Google is not the leading search engine, they have a Trojan horse in that nearly all the people using their Android platform are slowly being introduced to the other Google products. The leading search engine is called Naver which is very much like AOL of the late 1990’s.  Naver is more of a platform than a search engine, so SEO might consist of creating content on Naver’s various content areas. For PPC, there is no broad match on Naver, so you need to develop a very comprehensive keyword list.


Japan SEO and SEM Guide

Japan is one of the most connected places in the world and using the Internet for everything from directions to shopping is native to most people. Japan is one of the very few places where people do not begin their Internet searches on Google. Even though the Google algorithm provides the results for Yahoo Japan, PPC marketing will still have to go through Yahoo’s engine to get started. It should be noted, that younger users actually do use Google, so expect Yahoo’s dominance to begin to slip.

  • Population size: 127 million
  • Internet penetration 91%
  • Most popular search engines Yahoo, Google
  • Currency JPY
  • Language Japanese
  • Time zones: GMT + 9
  • Major cities:  Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto
  • Most popular Internet TLD: .co.jp, .jp

What you need to know to run successful campaigns: The Japanese have an affinity for local brands, and it is important to go the extra mile to be as local as possible. Use local designers to develop marketing, ensure that your Japanese translations are culturally up to date, and consider using a local TLD for your domain. Using Japanese design is critical and it is never enough to just translate your current site.


India SEO and SEM Guide

One of the fastest growing economies with a highly educated workforce. While Internet penetration is low and the technology infrastructure currently leaves a lot to be desired, the population of wealthy web users dwarfs the entire populations of most countries in the world. India, for the most part is still developing, but if you have a product or tool that could fit the populace, this country should not be ignored. Many people in the West were introduced to India’s economic prowess during the last decade as Western companies moved their back office operations to India. The high demand for educated employees has caused wages to rise and these educated well off people are flocking in droves to purchase Western products and services.

  • Population size: 1.3 Billion
  • Internet penetration 30%
  • Most popular search engines: Google
  • Currency INR
  • Language Hindi, English
  • Time zones:  GMT + 5:30
  • Major cities: Bangalore, Mumbai, New Dehli
  • Most popular Internet TLD .IN , .CO.IN

What you need to know to run successful campaigns: While Hindi is the official language many people speak English fluently and will conduct their search engine activities solely in English. India is very much a mobile first economy with huge companies like Flipkart (India’s Amazon) forgoing desktop websites completely in favor of mobile apps only. Mobile data is relatively expensive for customers in India, so customers will shy away from apps that require a lot of data usage.  India has many companies that simply copy services and products offered in the West, so you may find yourself competing against a clone of your own service


China SEO and SEM Guide

Currently the world’s 2 largest economy behind the US but likely to become the world’s largest economy within the current decade. As the result of censorship and many unfamiliar rules, China is the most challenging country for a Western country to enter. China has a strict central government and a local partner’s requirement to participate in any foreign business. China is famous for censoring the kind of content that is available online, and as a result there are homegrown variations of popular Western products like Weibo instead of Twitter, Youku instead of YouTube and WeChat instead of Whatsapp.  Surprisingly, English is not widely understood even in the cities and any local marketing will need to be localized in Chinese. (In my experience, even Beijing police officers and hotel staff could not communicate in English.)

  • Population size: 1.4 Billon
  • Internet penetration 49.5%
  • Most popular search engines: Baidu, SoGou
  • Currency. RMB
  • Language: Mandarin
  • Time zones: GMT +8
  • Major cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou,
  • Most popular Internet TLD .CN


What you need to know to run successful campaigns: Unless your servers are hosted in China it is unlikely that you will be able to rank organically or be able to do effectively run paid search in China. Additionally, there is an inordinate amount of bureaucracy in opening a Baidu account, you might be better off working with a registered Baidu agency to run paid marketing campaigns. For SEO, Baidu has its own version of webmaster tools, but it’s only in Chinese. If you are serious about getting ranked in Baidu it would be a good idea to set up a webmaster tools account with Baidu.


Australia SEO and SEM Guide

When compared to major markets like Japan, China and India, Australia is not that significant with its relatively small population, but it is probably the first country any marketer looking to expand to APAC should focus on given its use of English and close cultural similarities to Europe. Australia has an elected democratic government with a strong rule of law, a world renowned education system, and a stable currency. Many global companies choose to put their APAC headquarters in Australia due to its ease of adjustment for employees relocating from Europe or the US, but make no mistake Australia is very unlike all of the rest of APAC. Geographically and culturally, Australia is as far from continental Asia as Paris is from New York.

  • Population size: 23 million
  • Internet penetration: 93%
  • Most popular search engines: Google
  • Currency AUD
  • Language: English
  • Time zones: GMT +5  to GMT + 11:30 (Sydney & Melbourne are GMT +10)
  • Major cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Perth
  • Most popular Internet TLD: .COM.AU


What you need to know to run successful campaigns: Australia uses UK English spelling and grammar so any American terminology will stick out like a sore thumb. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your American campaigns can be just turned on in Australia and they will work out of the box. Keep in mind the vast time differences between US cities and Australian time zones, so if you do decide to just expand a US or European campaign make sure your day parting or any other time based marketing is a fit for Australian time zones.


10 Best Practices for Purchasing a Company Domain name

One of the first action items many new business owners take is  to register a domain name. This seemingly inexpensive five-minute task can end up with disastrous consequences if you don’t make the effort to do it right. Attempts to save small money while purchasing the first domain names can end up being one of your most expensive legal fights down the road.

Horror stories

The Japanese automaker, Nissan, still does not own Nissan.com. They spent years in court trying to seize the domain from its rightful owner. (I recommend reading up on the history of this dispute!)  During the 2008 election, US politician Sarah Palin did not own Sarapalin.com, and currently, a variation of her name with the .IN extension, sarahpal.in, is redirecting to Hillary Clinton’s campaign website, likely not an outcome she would support.

Best practices

Here are the steps you can take to avoid making domain name mistakes that will come back to haunt you later on.

  1. When deciding on a name for a company, the first thing you should do is check the domain possibilities with a good registrar that can show you all the TLD variations of your desired name. For a business local to one country, try to get the most common TLD, but if you are global it might be a good idea to purchase the .com.
  2. Ideally, you should register the other common domain extensions like .org and .net and redirect them to your core domain. While, you might want to save money, now is not the time to be frugal. If a competitor or squatter picks these up later it will cost you thousands of dollars and millions of tears to recover them even if you rightly own all the trademarks.
  3. When registering the domain, make certain that the email address on file is one that you will see any important notifications from your registrar. The US presidential candidate Jeb Bush allowed his domain JebBush.com to expire, and Donald Trump was able to purchase it.
  4. You should absolutely use keywords in your domain but don’t stuff in as many words as possible. For example, if your new business sells cookies, it would be a good idea to have cookies as a central part of your domain, but having other menu items also might be a bit much. When it comes to keywords and domains, focus on what users will think.
  5. If your desired domain name is only available with the addition of hyphens (e.g. free-cookies.com), give it a pass. Hyphens will cheapen the name and users will never remember to use them.
  6. Keep the total length of the domain short with a target of under 15 characters. Even though modern browsers can handle long URL’s, they will not look great when they get truncated in the address bar on mobile browsers and in search results.
  7. Don’t register a name that will be really difficult to spell; especially, if you will use offline marketing that will drive type-in traffic. You can actually crowdsource test this with a survey by playing an audio clip of your domain/brand name and then ask people to type as a response what they think the spelling might be. If too many people can’t figure this out, avoid it.
  8. Optional: Depending on what kind of business you are launching you should also see if the social media handles are available. Knowem.com is a great tool to see what names are still free on the most common networks.
  9. Optional: If there are any misspellings of your brand or domain, you want to purchase these too. This can likely wait until you have some traction that requires protecting your brand, but it is worth some quick research to see if there are some domains that should be picked up sooner. com has a search engine to find these misspellings.
  10. Optional: Buy names that might have negative words appended to your brand like “sucks” or “complaint”. Most large companies with deep pockets purchase these, so if you are concerned about people squatting on “yourbrandsucks”.com and you can afford it, you should preemptively purchase it.

As a final note, you are never really stuck with domain until you have built a brand. Whenever you come up with a better name, you can always change your name if the situation warrants. Even if you are in a rush now to get your business started, its far better to follow the best practices above so you don’t end up making costly or irrevocable mistakes.




Most Asian Retailers Don’t Accept Returns and That’s a Mistake

Many Westerners and especially people from the US are surprised to learn that most retailers in Asia do not accept returns and there are very limited exchange policies. Essentially, when you make a decision to purchase a product, it’s a final sale and barring outright fraud (in countries that have consumer protection), there is no way to get your money back if you change your mind.

I found this particularly jarring only a few days after arriving in Singapore when I purchased a new mobile phone. The retail salesperson was very clear that there was no warranty, and once I inspected the phone after payment the deal was done. This was very unlike the long return policies even on electronics that I was used to at American retailers like Best Buy, Walmart and Costco.

I have discussed the need to always make final purchases, even on high ticket items, with many different people around Asia and most people believe that if retailers accepted returns, consumers would take advantage of them. I have no doubt that this is true, as people in America most certainly return things after using them, but I think the lack of returns actually hurts businesses more than it protects them. The same people that were convinced that flexible return policies would be the end of retailers in Asia also agreed that a lack of a return policy made them less likely to make impulsive purchases.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas analyzed the effects of return policies on purchase decisions and discovered that the value vs cost decision was quicker when the consumer felt like there did not need to be a strong commitment. Furthermore, once the purchase is made, the return becomes less likely as a result of the “endowment effect.” This theory from psychology simply states that people assign a higher value to something once it is already in their possession.

The research published in the Journal of Retailing stated

“Our supposition is that a longer period, i.e. a more lenient policy along the time dimension, reduces the urgency a consumer feels to make a return and thus the act of making a return can be delayed. ‘However, the longer a consumer remains in possession of the product the more salient their possession of the item becomes relative to their dissatisfaction with some aspect of the product, i.e. the reason they want to return the product in the first place. ‘It is surmised that this is due to an individual’s aversion to loss; that is, people dislike the prospect of losing something they possess so much so that they overvalue an item simply because it is currently in their possession.”

If this research is to be believed, retailers in Asia that refuse to accept returns are actually hurting themselves. Accepting returns will lead to higher revenue and less returns than they fear. As an added benefit, a flexible return policy might even be boon to customer loyalty.



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