Search Engine Marketing Outside Your Borders: Language as Marketing Power

Should you have a tourism based Internet business such as an Inn or Bed and Breakfast, it’s probably a good idea to keep in mind that many of your visitors may be coming from abroad. In fact, a great percentage of tourists visiting your neck of the woods do come from different countries, so it makes good business sense to market your web site accordingly.

Most major search engines have mirrored databases in several languages just for this purpose, but rarely do you find a web site presenting itself in more than one language. In my humble opinion, this is a waste of a truly great online marketing opportunity.

Let’s look at it from the visitors point of view: They go online to plan their vacation. They look for a destination, accommodations, and things to do while visiting the location of their choice. They will usually attempt to find this information in their own native tongue first, before moving on to the English versions. Do you or someone you know speak a language other than English, then why not get them to translate a page of relevant information for your web site? There are several good reasons why this simple procedure can reap benefits. A site, for example, with a page translated into French or German or Dutch will attract the most important part of the equation, the search engines themselves. Now your site can be listed in those previously mentioned mirrored directories, which can double or even triple your online presence. This in itself is enough reason to put up a few translated pages.

Secondly, the searcher will also have better access to your site in their native language. This helps build trust during the decision making process, which literally translates into potential sales leads. A potential customer is much more likely to purchase goods or service from someone who can ‘speak their language’ rather than from someone who has not made the effort. It’s a psychological comfort factor.

You would do the same thing. Let’s say you have to travel to Italy on business, and you start your travel plans on the Internet. The first thing to catch your eye will be an Italian site which also offers service in English. It makes your trip easier to arrange and you would feel much more comfortable knowing that when you arrive you will be able to communicate with someone. It makes good business sense to assist your potential client in feeling comfortable with their purchasing decision.

Another benefit of having a translated page on your site is the expansion of your keywords and phrases. Your English language site has a tough enough time setting itself apart from all your competitors. In the tourism industry, good placement within the search engines is a highly competitive prize. At the very least your site must have excellent search engine optimization (SEO) and extremely well targeted keywords and phrases. It must also contain plenty of excellent relevant content if you ever hope to get good rankings. Expanding those important key words and phrases into other languages opens up a whole new keyword door for your marketing efforts.

Different countries have different words for the same thing. For example the word ‘luggage’. In the United Kingdom they would refer to it as ‘baggage’, still English, but if you use both names in your site content it will double your ability to be found by searchers utilizing their own ‘homegrown’ terms. In France they refer to luggage as ‘bagage’ a simple one letter spelling change. By the use of only two words of similar spelling, you’ve effectively increased your web site’s access, appeal, visibility and marketability to an additional one hundred and twenty million people(1). Not bad for two words.

The effectiveness of this technique increases as you translate or add more significant keywords and phrases to your web site’s content. Add as many translated pages as you think necessary to further expand your reach.

Here are a few statistics to help convince you the efforts would be worthwhile. By the year 2007, there will be more than 200 million European Internet users. That’s a 68% increase over the 2001 numbers. Europe has the world’s second largest Internet user population. 63% of Europe’s Internet users live in Germany, the UK, Italy, and France. 42% of all UK households have Internet access.

To find out which search engines you should be targeted for submitting your web pages to (or having a search engine optimization company do it for you) check out an article in Search Engine Watch (see below for link). The article is a little dated, but it should give you some good general guidelines. Each country in Europe has its own favorite search engine. Yes, the big ones like Yahoo and Google are there, but while looking through the list you may spot some unfamiliar names with very high ratings. For example, in the UK, Wanadoo is a very popular engine ( and has almost 37% coverage, usage and market share in several countries such as France. It also has mirror sites in France, Spain, the Netherlands, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Madagascar and Mauritius, so you get a lot of bang for your buck if your site is found within this engine. Especially if your web site happens to have pages translated into several of these languages.

It’s amazing that something so simple can truly get your site ‘out there’ and give you both a step up on your competition, and exposure to entirely new markets. You would think more site owners would utilize this technique. Now’s your chance. Start thinking outside your own borders and see what it can do for you.

Bon Voyage!