When it comes to creating websites for foreign language markets, a few necessities are immediately obvious.
First, the websites need to be in the native or primary language of the country you’re targeting. Also, you’ll need to take into account consumer behavior and culture in that country — where’s your gap in the market and what’s your unique selling proposition (USP)?
You’ll also need to work out your search engine optiimization (SEO) strategy, because what’s the point of spending all that time and money developing multilingual websites if they aren’t ranking in the search engines?
Where to Concentrate Your SEO Efforts
The tricky point to consider here, though, is that while you may be well attuned to the needs and vagaries of Google, the Internet superpower isn’t the dominant search engine in every country.
You’ve likely heard of Baidu, the Chinese search engine, which leads Google China on searches by 52 percent to 33 percent.
There are a few theories on why Baidu is the Google-killer in China. Some pundits believe it’s due to Chinese patriotism (despite the fact that Baidu started in the U.S.). But the more likely reason is because the Chinese love to search the web for MP3s (55 percent of Baidu users are MP3 searchers). Baidu is better for illegal downloading because it’s held to less strict legal standards than Western search engines.
Among the other Google-beating local search engines, popularity is attributed to their being optimized for the alphabet and language of the country.
For instance, Yandex succeeds in Russia (with a 64 percent market share) where Google.ru fails, largely because it’s built around the Cyrillic alphabet and recognizes Russian grammar and inflection.
Then, of course, there’s Seznam, the dominant search engine in the Czech Republic. In South Korea, Naver has 70 percent of the search market (compared to Google’s 2 percent). Meanwhile, the Japanese inexplicably prefer Yahoo Japan to Google.
Naturally, then, it makes sense that you if you have a Russian website, you would want to concentrate most of your SEO efforts on Yandex, and Baidu for China, and so forth.