SEO and cultureIn Monday’s post, I introduced the idea of cultural characteristics and looked at power distance. Certain characteristics of culture influence the way people act and experience their world and, of most interest to those in international SEO, experience the internet. Many aspects of certain cultures have changed over time, however core elements of culture tend to remain unchanged, they only adapt to the times. As such, certain tendencies of those from a specific culture can be expected, and as internet marketers, we must cater what we do to best suit the tendencies of a certain market.

With that said, by no means is it a hardened rule. Tendencies are just that, the ways people tend to act when looking at an overall collection of a group – averages. So there are people in a given culture that will receive information differently as they experience the internet, but we are trying to cast the biggest net to purposefully engage the greatest amount of people in the target market. With this understanding, we press on to look at another characteristic of culture, whether a culture is high or low-context. I describe this pair of characteristics in our Casual Friday video for today -check that out for more detail and to hear Todd and I discuss other international SEO issues.

High Context vs. Low Context Cultures
High and low context addresses how much meaning is in the literal words versus the meaning that is attributed to the context in any given conversation or communication interaction. In low context cultures, meaning is more literal and received mostly through explicit descriptions utilizing more in-depth explanation and examples – essentially resulting in more words. In high context cultures, more meaning is given to the context of the interaction, the time of day, the roles of those involved, the place of the business in their industry, the standing of their brand, and any other unspoken understandings – so less explicit, fewer words.

It’s Relevant Impact
How does this impact internet marketing? In terms of web design, on-site content, and social media content, you want to connect with your audience, so if you are targeting those in a low context culture, like German culture for example, you want more explicit detail and explanations, utilizing many examples and thoroughly presenting information. This will give members of the target audience meaning in the form that are most used to dealing with. Conversely, with low context environments, like Japanese and Chinese cultures, content should be more based on contextual understandings based on unspoken understandings like the company’s place in the society, their relationship to their customers, their place in the industry and their resulting responsibilities to the environment for example. Here, marketers want to be less explicit overall, concentrating on offering interesting features that will engage the audience instead of extra detail and descriptions.

In this case with high context-cultures, you do not want to take detail away at the detriment of SEO value, so this needs to be weighed against each other. On one side of the spectrum, you can go high on detail for SEO purposes (while moving away from the cultural norm for high context cultures). On the other side, you can offer less overall detail (appropriate for high context cultures) which equates to less opportunity for SEO. In the end, it is not a black and white issue, there is a middle-ground that you can strike, balancing informative detail for SEO gain and catering to the high context characteristic. Working with search engine optimization consultants to strike this SEO-culture balance without sacrificing either is ultimately a business’ best option at successfully navigating these matters.