Today’s post continues where yesterday’s left off regarding the state of internet in Mexico, and further down what its advancement means for businesses and SEO. The difference in web use and access between urban and rural areas in the country is great, and closing this gap is important for internet’s growth. In cities with more than 15,000 people (where 71% of Mexican homes are) only 40% have a computer and 30% are online. In the almost 190,000 Mexican towns under 2,5000 people, only 6% of the homes have a computer and only 3% are online. Penetration isn’t terribly high in urban areas, and the drop-off to rural regions is significant. Reasons are infrastructure, the inability of many to afford computers, and the lack of education in the use of computers within some populations. The government has taken some actions already to make the technology more widely available and has set some goals to be reached by 2015:

  • 55% of both urban and suburban homes with at least 5 Mbps broadband access
  • Fixed and mobile broadband reaching at least 38 out of 100 inhabitants, with universal access by the end of the decade
  • All basic education schools, public health facilities and public offices connected to the Internet, with digital competence curriculum being developed
  • 70% of SMBs with over 20 employees having broadband access

Takeaway for Businesses and SEOs
As the internet in Mexico grows there will be more opportunity for everyone as end-users will have access to more information and drive more traffic pushing the web space forward.

  • Mexican businesses will be more competitive locally, regionally, and internationally as a result of more online activity and exposure at each level.
  • SEO companies that serve businesses with an online presence in Mexico will benefit as essentially there will be more requests for services that increase ranking on search engines and drive more traffic. Thus, they need to stay abreast of developments in the Mexican market and cater their international SEO services to the needs of these businesses. Included in this is the use of social media in the country, as more users come online, trends regarding platform preference and behavior tendencies will become apparent and should influence internet marketing strategy in the region.
  • Local SEO is enormous and I expect that to be one of the first elements of the developing Mexican market to catch fire and take off from its current degree of utilization. More businesses will be online and more will want to optimize for local. This will be aided by the expected increase in mobile smartphone penetration and searching on the devices similar to the mobile trends in other markets. SEO companies can leverage local directory placement and additionally employ geo-targeting practices.

For more information on internet in Mexico, how SEO can improve your Mexican online presence, or how marketers can negotiate the challenges associated with expanding their online presence in a new market like Mexico, reach out to me directly at rbuddenhagen@webimax.com.

The major sporting vent in the UK this summer is a truly global event with people from all corners of the world not only participating but following and supporting the actual events and accompanying activities. Many will travel to the UK to see the events and festivities in person, but for the millions of fans that will not, media coverage will be expansive to bring the happenings to everyone else. The committee guiding the major event in the UK has pushed the events in various ways online and through social media in years past, but this year the efforts are enhanced and more purposeful creating more engagement and an improved experience for fans.

In an interview with The Next Web, the Head of Social Media for the committee guiding the event, Alex Huot, describes the ambitious ins and outs of their social strategy. It is worth profiling here because what they are doing stands a great example for businesses in utilizing social media to successfully engage with its audience. The social team is focusing on engaging with a younger audience and this strategy was cemented when they launched a Facebook page for the upcoming games in January of 2010 and with Facebook insights they found that 65% were under 24 years old.

In the year prior to the games, the social team has been connecting with fans and learning what it is that they want to have available to them. This is a critical point. Although messages are instant and exposure can gain traction very quickly, that represents the time-frame of implementation. The planning and strategy can take much longer. As such, the social team did their formative research so they know exactly what their fans wanted, and now they can deliver it.

As a result, they have outlined 2 separate initiatives, the Athlete’s Hub and the I Copy U campaign. The first enables fans to connect with athletes from the Games asking them questions and gaining an inside the ropes perspective. The second gives fans the chance to mimic a photo of an athlete and post it for a chance to win a trip to the events and the team has been creating social chatter primarily on twitter over this campaign.

As a side note, there is a currency that the events have that cannot be denied and that is their exceptional product, the games themselves, so that does make it easier for the guiding committee social media marketers to achieve results. With that said, just because there is great interest and a great number of followers from the target audience does not mean there isn’t potential for failed strategy. The guiding committee knows this and has done their due diligence to develop and implement a meaningful social campaign.

Further, the team has established accounts in several different languages including English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and also connecting with those in China – so catering to specific markets. The biggest growth they indicate is in microblogging where across all accounts, they have 6.5 million followers. Facebook, Twitter, and Sina Weibo are the essential platforms they are using.

In sum, the biggest take-away for businesses is planning the time to do the formative research to establish exactly what it is that your audience wants. Engage them to understand them better and formulate a proper strategy, and them implement accordingly.

Reach out to me directly at rbuddenhagen@webimax.com if you want more information regarding how your business can utilize social media or international SEO when catering to specific contexts.

Businesses must cater to each local context – have I said that before on this blog? Yes, it is a recurring theme but only because it holds great utility for businesses and it bears consistent repeating. This is especially the case when others are offering the same advice, like say Tom Smith, managing director of the market research firm GlobalWebIndex.

The research firm recently finished their sixth installment of current research that addresses how social media is used in markets across the globe. Interestingly, the research shows that certain indicators are slowing in the US like that of messaging friends which as a behavior fell 12% over the six installments of the research. Other behaviors that fell were searching for contacts (down 17%) and joining groups (19%). These trends are not seen in other markets, specifically emerging markets, where engagement and behavior is on the uptick, especially managing social profiles and uploading videos.

Such emerging markets are Brazil, China, India, and Indonesia where growing access to internet and interest in social media are driving surge in behavior. The behavior currently experienced in these markets mirrors those experienced in mature markets like the US, UK, and Germany during the first 3-6 years the platform was launched. One cannot help but wonder if behavior will eventually slow in the emerging markets the same way they recently have in the US.

Regardless, at the present time, the slowing of behaviors in mature markets and the surge in emerging markets points to a varying social engagement landscape that requires varying strategies by SEO experts and businesses catering to each audience. “The sixth wave of GlobalWebIndex shows increasing fragmentation of the global internet,” said Smith, as quoted in an article by The Next Web. “This creates a more localized Internet, where each market has a different behavior type, relationship with brands and attitudes towards the role of the Internet. The concept that the Internet would drive a singular global culture is false. Brands and content producers will need ever more localized strategies,” contended Smith. This has been a theme of this blog: “cater to the context.”

Looking at the stats it is hard to ignore China who leads the growth of all social behavior as platforms like Sina Weibo, RenRen, Kaixin, and Qzone are bring users from forums and blogging to micro-blogging and social networking.

What SEO Companies and Internet Marketers need to Know:

  • Social media is by means declining, the landscape is only adjusting with declines in some practices in some markets – mature markets.
  • Businesses need to conduct diligent market research on the countries they are catering to, assessing not only the social media platforms that are used, but how they are used by those in that context.
  • Businesses and SEO companies assisting them need to thus choose context-specific strategies (e.g., engage users with more quality content and inspiration or spur them to participate with calls to action motivating them to create content) and be consistent with them to achieve the established marketing goals.

For more information, reach out to me directly at rbuddenhagen@webimax.com regarding how social media is fragmented across international markets and how this could impact you businesses’ online traffic and internet marketing goals.

I want to circle back to news from Google that broke earlier in the month regarding encrypted search and address how it can impact international markets. Google made a change several months ago to google.com where users who are logged in have secure socket layer (SSL) encryption added to their web searches providing an added layer of privacy. Google pushes the security and privacy aspects of the default SSL measure and calls on more companies to adopt SSL in their offerings. This move also set up the then forthcoming launch of Google Search Plus your World. A byproduct of this SSL measure, though, is that less search data is available for advertisers.¬† It brings the “not provided” keyword return in Google Analytics into existence and pushes SEO companies and internet marketers to reassess and adapt their practices.

Now local Google sites in international markets (such as google.co.uk, google.com.au) will have SSL as a default too. International SEO experts must utilize informational resources learn from their counterparts here in the US market as this rollout begins to happen because ¬†they too will start to experience the impact that marketers in the US have been negotiating for a few months now. To that end, there has been some quality writing on the subject, and I’ll address some essential take-aways that international SEO experts can use as a jumping off point applying each to their own market:

  • Overall organic search traffic numbers are not affected by this change, but specific keyword referral information is. As such, conversion numbers relating to overall organic search traffic will still be available.
  • Advertisers will continue to have access to certain keyword referral data.
  • Utilize Google Webmaster Tools for further keyword information taking advantage of aggregated lists showing the top 1,000 searches that sent users to the site of interest for the previous 30 days.
  • Echoing an important point made here, each individual website and domain will be impacted to different degrees by the SSL encrypted search. Marketers thus should attempt to quantify the effect of the “not provided” terms and then segment the data because the is simply no way to establish what specific keywords those search securely are using to end of at the site of interest.

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.

Culture is a dynamic, living thing. This may be an exaggeration of sorts, but the point is culture is an evolving entity that impacts just about every aspect of our lives. It impacts the way we experience our days, structure our time, share with friends, work at our jobs, and – how we experience the web. Cultures adapt as time passes, but core elements of cultures can and do remain unchanged. These core elements account for cultural tendencies that exist from culture to culture influencing the way people behave and, for our purposes, experience the internet.

As a result, it is important for international SEO companies to recognize such differences and optimize accordingly, presenting unique culture or country-specific strategies. Culture is a relevant and recurring issue that I discuss on this blog, but for good reason, its reach and impact on internet marketing and SEO is undeniable. Today, I’m going to look at one cultural characteristic in particular and how it can impact marketing efforts.

Power Distance
One important cultural characteristic is called power distance which addresses how a culture negotiates power and status in relationships. As a concept, it is the extent to which those in less powerful roles accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. Superior roles are thus respected and revered to a greater degree. In lower power distance cultures, everyone is seen as more equal, whereas with high power distance, more social rank and distance is put between subordinates and those higher than them.

So in terms of web design, if a company is catering to a lower power distance culture, they want to think about how they present their management. If transparency is an element of the company culture, for example, a company may have a desire to put the direct contact information of management on the site or provide a feature for connecting with the CEO or C-level executives. The company may want to seem accessible to customers. This may present a disconnect though with the local culture as people may question the professionalism of the company.

A business in tern should weigh their own culture against that of the audience they are targeting when deciding which should dictate practices. As such, businesses may want to override local influences with elements of their own organizational culture to present a certain identity. There is no correct “one-size-fits-all” solution, and decisions need to be made on a per-country basis.