Eli Schwartz, Director of Marketing APAC in Singapore for SurveyMonkey, explained during a DMAS SoundBites session how SEO is different for non-English languages. Here a few highlights from his presentation.

Eli has more than 10 years of experience in SEO. For SurveyMonkey he drives the SEO strategy in 17 languages. He quickly learned when dealing with the content in those 17 languages, how Google treats the non-English content differently. This is according to him primarily due to the fact that Google has not yet invested enough time and effort.


The size of English

Eli kicked the session off by explaining how English is spoken by only 13% of the world’s population. It is only the 3rd biggest language in the world after Spanish and Mandarin. So when your SEO strategy is optimised for English and referring to English content you are probably not going to be found by a large group of people.


He then continued by showing examples of how Google is trying to become relevant to where we are and what we are searching for. Everyone knows e.g. that Google starts suggesting a search string when you start typing the first keywords in the Search box. If you make a spelling mistake it will show you a suggested search, based on all the intelligence that Google has gathered over the years.

In general he says, search and especially Google search is still highly relevant for discovery in most parts of the world.


You no speak English?

But things are different when you have Spanish content and you want to be ranked high in Google search results. There for starters less content in Spanish indexed by Google. Try e.g. the word ‘shoes’ followed by ‘zapatos’, the Spanish word for it. He showed that there are 15x more search results for English than Spanish in this case. In some languages Google will also not use synonyms automatically, something that is done consistently in English. If you search for ‘online survey platform’ e.g. Google will show you results that have ‘online survey software’ too, without you having typed that. In other languages this is not necessarily the case or at least not as sophisticated as it is in the English version.


Google and Android

Eli went on to explain how important Android is for Google. It is thanks to the massive distribution of Android phones that Google is very relevant in search. By adding Google Now to Android, they want users, much like Apple’s Siri, to do their search by talking to their phone. The relevance of search results on a mobile phone are also made more relevant by Google through a check of where you are. If you search for “University in…” when you are in Singapore, it will suggest Singaporean universities in the suggested searches that pop up in the Search box.


But what does this mean for SEO?

Eli’s most important take away for SEO strategy for non-English content is that contrary to English content, you should really go old-school. This means, contrary to what you would expect, that exact phrasing is very important and that you should duplicate content, something that in English SEO is a bad practice.

Where Google in English is focused on the intent of the user and the content owner and on relevance in terms of your location and search history, they have not as much advanced on these topics regarding non-English content.

Eli recommends brands to consider to translate content and use the SEO principles as sketched above to get more traffic in local markets.

His finally recommendation made us all smile. Use surveys! Stay tuned, we intend to launch one shortly at AdAsia.

NEW_Dmas-Logo-2015About DMAS SoundBites
The Direct Marketing Association of Singapore (DMAS) is a non-profit trade organisation established in 1983 to facilitate the development of direct marketing infrastructure, promote and protect DMAS members’ interests, share information and ideas on direct marketing. Our mission is to enhance the growth and profitability of member organisations and their adherence to high ethical standards of practice.
Soundbites are organised monthly as part of a wide range of activities that include seminars, exhibitions, forums, orientation visits and other social get-togethers. These events are held to allow direct marketing professionals to keep abreast of industry trends and developments in Singapore and the region.
For more event information please email the DMAS at events@dmas.org.

Editor: Matthieu Vermeulen
Photo(s): Courtesy of Lye Peng


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