The Search Light Newsletter
The Search Light Newsletter
  Guiding your site to the top of the search engines... 28 February 2007 - Vol 7, Issue #2  

In this issue...

Feature Article:

Think Global Act Global: Writing For Your Online Market

FAQ1: What is a reasonable budget for website marketing?

FAQ2: Does the use of bold or italics tags add relevancy weight in search engines?

FAQ3: Does CSS help improve search engine rank?

EARN CASH from your web site!

Feature Article:

Think Global Act Global: Writing For Your Online Market

By Kalena Jordan
When you write web site content and design your pages, do you truly act with your target audience in mind? Or do you think global and act local?
I am amazed at the number of web sites I see that claim to target a global market, yet design and write their content for a regionally-specific audience. Not sure what I mean? Take the site I saw yesterday, for example. I won't embarrass the site owners by pointing to the specific domain, but let's just say the site is based in the U.S. and sells high quality gold chains throughout North America, Europe and Australia.
Now the owner of this site was complaining loudly in a webmaster forum that his pay-per-click campaign was having no luck converting sales from overseas visitors, particularly in the UK and Australia. He had spent a long time developing and tweaking a landing page for the campaign and he couldn't work out why hardly anyone outside the U.S. was buying. I took a look at his landing page and could see the problems straight away:
1) He used the American English spelling "jewelry" throughout the page without considering that persons who use British English spell it "jewellery".
2) He provided a toll-free phone number for persons in the U.S. to call, but did not provide any contact phone number for persons located outside the U.S.
3) He used the word "national" throughout the page, immediately isolating anyone outside the U.S.
4) He promoted "free shipping throughout the U.S." but did not specify shipping costs for persons outside the U.S.

The owner of this site had not even considered that persons outside the U.S. might search for keywords in anything other than American English. It didn't even occur to him that there may be an alternative spelling of his main keyword and he didn't think about the logistics for purchasers outside his country. No wonder the page wasn't converting outside the U.S.! He had made the classic mistake of isolating a large chunk of his audience by sending everyone to a one-size-fits- some page.
What he should have done was to create a separate landing page using British English spelling and shipping/contact information applicable to persons overseas. He could then have set up a unique PPC campaign targeting only UK/Australian searchers with regional keywords and ads leading to the British English landing page.
I see similar problems occur quite often in the online travel industry where you not only have to deal with regional spelling options, but also regional jargon. Think about the word "accommodation". Apart from the fact the word is commonly misspelled, it is used most often in the UK, Australia and New Zealand to describe places to stay while traveling. In the U.S., the words "accommodations" and "lodging" are more commonly used. Same goes for "holiday" and "vacation", with the latter being more common in the U.S. The word "traveling" itself is spelled "travelling" in British English! So you can imagine the minefield of problems webmasters must face promoting their travel sites online to a worldwide audience.
I don't mean to single out a particular country, but Americans seem to find it especially difficult to step outside their regional mindset. I am always receiving emails from the U.S. with helpful suggestions for fixing my "spelling mistakes". The funniest email exchange I ever had in relation to this was from an American web designer. She had seen our Australian-based web site (with a domain) and emailed me to tell me it was "full of errors" and that if I wanted to present a professional business to site visitors, I should correct them. So condescending! I asked her to elaborate and she pointed me to these words she felt were spelled incorrectly:

Resisting the urge to use a few offensive words I'm sure she would recognize, I tactfully explained that our site was only targeting the Australian market and that we use British English spelling in Australia. Her response? Perhaps if we wanted to be taken seriously by an international audience, we should consider using the "more proper" American English. Flabbergasted, I pointed out the fact that American English was a derivative of British English and was not widely used outside her own country. Wikipedia has more about the differences between the two here. And let's not forget that although it is the most common language used on the web, English is used by less than 30 percent of the world's total Internet users.
The point of this story is that you absolutely have to think outside your market if you are going to advertise on the web. As ignorant as she was, my email friend did make me realize that many of her compatriots might also think our site was full of errors. American English is more common on the web and I've since learned to cater to that trend. I try to remember that in all writing I do for the web now, whether it's in my daily blog, the syndicated articles I write regularly or web page content. Whenever you design or write for a web site that has an international audience, make sure you address each market. It pays to undertake detailed keyword research into your markets you are targeting so you can capture the correct regional jargon and spelling that people are searching for. Remember it's not enough to think global, you've got to act global too.

About the Author
Article by Kalena Jordan, one of the first search engine optimization experts in Australia, who is well known and respected in the industry, particularly in the U.S.
As well as running a daily Search Engine Advice Column, Kalena manages Search Engine College - an online training institution offering instructor-led short courses and downloadable self-study courses in Search Engine Optimization and other Search Engine Marketing subjects.

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   Hello Readers!

Have you ever felt alienated by a web site? You know what I mean - you're looking at a web page but you just can't seem to connect with it. Whether it's the language, the spelling or the actual information, the page copy seems to be addressing somebody else.
This month's article is about the importance of writing for your specific online audience. I wrote it after becoming weary of the number of sites I see that claim to service a global audience but have content that caters only to a very specific or regional audience.
Speaking of being weary, there's a strange phenomenon I've recently heard about. It's called a vacation and it usually involves travelling to a foreign place and relaxing for long periods of time. Apparently it's what people do when they need a break from work. I thought I might try it out next month and go to New Zealand for 10 days. Wish me luck on the relaxation front as I'll be dragging a husband and three year old along for the ride.
And while we're on the subject of rides, if any of you are coming along to the Search Summit Conference at Luna Park in Sydney on March 1 and 2, I'll be speaking about search industry training on day one so please stop by and introduce yourself. I don't know if I'll be up for the free rollercoaster rides on day two, but you never know!

Enjoy this issue and remember to visit the daily Search Engine Advice Column to check out my answers to frequently asked search engine questions or submit one of your own.
Till next time - wishing you clicks and conversions...

  • FAQ1: What is a reasonable budget for website marketing?
  •    Dear Kalena...
    Love your website. I have been searching for good web marketing companies online and found that most of them charge upwards of $300 a month to give provide you with high rankings.
    Being an expert, what would you recommend is a reasonable budget for web site marketing? I have just started a website and I am overwhelmed. I contacted similar websites but I have been turned down. What is the trick to getting links? Should I only link with like- minded websites?

    Dear Abdi
    Asking what a reasonable budget is for web site marketing is a bit like asking "What is a reasonable price for a steak?". It depends. Do you want to do all the work and cook it yourself? Do you want to have it in a burger joint with fries? Or do you want it served rare with a red-wine glaze in a 5 star restaurant? There is no one-size-fits-all answer.
    Marketing your web site can be a full-time job, whether you have a 5 page hobby site or a 50,000 page shopping site. You need to decide what you actually want your site to achieve before you decide how to market it. Ask yourself:
    - Do I want to attract more traffic?
    - Do I want to convert more sales?
    - Do I want to attract more sign-ups?
    - Do I want more leads?
    - How much time can I contribute to marketing?
    Then think about what type of budget you can afford monthly and allocate it to in-house or outsourced marketing staff according to your priorities. Search engine marketing is less focused on gaining high rankings these days and more focused on ensuring your site is search engine friendly and user-oriented so it converts to more sales/sign-ups for you. What's the point of achieving high search rankings if the new visitors to your site leave immediately?
    Regarding links - there is no point in swapping links with sites that have zero to do with your own site. I've ranted about this before. Concentrate on attracting one-way links from niche search engines and high quality sites with a similar theme to your own. Search my previous posts about link building.

  • FAQ2: Does the use of bold or italics tags add relevancy weight in search engines?
  •    Dear Kalena...
    A quick question - How much added value is there to placing keyword text within bold, strong, italics, or emphasis tags in terms of the weight given to those terms by search engines?

    Dear Adam
    Just like a healthy diet, everything in moderation is the key to a search engine compatible page. Yes, if you use bold/strong or italics to highlight text on your page, the search engines will assume you consider the content of that text to be important.
    Same goes for the use of H1, H2 tags etc. If you consider certain keyword strings important enough to emphasize via headings, it is my understanding that the search engines will give the content between the tags slightly higher relevancy weight than content outside the tags.
    But don't go overboard and emphasize too much content, or you will defeat the whole purpose of making certain keywords stand out. You'll also annoy your readers - there's nothing worse than trying to read a web page that has been over-formatted. Overuse of such tags might also trigger anti- sp@mdexing filters.

  • FAQ3: Does CSS help improve search engine rank?
  •    Dear Kalena...
    Does CSS help improve search engine rank?

    Hi contactlab
    CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) alone probably won't make a blink of difference to the way your site ranks. However using CSS may reduce the amount of code you need to use on each page, avoiding code bloat. Bloated code can sometimes cause important content to be shoved to the bottom of the HTML, reducing the likelihood of it being indexed by engines and reducing its relevancy weight.
    CSS can also improve the accuracy of your HTML because there is less code to make errors with and more likely that your site will validate to standards. Valid code is less likely to trip up search robots as they crawl through your site.
    So while using CSS won't necessarily boost your rankings on it's own, it could make your site more search engine compatible and that may in turn improve your rank.

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