words Alexa Wang
Mastering SEO effectively can maximize the chances of success for any e-commerce business – but adapting your strategy between Europe and the US is crucial. Using one-size-fits-all logic risks overlooking these very important cultural nuances and perspectives that shape our decision-making.
So when it comes time to grow your business and venture into uncharted territories, it’s essential that you first familiarize yourself with your new audience, as well as their culture. Once you understand your new client’s expectations, you can tailor your SEO accordingly. The remaining pieces will fall into place.
There are 24 languages spoken in the European Union – but up to 200 if you consider the languages spoken across the whole continent, including regional languages like Catalan. As such, your website needs to be translated and adapted in various ways to meet each of these linguistic and cultural needs.
If you’re just starting to branch out into Europe, you should start with a distinct area of interest – perhaps a country you already know, or a country whose language isn’t such a barrier. For example, if several of your employees have a good command of French, it makes sense to use this skill.
However, do not fall into the trap of carrying out a casual translation of your website. This should be properly translated and optimized for your target country to make it sound like it was written by a native speaker. Let’s imagine that one of your employees who speaks French is in fact Canadian. They know that in Quebec, a mobile is often called “cellular”, but that French speakers in France use “portable” instead. In France, only 1,900 people per month search for “cellular” against 27,100 searches for “portable”. Using the wrong word would drastically reduce your site traffic and turn off potential customers.
Even within Europe, different versions of the same language exist; the word “serviette”, for example, means both “serviette” and “serviette” in French. Usually, context is all you need to determine who you’re talking about. In neighboring Belgium, however, ‘towel’ is only used to mean ‘towel’. If you need a towel, you have to ask for a ‘escue’. It is important to show an awareness of these cultural differences in order to have an authentic voice with your customers.
This is also a reason to avoid Google Translate. Without manual translation, it’s all too easy to accidentally state that you’re selling a completely different product than what you’re actually selling.
Select the appropriate products
Another area that requires a common sense approach is which products you focus on in your international SEO campaign. If you sell clothes, you won’t sell many coats in Spain or Italy in the height of summer. If you sell posters, Europeans will choose different posters than Americans. Prioritize the products most likely to sell, especially when building backlinks to a site.
Adjust the wording of the call to action
For US retailers, a powerful and direct call to action is commonplace: “buy now! », « join now! or even longer examples such as “subscribe now and never miss a post!” are seen frequently. In many European countries, this approach would be considered too direct, even almost brazen. A softer, less powerful call to action doesn’t always get weaker results, especially in cultures where something considered too “pushy” can be very off-putting. “Show selection” or “Browse options”, for example, have proven to perform better than “Buy now!” » For more effective call-to-action examples, look over here.
Think like a local
Thinking like a local doesn’t mean ‘pitting everyone in the same bag’, it just means considering cultural habits and trends in your SEO strategy. We all understand that not everyone is the same, but a well-planned marketing strategy relies on trends and valuable insights. This is how understanding the online shopping habits of different countries can fuel your international SEO considerations; some European countries – such as Spain and Greece – are more likely to make an online purchase spontaneously, while German consumers generally prefer to read more reviews first.
Understanding this allows you to take it into account in your European SEO approach:
- An impulse shopper is more likely to search for a more generic and shorter keyword, while a consumer who read many reviews before making their purchase may have been looking for a specific product or technical specifications.
- While a spontaneous shopper may simply search for a short keyword “washing machine”, a shopper armed with the advice of multiple reviews may have a clearer idea of what they need. Here, long-tail search terms can work well: “best eco-friendly washing machine” or “Samsung Ecobubble washing machine”, for example.
If your business has great reviews, be sure to draw the attention of your site visitors to those. If not, you might be better off targeting more impulse buyer keywords.
Be practical rather than emotional
This is an area where Americans and Europeans really diverge; an American consumer is more likely to be attracted to a brand because of an emotional ideology they associate with it. In Europe, on the other hand, customers focus more on the individual products they sell and the selected benefits they provide. The keywords you target should reflect this, as well as other aspects of your marketing strategy, such as how you promote your brand online.
Along the same lines, studies show that if your clientele is predominantly female, using “feel” will be more effective than using “think”. If your clientele is predominantly male, the reverse is true.
Comply with GDPR
Internet users in Europe are familiar with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR), which is the strictest set of data collection laws in the world. In America, data privacy is approached differently, implementing industry-specific data rules, rather than blanket protection of private information.
This partly explains why Americans are generally more open to receiving personalized marketing messages and tailored offers. In many European cultures, this approach risks being perceived as too ‘avant-garde’ and with a higher level of mistrust. On the other hand, US companies can compile a wider range of data and use it to create customer profiles. This can allow for more targeted advertising which, in Europe, must rather be achieved through an understanding of cultural backgrounds.
The GDPR applies to businesses that have customers in Europe, regardless of where the business itself is located. Therefore, before launching your European website, make sure you are GDPR compliant.
Adapt your link building strategy
In America, there are a large number of high authority sites available to post guest posts, and guest posts are often considered the most effective SEO strategy.
In Europe, the number and quality of sites vary greatly depending on the country. In Italy, for example, several of the major news sites will accept guest posts at a fair price. In Germany and the Netherlands, it is particularly difficult to place guest posts on high authority sites, although some exist for the persistent link builder.
If it seems overwhelming trying to figure it out, you’re not alone! Multilingual SEO requires a team of native speakers who understand each country’s language, traditions, and differences. To navigate these complexities, many companies prefer to rely on the expertise of a multilingual European SEO agency. Multilingual link building is one aspect where contact with other blogs and news portals is particularly useful and comes close to a expert team will save you a considerable amount of time compared to completing the link building project in-house.
European perspectives on space and time
The European Union is only half the size of the United States, despite being made up of 27 separate countries. This partly explains why time and distance are considered differently by Americans and Europeans – and not just in terms of units of measurement. A journey of a hundred miles may seem like a short trip to America, but a major expedition for someone in Europe. And, while it doesn’t directly impact your SEO, it’s worth approaching SEO in Europe with the assumption that things might not work exactly the way they do in the US.
In terms of time, the United States uses a 12-hour clock as standard, while most European countries use a 24-hour clock, so 3:30 p.m. becomes 3:30 p.m.
Currency is also written differently in different countries in Europe. In France, Germany and many other European countries, the point and the comma are changed and the Euro sign is normally displayed at the end after a space, so:
€1,000.50 in America would be €1,000.50 in France and Germany.
If you have an e-commerce site, displaying currency correctly in different countries can significantly improve your conversion rate. If you need to use the same format for your English and international site, one option is to leave out the comma or period in thousands. This makes the perceived values look small, giving you an added advantage.
One last point
One final note, before translating your website, first make sure your English SEO is spotless, otherwise you will end up having to do extra work for your on-page SEO in all languages.
I hope this article will prove useful and help your business to grow in Europe.