Hyper Local SEO and Marketing: Interview With Donald Dunnington

Hyper Local SEO and Marketing: Interview With Donald Dunnington

donaldAs most of us are aware, we’re in an age where the world has become extremely smaller. For marketers, that means you’re not just selling your products stateside, but also to a global market that is rapidly increasing.

And, if you want to stay competitive, you’re going to have to be able to effectively tap into these emerging markets.

Donald L. Dunnington – a member of Oban Digital’s U.S. Advisory Board, as well as an author, speaker and consultant specializing in global online communication – has released an e-book entitled “Hyper Local SEO & Marketing: How US Marketers Can Win Global By Going Local” which describes how you can expand your marketing efforts to reach various markets around the globe.

I was fortunate enough to recently ask Mr. Dunnington how marketers can localize their content and strategies for a global audience.

albert1. Local SEO and marketing isn’t’ a secret for most marketers in the States, but what exactly is hyper local marketing and SEO?

Marketing communications today are largely digital communications. It’s all happening on the Internet or in the cloud—on the web, in apps, social media, and that sturdy standby, email marketing. The secret to successful digital marketing starts with SEO—Search Engine Optimization—because that’s where buyers (B2C and B2B) start their search for information about products and services.

Search is also where they most likely continue their journey when they’re ready to buy. And the key to SEO today—for local, national and global brands—is localization. Localization has gone to such an extreme that we now call it hyper local SEO and marketing.

2. Why is personalized content so important for brands looking to expand into overseas market?

A funny thing happened as the Internet was embraced around the world. At the very time it became the greatest global medium we’ve ever seen, it turned itself into this hyper local marketplace. To succeed today you have to approach global marketing as an extremely local communications challenge. Take the sort of extreme localization we’ve seen here in the U.S., right down to the level of individual personalization, and add all the world’s language differences.

Even in the English speaking countries, you’ve got differences in social customs, cultures and subcultures. American marketers may have been the first on the Internet, and the medium’s global reach gives us a great opportunity. But the window of opportunity won’t remain open forever, and there is a growing a threat for those Americans who think they don’t have to compete abroad. Clicks travel in both directions. There are online marketers developing in other countries who are gaining global localization experience. You may have competitors out there you’ve never heard of, who see America as their next juicy target. Your best defense may be to take the battle to their local markets.

3. You’ve suggested that marketers team up with local content creators or experts. Do you have any advice on who exactly you should trust?

There’s no one “who” you can trust for every market, but there a lot of good people out there to be found. The book addresses the who question from a number of different directions. You’ll find interviews with retail and B2B service providers from around the world, and with the global marketers who hire them. You’ll find specialists in online marketing, SEO, and translation. Some translators by the way like to call it “transcreation” because literal translations just won’t work.

An American friend who has lived and worked in Amsterdam for many years told me she likes to work with copywriters rather than translators because it gives her a creative edge in other languages. Some of the service providers I profiled offer global reach. Others focus on one region or one country. I found a great creative web agency in China through Twitter. They were able to help me with all kinds of technical, cultural and localization issues, plus support my company’s local offices. Finally, if you really want to build trust and effective lines of communication, with both potential vendors and customers in a new market, you really need to pack your bags and go there.

4. You discuss how keywords are different in various local markets. Can you give an example of how a keyword would be different in the States as compared to an overseas markets like Germany?

hyper-localMy best German example demonstrates how you have to go beyond keywords and look at the whole package when localizing. A major U.S. online retailer enjoyed a surprisingly high level of success in Germany with just an English language website. So to grow their German business they invested in a complete translation of their website and all their search engine marketing. The translations, right down to the keywords, were well done by competent native translators and copywriters. Getting the German right, by the way, isn’t easy.

There are common English expressions, for example, that simply aren’t translatable. So they got the translation right, but their sales plummeted. It turns out their German customers were now comparing them to native German retailers who offered more service and convenience with easier check out and faster delivery on the backend. When the site was largely English, their English-savvy German consumers were far more forgiving of the site’s U.S.-centric user experience.

You can find a good illustration of keyword translation challenges from the online gaming industry. If you’re translating keywords for search advertising in Brazil, for example, it’s not enough to know your Portuguese translation needs to be done by a native Brazilian, not someone from Portugal. You also have to get the demographics right: You need 25-35 year-old male who knows the difference between a royal flush and straight flush and is current on the unique language of the gaming subculture in Brazil.

5. Do marketers also have to consider adapting from U.S. English to other English-speaking markets?

That depends a lot on what you are selling and what sort of presence you have (or want to build) in a particular market. If you need to appear local, your language must be local, right down to local and cultural nuances (holidays, sports and local events are three prime examples). If you are selling a clearly American or global product, it may not need localization.

In that case, U.S. English is likely fine. But even then, you may need to look more closely at your word choice. American idioms and sports analogies for example often don’t compute in other markets. By the way, you won’t find the largest number of English speakers in Europe. Asia now leads the pack.

6. Are there any tools that can assist with keyword translation?

The same tools we use in the U.S., including Google’s Ad Words and Webmaster tools, are available for just about any language and market you can think of—and some you never knew existed. But to be effective you need help from those who have native fluency in the target language.

Even if you could use a tool to find keywords in Chinese, for example, how would you know it’s the right keyword for your industry? It can be really important to have local advisors are conversant in the special terms of your industry, and that narrows the field of available resources considerably.

7. Google Pigeon was a major local search algorithm when released in 2014. Did Pigeon expand to overseas markets as well? Or was it only here in the States?

Pigeon was launched in the U.S. on July 4, 2014. According to the Moz “Google Algorithm Change History” Google rolled out Pigeon to the UK, Canada and Australia on December 22, 2014. There have been reports that other countries and languages will follow, but I haven’t seen any news so far.

8. Because there are some fairly significant differences with SEO location, what are some of the best practices for marketers to follow so that they can avoid penalties?

You have to be careful about duplicate content. Google really comes down hard on that. So you need to follow best practices and Google recommendations in the way you set up your country-specific sites.

9. Most of us marketers focus on playing by Google’s rules, but China’s Baidu is an interesting search engine because of its market share. Do you feel that U.S. marketers should learn how to optimize their sites and SERPs for Baidu?

For the most part you can’t go wrong playing by Google’s rules. Breaking their rules just because some other search engine seems to be more lax can lead to all kinds of trouble. If Google has any presence in a market, you’re going to lose if you break their rules. Even in a market like China where Google has been pretty much kicked out and Baidu rules the search market, you’re risking long-term damage for short-term gains if you try to game the system.

I once worked with a marketing director in China who wanted to buy into a service that was delivering incredible results on Baidu with spammy “news releases” that automatically got picked up on literally hundreds of Chinese link farms. I didn’t let him do it, and as Baidu improved its search algorithm those who participated were punished.

There is one rule change, however, that you do need to act on in certain markets. While Google does keep its promise that you don’t have to advertise to rank high in their organic search results, your results can be improved when you advertise on some of the local and regional search engines.

10. Where do you see hyper local marketing and SEO heading in the future?

The need for quality content, meaning original content, not some rehashed trivia that everyone is writing about, will continue to drive SEO results globally and locally. “Story telling” has become the most-used—perhaps over-used—way to describe what’s required. And it’s not just quality stories for your own website or social media accounts. Since the search engines, led by Google, have gotten a lot smarter about the quality of inbound links to your website, online PR is becoming a key determinate in where you rank in search results.

The biggest new thing in hyper local SEO and marketing is what I call visual-PR. Impactful photos, illustrations, animation, videos, and infographics are all playing a huge role on websites and in social media. PR, advertising and marketing are all being driven by powerful visual stories.

I’m developing a course for Rowan University on Visual-PR and advertising, and my next book will be on Visual-PR, advertising and marketing in the global-local marketplace. The usual smiling-face stock photos and clichéd images just won’t work anymore. Like written content, there is a growing premium on original, authentic, visual story-telling content.

11. What is the impact of Visual-PR and story telling on SEO?

SEOs are already paying attention to their meta data (image tags) and use search-friendly names for their images. We’ve all also seen how YouTube videos can impact search visibility. The whole thing has just escalated to where the visual side is driving a lot of the social shares and other signals that the search engines look to in ranking web pages.

Infographics, for example, have become a great source of Google juice for many marketers. The thing about digital communication and marketing is that the technology and the ecosystem the tech has spawned keep evolving so fast. It’s a continual challenge to keep up.

Thankfully the tools for telling your story are getting better and easier to use. But there are so many tools now and so many media platforms. Add the language and cultural nuances you need to account for, and you have way more than one person can possible master. I think you’re going to see an increasing number of specialists in visual story telling on a global scale.

12. Where can our readers go to get more information?

I’m launching a new blog at www.visual-pr.com where you’ll be able to follow the development of my new book “Visual-PR, Advertising and Global Marketing.” A free copy (PDF) of the first edition of “Hyper Local SEO and Marketing” is available for download. You can also sign up to receive news of the new Visual-PR book and an updated version of the Hyper Local book.

Eric Hebert

Founder and Lead Digital Strategist