8 factors CMO’s must consider when planning for global business growth

Dave Kaupp | Nov 8, 2012

CMO’s today face many challenges today while developing and executing their global growth strategies. At the forefront of this strategy and, one of their most valuable assets, is their website. Website(s) and micro-sites they create and manage supports their entire company, helps build equity and promote their products and services. It's one of the first places potential and existing customers’, prospects, and stakeholders source to find information and transact business and is arguably the most critical tools in their arsenal for driving demand and creating brand equity.


Both the CMO's role and marketing in general has also change significantly over the past several years. Primarily traditional to digital methods and, the paradigm shift between sales and marketing (primarily due to how people use the internet) marketing, business development and growth strategies including inbound marketing are now one of their primary functions. In addition, new strategies for growth have shifted and US business growth at only a 5% rate just doesn’t cut it.

Consequently, business growth and expansion strategies now encompass global marketing and new markets. This of course demands a well-developed; search optimized and localized website or microsite as companies seek to grow their business through international expansion.  If your international marketing strategy is not well aligned with your foreign markets, it can mean success or failure can make for your product and brand.

Before you consider exporting and expanding your business globally, here’s a list of critical factures supporting your web strategy that must be well-thought-out before taking those first steps.

1.  Country Selection is Critical

Choosing new target countries based on existing analytics is a good idea to support your export initiative, but is not the best way to decide in which languages to roll out your new web site additions.  For instance, if you sell ‘GiantWidgets’ to the French on your existing web site then what a good idea to try and expand those sales by checking on what the French are looking for.  You may find that they actually search for ‘GiantWidgets’ in English because that’s how they most easily expect to find them.  Perhaps some additional support via paid search targeting the Netherlands would be a good idea.  But localizing your web site into Dutch would target the same people who are already buying and may not increase their propensity to buy.

Meanwhile, some keyword research might reveal that the Italians (who fanatically buy GiantWidgets) are not using your web site at all – so an Italian language web site would incrementally add to your sales in the way that adding Dutch would not.  Your analytics are never going to tell you this.

2. URL Structure

  • Decide on url structure: Separate domain with ccTLD (www.sample.ru)
  • Subdomain (uk.sample.com)
  • Subdirectory (sample.com/cz)

3. Choose Keywords Wisely

Translating keywords is by far the most dangerous trap of all in international SEO rather than the technical hosting issues or the cultural risks – not appreciating that ‘keywords’ cannot be translated is rule number one.  If you’re not a linguist, this can be a difficult concept to appreciate but the fact is that ‘keywords’ are convenience words – not really normal words – created by people to help them search and then responded to by search marketers.

So for instance, let’s take ‘car insurance’ by way of example.  The correct translation of this into French would be ‘assurance voiture’ where ‘car’ equals ‘voiture’ and ‘assurance’ equals ‘insurance’ which does see a small number of searches.  However, most search volume is at ‘assurance auto’ where ‘auto’ is an abbreviated form of ‘automobile’.  French searchers and speakers have simply adopted this phrase out of convenience.  The translation simply goes to the wrong place.  This happens in all languages including English. See our eBook on International Marketing Considerations.

The solution to this is in fact, very simple.  You simply recreate the keywords in the target language exactly the same way you would do in English.  What that means is using a native-speaker of the target language – who is also trained in search marketing – researches them from scratch. 

Write quality content about those keyword subjects. Be sure to use title tags, meta descriptions, and header and alt tags. Use keywords in page, directory, and media file names.

  • Build links to pages of your site and increase social mentions (e.g. likes, +1s, tweets, shares).

  • Host your site in the targeted country.

  • Set up a Google Webmaster Tools account and designate the country preference.

  • Build links and social mentions specifically from sites / users in the targeted country.

  • List your physical address in that country (if available).

  • Optimize content after translation.

4.  International Paid Search Tips

  • Choose Keywords Wisely

  • Watch those match types and use lots of negative keywords.

  • Manage daily.

  • Test, test, test   

  • Preferable generally to write ads in foreign language; seek a fluent/native speaker to write ads if possible.

  • Make sure landing page is written in same language as ads. You can use a tool like Google Translate in a pinch, but won’t convert as well as human translation.

  • In Google AdWords, special characters take up two spaces –this matters. You only get 25-35 per line.

  • Study the competition to get a sense for accepted tone in that culture.

  • Sending traffic to a site with the targeted ccTLD can help.


5.  SEO vs. Paid Search for International             

  • Don’t pay for clicks. Can be less costly, depending on number of targeted countries.

  • You build benefits from optimizing your site that can have mid-to long-term lasting impacts even after ending efforts.

  • If you’ve really optimized a site for a particular country, it’s likely to look very credible and useful to the local audience.


6.  Benefits of Paid Search

  • Great for testing, especially when you don’t know the best target audiences.

  • Extremely fast. Can open an account and be up within hours or weeks depending on the search engine.

  • Less expensive typically if you’re going after large numbers of countries.

  • Control daily budget, days and hours ads show, geographic targets*, and more.* Note ip targeting is not as accurate to sub-country levels in many countries.


7. Costs of Paid Search

  • Costs depend on a variety of factors, including how much time you are willing to put in vs. using an outside contractor.

  • Depending on your vertical and market, you can run some really inexpensive campaigns.

  • One client averages less than $0.20 per click in their foreign markets. Many have turned out to be extremely profitable. Some have not, but they are monitored closely and cut if not performing. While lower than average among our clients, some months they may not spend $250 total on all foreign targeting.


8. Responding to cultural differences is key

But this is only really good marketing.  I get a little tired of all the stories about the ‘Pinto’ in Brazil being mixed up with part of the male body.  (See our video on this). In fact there are a great many famous Brazilians with that name as a surname, but the truth about culture is that countries reveal it in what they search for.  Good keyword research can be used not just to improve the performance of your site generally but to understand how your potential customers are thinking and which products might be the best ones to target selling to them via that web site.


business growth, international business development, SMB marketing,


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