With the advent of e-based startups going global, international search engine marketing is on the tip of the tongue of VPs of Digital Marketing and Digital Marketing Directors everywhere.

What’s amazing to me is how many international search engine marketing campaigns aren’t properly setup.

By the way, before we go much further, let’s define “international digital marketing” into two categories:

  1. The geographical international campaigns, as in multi-national.
  2. The inland international campaigns, catering to non-English speaking US citizens and residents.

The main problem many companies face when breaking into different cultural backgrounds and foreign language marketing campaigns is they don’t put enough emphasis and effort in figuring out the intricacies and nuances of that particular culture and/or language.

I’m mainly talking about the messaging / keyword research portion of setting up a digital search marketing campaign in this post, there are also a slew of technical aspects that need to be taken into consideration. Let’s save that for a future post.


I’m not surprised when smaller startup companies don’t do it right. What amazes me is that the smaller startups are usually the ones that are trying to take the right steps to setup internationally – while the bigger multi-national companies, often times have sloppy setups using tools like Google Translate to create their text ads from the original English versions.

I shouldn’t have to spell this out, but hey than again, maybe I do.

Using translating tools like Google Translate means you miss out on really important marketing intel. Stuff that you would only get from a local, someone who gets that culture, that language.

It’s very important to apply keyword variations, slangs, and at times even the mixed up versions of those terms. Do you remember that Adam Sandler movie “Spanglish”? Yes, Google Translate doesn’t have a Spanglish option (hint hint Google!).


Story time. Last time I visited my friends and family in Brazil, I got to hang out with some local industry guys. We were discussing different SEO tactics, what’s working for them, what’s not, and I kept looking for the right marketing lingo and acronyms to use (I’m fluent in Portuguese, but most digital marketing conversations I have are in English). I kept referencing SEO as “otimização de sites de busca”, which is the official Portuguese translation for “search engine optimization”. Every time I’d say it, the guys would giggle. I finally asked: “What the hell should I be calling it then?” Their answer? SEO.

It turns out a lot of the marketing lingo we use here in the US for digital marketing are the same words folks in Brazil use. They don’t translate it, they just say the word in English.

This example applies to a lot of different industries, and without the local intel it can be very difficult to know when to translate, when to not translate, and when to mix.

The best case scenario is to have someone in your expert US-based team that “gets” the international market you’re targeting. The second best scenario would be to get your expert team some support from someone with that local intel.


It’s important to keep in mind how Google treats international search results, and content in different languages. The bottom-line is: Google is not consistent.

We’ll have Steve write a different blog post about the more technical side of setting up a international marketing campaign. For now, it’s important to know that many of the international Google TLD sites’ organic results feed from Google.com’s organic results.

Anytime a search is made on one of Google’s international search sites, certain results are fed in from Google.com, especially when a query with less inventory is made. For instance, the term “SEO” may bring up some Google.com results when searched on Google.com.br (from Brazil). That would be because there isn’t a ton of authoritative relevant results in Google.com.br for that particular keyword.


  1. Never underestimate the power of international search, whether we’re talking about search that is displayed internationally, or within the United States.
  2. Don’t hand all of the work off to the local guys. Use the local guy along with your own experts. A good US-based expert can do wonders if he or she has access to good local intel.
  3. Work with an agency like Elevated, with a diverse team and many fluent speakers in different languages (Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and more).

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