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6 Reasons Why Your Hispanic SEO Campaign is Failing

We all agree that in this digital and social era content is “King.” If creating compelling content is #1 priority for any solid SEO campaign, why don’t we apply the same principal for Hispanic campaigns in the US? Most of these campaigns have fallen short in creating compelling and meaningful content to serve this growing market.

As we can see in this white paper conducted by Univision, the Hispanic market in the US is not only becoming bigger; but it is also growing in complexity; as a result many companies are still having trouble mastering this demographic group, especially from an SEO perspective.

Check out some stats by Pew Hispanic Research. They give a great framework to understand this evolving demographic:

  • Native-born Latinos are more likely than foreign-born Latinos to be online (81% vs. 54%).
  • Spanish-dominant populations trail bilingual and English-dominant Hispanics in Internet use.
  • Some 37% of Spanish-dominant Latinos have Internet connection at home, compared to 61% of bilingual Latinos and 77% of English-dominant Latinos.
  • Most of US-born Latinos will consume English media; therefore, they will search in English. According to Pew Hispanic, English proficiency is closely linked with the Internet use. More young English-dominant Latinos use Internet (87%) compared to bilingual Latinos (77%) or Spanish-dominant Latinos (35%).

    Fox News Latino created an entire site in English targeted to the Latino population. His site drew 3.3 million unique visitors in June of 2012.

    Here are the 6 main reasons of why some “Spanish SEO Campaigns” are bound to fail. These tips may help you get on track and avoid common stereotypes:

    1.You are only translating content

    You are only translating contentMost Spanish sites are poorly translated. Bad translations won’t add any value to the visitor, and also may hurt them in search results. According to Google, bad translations (besides bad brand perception) can harm a site as it can be seen as spam.

    Tip #1: Find an agency that doesn’t only translate or use translation tools. Spanish is a complex language; sometimes, a translated word will change the meaning within the context of a sentence.  Strategize about the content that you’re planning to create. Consider where your audience is coming from. A person from Mexico may have different consumer habits than a person who grew up in Argentina or Colombia – always tailor your content to your audience.

    2. For you, Hispanic Market = Spanish

    bulls eyeThe notion that “Latino=Spanish is not always true. I wanted to prove this, so I performed a test. I picked 2 terms, one in English, and its translation in Spanish, and compared them side by side to see what their search volume and interest is.

    I used Google AdWords and Google Trends tool for “Used Cars” in the US compared to its Spanish translation “Automóvil Usado” in the same US region for the same period.

    ‘Used Car’ ‘Automóvil Usado’
    Global Search Volume* 1,000,000 1,900

    *Source Google AdWords

    This reveals how the Spanish term interest doesn’t seem to exist. Does that mean that Latinos are not looking for “used cars”? No, it does not; this demonstrates that most of Latinos connected to the Internet conduct their research in English for generic category terms.

    To support my findings above I went a step further, I analyzed the “Search Trend” over those same terms. The graph below indicates that the search interest overtime of the “Used Cars” and “Automóvil Usado” terms in Miami, FL where the Spanish speaking population is the highest in the US.

    Again, there is no search interest for this Spanish term even in a place where the Spanish language is extremely popular.

    Tip #2:  Hispanic doesn’t necessary mean “Spanish”. If you are targeting to younger, US-born and educated Latinos with higher income, developing Spanish content may not be an effective tactic.

    3. You don’t research your keyphrase base enough

    Carlos is trying to communicate with his employee in Spanish, he is from Dominican Republic. He couldn’t understand what “La tracka” meant until somebody explained to him that many Hispanics repurpose English words with Spanish grammar. What Carlos learned that day is that “El camion” is called “la tracka” derived from the English word “the truck.”

    Many regions in the US have different predominant Hispanic groups. In Florida, you will find mostly Cubans, and South Americans (Argentina, Venezuela, among others); in Texas and California, mostly Mexicans, Guatemalans and Salvadorians; and in New York and DC area, mostly from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Colombians.

    Tip #3: If you decide to create and optimize Spanish content, research thoroughly how the category or service is being described and referred to in different communities within the US. Never just assume the literal translation from English. Do your due diligence by researching blogs and websites from different parts of Latin- America and note how much the language differs from country to country.

    4. You are underusing Social Media

    Social MediaThe use of social media and hand-held devices among Latinos is very high, enabling Hispanic consumer to be in touch with their families. This is an amazing way to connect with their values and customs.

    According to the “Connected Hispanics and Civic Engagement,” Hispanics have been leading the U.S. population in terms of embracing mobile technology.  For this reason, their influence in social media is imminent.

    A recent report conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that while online, non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks use Twitter at 5% and 13% respectively whereas, 18% of Hispanics do.

    Tip #4: Social media is a great way to connect with your demographic in a more personalized way. By using it effectively, you can encourage open discussions, conversations and overall user engagement. Latinos value personal relationships, so creating Spanish profiles is a great idea. This way, your company will create stronger bonds with the community. Marketers have yet to figure out how to map a robust Hispanic social media campaign as pointed out in this Ad Age article, so don’t wait any longer, be the first one and beat your competitors!

    5. You are not paying attention to the site/folder structure

    Site folder structurePay close attention to site structure best practices. Many sites create subdomains instead of sub-folders. For example, CNN (cnnespanol.cnn.com ) and Ford (es.ford.com) both use Spanish subdomains. Search engines index these as separate sites; therefore they are losing their domain authority.

    Tip #5: For Spanish sites, try using sub-folders such as “/es/”.  Using sub-folders lets you leverage all the authority and seniority of your domain. My recommendation for the examples above would be “ccn.com/es” and “Ford.com/es.”

    6. Not using local search

    local searchHaving local pages created for you product/service is a great opportunity to have greater organic rankings and higher SERP positions. Hispanics will tend to be very local in their searches and purchase intents.

    restaurante argentino en boston SERP

    Tip #6: Create local pages for your products. Hispanics buy and consume local.

    Consumers are within reach for marketers now more than ever before, but as technology becomes more affordable, consumers have become more educated, sophisticated and demanding. Latinos are not the exception.

    As mentioned before, FoxNews realized the complexity of this demographic and created a news site entirely in English. What this news channel understood is that there is a new breed of Latino; a new type of consumer that while watching soccer on the Spanish TV channel, he may be reading the WSJ.com, reading some professional blog or shopping online on his iPad all in English.

    Do you have any other Hispanic SEO tips or know brands that are doing it extremely well? Share your stories in the comment selection below.

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    • http://twitter.com/jeypandian Jey Pandian (@jeypandian)

      Christian, good post. I particularly enjoyed number 2 and 3. How much success have you faced when communicating 2 & 3 to brand managers of F100 companies?

      • Christian Silahian

        Hi Jey, it is very hard to find the balance, specially when you are dealing with Global Marketing Departments with standardized procedures. The thing is that demographics in the US is evolving very quickly. The great thing is that we can make a case by showing numbers/data, but i agree is very hard to get away from those stereotypes.

    • Elena Alioshina

      Very interesting post, Christian! #2 was is especially surprising but it makes perfect sense.

      • Christian Silahian

        yes, demographics are changing rapidly, more than ever.

    • http://www.clayburngriffin.com Clayburn

      The biggest take away seems to be that Hispanic Americans are actually searching in English, so it becomes more important about targeting culture than targeting language.

      Gracias, Christian!

      • Christian Silahian

        de nada ; )

    • Tomás

      Excellent post. I would point out, however, that “used car” and “automóvil usado” should not be compared. While “used car” is the standard phrase in the English language for conducting such a search, Spanish speakers use a variety of terms, depending on regional and personal preferences: “coche usado”, “coche de segunda mano”, “carro usado”, “carro de segunda mano”, “auto usado”, etc. “Automóvil usado” is not even in the top three, so it’s not a fair comparison, as Spanish search volume is divided between a plethora of terms. In any case, as the article explains, English would still come up on top, since a bilingual speaker would use English first to obtain a wider scope of results.

      • Christian Silahian

        Hi Tomas,

        You are absolutely right, but i wanted to make a point (there are so many examples like this). What you are referring to brings me to the point #3. Researching your KW base is extremely important before laying out any communication strategy.

        thanks!

    • William Alvarez

      Christian,
      In regards to your example about Used Cars, and since the Hispanic SEO framework lies on acculturation models, I would say that using “automoviles usados” only looks into one segment within the large US Hispanic segment, one should do the homework and see all possible searches done by your target audience…

      Keyword Local Monthly Searches (United States)
      ———————————————————————–
      carros usados 12,100
      autos usados 5,400
      carros usados en venta 1,900
      venta de carros usados 1,600
      venta de autos usados 1,600
      vehiculos usados 170
      coches usados 140
      automoviles usados 22

      On the other hand, according to the Pew Research Center (http://www.pewhispanic.org/hispanic-population-in-select-u-s-metropolitan-areas/#map), over 80% of US Hispanics are of Mexican descent. Which leaves your example of “autmoviles usados” as a not-so-great pick when promoting used cars withing the segment with that terms.

      Considering that the largest Hispanic population in FL, particularly Miami comes from Colombia, Cuba and Argentina, the best search term would be “carros”, which is the popular term in those markets. Google suggests the keyphrase “carros usados en miami” as a trending search in that region, which is a good indication of where to go with the keyphrase strategy.

      • Christian Silahian

        Hey William,

        El punto aquí no son las variaciones (podría haber usado otra palabra), lo que quise probar es que no todos los Latinos, escriben y leen en Español (como todo el mundo cree). Yo sé que vos y yo leemos en los dos idiomas, como millones de personas dentro de los Estados Unidos. El uso de internet esta íntimamente ligado con el nivel socio-económico-cultural. El cambio y evolución en este segmento demográfico esta afectando las estrategias comunicacionales de las empresas dentro de este país. La evidencia esta en como Fox news se ha adaptado al cambio.

        Con respecto al segundo y tercer párrafo, habría que ver cual es el porcentaje de mexicanos que tienen acceso a internet, si esos Mexicanos son recién llegados o primera generacion, es muy probable que la mejor forma de comunicar sea por otro canal de comunicación más tradicional. Ahora si estamos hablando de 2da y 3ra generación, nacidos en este país, ahí las probabilidades de que usen ‘carro’ para encontrar autos usados son muy mínimas.

        Saludos!!

        • http://twitter.com/CondeLucanor David Carmona (@CondeLucanor)

          En el caso de Fox News, creo que su actuación se debe más a su propia reivindicación política del inglés como lengua única que a un caso real de adaptación a los inmigrantes, cosa que sería muy rara en esa institución.

          • Christian Silahian

            Hola David, si puede ser que tengas razon que el caso Fox tenga aristes politicos : )

            Aqui el gran desafio para una empresa cuando quiere entrar en el mercado Hispano es definir que significa ser Hispano, significa hablar en espanol or tener una cultura latina. Yo creo que segmentando por generacion (edad) es clave para cualquier strategia.

        • Angela D

          haha, just as an example, I had to use Google Translate to read this response! Here’s what Google gave me for a translation – this time it seems pretty good, surprisingly!:

          “The point here is not the variations (could have used another word), I wanted to prove is that not all Latinos, write and read in Spanish (as everyone thinks). I know that you and I read in both languages​​, as millions of people in the United States. Internet use is closely linked to the socio-economic-cultural. The change and evolution in this demographic is affecting the communication strategies of companies in this country. The evidence is in as Fox news has adapted to change.

          With respect to the second and third paragraph, would have to see what percentage of Mexicans have internet access, if those Mexicans are newcomers or first generation, it is likely that the best way to communicate is by other more traditional communication channel . Now if we’re talking about 2nd and 3rd generation born in this country, that the odds of using ‘car’ to find cars are very minimal.”

          -

          I actually liked the fact that Christian used the literal translation of “used cars” in his example because that is a mistake I’ve seen made- I have seen companies take their English Keyphrase list and just translate it to Spanish and consider their Hispanic SEO covered.

          It was also nice to see the search volume for the other possible variations that William shared in the comments – proving that if you want to build out Spanish content, you need someone who speaks Spanish fluently and understands the various acculturation models doing your keyphrase research!

          • Christian Silahian

            See…i am inducing people to take advantage of the Google tools : )

    • http://twitter.com/CondeLucanor David Carmona (@CondeLucanor)

      Great article, Christian!

      You raise a number of really interesting points.
      Bilingualism allows US Hispanics to code-switch between languages easily and adjust our search queries depending on what we’re looking for in particular, and also what we expect to find out there. If I know a website has content in Spanish, i will gravitate towards it but, if I’m not expecting it, I will navigate it in English. Most of the time, websites don’t do a very good job of letting us know they have culturally relevant content or that they even bother using Spanish. When they do, the effort and attention are rewarded with more interest and appreciation for the company.

      I also agree with Tomás on the issue of Spanish keyword dispersion in point 2, although English would still be on top for that kind of query.

    • Angela D

      I thoroughly enjoyed this post – you make a lot of great points!

      Relying on automated translation really is a bad idea. I’ve gone to websites in other languages and used automated translation tools to try to read the content, and the results are never great, and seldom even good. You end up stuck trying to piece together sentence fragments and similes to get a clear understanding of what you’re reading. Any clever marketing nuances and compelling calls to action are often lost in translation.

      I think the issue most companies are up against is budget – but as you point out in your post, if they are lucky they may discover through a little research that they can create content in English for this demographic and still be successful (if they are focused on the N.A. US market, at least).

    • http://twitter.com/juan_barahona Juan Barahona (@juan_barahona)

      Great article Christian. Local Search is one of the most under utilized SEO resource by most F100 companies. Small and medium businesses are the ones that have been taking advantage of it. #outridercanada

      • Christian Silahian

        Yes, i think so too, and I think that the reason is because they see markets from an aggregated way.

    • Fred

      Great post. Like that comment about subdirectories. Also important to consider global traffic implications. Do you ever get into that?

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