Se Habla Search?


sehablasearch_small.jpgADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — Not everyone online in the U.S. speaks English as a first language – but almost everyone online uses search. In fact, millions of searches are performed in foreign languages every day. Advertisers that aren’t buying non-English keywords, writing search ad creative in other languages and optimizing landing pages for non-English speakers are missing out on huge revenue opportunities.

Take Hispanics, for example. Hispanics are one of the fastest-growing demographic groups in the U.S. and will reach nearly 25% of the overall population by 2050 – and they’re going online in record numbers. Can your company afford to miss out on connecting with over 20 million online Hispanics because you don’t have a Spanish SEM program?

I know what you’re thinking: how can I manage foreign-language SEM programs on top of the hundreds of thousands of English keywords I already manage? The trick is to start small; pick a few high-impact Spanish-language keywords (Spanish is a good place to start, since it’s one of the most widely-spoken languages in the U.S. after English), write some culturally relevant creative that avoids stereotypes, test your campaigns to make sure they’re working, and then modify them if they’re falling short of your objectives. Lots of brands are getting non-English search marketing right, including Best Buy and Advance Auto Parts.

Because our company’s focus is the Hispanic market, I’ll outline how to create, manage and optimize a successful Spanish-language SEM program, but these principles could apply to any foreign language.

The Right Keywords

First, identify your top keywords in English, and then, find the equivalent in Spanish. Make sure you consult with a native speaker to pinpoint the right keywords – sometimes literal translations aren’t correct. For example, if you translate “debt” into Spanish using Babelfish or a dictionary, you’ll get the term “deuda.” But when Spanish-speakers are talking about debt in the terms of what to do about it, they actually use the word “préstamos.”

Smart creative

You may have the right keywords, but if you then have ad copy that doesn’t incite your target audience to click on your ads, those keyword purchases were worthless.

Make sure the Spanish used in the text ad is accurate, contextually and culturally relevant (checked by a native speaker), and conveys a relevant promotional message. Lastly, stick with straightforward calls-to-action: 10% off, free shipping, “the largest selection on the Web,” etc.

Relevant landing pages

Make sure your text ads lead searchers to a landing page that reflects the offer you just enticed them with – 10% off, free shipping, etc. You don’t need to translate your entire site, but a landing page in Spanish goes a long way in keeping a Spanish-speaking consumer on your site. As always, make sure these landing pages are checked and double-checked by a native speaker.

Test and re-test

So you’ve got your Spanish keywords, you’ve written some snappy ad copy, optimized your landing pages and you’re all set to start reeling in Spanish-speaking customers, right? Yes and no. Once you have all your campaigns up and running, it’s critical that you continually test and re-test their effectiveness. Do analysis of your Spanish-language keywords to see which ones are delivering the highest click-through and conversion rates – you may be surprised at which terms are the most effective. Sometimes the ad with the highest click-through rate has the lowest conversion rate. You can test everything from the ad creative and the landing page language and design, to specific promotional offers to see which ones work the best.

That way, you can eliminate the clunker campaigns and focus on the winners.
In fact, testing is the real “secret sauce” to being successful in multi-cultural and multi-lingual marketing. At Consorte, we carefully test each and every campaign to see if it resonates with a particular target segment of the market – such as young men in Los Angeles who like music or Spanish-speaking homeowners in Texas. And often, testing and analysis proves the opposite of what one might anticipate would work.

Hispanics are now 15% of the U.S. population and the U.S. Hispanic online market is growing rapidly, especially Hispanic online search – 80% of the online Hispanic population searches online. A large percentage of that group views the web in Spanish (51%) and prefers to get information about products in Spanish (65%). Now more than ever, Spanish-language search should be a part of your online marketing program.


  1. Bravo! You make some great points here and I hope this convinces more companies to translate their websites. In our business we spend a lot of time trying to sell our clients on the idea and we often point out that the entire site may not need to be translated. However, many find the idea of having to manage SEM in another language to be daunting. Your explanation clearly shows how manageable it can be.

  2. You make some great points here. We are constantly pointing out to our clients that they don’t need to translate the entire site, just the relevant content. Managing SEM in another language is daunting to most of them and your explanation breaks it down into simple, very doable steps.


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