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Non-English Campaigns

August 28th, 2008 No comments

Recently Viator launched a test to do a little European market sizing and also to see how much effort is involved in translating our site content. We set up four mini sites with a small amount of translated Viator.com content in the most popular European languages.

You can check them out here:

French Viator site

Spanish Viator site

German Viator site

Italian Viator site

So naturally once you have sites you need traffic. On the unpaid side we’ve were spidered and indexed surprisingly quickly and traffic is picking up nicely, though we are still working out some language kinks as we test. Getting consistent in our translation decisions (and committing to making them) is the biggest challenge so far, but things are going pretty well.

On the paid side this has been an exciting project! Anyone who’ done search engine marketing for a long time experiences burn out. A lot of the optimization and maintenance associated with doing good paid search engine marketing management are boring and repetitive. Running reports, changing bids and adding keywords are all important, but by year three (or even two) start to get old. So this is fun actually, though I am doing the same tasks, the keywords and ads are now all French, German, Spanish and Italian which somehow spices it up.

I’ve taken many years of Spanish, but the other languages I am fairly clueless about (I maybe know 20 words in French). You’d think this is a stumbling block, but actually it matters very little. When I went to set up the campaigns I pulled from AdWords Editor all the relevant English account information (keywords, ads, etc) and sent it to our account manager. I asked our account manager to coordinate translation by Google’s optimizers, and they’ve been working along at a nice pace churning out the translated campaigns. The translations have generally been of a very high quality and the ads all have strong click-through rates. I review the campaigns using Google Translate or Babelfish to clarify anything I can’t extrapolate the meaning of, but I get the gist of a surprising amount of the ad text and keywords – go Latinate languages! Also travel has quite a lot of cognates, so the words are fairly similar to English in many cases. Its also been nice to bounce some questions off the Google optimizers (like should we translate proper nouns like city names?) as they add an additional perspective to our translation team.

Running reports and adjusting bids is just the same as ever, you don’t really need to know what something means. Often I run a natural search report to find new keywords to add, and this is just the same for non-English, but I sometimes have to translate keywords I’m not sure about. Often I recognize them based on other keywords in an adgroup so I know where in our account they should go without having to translate. I err on the side of caution translation wise, when in doubt I do it, I would hate to miss-assign keywords or add something really too general or accidentally off topic to the account.

So while it may seem daunting to run search campaigns in a language you’re not conversant in, its actually not too bad in practice. Once we expand these sites as core parts of Viator’s business we’ll dedicate more language proficient resources to their marketing, but as a scrappy test this is going better than I expected. I definitely encourage testing non-English keywords, given the strength of the Euro, you may be able to tap into a healthy European customer base that boosts business growth.

One question I have, that I’m not currently testing, is non-English keywords linking to English content (with or without translated ad text). I’m curious, does this produce incremental performance? Or is there too much of a disconnect in language between ad/keyword and landing page for it to be successful? I’d love to hear from marketers who’ve tested this!