The Challenge Of Small-Market International Search Campaigns

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International search marketers may love the globetrotting feel of skimming though a paid-search account covering many corners of the globe. Anyone working in smaller sized markets will tell you that it has its unique challenges. And it’s not just about understanding the languages and local customs.

Here are top three reasons why it’s particularly challenging to work with international search marketing in smaller regions.

1) It’s a numbers game without the (big) numbers

US or UK based advertisers might jump up and down if they manage to improve their search sales volumes by 1%. However, if you’re working a small to medium sized account in Denmark (total population 5.5 million), that extra revenue might equate to incremental revenue that will buy you a couple of rounds in the pub. It’s progress, but nothing spectacular.

While I might have slightly exaggerated above, it hits the issue on the head for smaller markets. The relative effort of gaining that extra one percent is simply too big. This is — in my view — the main contributing factor to why small markets aren’t as evolved as their larger neighbours when it comes to search strategies and tactics.

2) There are no local tools

Closely related to the first issue of lower numbers, comes the second issue – there’s a big lack of good tools for search marketers. Competitive tools such as HitWise, Compete, and Spyfu (to name just a few), are not of much use if you’re trying to break into the search market in Finland.

For tool providers, there’s either not enough money to be earned, or a general lack of data available to be analysed. And any new fancy tools and techniques that actually are being launched are often hampered by small sample sizes that won’t lead to statistical significance anytime soon, thus failing in practical application.

3) Google is all

While this is true for most markets, when you’re looking at smaller country like Norway (population 4.9 million), if you can cover more than 90% of all searchers through Google, that extra few percentages on Bing is not a big incentive. There are of course also local search engines such as Kvasir, but again the numbers are small, and in this instance you can even get into its remnant inventory through AdWords.

I get the point, now what?

So is it all bad news for marketers working in these regions? Definitely not. The share of search marketing as a portion of overall marketing spend is steadily rising, and with many times very low CPC and high conversion rates there are opportunities to be had for search marketers, affiliates and brands alike. But it will require a different approach to your big spending US campaigns.

About the Author

Magnus Nilsson is Managing Director at RED Performance, an Oslo-based agency that helps clients increase their online marketing results.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi! As a search marketer from Norway a find this to be so true: "The relative effort of gaining that extra one percent is simply too big" BUT: If you can find a way of working faster, better or smarter, you can gain a huge competitive edge. If the relative effort is to big for your competitors, but not to big for you: suddenly you might have huge parts of the playing field alone!

  2. Great point, Ludvik. Perhaps that won't help individual brands to achieve more as much, but it would help agencies and also the whole search market. Another note on these markets, is that they are to a much bigger degree working with a consultancy fee compared to larger markets where it's anything from media spend % to performance based models. The latter is particularly interesting to me as it splits the risk/reward, but also requires a steady stream of searches at large volumes to work. Except for affiliate marketing, I didn't come across anyone working with such a model at SEM konf or SMX sthlm. I think it's mainly due to the size of the market.