Search Engine Optimizing Toward The Hispanic Community

    August 31, 2004

There has been a running discussion among the SEO community about whether or not going through the efforts of optimizing web content for Hispanic visitors is a valid exercise. Some believe that optimizing and marketing towards a community that isn’t known as being search engine savvy (a misconception) isn’t a worthwhile endeavor.

Discuss The Hispanic Search Market at WebProWorld.

U.S. Hispanics have spent 5.6 billion online
U.S. Hispanics have spent 5.6 billion online

However, with the help of Ignacio “Nacho” Hernandez Jr., president of iHispanic Marketing Group, this article is going to attempt to shed a more positive light on some potentially lucrative steps that can be taken to accommodate a Spanish speaking audience.

According to Google’s Zeitgeist, by June of 2004, Spanish speakers made up approximately 10% of all “languages used to access Google”. Considering that Google claims to have up to 200 million searches per day, that gives you an amount of 20 million Spanish speakers searching for information, and that doesn’t take into account the volume of searches that are being performed.

To further the point about the numbers support this type of optimization, Nacho made an image of a graph that appeared on the SearchEngineWatch forums that revealed the online population for Spanish-speaking web users, complete with a regional breakdown. View this image here. The graph indicates that there are 61 million Hispanics online, with 13 million located in the United States. These numbers show that there is indeed an audience (as well as potential buyers) that people can attempt to attract.

For the purposes of this article, I am going to focus primarily on the online US Hispanic market. It’s here where you will find the most web-savvy Spanish-speaking users (with the exception of Spain) that have more reliable access to the Internet. Outside the US (Mexico, Central America), the Hispanic community is limited by computer costs and dial-up connections, according to Nacho’s expert opinion.

When optimizing for your Spanish-speaking visitors, there are a number of things to consider. First off is the spelling consideration. Nacho made the point of stating that Spanish to English translations are not exact. He states this fact in the presentation he made at San Jose’s SES session concerning Hispanic marketing, “Misspelling is very important because 2nd and 3rd generation Hispanics start to forget the language (ie Pozole vs. Posole).”

This advice also applies to keyword research. Nacho states that “Keywords en Espanol are backwards to the same keywords in English.” He goes on to give the following examples for the keyword set of green salsa:

Anglo User – Herdez Salsa Verde
Hispanic User – Salsa Verde Herdez

Both users are searching for the same item, just worded differently (appropriately) for each user’s language. View the presentation slide here.

When optimizing for Hispanic visitors, don’t worry about translating your entire website into Spanish. Instead, Nacho recommends identifying what money keywords in Spanish are converting into sales for the Hispanic community related to your business and develop landing pages that will accommodate these visits:

“Then build a theme section relevant to that Spanish keyword and use that to increase your traffic reaching the Hispanic market… This way, you don’t have to translate your entire website into Spanish. Plus, these theme sections make ideal landing pages for your PPC campaigns reaching US Hispanics as well (“kill two birds with one stone”). How much you want to follow through all the way down to a complete Spanish checkout will depend on the level of conversions and degree of exits among your users from their paths taken.”

These are merely a few pointers on how to optimize an English language site for Hispanic visitors. The “how” shouldn’t be too difficult, just ensure that you are using a reputable translation service. Think bigger than the Babel Fish tool. Another member of SearchEngineWatch Forums that goes by the name of Orion showed through a great example how words in Spanish can give different meanings and therefore website owners need to be very careful to both get the right search engine traffic and display the correct message to its users: “For example, the Spanish word “cuero” means leather, however we have the following peculiarities.

In Cuba, cuero means drums.

In Puerto Rico, cuero also means prostitute.

In Mexico, cuero is also a nice thing to say to a girl.

So if you say something like, “Que cuero de mujer!” in Mexico sounds like flirting with a girl but in Puerto Rico is more than an insult. The word “coger” in Spain and in the Caribbean (Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, etc) means “to take” and “to grab” but in Mexico and South America means -let put it in this way- “to do it” and the four-letter word. I apologize for the crude examples. Check here for other examples.

To further reinforce the “why should I go through the trouble” aspect, a quote from one of Nacho’s posts sheds more light:

“COMscore MediaMetrix reported that Internet purchasing behavior among the U.S. Hispanics is reflected in the increase in online spending which grew from $4.3 billion in 2002 to $5.6 billion in 2003. Therefore it is clear that purchasing online is a reality here in the U.S. by these Spanish speakers.”

Because Hispanics are becoming more web-savvy and more willing to utilize the Internet to shop (and therefore, search engines), optimizing to attract Spanish-speaking visitors can be very beneficial. The steps necessary for Hispanic inclusion are not overwhelming. And because of the growing trend of online spending in these communities, it would seem like a no-brainer to try and attract willing spenders/visitors.

For much further information, please read Nacho’s white paper presentation called “Search Engine Marketing to the U.S. Hispanic Market” concerning this subject.

Chris Richardson is a search engine writer and editor for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest search news.