76% of people conduct online searches in two or more languages

 

By Krishna Rao

Greenlight’s global “Search & Social Survey (2011-2012)” asked 500 people – from students, law enforcement professionals, medical staff, accountants, lawyers to the unemployed, how they engage with online advertising, search engines, and social networks, in order to glean insight into how consumers engage with marketers today, and to formulate views on what the future might hold.

Italy and Spain top multi-lingual search

Some of the countries topping Greenlight’s chart are not entirely surprising – Belgium, for example, has three official languages. However, others, namely Italy and Spain, are not so obvious.

“The fact that Italy and Spain top the chart with 100% of respondents claiming to search in multiple languages, despite reasonably homogenised language use, is possibly a testament to the position of English as the quasi-official language of Europe and the relative prevalence of English language web pages,” says Adam Bunn, director of search engine optimisation (SEO), at Greenlight.

Bunn points to data compiled by Greenlight in 2010. It showed the UK produced the most web pages per head in Europe at 17 pages per person, compared to ten per person in Spain and just six per person in Italy. “Presumably as well as there being more English spam on the web, this also means there is more high quality English content to be searched for by Europeans as well,” says Bunn.

Respondents who search in multiple languages by country

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Source: Greenlight

So what if English is used to conduct an online search in Spain?

Search engines use the domain extension to help them determine the geographical relevance of a site, so while a .co.uk domain stands an increased chance of ranking within the search engine results pages (SERPs) in the UK, it will count against it when people are searching in another country. Consequently, this behaviour may warrant the creation of multiple language sites for a brand or business. This of course runs counter to traditional SEO logic which states that duplicate content is bad – which it is – so this would have to be undertaken with some caution, ensuring that all content is properly localised so that search engines know that one version is intended for region A, the other for region B.

Bunn concludes:

“The point here is that proper research, beyond just gathering a few keywords from the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, really does help to inform SEO strategy. The first step to deciding whether to progress an opportunity is to define the size of that opportunity. This data does give some food for thought.”

About the author

Krishna Rao is PR for Greenlight, an independent digital marketing agency, providing Search and Social Media services, with over 100 blue-chip clients including Santander, New Look, Sky and ghd. Greenlight is considered the premier thought leader in the sector, publishing widely read industry reports, original research, speaking at trade events, and delivering a highly respected digital marketing training programme via the Greenlight Academy. Founded in 2001, Greenlight is headquartered in London, with offices in New York.

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