Digital Media Insights for Business Owners

SEO in Costa Rica: Advertising opportunities created by TV exposure

Hi everyone. I am writing from the beautiful country of Costa Rica and I have been here for the past couple of days. Some things have made me think twice about how marketing works differently in Costa Rica and how SEO can be affected by this changes.

First, let me tell you that the country’s capital city San Jose is having major issues with violent crimes and lack of security. The police seems to be outnumbered by the criminals and the number of robberies is just off the charts.

My first question was: Is marketing being performed in such a way that people without means to buy are stealing in order to have what they “need”, or is it just a matter of culture and lack of ethics?

If you watch T.V. for a given time you can see that the national television stations are not very aggressive in terms of advertising. You don’t see as many repetitive commercials including: car insurance, second hand car lots and so forth (as in the US); the catch, in my opinion, is in the cable companies. Cable companies use the commercials intended for the US audiences; needless to say, the Costa Rican average salary is much lower than the US counterpart. Somebody watching TV in Costa Rica, with a Costa Rican salary (much lower that the average US salary) with a much limited set of options, is being advertised things that are very difficult to get. I believe this creates a powerful pressure in the population that believes that everybody else is living a much better life than they do.

How does it translate into SEO? Well search engine optimization changes in the sense that Costa Rican users will end up searching for words that they wouldn’t necessarily use in their normal jargon but that they know about because they watch those commercials.

With returning results in Costa Rica that are mostly in Spanish, the rules for the biggest of the search engines are starting to change. In Costa Rica is very hard to only optimize a site in Spanish. People are so exposed to advertising from abroad that they very likely would use the English terms to refer to iPhone, iPod, LCD TV, High Definition DVD and Blue Ray among others.

I even believe that it has become part of the Costa Rica culture. If you ask for a Blue Ray Disc then you know what you are talking about, if you ask for a “disco de rayo azul” probably you would be ridiculed.

So: Tips for a better SEO in Costa Rica:

1. Optimize not only in Spanish, but also in English, because your users might be looking for your products and/or services in English.

2. If you are interested in selling local in Costa Rica, make sure that you have a domain and if possible, host the site in CR.

3. When your page is in Spanish, use meta information in Spanish, when in English, use English.

4. Search engine optimization is not only about content but also about popularity. Make sure that your local users know about you and search for you in Google, Yahoo and MSN. Perhaps sometimes a little bit of off line advertising might do the trick. It doesn’t even have to be expensive, talking to your friends about your site and asking them to link to it from related verticals helps.

5. Don’t use exact translated copies of your content in English and Spanish. Why? Because the markets are different and they have different needs; but most importantly it is very expensive to create and maintain content in two languages. It is better to have both versions and each one with their own unique content. You might have product descriptions only in English or only Spanish, maybe more images in the English version and so forth.

Happy Holidays and hope this SEO tips work best for the Costa Rican markets.

Alex Centeno MBA.

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