How to Use SEO to Reach Out to Latin@s in the United States

spanish language seoPlenty of businesses and organizations have SEO down pat, and for good reason. We all know that SEO is important because it directs users toward your product or service. Unfortunately, a lot of companies are making one major error in their content: they are failing to market across multiple demographics with culturally relevant marketing content. This post will talk about what businesses are doing wrong with their Latin@-targeted SEO campaigns – and how to fix it.

Latin@ Buyers in the United States

Just one year ago, there were 50.5 million Latin@s living in the United States alone, and this population is growing quickly. Spanish is now the second most widely spoken language in the US. As the demographic expands beyond regions of origin, many businesses that have yet to consider need to come to terms with the fact that improving relationships with the emerging Latin@ population is important when strategizing for a multilingual, multicultural marketing campaign.

But what exactly does it mean to work on these relationships? As it turns out, ignoring the fact that the Latin@ population’s enormous (and growing) buying power is on the rise not only hinders businesses, but also frustrates the Latin@ community. In order to avoid these pitfalls, companies and agencies need to work on being more culturally sensitive and aware of their audiences across the board. SEO should be at the center of these adjustments.

Regional Spanish: Translation is More Complicated Than You’d Think

What does SEO look like when tailored to a Spanish-speaking audience? Here’s a hint: it’s not about a direct translation of keywords. Basic literary translation theory says that good translations move beyond issues of “letter” (that is, a literal word-for-word trot) into the “spirit” of the language. In marketing, this means that a literal translation of English keywords into Spanish keywords is not going to cut it.

Consider the nuances of your keywords. Discriminatory stereotypes have many companies thinking that Spanish-speaking Latin@s in the US are a monolithic demographic, and this is the first thing that needs to change. As it turns out, it’s a basic linguistic realization: the Spanish language is highly localized. Just like the US American distinction between “pop” in the Midwest and “soda” in the Northeast, different countries and regions of Central and South America have completely different words for exactly the same thing.

Take, for example, the word “banana.” In many parts of Mexico, it translates to “banana,” but in Guatemala it becomes “banano.” Further south, Andeans call it “plátano,” and Puerto Rico’s word is “guineo.” Consider the number of people from every single Latin American country, as well as the inner regions of these nations, who are living in the United States. With this in mind, Spanish-language SEO becomes a little more complicated.

SEO for a Spanish-Speaking Market

So what to do? The best way to start is to target your marketing regionally to reach the highest possible number of consumers. When you think about the communities you are trying to reach out to, remember that people from different countries and regions speak the same language differently.

If you are translating your content into Spanish, the best route is to involve a person – or, better yet, people – from the region you are targeting, so that you can tailor your Spanish language content to these specific communitie. Alternately, working with multiple native speakers from a myriad of communities will help you to better cater your strategy to people who may be searching for your service who come from all over Latin America.

No access to native speakers? There are a number of Spanish-language SEO agencies out on the web that can help you translate your content and better optimize your keywords.

Marketing to the Bilingual Latin@ Demographic

If a business is talking about “marketing to the Hispanic population,” they are usually referring to Spanish speakers both in and out of the United States. What many companies and agencies fail to realize is that a growing number of Latin@s in the United States are bilingual, native English speakers, or, in the case of rising generations, even speak English as a first language. And since 80% of Spanish-language Google queries in the US are done in the English-language Google interface, we can infer that many Latin@s are surfing the internet in both languages.

In order to reach bilingual or native English-speaking demographic, the importance lies –as always – in thinking like your audience. Many bilingual Latin@s who conduct web searches in English look up keywords with “Latino/a” or “Hispanic” in them: “Latino news websites,” “Hispanic scholarships,” “Latina fashion blogs” …you get the idea. Even with this in mind, reaching English-speaking Latin@s is essentially the same as reaching the rest of your market. But if you are failing to consider the cultural relevance of your content, you will ultimately lose out on a lot of potential buyers.

Have you tried to market your business or brand to today’s Latin@s? What will your brand do to appeal to this growing market?

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Tree is a somewhat nomadic graduate student pursuing an MFA in Poetry and Literary Translation from Drew University. A self-identified “diplobrat,” she spent over 16 years living as an expat in countries like Guatemala, Bolivia, and Tanzania. Tree graduated from Smith College in 2012 with a degree in Spanish Language and Literature, a minor in Studio Art, and a concentration in Landscape Studies. In between writing poetry for school and content for CEM, she dabbles in goat herding and freelancing. Other interests include reading, watercolor painting, gardening, and traveling.

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