Cultural differences and daily habits affect the browsing behaviors of European internet users. The way people in each region think and live vary. In the Netherlands, lunch time is a much different event than in France. In France, lunch may take a few hours of time, where groups will wine and dine and return to work later in the evening, through what other cultures consider to be dinner time. In the Netherlands, lunch is something simple that can be consumed within a half hour, and the Dutch are home by six for dinner.
Because different areas of Europe are online at different times of the day, and for a wide variety of topics, users are searching differently. While the Dutch are searching for work-related information, the French may be searching where to enjoy their long lunch.
Language and culture being two separate creatures often mistaken for one another, a common faux pas is for an SEO strategy to be built based on language. Sure, Germany and Austrians speak German. However, targeting requires a deeper level of consideration. For example, Austrians do not trust German websites. If a website is suffixed with a German .de domain, they will seek out the same or similar product or service provided through an Austrian domain instead. They can search and read everything on the .de website, but because of cultural differences will prefer something from their own country.
There also exists the occurrence of major cultural and linguistic differences within one country. In Spain, Basques and Catalan live separate, disconnected lives. Sometimes they have hostility towards each other; sometimes towards their own country just the same. In 2008 the European Soccer Championship title was won by the Spanish national team. However, Barcelona remained rather quiet while in Madrid, the streets were flooded with people celebrating. It wasn’t the Catalan team that won, but the Spanish team.
Some closing tips on staying on top of search engine optimization for European countries:
- Understand the differences in Culture and Language of a region
- Research the history of the areas targeted
- Acquire domains to write sites for each specific country
- Travel! Visit the people and places in your target demographic. Get a sense of who they are, where they live, and how they live. If you can’t travel, network online with Europeans to get a good idea of the lifestyles and culture.
- Have a native speaker write web content
It may seem like a lot of work, but Europeans search more than any other contintent. There are over 731 million potential customers and clients who you may reach simply by knowing just how and when they prefer to be reached.