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Mark LopezMark Lopez, head of the US Hispanic audience for Google, is newly charged with developing and growing the company’s Hispanic media business in the US.

We caught up with him during Search Engine Strategies-New York, where he delivered a keynote on the growth of this segment.

Why is there a need to focus on Hispanic search?

When it comes to demographics, one in every seven Americans is Hispanic and within the next 20 years, that number will grow to nearly one in four. Buying power growth, meanwhile, is double that of the overall market.

Close to 10% of overall U.S. searches are in Spanish and this is not just for Spanish media. People are also using Spanish on an English interface. It’s a great time to interact with products and services.

What’s an example of a category where this really resonates?

In the automotive category, search growth on the term “carro” (or car) is up more than 1,000% since 2007, compared to the overall category. Say “carros usados” for used cars. Spanish query volume for “seguros de auto” is growing at almost 2.5x the rate of English “auto insurance” query volume.

A lot of companies may have the same messaging, but what some do is take people to an in-language landing page with in-language customer support.

The other component that goes beyond search is really contextual. Targeting that keyword base. When users watch an outside media like TV, they tend to search on the programming they are watching. The opportunity is to be able to be there, at the right time when there’s consumer content related to TV, by focusing on what is happening in Hispanic programming and sports. 

How do you work with clients on developing an Hispanic audience strategy?

We look at how our audience is working across other platforms such as YouTube and our display network. We develop strategies there as well. We’re also making sure we have a lot of content the Hispanic audience can consume and are working to bring in partners both on YouTube and the display network with relevant content.

Is it really possible to have one Hispanic strategy?

The U.S. Hispanic audience is not monolithic by any means. If you want to talk about specific passion points, it’s necessary to understand the cultural nuances. There are ways to unify the message, but it’s not something that is easy to do.  

The market is close to 200m, and targeting US Hispanics has been a proven successful business for brands for almost 30 years.

From a practical standpoint, where do you start?

Depending on the message, each brand has a different demographic target to go after. What’s really important is to build the capabilities to understand. We found there are a lot of times where Spanish keywords with English messaging works.

You can also target audiences with browser settings set to Spanish, and use both English and Spanish keywords. People may have their browser setting in the native language because they feel more comfortable with Spanish or have recently emigrated from Latin America.

Name three key differences between targeting the Hispanic audience vs. the general market.

Who we are and how we identify ourselves and how we think of ourselves when we consume media. Consider myself,  a male, age 18-45. I have passion points around soccer that a general market person my age and gender wouldn’t have. Those are things that make the market and each audience unique.

More than a point of segmentation is language. We know and we consume part of our media in language. That’s a huge and unique identity grouping. 

Look at overall media consumption and platforms. The use of some emerging platforms by the Hispanic audience, such as mobile, is leapfrogging. If you look at mobile devices, the Hispanic audience is more likely to own a smart phone than the general population and 70% are using their smartphones to search.

How do you optimize for multilingual speech patterns?

Same way as you do in English. Figure out what works and doesn’t for your brand. Start specifically with search.

When you talk about display, you may have different goals. You can’t think about it just digitally.  What about below-the-line efforts? TV efforts? Radio efforts? It’s important to develop capabilities about really understanding your audience.

Laurie Petersen

Published 1 April, 2011 by Laurie Petersen

Laurie Petersen is Principal at LP Strategic Communications and a contributor to Econsultancy. Follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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