In today’s digital landscape, having a strong online presence is crucial for businesses to succeed. With the ever-evolving algorithms of search engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become a key component in driving organic traffic to a website.

However, many companies struggle with optimizing their SEO strategies to effectively reach their target audience. This is where cognitive science comes into play. By understanding the cognitive processes and behavior of consumers, businesses can enhance their SEO strategies to truly localize their content and connect with their audience on a deeper level.

In this article, we will explore the significance of incorporating cognitive science into SEO strategies and how it can lead to improved search engine rankings and greater ROI.

From the impact of language and cultural nuances to the importance of user experience, we will delve into the key factors that play a crucial role in achieving true localization in SEO. By leveraging the power of cognitive science, businesses can elevate their online presence and reach their desired audience with greater precision and effectiveness.

The Field of Cognitive Science Sheds Light

The existence of a global disconnect is the underlying reason why international SEO strategies that attempt to fit all do not succeed. The field of cognitive science sheds light on the fact that individuals have a strong inclination towards familiarity when making decisions.

Consequently, companies that employ generic SEO tactics across various regions find themselves faced with a significant gap. For a comprehensive understanding of this issue, I invite you to peruse my colleague’s recent publication on the renowned Moz Blog, titled “Decoding the Mechanics of Brand Familiarity to Futureproof Any Brand”.

A failure to tailor SEO efforts to suit local culture, context, and language results in missed opportunities for brands to effectively connect with their target audiences. In the subsequent discourse, we shall delve into the notion of a “multi-local experience”, meticulously examining the key elements and strategies that intertwine cognitive science with local expertise in order to captivate audiences.

Leverage familiarity bias in SEO for a multi-local experience

According to cognitive science, it has been observed that individuals possess a natural inclination towards familiarity, leading them to actively engage with what they are already acquainted with. In the realm of search engine optimization (SEO), this phenomenon can be harnessed by strategically utilizing keywords, images, and content formats that align with the preferences and expectations of the local audience.

Now, the question arises: how can we effectively capitalize on this inherent familiarity bias?

Create a multi-local experience

The concept of achieving a multi-local experience goes beyond replicating a single strategy across diverse regions. It entails tailoring the experience to cater to the unique requirements and preferences of each specific region.

When localizing every facet of the purchasing journey, numerous elements of e-commerce need to be taken into account, such as conforming to local regulations, adhering to taxation requirements, adapting to different currencies and payment methods, integrating with relevant social media activities or social media platforms, and providing localized customer support. These considerations encompass numerous other aspects of e-commerce.

To genuinely establish a multi-local shopping experience in the realm of e-commerce, it is imperative to treat each market as distinct entities. This implies that countries with multilingual populations like Canada, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the United States should be recognized as prime targets for implementing a multi-local approach.

Leverage familiarity bias in SEO strategy

The phenomenon of familiarity bias manifests itself within search engine operations as a result of innate human tendencies. Individuals inherently possess a predilection for engaging with familiar entities, a phenomenon that brands can leverage to their advantage.

By seamlessly integrating local idioms, symbols, and even folklore into their content, businesses can effectively appeal to the preferences and tastes specific to particular regions or localities. To illustrate, an American fast-food enterprise operating in Hawaii could astutely incorporate fresh pineapple and haupia pie alongside traditional apple pie, thereby catering to the distinct palates and predilections of the local populace.

Google search result answer box answering the question “Does McDonald’s in Hawaii serve pineapple?” by quoting KHON2’s answer “Some Hawaii Mcdonald’s locations sell fresh cut pineapple.”

One of McDonald’s strategic approaches to cater to diverse markets globally involves the incorporation of local flavors and ingredients into their menus. This widely adopted practice enables the chain to effectively adapt to the distinct tastes and cultural preferences of various regions, thereby enhancing its appeal among the local population while offering a unique experience to visitors.

Having resided on the island of Oahu, I possess firsthand knowledge of this practice. Furthermore, as a native of Paris, I am also well acquainted with McDonald’s implementation of this strategy in the French capital.

Paris boasts an exclusive item on their menu called the Croque McDo sandwich, showcasing the brand’s commitment to incorporating local culinary influences. Additionally, McDonald’s in Paris offers a range of beverages, albeit with room for improvement in terms of quality.

Google search result answer box answering the question “What beer does McDonald’s serve in Paris” by quoting The Thillist’s answer, “Some Hawaii Mcdonald’s locations sell fresh cut pineapple.”

In our particular situation, we will be venturing beyond the realm of menu items and immersing ourselves fully in the intricacies of SEO.

Key factors that impact SEO performance across regions

1. Localized content

Develop landing pages and blog posts customized to cater to the unique preferences, cultural nuances, and language intricacies of individual markets.

To effectively engage the North American audience, an e-commerce website can curate tailored blog content that delves into the distinctive trends prevalent in both the United States and Canada. Each country can be allocated a dedicated article, ensuring a comprehensive coverage of their respective markets.

I would like to present an illustrative example that I have devised for your consideration:

Analysis and Observations on Canadian Market Dynamics

  • The fashion industry has witnessed a resurgence of 90s-inspired trends, with bike shorts, dresses, and various other garments from that era regaining popularity among fashion enthusiasts.
  • There is a growing demand for form-fitting attire, as exemplified by the increasing interest in tight black dresses, pencil skirts, and mini skirts. Fashion-conscious individuals are actively seeking out these figure-hugging options.
  • The market for hosiery has seen the emergence of sheer black tights, low-rise tights, and high-waisted tights. These variations cater to diverse consumer preferences and offer a range of choices for those seeking fashionable legwear.
  • In Canada, Black Friday has established itself as a significant event in the realm of clothing retail. With enticing discounts and attractive deals, this occasion has become a focal point for shoppers seeking remarkable savings on women’s clothing and fashion items.

Observations and patterns pertaining to the United States

  • High-quality garments suitable for formal occasions on Sundays, including attire specifically designed for women, are available for purchase at stores specializing in Sunday best clothing.
  • Optimal comfort is ensured with a range of apparel options suitable for individuals working remotely, such as work-from-home attire and specifically tailored shorts for such purposes.
  • The current fashion landscape in the United States is witnessing a surge in popularity for babydoll dresses.

2. Multilingual and multi-region sites

Create websites that are capable of providing tailored experiences to users according to their geographic location and language preferences. A prime illustration of this is the implementation of a robust catalog management system that efficiently monitors availability and pricing across various states or provinces. Noteworthy brands that excel in this domain include:

  • Ikea,
  • Amazon,
  • Airbnb,
  • Duolingo,
  • Revolut,
  • And, naturally, Netflix!

3. Location-specific image assets

Incorporate photographs encompassing native landscapes, iconic emblems, individuals, commodities, and assorted visual constituents that exude a sense of familiarity.

Olymel website banner announcing “European sausages” with a visual that has “miam” which is a French onomatopoeia that no English speaker would understand.

Allow us to delve deeper into this matter: The term “miam” denotes an expression of delight or satisfaction, akin to “mmmm” or “yum,” in the French language. Evidently, this attribute resonates throughout the online presence of this esteemed organization, which hails from the French Canadian realm yet caters to an English-speaking audience.

Sephora French hero banner with a “hot on social media” tag that few French speakers would understand.

In this context, a noteworthy observation arises: a conspicuous divergence is apparent wherein an English banner conspicuously adorns a French website.

4. Localized linking

In order to cultivate a strong local reputation, it is imperative to connect with renowned regional websites and influential individuals through outbound linking. To ensure seamless integration within the online community, any content pertaining to reviews, advice, or information ought to be crafted with utmost regard to local nuances and preferences.

5. Regional competitors analysis

Conduct thorough research on how competitors strategically target keywords and enhance their visibility in various localities. Understanding the specific preferences and choices of your target audience in each locality is crucial when dealing with or countering the familiarity bias.

In case you are unaware of your competitors, I recommend utilizing Moz’s complimentary SEO Competitive Analysis tool. This tool will identify your primary competitors, reveal keyword gaps, and present potential content opportunities.

Consider the following factors when confronting local competition, as advised by Billie Geena from Uptake agency, a renowned international SEO agency:

  • Competitors in these localities play a significant role in shaping the local landscape, thereby exerting influence on your brand’s overall visibility, conversion rates, and reputation.
  • Perform a comprehensive competitive analysis for each region or market. Acquiring a profound understanding of the landscape and available opportunities is vital. Adapting your content to cater to unique customer satisfaction or customer needs can provide you with a competitive advantage.

6. Keyword Research

It is imperative to gain a comprehensive understanding of each market segment. Engage in thorough and meticulous analysis of regional keywords to discern the precise information sought by your target audience.

Examine evaluations, user consultations, and peculiar keyword trends.

  • Societal conventions: traditions, principles, conduct, and anticipations necessitate thorough examination.
  • Analysis of consumer journey: acquisition patterns and decision-making methodologies demonstrate significant disparities.
  • Collaborating with local associates can provide invaluable perspectives and enhance your reputation when venturing into unfamiliar markets. Indigenous linguists possess comprehensive knowledge of the local terrain.
  • Channels for feedback: actively engage with your prospective clientele via social media platforms, surveys, and other mediums to elicit constructive input.

7. Local search engine optimization

When optimizing a website for local search, it is crucial to adapt title tags, meta descriptions, H1s, and content to effectively target locally searched terms.

For instance, through meticulous customization of these elements to cater specifically to the preferences and requirements of local tourists, remarkable results can be achieved. By strategically incorporating highly sought-after keywords, which have not been fully utilized by prominent aggregators like and TripAdvisor, we successfully propelled a 4-star hotel in the breathtaking location of Mont-Tremblant towards a prominent position in search engine rankings.

8. Local reviews and mentions

Acquire feedback, endorsements, and recognition from publications specific to the respective regions. Sephora presents French product evaluations that are distinctly distinguishable as genuine reviews, evident to an astute native speaker, rather than mere translated feedback sourced from other markets.

Sephora France website screenshot showing French reviews.

9. Compliance with local laws and regulations

Compliance with jurisdictional intricacies pertaining to privacy, accessibility, promotions, and other legal aspects is of paramount importance.

For instance, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enacted in Europe entails distinct prerequisites concerning data collection that may not be universally applicable.

Furthermore, Nicolas Steenhout, an esteemed accessibility consultant and podcaster, highlights the intricate landscape of accessibility legislation in Canada. Varying methodologies are employed by each province, while the Federal government also exercises its own distinct approach.

Identifying the hierarchy of precedence can prove to be a challenging endeavor.

In the province of Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act mandates that websites must conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to ensure accessibility. Simultaneously, a new federal law mirrors this requirement, albeit only for specific entities.

Determining the pertinent regulations to adhere to can be an arduous task. Given the global nature of our economy, it is prudent to embrace and abide by the more stringent legislation in place.

10. Contextual on-site elements

Please ensure that all essential information such as addresses, contact details, operating hours, shipping regions, and other pertinent details are incorporated for each respective location. It is imperative to give due consideration to even the most minor elements such as meta descriptions, image alt-text, and button text.

These components necessitate an equal level of localization as your primary content. Now, let us delve into the intricacies of these subtle elements.

WP Rocket French homepage team testimonial section with English content in it.
WP Rocket German homepage team testimonial section with English content in it.

The English language is consistently utilized for both the happiness score and support message illustration on the right-hand side, irrespective of whether the French or German version of the website is accessed.

11. Localized customer support

Ensure that your channels are equipped to deliver tailored assistance to users based on their geographical location. This involves having the necessary language capabilities, dedicated staffing, and localized support strategies in place.

For instance, WP Rocket has adeptly addressed this need by offering potential customer support in a multitude of languages, thereby garnering significant advantages for their business. Their commitment to serving users globally is exemplified by their team that comprises 18 proficient professionals situated across various countries and regions.

This strategic approach has played a pivotal role in establishing WP Rocket as a renowned brand in the realm of WordPress caching plugins on a worldwide scale.

Bet on local holidays

Numerous festivities intricately intertwine with the cultural tapestry of a nation, commemorating significant historical milestones, paying tribute to age-old customs, or symbolizing the fundamental principles that unify society.

Nations forged by diverse ethnic groups frequently observe an array of cultural practices handed down through successive generations of immigrants, shaping their collective identity. Within the United States, a multitude of holidays such as Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day, Chinese New Year, and Juneteenth serve as vivid reminders of its historical journey as a crucible of diverse cultures and peoples.

Below are several local holidays that marketers should take note of when expanding globally:

  • Singles Day (China) — Occurring on November 11 annually, this event is recognized as the largest 24-hour online shopping extravaganza worldwide, surpassing Cyber Monday in scale and significance.
  • Boxing Day (Canada) — Following Christmas, this day ignites a frenzy of sales. Boxing Day holds tremendous importance in Canada’s retail calendar, with retailers offering post-Christmas discounts even greater than those on Black Friday. “Similar to their American counterparts, Canadians temporarily pause their traditional turkey feasts to indulge in a shopping frenzy. However, unlike the US, where this occurs after Thanksgiving, in Canada, it takes place on the day after Christmas, a designated statutory holiday,” highlights Samuel Lavoie, a Canadian SEO consultant.
  • El Buen Fin (Mexico) — Mexicans enjoy a special weekend-long sales event organized by major retailers in November.

A Series of Colossal Promotions

  • Diwali Festival Season (India) — Spanning across October and November, India’s weeks-long celebration of lights and hope sets off a series of colossal promotions, particularly from online sellers.
  • Click Frenzy (Australia) — Showcasing a Down Under version of Cyber Monday, this event features a wild 51-hour period of online discounts offered by numerous Australian retailers each May. “If you aim to enhance your brand’s visibility, this holiday holds immense potential,” suggests Sarah Crooke, an Australian Analytics consultant.

In international marketing endeavors, it is essential for marketers to familiarize themselves with these local holidays, enabling them to effectively tailor their strategies and capitalize on the unique opportunities presented by each holiday.

Utilizing significant regional shopping holidays such as these proves to be a highly effective approach. By synchronizing promotional activities with these cherished local customs, one can optimize both visibility and the potential for successful transactions.

Build familiarity across cultures: overcoming challenges

In today’s interconnected world, globalization has revolutionized the way nations interact, yet a truly successful localization strategy demands much more than mere translation. By strategically incorporating nuanced cultural insights into brand content, organizations can effectively dismantle barriers and cultivate genuine engagement with diverse local communities.

Within the realm of digital marketing, the concept of optimal familiarity encompasses the perfect equilibrium between brand recognition and consumer exposure to a particular product or service. Attaining such optimal familiarity implies a meticulous approach to crafting website content and materials that not only resonate with, but also remain pertinent to the unique sensibilities of the target audience in each distinct region.

Fight for alignment

Tailoring localization to match the specific preferences, habits, and values of the local market is crucial. It is imperative to prioritize organic search objectives that align with the business’s overall goals.

To effectively leverage valuable SEO prospects, it is essential to thoroughly test and evaluate initial strategies. Once successful tactics have been identified, they should be expanded upon.

It is prudent to consistently update audience and customer journey research in order to remain pertinent in a changing landscape of consumer behaviors.

Machine translator, human editor

Machine translation is a remarkable means to expand your reach across diverse markets. Nevertheless, it frequently fails to grasp subtle nuances. Inexact translations can instill a sense of unfamiliarity and erode trust, thus hampering the brand’s endeavor to foster familiarity.

It is imperative to incorporate the expertise of local professionals or native speakers into your workflow to ensure a culturally-sensitive translation. What may seem innocuous in one country can prove offensive or incomprehensible in another.

Profound cultural insight, sometimes even at a regional level, plays a pivotal role in averting such potential pitfalls.

Internal search is a hidden threat to proper localization

Failure to localize the internal search engine of your website can significantly impact the overall user experience. It is imperative to customize the search algorithm to cater to the specific requirements of each locale.

Given that brand names can vary, individuals often utilize brand names instead of product names to refer to a particular item (such as Kleenex, Whiteout, Frigidaire). Ensuring that your internal search engine can effectively retrieve results for such queries is crucial; otherwise, customers may perceive your inventory as lacking, leading to potential sales losses.

By adapting your search algorithm to meet local needs and accounting for variations in brand names and product terminology, you are effectively aligning your online store with the familiar expectations of the local customer base.

Be wary of promotions

It is recommended to refrain from implementing broad promotions that exclude specific regions. The frustration caused by limiting access to deals based on geographic restrictions can be significant for customers.

Many brands encounter this issue when organizing contests or providing coupon codes. Instead, it is advisable to segment promotions by locale in order to showcase relevant offers. This may involve creating region-specific landing pages, utilizing geo-targeted emails, or implementing personalized on-site messaging.

If certain promotions are restricted due to regulations. It is important to be transparent about eligibility requirements in order to effectively manage expectations. For instance, limitations pertaining to Quebec’s strict language laws are understandable when clearly communicated upfront.

The Success of Promotions

Establishing tracking mechanisms to monitor the success of promotions by country allows for necessary adjustments based on response rates. Continual optimization is crucial to enhance the relevance of offers for each region being served.

Localized promotions demand additional effort as they require consideration of regional holidays, customs, color symbolism, and laws. However, they also significantly drive engagement.

McDonald’s is renowned for adapting its menu and promotional offerings to suit local tastes and preferences across the globe. For instance, in Japan, they provide seasonal items such as the “Teriyaki Burger” to cater to local flavors. While in India, they offer a range of vegetarian options to accommodate cultural dietary preferences.

Moreover, their marketing strategy extends beyond that by tailoring advertisements to various cultures worldwide.

In Conclusion

Successful brands go beyond mere translation of their content; they undergo a complete transformation. Genuine localization surpasses language barriers to delve into the psychological factors that influence decision-making. Although machine translation facilitates global dissemination of content, establishing resonance necessitates a multi-local methodology.

For brands to genuinely engage with local audiences, they must grasp and incorporate the intricacies of local languages, customs, and preferences. By infusing the foundations of cognitive science into their SEO practices, brands can fashion a captivating and multi-local strategy that fosters familiarity and nurtures trust across heterogeneous markets.

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