How Website Colors Affect International SEO and Why You Should Use Different Colors on Your Website in Different Countries

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If you are responsible for a website, do SEO, or anything related to internet marketing, and you are living in 2012 or even 2010, you probably already know that usability, conversion rates and bounce rates are extremely important factors in SEO. In fact, if you are even outdated 5 years or so, you should know by now that EVERYTHING your visitors SEE and DO on your Website, or About Your Website Can Affect Your Search Rankings. What this means is simple. SEO is a holistic game that requires a deep understanding of Design, Development, Creativity, UI/UX, Social Media, Blogger Outreach, authentic communication. All in All, Just like Search Engines are a layer on the real world, a user intent engine that offers a looking glass into the entire universe, The SEO process and the SEO consultant or vendor needs to be the jack of all trades ninja who knows their way around marketing, psychology, technology, browsers, web design, web development, content creation, content syndication, PR, and most importantly Customer Relationship Management. This goes beyond just outbound interactions, but also understanding the implied promises your inbound marketing efforts convey, and giving users Exactly What They Want, Exactly When They Want It, In Exactly The Way They Can Most Easily Consume It.

There is a fascinating article on Search Engine Land about Colors of your website and SEO by Shari Thurow.

The part I want to focus on is the reality that Colors Mean Different Things in Different Cultures, and If You Are Targeting An International Market With Your Website, You Should Understand How Colors Are Perceived in That Culture.

She Writes, “As a Web designer and SEO, I know that the color red communicates happiness in China; anger and danger in Japan; and life and creativity in India.

When I design websites whose target audience is outside of the US, I rarely use the same template and color scheme.

Here’s a quote from my favorite SEO book of 2012, Global Search Engine Marketing: Fine-Tuning Your International Search Engine Results”:

Even Baidu notes ’Chinese culture has some identity-forming meanings that affect user behavior strongly, namely in color, number, symbol, language, and so on.’”

I have found that the color red is not as negative as in the US. I have found American designs be much based on the color blue while Scandinavians are more open to multi-colors, said Kristjan Mar Hauksson, Director of Internet Marketing at Nordic eMarketing and co-author of Global Search Engine Marketing: Fine-Tuning Your International Search Engine Results.

You really need a whole list of potential cultural issues – or you could call them trust factors since working with someone within their culture builds trust which means they’re more likely to buy,” said Atkins-Kruger. “The problem is that culture isn’t just one thing. It’s not just the colour selection, the language, the currency symbols, the complexity or simplicity of the page, reading right to left instead of left to right, calendar formats, forms, zip code formats or alternatives, credit card symbols, delivery timescales, image content or any of the other hundreds of small items. It’s all of them. It’s their combined effect. It’s the answer to the question, “are we among friends?”“So for example, in southern Ireland or Eire, there are no postcodes at all (don’t make them mandatory),” he continues. “In Thailand, purple represents mourning whereas the west associates the colour with Royalty. If you don’t accept Union Pay credit cards in China, you almost certainly won’t do any business. When western companies change their template from left-to-right reading, to right-to-left, they frequently forget to change the calendars.  And dates in the UK are not presented in the same way they are in the US.

When I did international SEO for New York Film Academy, they were targeting countries all over the world, and we spent a lot of time with locals making sure our language was culturally correct, and the web designer was chinese… But, the website design was basically the same everywhere. I suspect if they hired a different designer in Japan, and if Australia, and in Argentina, and in the UAE, they would probably convert more visitors into students.

So, when you decide to target an international market, maybe consider hiring a local designer to do the work… Or atleast someone like Shari Thurow, who clearly understands these cultural nuances.

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About David Melamed

David Melamed is the Founder of Tenfold Traffic, a search and content marketing agency with over $50,000,000 of paid search experience and battle tested results in content development, premium content promotion and distribution, Link Profile Analysis, Multinational/Multilingual PPC and SEO, and Direct Response Copywriting.

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