Hispanic Paid Search: an "oldie but goodie"

November 10, 2010

Posted by Jose Villa

I wrote an article a few years ago for SearchEngineLand.com about using Paid Search (or Pay-per-Click Search Engine Marketing) to reach the U.S. Hispanic market. I recently re-read the article and thought it was still very salient. More importantly,

I continue to believe that Paid Search is still a relatively untapped opportunity for U.S. Hispanic marketers. For that reason, I am re-posting it here on ThinkMulticultural:

(this article originally ran on SearchEngineLand.com in 2008)

As the U.S. Hispanic population continues to grow, advertisers naturally want to target this influential demographic. Search engine marketing allows advertisers to efficiently reach the Hispanic market through a number of Hispanic-focused strategies.

Though it may sound obvious, the easiest way to target Hispanics is by using Spanish-language keywords (i.e., “salud” for “health” and “prestamo” for “mortgage”). For the most part, advertisers are not bidding as heavily on Spanish-language keywords, so in the bid-driven world of SEM, the cost of Spanish keywords are lower. As the Hispanic population increases its use of search engines – millions of U.S. Hispanics come online each year – we might see the prices of these keywords go up, but more than likely they still won’t pass the cost of common English-language phrases.

However, when choosing keywords never rely solely on straightforward translation of English words to their Spanish counterparts. Think about acculturation levels of your target Hispanic audience and adapt your keywords and ad copy appropriately. Your ultimate goal should be cultural relevance—reaching your audience on a personal level.

It is estimated that a Spanish sentence contains 20 percent more words than its English counterpart. And Spanish searchers tend to search differently than their English-speaking counterparts, making heavy use of long-tail or extended phrases. The average English search phrase contains 3.9 words per phrase compared to Spanish phrases that contain 4.7 words, according to ExpertSEM.com. You can take advantage of this

difference by bidding on long-tail keywords to specifically attract a Hispanic-dominant audience. Because of the specificity of the phrase, long-tail keywords will likely receive limited traffic. However, because these phrases are so targeted they are more likely to convert well.

When choosing these long phrases, stay culturally relevant. Pay particular attention to the regional differences of the Spanish language. California is primarily Mexican, Florida is heavily Cuban and New York is predominately Puerto Rican. In many instances, one phase will not accurately reach all of these cultures.

Target your audience where it lives

In addition to being culturally relevant, search ad programs give you the perfect opportunity to narrow your target audience and reach its members where they live. If you are looking to target Hispanics, you should geo-target your campaign to areas of high Hispanic population density. Florida, Texas, New Jersey, California and Arizona comprise the top five Hispanic search regions according to Search Engine Roundtable. Geo-targeting can be done by targeting specific states or by setting zip code restrictions. In either case, geo-targeting analyzes the searcher’s IP address to determine his or her location, assuring that they only see ads relevant to their area.

In the same way that long-tail keywords reduce the number of hits, geo-targeting can too because you are narrowing down the overall search audience. However, targeting does increase precision, which is often a welcome tradeoff.

When you are targeting Hispanics through the use of Spanish-language keywords or ad copy, a Hispanic Spanish-language landing page is critical. Apart from potential penalties if your landing page isn’t relevant to your ad copy, this is also about making a smooth transition and an optimal user experience for your visitor. If a person searches in Spanish, he or she is going to naturally expect to see a Spanish-language web page after they click on the search result.

With any SEM campaign you really have to work off the “test, learn and optimize” philosophy. Try different areas to target. Use Spanish and English-language keywords to see what works best. Try keywords that typically only Hispanics would search for, such as “Luis Miguel.” Try bilingual phrases such as “cheap fiesta.” The more you test and analyze, the better your campaign will perform.

About Jose Villa

I’m the founder and President of Sensis, a cross-cultural advertising agency with digital at its core. I launched Sensis as a Web development firm in 1998 and one of the first agencies focusing on the Hispanic digital market. Our agency has since grown into a unique full-service ad agency – that takes a digitally-infused cross-cultural approach to the general market. I am passionate about cross-cultural marketing and always trying to push the envelope of multicultural advertising. I write regularly for MediaPost, AdAge, HispanicAd.com, and here! I also speak at a lot of advertising conferences like SXSW, Hispanic Retail 360, Hispanicize, and AHAA.


  1. Great read, thanks for sharing this “ObG” article.

    A well defined point indeed! The cultural relevancy is a must for geo targeted Hispanic campaigns.

    You hit the nail on the head.

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