How to grow your SEM business in Asia

Guest Post By Gerald Neo, Who runs

SEM in Singapore is just starting out. Lots of companies have just started to realise the importance of SEM. For those, that have started for a few years, are only covering the surface. They have not fully explored the full potential of SEM.

To many SEM specialists, this is a golden opportunity. But then, they have to realise that Singapore is a small market. And it cannot sustain their ROI, just by focusing on one market alone.

In many brick-and-mortar industries, companies are using Singapore as a gateway to penetrate the Asia market (i.e. Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong). I have only named those countries which have the most potential.

So SEM specialists should also do the same. Look at Singapore as a bigger picture to capture the S.E Asia market.

But before they do that, there are 2 main areas, which the specialist needs to consider before he/she can be successful in S.E Asia. Of course, there are many other key success factors but in this article, let’s discuss the most basic element.

  1. Multi Languages

It will not be as simple as just looking at English keywords. There are Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), Thai, Bahasa Indonesia, Malay, etc. So your keywords need to be in local languages.

  1. Cultural Difference

By understanding the culture of the countries, the specialist will be able to understand how they behave online and how they search.

But don’t assume that by understanding one culture (e.g. Chinese), one can apply that understanding to another culture (e.g. Malay). Each culture has its uniqueness and every one of them needs a certain level of understanding before the specialist can have some success predicting their behavior online.

Most companies will ignore the 2 areas, thinking their previous success in SEM will ensure success even in Asia. But they will be wrong.

So how can the 2 areas be overcome?

The specialist’s strength is their expertise in SEM. And he/she has tons of experience in managing SEM across different industries.

And what they lack is an understanding of the market. Instead of going into the market and trying to figure everything out themselves, and get local help. They employ local digital marketing people who have experience in online media but may not have experience in SEM.

The specialist might not be able to find the kind of experienced marketer in SEM. So the key is to find passionate digital marketers who have managed digital advertising across multiple regions in Asia and are also interested in SEM.

Impart knowledge and experience to them. This can also be the specialist’s contribution to the local online industry by increasing the number of skilled people in SEM.

When it comes to multi-languages, there is always a translation house that can help to translate the keywords to local languages. But the local digital marketer is required to look through the translation to make sure it’s in the right context.

There will be challenges but no doubt that with the right people, SEM specialists can achieve success. But do take note that is no overnight success, it still needs time and some form of testing to really understand the market. Good luck!

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