Italian Search: Understanding SEO and Outreach In Italy

We’re very excited to announce that we’ve just teamed up with Citation Labs in the US to provide a brand new Italian footprint for their link-prospecting tool.

As a company, we pride ourselves on our international capabilities, and Italian is just one of the languages we provide our digital marketing services in. So, we know first-hand precisely how useful having a prospecting tool like Citation Labs (that actually works well in a local language) can be.

However, what are some of the other challenges that arise when tackling digital marketing projects in Italian? Despite the temptation, it’s always so important not to start any international SEO project with your eyes closed and your fingers crossed, so here are a few of our tips and points to note, all learned from experience!

Sometimes crossing fingers isn't the best move!
Sometimes crossing fingers isn’t the best move!

Italy: A big player in the online domain

As far as online advertising and marketing goes, Italy is fairly advanced compared to some of its mainland European neighbours. Online marketing and search caught on fairly early in Italy so, although it’s still some way behind both the UK and the US, it’s still certainly up there with a few of the big boys when it comes to actual online spend.

When it comes to taking on Italian projects, this can be both a blessing and a curse.

The blessing: On the one hand, when we get in touch with Italian website owners explaining the deals we want to put in place, they know exactly what we’re talking about and are usually quite keen to engage.

Doing deals can be easy in Italy
Doing deals can be easy in Italy

They understand things like natural link placement and the importance of ensuring that the formatting of new content is consistent with existing content, all things that are crucial to our clients and us.

The curse: That said, there are downsides to take into account. Italian outreach emails can be ignored due to oversaturation, which is why we constantly work on tweaking and refining our approaches so that they stand out from the crowd.

In addition, our focus on a creative approach, where quality content wins the race above all else, can sometimes get lost in a relatively financial-orientated world where other more short-term models can, on the surface, look more appealing.

This is where clever negotiation comes into play, along with the art of explaining why we do what we do and what the benefits for both parties tend to be.

Networking: not always a good thing

When it comes to finding partner sites to use for client projects, there are a couple of things to be wary of in the Italian market.

Forward-thinking media: Unlike some British newspaper groups that seemed to take an age to figure out an online model following the decline in the print industry (with some huge newspaper groups still struggling today to figure out a viable model), two of Italy’s largest media groups recognised the potential value of an online model very early on.

Some papers have struggled to create viable ways of earning online
Some papers have struggled to create viable ways of earning online

Between them, the two groups formed an online portfolio, or network of sites, that aimed to capture a large chunk of the online advertising spend from both brands and agencies.

This approach seemed to replicate itself further down the food chain, with smaller, local newspaper groups creating large site networks, and even relatively unpopular individual bloggers teaming up to create larger scale blogging networks.

Uniformity and outrageous pricing: In the early days of our Italian projects, this model was deceptively appealing music to our ears; it was quick and easy to get in touch with a large number of websites at once, and getting details sent through about various advertising services was a straightforward process!

However, as we quickly started to become more sophisticated in our Italian approach, we realised that what started out as a positive very quickly turned into a negative.

Even the small companies that we’ve worked for in Italian are wary of publishing across large networks of sites. Clients, or at least our clients, tend to demand variation across domains, IP addresses, and also site design. Simply put: too much uniformity is a bad thing.

We also found that, as a result of the sites being set up from the beginning to make huge amounts of money through advertising, the price lists we were being sent bordered on the outrageous. Try selling some of these network owners the idea of accepting valuable, amazing content rather than any monetary exchange! It’s not fun.

Cherry-picking the “real deal” bloggers: The way in which these Italian networks appear to have evolved over the years means that Italian outreach is a relatively time-consuming task. It takes longer to cut the networks out of our prospecting lists in order to cherry-pick the genuine bloggers who run independent sites and don’t want to charge us to work with them because they truly value the creative content we can supply.

When you find these sites, though, and forge these genuine relationships, there’s a real sense of achievement that stays with you.

Mobile search: Italians on the go

Another huge point of consideration in this complex market has to be mobile search.

Mobile search is big business in Italy. Not only do Italians have the desire to connect to the web using their mobile devices, but they also have the infrastructure in place to use mobile search as a viable and everyday alternative to connecting via a computer or laptop. Again, this is especially the case in comparison to some of their economically more disadvantaged European neighbours.

Understanding this trend should encourage you to select a more diverse set of keywords to target in Italian campaigns.

It goes without saying that people search differently on mobile devices, with queries likely to be far shorter and more “to the point” than searches on computers.

Having access to native Italian speakers who can devise lists of keywords along with their shorter, more colloquial alternatives means that your campaign will be properly structured and firmly in step with the Italian characteristics of search.

Italians: a multi-lingual bunch

Whilst on the point of search terms, it’s worth noting that Italians don’t exclusively search in their own language.

This can be slightly tricky for us Brits to wrap our heads around at times; such is the arrogance with which we tend to treat our own language. It would be almost inconceivable for us to imagine searching for something without using English words, but for other less inward-facing nations, this isn’t the case.

Italians are among a wide-ranging group of Europeans who think nothing of searching online using phrases that aren’t native to them, which makes knowing which keywords to target in a digital marketing campaign a little tricky at times.

Italian projects: fun, rewarding, but not without challenges

Italian digital projects are great fun to be involved with. Italians, as grossly clichéd as this sounds, tend to love cleverly designed, slick content and websites that appeal as much to the eye as to the brain.

However, there are unique challenges thatapply to this territory. Hopefully by taking note of some of these challenges and resulting tips, you’ll be able to ensure that your next Italian campaign is planned thoroughly and executed according to expectations.

Charlotte is chief whip when it comes to making sure words are in order at ICS-digital. You can get in touch with her directly at