Brazil is the fifth largest country by population and the ninth largest by GDP, making it an excellent Latin-American launchpad for your brand. But increasing your organic visibility in new markets can feel like a trek through the Amazon. Here’s what you need to know to get started with SEO in Brazil.

The Brazilian opportunity is yours for the taking. Brazilians are internet savvy. Open to international products. Mobile-first. Early adopters. You already know how to appeal to this kind of customer in the US, so breaking into the Brazilian market should be easy.

But there’s a catch.

The ‘Brazilian’ customer doesn’t exist. You’ll have to be much more specific. The country is made up of five culturally distinct areas, which can be divided into several different consumer groups. And they all value personalized, hyper-local strategies.

For a successful SEO strategy in Brazil, you need to understand who your target customers are, what they’re searching for – and how to wow them.

SEO IN BRAZIL: THE TECHNICAL STUFF

First, some good news.

From a technical perspective, SEO in Brazil should be familiar to most marketers. Just like the US and Europe, Google reigns supreme for search. It has 98% of the market, so no need to learn the technical requirements and intricacies of a new search engine.

Plus, it’s been a while since Google rolled out mobile-first indexing, so your site should already be optimized for mobile. And in Brazil, this is crucial. Brazilians are the most active mobile users in the world, and their mobile internet usage is expected to double in the next five years. If you want your site to be seen, it needs to be mobile ready. And if using an app makes sense to support your web content, even better.

In terms of site structure, a .com/br and a .br domain are both perfectly acceptable. Do whatever works best for your site. But if you’re on the fence, a .br ccTLD domain also comes with an administrative dispute resolution policy to help you ward off cybersquatting.

LOCALIZING IS CRUCIAL

Don’t be fooled. The rest of Latin America may speak Spanish, but Brazilians have their own version of Portuguese. And you can’t get away with an English site either. Only 5% of Brazilians are competent in English – and only 1% are fluent. To gain any traction, you’ll need to localize your website into Portuguese from the outset.

But simply translating keywords isn’t enough. For example, if you’re selling whisky, you may automatically try to target the Portuguese translation ‘uisque.’ But this only receives 22,200 monthly searches, whereas ‘whisky’ (not ‘whiskey’ – there’s a difference) receives 201,000. It’s one of the only times the English variant is the more popular option. So for best results, work with an in-market expert or global agency who will uncover these nuances with local keyword research.

You should also double check your brand and product names for any hidden meanings in Brazilian Portuguese. KIA found this out the hard way. Their popular Besta van – meaning ‘beast’ – failed to take off in Brazil, probably because the word means ‘idiot’ in Portuguese.

It was even worse for Ford when they launched the ‘Pinto’ model in the Brazilian market without realizing this is a childish term for male genitalia. The damage was only somewhat repaired when they renamed the model to ‘Corcel,’ meaning ‘steed.’

Don’t make the same mistake. Work with native-speaking translators for a high-quality result that brings in customers and avoids embarrassment.

BRAZILIAN OR NOT?

If there’s one thing Brazilians love, it’s being Brazilian. To thrive in the market, you’ll need to introduce some Brazilian flavor to your SEO strategy.

This often means partnering with local brands or suppliers, and getting Brazilians on board with your brand. Building authority in a new market is critical for overall success. So place a key focus on a local link acquisition strategy that naturally acquires social shares, links, likes and brand citations. You’ll gain more traction by partnering with high-quality, influential local sites than by going it alone.

But appealing to Brazilian culture as a whole will only get you so far. For your SEO in Brazil to really succeed, you need to be specific with your targeting.

That’s because there are five distinct macro-regions in Brazil – North, North-East, Central-West, South-East and South. Each boasts unique cultural tastes, to the extent that the most popular products vary per region.

For example, customers in the North-East like products tied to local tastes and ingredients. Whereas São Paulo in the South-East has a much more international outlook, meaning you can dial up your global credentials.

Obviously, this will impact which content is more appropriate for the region, and which keywords you should target. Carefully research your target customer before launch. Are they urban or rural? Local or international? Are they from a specific region? Only when you know your customer well can you choose the best keywords. And if you’re not sure, an in-market expert or global digital agency will help you uncover customer profile specifics.

Google Trends is also a good tool to use. It breaks down the most popular search terms by region. So if you want to target a specific location, you can create content that appeals directly to the customer values there.

FINAL THOUGHT

Technically, SEO in Brazil is very similar to SEO in the US and Europe. But linguistically and culturally, it’s a world apart. So take the time to get to know your target customer. Who are they, where are they from, where will they search for your products? Then, optimize accordingly.