Overview of the French Search Market

We know it; in Search, it is essen­tial to think local­ly for a glob­al cam­paign to be suc­cess­ful. Every mar­ket is dif­fer­ent and has its own specifics, and under­stand­ing them is key in order to max­i­mize per­for­mance and con­ver­sion. In this arti­cle, I thought it would be inter­est­ing to look at my native mar­ket, France, after hav­ing spent more than 10 years in the search sec­tor there.

A big and fast grow­ing search market

Sec­ond econ­o­my in Europe, France also has the third biggest online pop­u­la­tion just behind the UK and Ger­many, but an Inter­net growth of 425% vs 230% in UK and 170% in Ger­many. Mobile is also extreme­ly strong in France, with a pen­e­tra­tion rate of 109%, and 58 min­utes spent using mobile Inter­net every day. As in most coun­tries in Europe, Google is the most impor­tant search engine in France by a rather sig­nif­i­cant mar­gin, being used by more than 95% of the online pop­u­la­tion (Source: Inter­net and Search Engine Usage by Coun­try) – and some oth­er search engines, such as Yahoo/Bing or even the new Qwant, com­plete the list.

Chal­lenges of the French mar­ket in search

Because the French search mar­ket­ing sec­tor is grow­ing fast, to be suc­cess­ful it is absolute­ly crit­i­cal to be aware of some spe­cif­ic cul­tur­al aspects.

Edi­to­r­i­al challenges

From an edi­to­r­i­al point of view, the first thing to take into account is that French words are, on aver­age, 25% longer than their Eng­lish equiv­a­lents, which makes it chal­leng­ing to write search ads that fit into the Google AdWords char­ac­ter lim­it com­pared to the Eng­lish lan­guage (lim­it of 70 char­ac­ters in search ad copies). Indeed, many of the most com­mon words are longer in French. The punc­tu­a­tion rules are also dif­fer­ent: for instance, there is a space before excla­ma­tion or ques­tion marks or a space before and after “:” in French but not in English.

Spe­cif­ic French culture

Forty-three per­cent of the French peo­ple make most of their search­es in French, and 93% of them pre­fer French web­sites. It is there­fore imper­a­tive to trans­late thor­ough­ly every cam­paign – stud­ies have shown that the French are very sen­si­tive to gram­mat­i­cal mis­takes in ads, so an approx­i­mate trans­la­tion isn’t an option. And avoid a “word by word”translation and trans­late in context.

Then, you have to adapt the mes­sag­ing to the for­mal gram­mat­i­cal mode. To sim­pli­fy, there are two ways to trans­late “you” in French. “Tu” is more used to com­mu­ni­cate with a young audi­ence. “Vous” is more appro­pri­ate for most mes­sag­ing and is seen as more polite and respect­ful. But, have a look at the graph below for more details!

french search market

Image source: Los Ange­les Times

What about you? Do you have any tips in order for your search cam­paigns to per­form well in France? Do not hes­i­tate to share your ideas in the com­ments, and feel free to con­tin­ue the con­ver­sa­tion on Twit­ter @gble­con