With Singapore-based Moneysmart’s new funding round secured, the next step for Vinod Nair and his team will be selecting a new market for the company to grow into. The options mooted are Thailand, Hong Kong, or the Philippines. This is exciting news, and I can’t wait to see what the MoneySmart team come up with for their next phase of growth.

I have six observations and tips to share with the team that will hopefully help make the process of opening up a new market more smooth, and help decide which of the three has the best growth prospects. Let the inbound marketing machine roll on.

1. Use acquired properties’ SEO authority

If MoneySmart expands into a new market via an acquisition, the target’s website should be redirected to the new domain.

For Indonesia, Kreditaja.com was acquired but the website was taken down with no redirect put in place. This is a shame because the original SEO authority of Kreditaja is lost.

The new domain Duitpintar has to rebuild the authority that Kreditaja had already accumulated through its lifetime. This isn’t impossible, but some of it can’t be regained quickly even with a large budget.

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One of Google’s ranking factors is domain age, and since Duitpintar is a young domain, it simply has to wait for some time to pass before it reaches the same age that Kreditaja was at when it was taken down. The best option here is probably to implement a site-wide 301 redirect from the acquired website (like Kreditaja) to the new domain (like Duitpintar). Special allowances have to be made if there are pages within the site that rank well for particular interests.

For instance, searches for credit card comparison frequently surface on the Moneysmart Credit Card page. Even for niches that MoneySmart is not active in such as business loans, financial portals are already utilising inner pages instead of homepages. For such powerful inner pages, a 301 redirect must be sure to take users to the corresponding page on the new website.

You wouldn’t want a redirect to break, but if a blind sitewide redirect is implemented, www.oldwebsite.com/creditcards now goes to www.newwebsite.com/creditcards irrespective of the actual new page name. If the new credit card page name is instead www.newwebsite.com/credit-cards, then you have lost a significant amount of search traffic.

2. For gaining a foothold, decide between English or local language first

When entering a new market, the issue of which target market to address is always a challenge.

Within Bangkok, Manila and Hong Kong today, a significant fraction of the residents speak primarily English. On average, the English speakers have more disposable income. Fortunately, we don’t have to guess which niche is more promising.

For instance, below are the monthly keyword search volumes for various mortgage related terms in Thailand.

[Warning: Math alert] The highest-volume keyword in English is ‘mortgage calculator’ at 880, which is barely 10 per cent of the highest-volume Thai keyword of ‘home loans’.

If we assume that ‘home loans’ converts to mortgage sales at two per cent and is worth SG$500 (US$357) per sale, this means that we can expect a maximum of SG$81,000 (US$57,870) from this keyword alone.

For the top English keyword to match this, it would have to convert at around 11 per cent and each sale needs to be worth SG$1,000 (US$714) as an example. This is an extremely difficult target to hit.

Even without knowing actual conversion rates and per-sale values, it is clear that the Thai-language market is much more attractive. If we run a similar analysis for the Philippines and Hong Kong, we can get a good grip on the relative merits of each market.

Keyword Monthly search vol Suggested bid (S$) SEO difficulty
mortgage calculator 880 1.48 0.79
mortgage rates 40 13.31 0.72
home loan calculator 90 3.74 0.51
home loan 110 0.75 0.61
mortgage comparison 10 0.55
remortgage 10 6.57 0.54
home loan rates 10 0.58
best mortgages 10 0.67
best home loans 10 0.56
mortgage rates comparison 10 3.53 0.7
home loans comparison 10 0.47
TOTAL 1190 4.90 0.61
Keyword (Local) Keyword (Eng) Monthly vol Suggested bid SEO difficulty
สินเชื่อบ้าน Home loans 8,100 S$0.33 0.41
อัตราดอกเบี้ยเงินกู้บ้าน Home loan rates 140 S$0.11 0.52
สินเชื่อบ้านที่ดีที่สุด Best home loans 10 S$0.03 0.21
คํานวณสินเชื่อบ้าน Calculate home loan 1,600 S$0.12 0.35
อัตราดอกเบี้ยบ้าน Interest rates on home 1,600 S$0.13 0.53
ดอกเบี้ยบ้าน Interest Rates 6,600 S$0.15 0.37
กู้บ้าน Home loan 1,600 S$0.20 0.37
คํานวณดอกเบี้ยบ้าน The interest rate home 1,000 S$0.41 0.29
คํานวนเงินผ่อนบ้าน Calculate installment house 480 S$0.39 0.32
คํานวณ ผ่อนบ้าน Calculation of mortgage payments 3,600 S$0.46 0.32
วงเงินกู้บ้าน Home loans 50 S$0.25 0.35
การ จำนอง บ้าน กับ ธนาคาร The Home Mortgage Bank 70 S$0.46 0.21
วิธีคํานวนดอกเบี้ยบ้าน How to calculate interest on home 140 S$0.57 0.35
การคํานวนดอกเบี้ยบ้าน To calculate interest on home 110 S$0.36 0.3
อัตราดอกเบี้ยซื้อบ้าน Interest rates on home purchase 140 S$0.18 0.52

3. Link to the new property from MoneySmart liberally

MoneySmart is a very authoritative site. I know from personal experience that all this was built up organically with time and consistent work. This is what makes it hard for MoneySmart’s competitors to dethrone it from Google search. This authority can and should be shared with the MoneySmart subsidiaries outside Singapore.

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This can be achieved with footer links, social links and blog post links. I don’t think that these links should be done merely for search engines. There are legitimate reasons why you might want to insert links to your sister sites in the footer, such as helping users navigate your services better and building user trust in the smaller subsidiary sites by showcasing them on the main site. Blog and social links are especially useful.

Google’s advice for webmasters is that good content is the best for earning clicks, and the place where a site’s best material is usually found is on the blog.

Also, social shares are the currency of quality. Linking generously to sister sites is a quick and easy way for MoneySmart to pass on SEO authority to them.

4. Become competitive quickly in the niche of trusted local financial advice

The point above leads to the subject of trusted financial advice. This has been MoneySmart’s traditional strength, and it’s something that can be leveraged.

Since the blog is already well-known, we are faced with a choice immediately: Should we continue using it for content in different languages or put local content on the same domain as the local site like blog.duitpintar.com?

  • If Moneysmart: Fill the vacant niche of trusted financial advice with translations of Moneysmart content and link the local site to MoneySmart blog.
  • If local-site: Use HREF lang tags in HTML or XML to help Google serve up the most relevant content (if it comes in English and local languages).

For Duitpintar, the choice has already been made. However, if the next choices are Hong Kong or the Philippines, the popularity of English means that using the MoneySmart blog alone could be a viable and easier option.

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For a more nuanced discussion of the differences perceived by users between using a country-code top-level domain (CC TLD), subdomain (en.duitpintar.com) or a subfolder (duitpintar.com/en), check out this detailed study on Moz.

5. Be aware of search engine market share in local markets

Close followers of MoneySmart may know this as well as I. Yahoo! syndicates content from quality sources and MoneySmart is a provider to Yahoo! Singapore.

If there is a market where Yahoo! is popular, it should be worth looking into as an opportunity. Among the three markets, Hong Kong is the only one where Yahoo! has a healthy market share of around 13 per cent.

This figure falls to a negligible two per cent or so in Thailand and the Philippines.

Hong Kong search engine market share

Image Credit: Clicky.com 

6. Research relevant niches in local markets to decide priority

The three markets under consideration are wildly divergent in terms of per-sale value and keyword volumes.

Among local languages, the most expensive keyword for SEM in Hong Kong is “抵押貸款利率” (mortgage rates) at SG$24 (US$17); while in Thailand the keyword วิธีคํานวนดอกเบี้ยบ้าน” (how to calculate interest on your home) costs a mere SG$0.57 (US$0.41). Tagalog (Filipino language) keyword data was not available in the Google Keyword Planner so I couldn’t find similar data for the Philippines.

Conclusion

At this point, it seems as though Hong Kong is the clear front-runner in terms of market maturity and the prime candidate for expansion. My confidence is reinforced by the aggregate keyword data in English for the three markets. I found the following keywords that have high purchase intent through Google keyword planner.

For a funded startup such as MoneySmart seeking to expand quickly, Hong Kong seems like the best option on the table. Not only are monthly searches highest of all the candidates, Adwords bids are also the highest, signifying a healthy, competitive market.

The Philippines has a ridiculously low Adwords suggested bid. It is likely due to the highly attractive government-backed mortgage scheme. Advertisers see no point in buying ads for a clientele that doesn’t exist.

Thailand is promising, but the market size seems too small relative to Hong Kong.

This analysis is for mortgages, but the methodology should hold for credit cards and insurance as well.

If MoneySmart can get the evergreen blog posts translated to Traditional Chinese and ink a syndication deal with Yahoo Hong Kong, this should serve as an excellent springboard from which to launch its platform, and start competing in yet another Asian financial hub.

The views expressed here are of the author, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, please send us an email to writers[at]e27[dot]co