First things first – Yes, I speak Norwegian and I work with Norwegian SEO. I even lived in Norway for 15+ years and speak it as a native, even though my first name is Spanish and my last name is Serbian.
Who would’ve thunk it?
As a digital marketer, I’ve been lucky enough to understand how a niche language has the potential to become a niche market – as long as there is a demand for services.
So when it comes to the Norwegian SEO niche – it’s definitely worth taking a look at. There’s two main reasons for that:
- Purchase power
- Tech savviness of average Norwegians
Both are ridiculously high.
Therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise that both Norwegian companies and startups in different countries wants to cater to the Norwegian audience, especially through SEO.
I’ve worked with Norwegian SEO on four different projects. Three of them where Berlin startups targeting a Norwegian audience.
My experience on all projects was that these Berlin startups tend to have a clear understanding of SEO principles – but often put their own country’s SEO principles into practice.
This collides with the way Norwegians use the internet, and it collides with the methods of experienced Norwegian SEOs.
So in this article, I would like to shed some light on the important things to keep in mind when working with SEO for the Norwegian market. Keep reading.
Norwegian Internet Behavior
You’ll see that the main differences you’ll face when working with Norwegian SEO are cultural.
For SEOs working in their own market, working with culture-specific web behaviour might come naturally – or subconsciously. For international SEOs, this is a big aspect of their work.
Norway is a highly digitized country, and has been for many years now. This has affected how they behave on the Internet.
Let me demonstrate this with some visuals.
This is the daily internet usage rate in Norway in 2016, by age group.
Back in 2013, Norway digitized all books and made them available as free downloads.
The Norwegian government were pioneers in rolling out their public services to its citizens.
Over time, this has enabled Norwegians to get used to simplifying their lives through online solutions.
This is strongly reflected in ecommerce, where Norwegians and their Nordic counterparts belong to a demographic where price is the least important thing.
Getting the lowest price is important for only 38 per cent of shoppers when choosing which site to buy a product from.
Other things are more important, for example good user experience, trustworthiness, transparency and support if problems arise.
So what exactly is deemed as good service and good experience for Norwegians visiting your site?
It all comes down to how your website looks and feels like.
On page Factors Important To Norwegians
How humans react to something they see online is for the most part the same way they react when they see anything else in life.
It’s all about the preconceived notions, taste and preferences that each individual has, and how anything they encounter in life caters to it.
Norwegians love to standardize.
Seriously, that’s a big part of being Norwegian: Make something effective, apply that to everything.
So being a country where even 82% of people aged 55 and older connects to the internet every single day, means Norwegians have been exposed to the web very early on. Over the years, this has created several online behaviorisms that reflects the Norwegian culture of transparency, being honest, and truthful.
In on-page SEO, this means:
- Avoid keyword stuffing that promotes one single thing
- Do not sound like a sales person in your copy
- Tone down the usage of words like cheap, today, now
Do not fall into the trap of optimizing your CTR with titles and description that uses any of the above mentioned items.
My experience working with German startups employing German SEO tactics for Norwegian sites has made me see some strange things.
- Keyword targeted anchor-text footer pages
- use of icons(arrows, check marks) in meta titles/descriptions
- Number of bought links from almost any .no domain as a KPI
I understand it from a German perspective though.
Something that may have had a great effect on German users historically will make a supervisor hold on to that, in search of having some kind of KPI’s to integrate into their day-to-day activities. They do have to report to upper management, but I’ve seen it myself how this reporting becomes a tedious process for everyone involved when the desired results takes time to present itself.
From the users perspective, though, it gets more serious. What works for German users may have the opposite effect for Norwegians. Instead of getting a user’s attention to convert, it gets a user’s attention to dislike your brand.
Or even worse, not take it serious.
The actual site content is equally important as well. Here are some visuals to illustrate the difference between two of the biggest e-commerce companies in Norway, and the biggest e-commerce company in Germany trying to get a foot in the Norwegian market:
Cubus.no, above and below the fold
Lindex.no, above and below the fold
Zalando.no, above and below the fold
We all see what’s going on here.
You don’t have to write long-form content below the fold on your homepage to get organic traffic in Norway.
Use visually stunning materials to tell your story instead and focus your long-form content elsewhere on your site. It just does not resonate with Norwegians using heavy text usage, when the standard is visual.
Norwegian Link Building Principles
In recent years, Norwegian bloggers have created a pretty nice revenue through content marketing. They can thank advertisers in search of new ways to communicate with the younger demographic which – due to the fast-changing digital landscape – is even more fragmented than before.
The biggest bloggers in Norway earn between 50 000 – 80 000 NOK per post. That means blogging – in Norway – is an important ground of exchange for bloggers and advertisers alike.
The amount of traffic and social engagement some of the biggest bloggers have, makes also for an authoritative domain which of course Norwegian SEOs wants to get involved with.
But for international SEOs that would like to target the Norwegian market, content marketing is a foggy landscape filled with algorithmic mines.
I feel this is a topic many SEOs have wanted some insight on due to these unclear regulations, but Norwegian bloggers themselves are generally not informed enough about how Google could potentially penalize their site – and the advertisers – through the backlinks they are creating.
Bear with me through my poor graphic design skills as I try to give you an example.
In Norway, Sponsored Content Is Always Marked As Such
In Norway, it is common for bloggers to mark content marketing posts with a “Sponsored Content” tag, clearly visible for the users. They don’t do this with Google in mind, but rather because the web guidelines of The Consumer Ombudsman and the Market Council in Norway addresses website owners to make this clear, in order to bring transparency to users.
Norway – believe it or not – is a country that has public records on how much your salary income and taxes are. So transparency is a big thing.
But for Google, straight up selling or buying links that pass PageRank will get you in trouble.
Google have always made this clear: Selling links (or entire advertorial pages with embedded links) that pass PageRank violates their quality guidelines, and they take action on such violations.
Google investigates links with a rel=follow attribute, and if the corresponding content is marked with “Sponsored Content”, chances are that the alarms will go off.
This could penalize the site and the visibility for both the blogs and even you.
I asked Trond Lyngbø, Founder at Search Planet AS & Search Engine Land columnist about this:
— Trond Lyngbø (@TrondLyngbo) October 7, 2015
For those of you still not speaking Norwegian (what are you waiting for?), Trond says the same: Make sure the backlink you get are of the nofollow kind.
Be extra careful with the backlinks you build. A good percentage of Norwegian bloggers follow the guidelines of the Consumer Ombudsman, so convincing the blogger you are in contact with to not display the “Sponsored Content” tag is very hard. The Consumer Ombudsman could take affair into their own hands, and the blogger who took money to mention you with a backlink could end up with a hefty fine to pay.
On the other hand, a great majority of Norwegian bloggers are simply not familiar with Google’s guidelines, so for a lot of cases, this results in a great deal of backlinks marked as “sponsored”, and with a follow attribute on top of that. This could very well end up in penalization for these bloggers, making your brand (and themselves) invisible for searchers.
So in order to keep the alarms silent, a rel=nofollow attribute should be implemented on all content marketing backlinks.And while you’re at it: Teach the Scandinavian blogger community a thing or two about SEO as well. It will benefit us all.
Doing SEO for the Norwegian market is not as different compared to any other market, since the SEO do’s and dont’s applies universally for everybody when trying to obtain more visibility and clicks.
But when it comes to how users interact with your site, that’s where these regional differences is a deal breaker. How well a user converts on your site, shares a blog post or simply recommend you to others depends on how well your site reflects the online behaviour of Norwegians.
The real difference is there – and it’s up to you to choose how you go about it.