At SES London I was on a panel on Managing SEO for Global Web Sites. For the first time ever we had a standing room only session. Nearly 100% of the attendees were managing multi-country web sites. I was asked by a number of attendees if I could write a quick primer on how to effectively manage global search programs.
Managing global sites across dozens of markets is a very complex process and can’t be summed up in a single article; the following are the key elements essential to the success of any global program.
Have an Executive Sponsor
The right executive sponsor has always been one of the key factors of success in all of the successful projects I have participated in. The executive sponsor not only has to strike fear in the hearts and minds of the local market partners but they must be a mediator and a problem solver. Many times you require help from other areas that requires the right level of management savvy to motivate them to participate.
Ideally this should be the global CEO or CMO since they do have the authority over the geographies. In many cases the executive sponsor is in the HQ market and no operational or fiscal responsibility for the global outcome, which marginalizes their ability to motivate and/or force deployment.
Develop a Search Center of Excellence (COE)
The COE should focus on improving the content creation workflow practices, compliance levels, uniform best practices, policies, awareness, and measurement across the program. It is also highly focused on building a culture of search marketing excellence that will have a measurable impact on the bottom line.
Your COE should bring together varied people and skills that promote collaboration and best practice usage to drive incremental business results. For more on developing an effective Search Center of Excellence [http://searchenginewatch.com/3635751] read this earlier article.
I am always amazed when companies don’t coordinate and rally all their web and search efforts around the world. In every project I have ever worked on I bring all of the roles together and many of them have never met let alone work together to make the site a better search and consumer experience. Set up meetings and notify all the marketing, sales, technology, communications and brand teams around the world that you are having it and get your executive sponsor to “encourage” them to attend. Once they do you will find people already working or interested in search all around the world.
Leverage Force Multipliers
These are anything you do once and have it impact all of the sites. Often the easiest and the most effective activity is making your site templates search friendly and push those optimized templates out to all of the countries. In many cases these templates will have near perfect on page optimization elements thereby eliminating the need for those efforts in countries. This is very helpful in markets where there are no web resources or budgets to make search related changes.
Building on optimized templates, integration of search best practices into the localization process can help with economies of scale and reduction of costs. Larger companies are using keyword research and searcher demand to help prioritize content. For example, one large multinational recently told me they were using global keyword research to see what phrases globally had the highest demand across the most countries. This allowed them to reuse content more effectively by multiple countries rather than each doing their own localization and duplicating efforts.
Manage your Local Sites With Google Webmaster Tools
If you have not done so already, and especially if you deploy a .com portal for your global site it is critical you set Google’s Geographical Targeting. This Webmaster Tools feature will allow you to tell Google that content segments of your site are for a specific country.
My recommendation is to set up a master global account and manage it centrally so that you know it has been set correctly and also monitor messages and performance globally.
Measure Performance with Scorecards
Global scorecards are a very effective way to “motivate” local managers to participate in your search efforts. These can be as simple as monitoring traffic and/or ranking performance and encouraging improvement to very specific goals and objectives that everyone is measured against.
One of my favorite Scorecards that we used at Global Strategies was called the “Always On Scorecard” which mandated, for a set number of words, that each market/brand needs to either maintain a top 5 organic listing or ensure they have allocated sufficient paid search budget to achieve 80% share of voice in paid search impressions/clicks. This scorecard ensures that words that are the most important are “always represented” when someone searches. When set up correctly, each country can choose their own keyword phrases for the program, but the same number of words in each market allows for uniform measurement.
This sort of scorecard methodology fosters a workflow management focusing on highest value keywords and pages first resulting in a monthly “to do” list of pages to be audited for optimization or addition to a PPC campaign.
It is a lot of work to manage a global program but the more you can make it uniform, measure it and provide best practices to markets with little to no resources the more effective and greater opportunities for success you will have.