Do You Own Your International Search Program?

One of the outcomes of the Google Farmer/Panda update has been more executives asking the question: “Is my agency doing any of those tactics for my program?”

Interestingly, a byproduct has been a number of multinationals who have realized that they really did not know what their local market agencies were doing and are now panicked trying to find someone to audit these campaigns to learn if they my be banished from the almighty Google.

On top of this awakening, many are also finding out that they may not own their links, campaigns, or even the data associated with these campaigns.

Who Owns Your Paid Search Campaigns & Data?

This is a very frequent problem in paid search where an agency may have managed the client’s account in a master account with an engine or some other collective manner. This happens the most frequently in those few markets where media commissions or other volume based incentives still happen. Since it was managed in the master agency account, there is no way to break out your history and the new account will deliver horrible results.

There are a some agencies that count on this as a tactic to keep clients. Unfortunately, you may not know yours is one of them until you try to move to a new agency or bring the program in-house. A few months back, a large company wanted to aggregate multiple, individually managed, paid programs from four different agencies into a single account centrally managed by their global agency.

All four agencies insisted that it could not be done, that the global agency could not set up Google and Yahoo accounts in this market, and also changing agencies would devastate their campaign since they can’t shift the history. The last part is true, the history does not transfer, but in this case, the new agency had no problem creating local market accounts and aggregating the campaigns.

When the old agencies realized the end was near, all four claimed ownership of the campaign data and ad copy as their asset and refused to give it to the client. In this case, it all worked it out with help from the search engines. But unfortunately, for a smaller company with no leverage,  that would have been a huge challenge to deal with.

I strongly recommend that companies set up their own accounts for their paid search campaigns and/or use a local agency to help, but insist it be your account so that as you change agencies, move from in-house to agency or vise-versa. Creating your own account allows you to maintain the account history and those valuable creative assets.

Who Owns Your Ad Copy?

Just as the ad agencies claimed ad creative as their asset in the previous example, the latest Google update is starting to show problems for multinationals that share their content with marketing partners and more importantly channel partners. Many of these smaller sites rely on your local language content to populate their sites especially in emerging markets.

Additionally, many local market channel partners will translate the larger companies content and use it as their own. This is not a violation; in fact most companies encourage their local partners to do it. However, once the larger company enters the market they run a decent chance of that content not performing. As Google rolls out this change overseas, we will start seeing legitimate companies being impacted because of these “shared content” problems.

If you are sharing your content with local partners or eve your own sites on different domains, you may want to make sure the appropriate sites gets indexed and has the right social signals to give it original creator status which should minimize some of this impact. So make sure you are fixing any crawl issues, keep local market XML site maps current, push news and blog content into the appropriate repositories to ensure the engines find you first.

Who Owns Your Links & Link Curating Process?

OK, that was sort of a trick question. You don’t and can’t really own the links to you unless they are between your own sites. What I mean is — do you know where your local team or agency has acquired them? If your agency is buying links rather than cultivating them naturally, what would be the impact if they stopped paying, or the local search engine demoted the value of those inbound links?

I am starting to see this more and more global sites that were doing well in a local market all of a sudden stop performing. When they diagnose the problem they often find that the local team has changed SEO agencies, reduced their budgets or that country was caught up in a Google crackdown of link SPAM.

While we could chalk this up to just in emerging markets and less-traditional search markets, it often happens in advanced markets like Japan where link buying is still a key staple of a successful SEO program.

Well? Do You Know Who Owns Yours?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you may be in for a number of surprises when you suddenly stop performing, end up on the front page of the local business newspaper or want to change vendors.

I strongly recommend that you add language to your master service agreements with local or global vendors to ensure your sites, data and campaigns are protected from these potential problems. The last thing you need is to be banned from Google, have your campaign held hostage during a critical sales cycle or worse, make local headlines as others have in recent days.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Multinational Search


About The Author: is currently the President of Back Azimuth Consulting and co-author of Search Engine Marketing Inc. His personal blog is

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