At Agency.com we have the privilege of collaborating with international brand marketers, each with a unique set of challenges in communicating their messages across dozens of languages and cultures. One client is a global property manager with operations in sixty countries. Another is a leading global insurance provider with over 42,000 employees worldwide. This certainly presents challenges for SEO and requires a pragmatic approach to take your wins where you can get them.
In his Industrial Strength column post last week, Tony Wright talked about some of the structural issues that site managers and IT groups in large organizations face when doing things which on the surface appear to be straightforward or worth the effort. I would add that these challenges are significantly magnified by the issues of internationalization.
Global content management systems
The web initiatives of the parent firm are generally motivated towards efficiency in messaging and maintenance. We constantly struggle with embedded issues in content management systems that are designed to make it easy for local marketers to manage their web content. Some of the CMS deployments we have seen work well, others are complete train wrecks. If you are in really tight with your client, maybe you can be a part of the team that is tasked with choosing that content management system – there are so many critical issues that come with this decision.
It is generally accepted that SEO best practices require you to put German content on YourDoman.de and Italian content on YourDomain.it. Depending on CMS and DNS and other back end issues, breaking content into country specific sites can end up being “effort prohibitive.” Analytics can also get challenging if the package you use is not properly configured to show both country-specific and global data. This can present a nightmare to your information architects when they are working on parsing shared versus unique content and infrastructure.
I think this is a battle worth trying to fight. As Yahoo’s David Roth discussed in Making The Business Case For SEO, this is a place to make that business case argument. If your core goal is to get your content to make top matches in Google.de or Google.it, you had better host that content on country specific TLDs.
Generally speaking, translation issues are surmountable. How do we cope with mirroring content when there are dozens of versions of English or Spanish content that are country specific? The international brand marketer wants that content to be substantively similar, for ease of maintenance and clarity of brand message. The optimizer wants that content to be substantively dissimilar, so we don’t end up with the problems that cloned content inevitably creates. The right answer is the difficult one – content that is in the same language and is deployed across multiple URLs needs to be different. Or, your information architects and content developers need to be able to find a way to link to the same page of content from different points in the web property.
These are just some of the challenges that face global brand marketers looking for optimization. We could go on about country specific hosting, local link popularity development, language specific keyword research and so many other factors that enter into success. One thing is for certain, global marketers seeking top placement in search results must be flexible in their approach and must be prepared to go the extra mile to get the results they seek.
Jonathan Ashton is the VP of SEO and Web Analytics for Agency.com a global interactive marketing firm based in New York with offices worldwide. He runs the company’s SEO practice which is centered in Chicago. Contact Jonathan and share networks through LinkedIn. The Industrial Strength column appears Mondays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.