How To Manage Expectations When Kicking Off A Global Search Program

In my last article, we reviewed my 5 Best Practices for Kicking off a Global Search Program. This article generated a number of questions from people about Tips#1 “Setting Expectations” and Tip #2: “Reporting Structures and Cadence”, so we will drill down into them this time.

Without a doubt, setting the mutual expectations for a global or local search project are key to success. Unfortunately, during the honeymoon phase of any new client/vendor relationship, everyone is trying to get things going so they often don’t really “hear” what the other is saying, since there is a typical onboarding process that often gets in the way of the mutual alignment.

I strongly recommend that both sides sit down and discuss the following to ensure they are on the same page. Seems obvious, but I am amazed at how many times the both parties tune out the real expectations of the other only to have to part ways unhappy down the road.

Align Reports To Metrics Used To Build The Business Case

In order to hire the agency, build the team or even spend time on a global or local language project, you had to develop a business case to get the funding and allocate the resources.

Once the business case has been presented, it is often filed away until the time for the executive performance review to fund the next phase of the project or defend remaining budget from cannibalization.

Agencies should ask their client for the calculations that were used to justify funding and develop at least a quarterly accounting of performance to show how you are trending towards those goals.

The following is a template I have used to align current performance to the business case and by looking closer we can see that while we had significant improvement, we were still 60% off of the projected traffic goal.

Realized Opportunity Matrix


  • Keyword 1 we can see a 141% gain over where we started, but we have only realized 18% of the opportunity we projected.
  • Keyword 2 is the champ, we captured 6% more of the opportunity than we anticipated, netting 17,000% improvement overall.
  • Keyword 3 reaped a 63,000% improvement in traffic and yet we are still missing 68% of the projected opportunity.

As finance, procurement and overzealous MBA’s get involved in agency selection and retention, showing large traffic increases in not enough – you need to demonstrate business case goal attainment.

What Are The Unspoken Performance Metrics?

One of the simplest things to monitor is improvement over the previous vendor or in-house team. I once had the experience of working with a PPC company that took over a campaign from a client doing it in-house.

It took them three months to get the campaign back to the level of the clients performance when they managed it. They were fired a month later since the client could achieve the same results as the agency. The agency was frustrated since the client never stated the goal was to improve significantly over the in-house team’s performance.

It is sometimes hard to detect these goals, but often they can come out over dinner or in a casual environment any “other goal” or perceptions that a client may have over performance. To protect each other from the “unspoken” include  common sense goals and well documented KPI improvement specifications to keep everyone honest.

What Are They Able To Measure?

The absolute biggest challenge you will have globally is the ability to measure anything.

Until recently, there were not many options for analytics in many emerging markets, especially where there are bandwidth challenges like in India and China. Too many times corporate teams have dictated local KPI’s and the market has no way to measure due to a lack of tools and/or resources to generate reports.

Do your homework and generate a grid of which analytics tools are being used by each market.

This grid can be used to identify contacts, data integration challenges and most importantly if there is any data available. You should develop this preferably before engagement, but at least immediately after since the clock will be ticking for those performance gains you promised.

What Is The Reporting Structure For The Country/Region/Corporate?

One of the biggest surprises I received when I was leaving my former agency and met with all the executives to reassure them they were in good hands with the remaining team, was the complete lack of awareness by senior executives into their search programs.

We did great reports and showed the value of the hard work on both sides, yet few of these executives were really aware of how well we were working. This was especially true when there is centralized management of the search program and a lot of information gets filtered and condensed into smaller fragments to distribute to the regions or regions into headquarters.

When you start the program review organizational charts and “report flows” for the organization to see where the information does flow and where it should flow. Where possible review previous reports.

Setting Up A Reporting Cadence

At one company where I worked, it took twelve days to do the monthly digital performance report. My report contained 10 slides of “goodness” showing conversions, opportunities, challenges and next steps for generating more goodness. I was heartbroken when I learned that my work and all those prep reviews resulted in a single slide towards the end of the final “executive-level”  deck.

Even worse, my regional and local market reports were “never” integrated since they were always a week late for the aggregated reporting and was entered into the following month. I just “assumed” that the local markets had the same reporting tempo as corporate.

Just like you need to understand the reporting chain of command, so must you understand the reporting cadence so that you can generate the right actionable information for the right people to see in a timely and relevant manner.

Sharing The Information & Goodness

In the end, performance and status reports are simply to keeping everyone informed, on task and moving the various needles in the right direction to keep everyone happy. Try to move away from long presentations and complex advanced pivot table worksheets that no one ever reviews.

One final suggestion is to leverage a screen capture program and spend five minutes highlighting the key data points, next steps and things you need management help with and video format.

A busy executive will spend the time watching a short video that gives them the top facts and actions. This also makes it easy to distribute to far-flung offices and executives who can use a break from reviewing slides and charts.

Take your time to do the discovery up front to make sure you are solving the problem and exceeding the client’s KPI’s and you will be guaranteed a long and prosperous relationships in every country you work.

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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