Nearly two years ago, I wrote about creating a Global Search Center of Excellence and since have had the opportunity to keynote a number of company search summits, conference panels and then last week at the International Search Summit at SMX, I spoke for an entire session on how and why you should use your Center of Excellence to manage a thriving Search Ecosystem.
The interest and adoption of this global management approach has been far greater than I could have imagined from a single article.
Maintaining Your Global Search Ecosystem
We in search often joke that search is the center of the corporate infrastructure. It is arguably one of the few marketing or business disciplines, which truly spans multiple areas of responsibility.
Accordingly, it needs to find the right balance in order to be successful. It is when these items are out of balance that our search programs wither and die.
From an SEO perspective, one of the greatest ways to scale SEO in a global organization is to make changes to the site infrastructure and deploy them globally.
Recently, a European-multinational rolled out a new site where SEO best practices had been integrated into the templates. Previously, each country had their own site version and used local agencies to optimize the site. For about 75% of their tier 1 keywords, they had no representation in most markets.
After the new site launched, less than 10% of their tier 1 keywords did not perform in each market. Achieving this outcome did not require any efforts by the local markets but just to accept the templates provided and ensure that the localization activities were done correctly.
To achieve this level of success, it is critical that the IT and content teams understand how Search Engines collect and score data and ensure that they enable the infrastructure to comply with those factors.
One example I showed at the conference was another company that has 24 search vendors around the world and all of them ultimately audited the same set of 100 pages related to Tier 1 words in the various markets. When the audits came back into IT, they nearly all had the same change requests and the only difference was changes in messages and keywords.
After seeing the gross inefficiency, this company now separates audit responsibilities by page templates. Each agency audits and provides change recommendations to IT. The changes are made to the template then deployed globally.
This has resulted in the ability to audit the entire global site in the original budget that would only allow 100 pages per country. The local agencies can focus their language and local market knowledge where it helps the most – on the local content.
Keyword Management & Reporting
I am appalled by the lack of importance put on keyword management. I am not talking about keyword research. Most multinational companies have no shortage of words. In fact, they often have too many which is why the SEO side often just focuses on a handful of keywords.
Another global company had no insight into the performance of brand and category keywords in the local markets. They “assumed” that everything was handled by an assortment of agencies and marketing resources.
Due to aggressive ROI goals, nearly all of the local markets were only monitoring and working on branded terms in both paid and organic search since those had the highest conversion rates. There was nearly no focus on non-branded category terms let alone key long tail terms in any market.
A quick missed opportunity matrix demonstrated that each market could increase traffic and leads by over 20% if they just focused on 20 of their Tier 1 keywords.
In another company, we found there were over 500k searches in English for the product names of older products they no longer sold but were still in active use by consumers.By creating 50 landing pages to offer upgrades, accessories or service, they captured a large share of that traffic, increasing revenue by $400,000 over a six month period.
Content & Social Media
A critical mistake companies make is to not look at their content regionally for ways to scale it especially for search.
Yes, they agonize over local variations, localization and translation issues but there are huge pockets of opportunities to come from looking across common languages for scale.
For example, when I was at Global Strategies we often looked at similar languages like English, German and Spanish for cross-border opportunities. In the chart below, we identified 20 common keyword phrases across the main German speaking markets.
There were a lot of local nuances but these twenty phrases had enough similarities where we could share landing pages, PPC creative and most importantly, localization costs.
Each was able to then focus budget not on these 20 pages but on pages other than these. The entire process not only got us in market faster, but saved the company nearly $25k in localization costs across multiple marketing tactics and content.
This is happening now at an even faster rate with Social Media. Few companies are sharing content for videos, Twitter or even Facebook templates. Too many companies do not have a global Facebook strategy and are wholesale sending valuable Web traffic to Facebook without any strategy of what to present at the different interactions.
Center Of Excellence
The Center of Excellence (COE) is where the information is generates, maintained and shared with the wider group to create consistency and reduce the learning curve for individuals with know prior knowledge of search. The COE is not for micromanaging people or process, but to simply provide best practice guidance for those regions where the search role is 1/20th of a person’s time.
In addition to the COE, many companies roll out a “Search Council.” The Search Council should have a charter of maximizing the global performance of the search program in the organization.
The councils’ focus is on improving the content creation workflow practices, compliance levels, policies, support and awareness, and measurement across the program.
This is done through varied people and skills that promote collaboration and best practice usage across focus areas to drive incremental business results. It is even more important to open the council to stakeholders around the world as well as ensure participation by the localization team.
In another example to demonstrate the importance of a COE, a large European Multinational company with a highly decentralized management system told me they did not provide any assistance to the local markets since they would reject it to do search their own way.
Each country is responsible for their own marketing, budgets and process as long as they operate within corporate branding and messaging guidelines. A survey of these thirty-six local markets found the local markets desperately wanted direction and assistance from corporate but also had a high level or resentment and frustration because they did not.
Based on the survey and follow up council meetings they established a COE that created a uniform process, consistent reporting and technical and content guidelines that can be adjusted by the local markets. Post adoption of the COE, both local and global search performance has increased significantly with little resistance from the local markets.
While nurturing a Search Ecosystem in your organization doesn’t guarantee success, it will force the alignment of varied skills that have a significant impact on the overall performance of your program.
Worst case, you improve your organization’s workflow, communication, and performance measurement to achieve better speed to market, consistency, and reduced complexity that results in highly successful outcomes at scale with reduced effort and budget.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.