Rather than one of the typical year-end/new year predictions, I am going to use this space to rant about our industry and some obvious fails that should not be happening with the level of maturity Global Search has achieved.
I see far too many problems, organizational dysfunction, and hear lame excuses and failures by companies and agencies alike that can easily be overcome if we just stop and think about the end game, figuring out ways to work more effectively.
In 2010, I wrote in this column that 2010 is the Year Global Search Marketing has Arrived!, but I think that may have been wishful thinking.
Yes, we have came a long way; and yes, during 2010 and 2011 and early 2012 global was added to conferences, many articles were written, and even a new book, Global Search Engine Marketing, from Anne Kennedy and Kristjan Mar Hauksson was published.
Even with all this new best practice information, we are still making basic mistakes and unfairly blaming the medium as the reason for our failures. Maybe we peaked too soon, since there are few occasional articles about global, and sessions have all but disappeared from the larger conferences as a topic at a time where we need them the most.
At the most recent International Search Summit after SMX New York, I spoke with a few companies who wanted to take on the world but did not want to invest in the effort. Why are so many companies under the assumption that they are somehow owed the right to be global with a single site or dozens of clones of the same site apparently representing each of the markets?
Global search is hard work, and with the right focus and organization, you can conquer the beast and reap the rewards. Small companies struggle with the expense and resources of global expansion while large companies struggle with dysfunction and overworked IT teams.
All companies need to work smarter in their global efforts to leverage scale, planning and communication is to get incremental wins to demonstrate the potential to management. The following are a collection of common failures I see and recommendations on how to improve and maximize your opportunities globally.
Failure: Lack Of Communication Between Business Units & Countries
This is the biggest waste of resources since it creates a lot of redundant work as well as time spent solving problems that have already been solved. Simple sharing of best practices, conference notes, tools and completed work will save the local teams a lot of time and effort.
I previously wrote about the case where a multinational company that spent 65% of their global SEO budget with agencies that conducted 21 separate country site audits before we stopped them. This was a massive waste of resources since the sites used the same base CMS and templates with only the language being different.
When we matched the audits to each other, nearly all the findings were the same except for some that were done on the wrong site and others done by incompetent SEO’s using outdated factors.
Win: Sharing Site & Template Audits
Making the previous failure into a win, one should share the master site audit with all the agencies, indicating that any problems on the main site would be the same on the local sites.
This allows the agencies or local teams to focus on those things that are truly different, like keyword inclusion, link analysis and local indexing issues. These items require a fraction of the time to do and allow you to focus on those things that will actually improve performance in the local markets.
Failure: Keyword Management & Organization
This is part of the lack of communication since many companies do not share their words. For example, it was nearly impossible to get a list of products and models from a multinational for the various markets. It was faster for us to pull it from site search, organic search and Wikipedia than it was to get it from the business units.
For a large company, recently we modeled 100,000 keywords finding they had no exposure for nearly 80% of their keyword universe in every market around the world; this was with a double-digit million dollar paid budget.
At the same company, we found over 3,000 keywords being bought that had no relation to what they do. I thought the “any traffic is good traffic” days were over. That was nearly 5 percent of the words representing that markets paid program.
Since it was too time consuming for the local manger to review the words in Excel, he “trusted” the agency had done their due diligence and approved them all.
Win: Organize & Model Keywords
I have been trying to solve this problem for the past few years. As some of you know, I have developed a web-based Keyword Management Suite that aggregates all keyword data into a central location on the Web by country and business unit, allowing you to see what is happening in each market. For the companies using it, the tool has paid off 5 to 10 times by finding opportunities and arbitrating the best owner of words between business units.
Whether you use a tool like mine, or share Excel files on an extranet, it is critical that you manage your keywords and ensure there is a level of education about keyword and searcher intent.
With the decrease of organic representation for commercial keywords, it will become critical in the future to ensure you are maximizing your Search Engine Results Page (SERP) shelf space. You can start with the simple models I talked about last time in 60 Minutes to Search Greatness to identify traffic and revenue opportunities that will get you noticed by management.
Failure: Not Optimizing SERP Shelf-Space
It still surprises me that more companies are not ensuring they have multiple positions in the SERP’s. I first used this term in 1998 when coordinating paid and organic, and it was in the mini-keynote at the 2006 Cannes Lions where it received significant attention from brand marketers, but few do anything with the concept today.
With the increasing demotion of organic results and the expansion of product listings in Google, it should be a key focus for companies; yet, it is nearly impossible to find any company that is doing it well in the US, let alone outside the US.
The most common reason SERP shelf-space is not being optimized is the lack of collaboration between paid, organic, product and social media, which guarantees uncoordinated messages in the search results.
Win: Shelf-Space Maximization Collaboration
To maximize your exposure in the SERPS, we need the three C’s: communication, collaboration and coordination. Brands need to coordinate all the parts of the equation and align these separate activities around keywords, searcher intent and message alignment.
I found the best way to do this is to have a meeting and pretend you want to dominate a section of the “Google Store Shelf” the same way you would a retail shelf at WalMart. Who would attend that meeting and what is that process?
For the “Google Shelf” planning meeting we need to understand the following:
- What does the shelf look like now? What types of digital assets are represented?
- What is your company’s representation?
- What assets are available to you? Web pages, paid listings, products, social media, partners, customers, etc.
- Who owns the identified assets and how do we work with them?
Brands that can master the three C’s and integrate paid, organic and social media optimization with Google’s recent clustering of organic search results can dominate the results and exponentially increase traffic and conversions.
Win: International Friendly Tools
Finally, we are starting to see international functionality added to enterprise SEO tools. Both BrightEdge and Conductor seem to be using their recent investment infusions to expand their tool’s international functionality.
They can now easily check rank globally, are friendlier with international languages, and allow you to manage tasks from the various teams. Once they have global template detection and auditing, they should be a required tool for any global company.
So, stop complaining about how hard global Search Marketing is and start with the small steps suggested above. These improvements will build over time giving you scale, results and resources to tackle the larger problems as we head into 2013.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.