Coping With The Increasing Complexity Of International SEO
Not a day seems to pass when there isn't some new feature announcement by the search engines or some acquisition of an organization we've none of us heard of, but which powers lots of sites we didn't know needed powering. Its complex enough for anyone - but if you're in charge of a 25-language site running in 170 countries, its more than mind boggling - it can be soul destroying. Just how do we cope?
Today it’s Prague and travel-related search issues and I’m struck by just how many new things there are to worry about if you’re working in what Google says is the most popular search vertical of all. If you’re running an airline or travel business linking 40 countries and working in 20 languages and Google says it’s acquired the software that powers your site – well it’s definitely time to reach for the headache pills.
Ironically, at the International Search Summit this week I’ll be presenting a review of just how to cope with the morass of new changes that hit the inbox every day. Has Google just added some new feature which means that for every keyword searched they’ll conduct 20 searches hoping to hit right on the one the user intended? Did Yandex just suddenly launch a global version of its search engine? Did two of the biggest search engines join forces and rewrite the rules? Or has a new paid search engine just launched in Asia?
Believe it or not, all of those are actual recent events that are changing the shape of the space we work in. I could write the ubiquitous “SEO is dead” piece, but while that’s great link bait, I don’t remotely believe it. In fact, as Mikkel de Mib Svendsen said at SMX Stockholm just last week, “I’ve never come across any system yet that couldn’t be gamed.” In fact, the “dealing with the complexity of international SEO” in my title defines the need for great SEO people to help their clients through these turbulent times.
I have a number of strategies that may help you cope. They are approaches which have certainly been forced upon me.
Wait And See And Stay Calm
This may be the best advice of all, especially if you are working internationally. As you will see when we get to my section on “matrices,” things usually roll out in the US first. For me, the United States is a bit of a laboratory—if it works there it might be worth rolling out elsewhere—but it might not roll out everywhere for some time and even if it does, the rest of the world will probably get the improved version.
If you live and work in the States and read this blog, this is much more difficult for you to do—even if you are working internationally, because there’s so much buzz about everything going on around you. Take Google Instant. Nearly every blogger in the US has written something about Google Instant, which is not surprising as it came out of the blue and was something of a different way of doing things. But, internationally, most of the world, including most of Europe, still isn’t seeing it and will probably get a slightly different version.
Read The Headlines Every Day
It’s important you keep abreast of things. But don’t spend every day digging into every element of every little piece of news that makes it to the day’s agenda. Read the headlines and only the headlines. You’ll be amazed how much you can keep up with developments by simply doing that—and Search Engine Land is of course one of the very best for keeping up to date.
Don’t Make Lists, Make Matrices
Put simply, one of the biggest problems for international search marketers is that, when they’ve made their “list” of what they need to do, they’ll find that it won’t apply in half the markets they work in. Google launching Instant, for instance, has little bearing in Russia or China. A good way to solve this problem is to create a matrix covering all of the search elements which are important to you in each market or country. Using traffic light colors can be a good way to show their status too with red for important, amber for those things to keep an eye on and green for nothing to worry about.
Once you’ve created your matrix, you can go back to your knowledge of what you’ve seen in the headlines and decide which issues are important that you need to follow-up on and research—except now you should find it happening in a more planned and strategic way.
Work With The Best You Can Find
Clearly people count. Whether its those you work with as colleagues or your agency, it makes sense to work with those who have the most relevant experience for your needs. In the international search field, many claim to be global or have wide international experience—but it’s not always as rich as it’s presented. You may have a very good relationship with your existing agency, but it never hurts to suggest they add additional expertise in the form of partners. They’ll probably welcome your comments.
Listen To Your Customers To See What’s Important
Customers are really great aren’t they. Firstly, they do generally pay the bills. Secondly, the feedback they give you on what they think is important in the “online” space is a very good pointer for you. You do need to talk to them though or use some system for capturing their feedback.
Watch The KPIs
Yep it’s KPI time again. If the world of search has changed overnight, a revolution in Mountain View has been followed by several in Redmond and a few in Beijing, it’s a good idea to check the disastrous impact on those KPIs? Organic visitors up? Conversions up? Dollars flowing through the system? You see, I told you everything would be alright!