Is It Possible To Benchmark Country Against Country In Multinational Search Campaigns?
No. That is to say, no method of comparing country to country statistics fairly and accurately really exists. Thank you for reading this article and I hope you have a good day. Now, don’t tell me you want me to explain that?
In the case of global organisations, the performance of businesses, people and campaigns are frequently compared. It’s quite logical if you think about it, that executives of global entities are going to look across the line and compare one performance against another.
You can argue that this is part of being “global” and there are marketing textbooks I know which extol the virtues and advantages which global brands have in that they can compare one market to another.
Are You Happy To Be Measured By Knee Jerk Comparisons?
It can be an uncomfortable experience. A Senior Executive calls at your desk and says, “I see that your traffic in Germany is much lower relative to the population than the guys running the UK campaigns achieve. What can we do to fix that?”
Is that a fair question? Are you happy to have your performance measured in this way?
It’s certainly an inevitable consequence of working across borders — but what should International SEOs do to deal with this type of question? Accept it — or question its validity for sound marketing reasons?
That great Japanese warrior and military strategist, now the source of much marketing wisdom, Sun Tzu said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”
He didn’t say, “Have you thought of comparing John in the UK with Johann in Germany to see how they’re doing?” And the problem with comparing John and Johann is that they face very different scenarios which the figures may not truly reflect.
Don’t forget that benchmarking, as Sun Tsu points out, is mainly about comparing our performance in a particular market to that of competitors — not to our own other countries.
External Factors Which Differ Significantly From Country To Country
Countries are separate for a very good reason — not only do they often speak different languages, but they have different outlooks on the world and particular cultural quirks.
Here’s a list of ten of the many factors which can distort cross country comparisons at a macro level:
- The Economy
- Currency Exchange Rates
- Level Of Competition
- Legislation And Regulations
- Product Or Service Demand
- Logistics Expectations
- Buying Cycles And Purchase Methods
- Public Sector Involvement
- Desktop Or Mobile Access
- Internet Connection Speeds
Internal Factors Which Differ Significantly From Country To Country
And now for the internal micro factors which organizations inflict on themselves:
- Product Range
- Delivery Speed And Capabilities
- Customer Support Approach
- Price Relative To Market
- Locally Meaningful Certifications
- Length Of Presence In The Country
- Size Of Marketing Budget
- Local Or Central Technical Resources
- Good Or Bad Reputation
- Local Partners And Their Quality
The point about the above two lists is that there are many factors external to the corporation (such as the economy) and there are decisions which every organization takes for each market in which they operate. All have a direct effect on the metrics used to evaluate SEO performance but are not typically taken into account in performance assessments.
You might be wondering at this point what this all has to do with SEO even global SEO. Part of my purpose is to give Global SEOs the ammunition to point to this piece and legitimately to ask the question of their masters: “Is that a valid comparison, is it really best practice to compare those statistics between countries?”
It Is Not Best Practice To Blindly Compare Countries Statistically
The reason why I think global SEOs need to consider what these comparisons truly mean is that really key decisions are made about SEO and investment in SEO strategies based on numbers which are really “Data” and which do not provide useful “Insight”.
It’s a bit like checking the ranking performance of two sets of keywords that have nothing to do with each other and expecting the same outcome. Then deciding to fire the agency which worked on one, and keep the other because their keywords ranked higher. No self-respecting SEO would do that but would consider competitiveness, history and other factors even if only informally.
I recently ran a workshop where I asked the participants to rate 40 possible metrics which could be used “Safely” to compare their international SEO performance country to country. After twenty minutes, they came back to me and said the wording is misleading because, “There are no statistics at all which can safely be used to compare countries!”
They’re correct in the literal sense. It is possible to build much more complex models to run effective comparisons such as adding economic performance with competitive activities to produce a more realistic view of rankings.
A More Rational Solution?
My own solution is simpler. I believe that comparisons should be largely historical and based within the same country, with a percentage comparison to compare countries if you really must do that.
So, one year ago Country A has 10,000 visitors per day and Country B has 20,000 visitors per day. Now Country A has 15,000 visitors per day and Country B has 22,000 visitors per day. Country A has improved by 50% in one year, and Country B has improved by 10%.
In this scenario, the team behind Country A has done well, seemingly much better than the team in Country B, with 50% growth being much better than 10%.
We can factor in economics for both countries, but competitive issues, reputation history, product range and the many other factors which distort things are much reduced by comparing two points in time in the same location.
With better insight into what’s really happening, better SEO decision-making is the result!