At SES London I was on a panel that discussed managing global Web sites. At this standing room only session, nearly 100 percent of the attendees were managing multi-country Web sites.
A number of attendees asked me to write a quick primer on how to effectively manage global search programs. Managing global sites across dozens of markets is a complex process and can't be summed up in a single article; the following are the key elements essential to the success of any global program.
Have an Executive Sponsor
The right executive sponsor is always one of the key factors of success. The executive sponsor has to strike fear in the hearts and minds of the local market partners, but also must be a mediator and problem solver. Many times you need help from other areas, which requires the right level of management savvy to motivate them to participate.
Ideally, this should be the global CEO or CMO because they have the authority over the geographies. In many cases, the executive sponsor is in the HQ market and no operational or fiscal responsibility for the global outcome, which marginalizes their ability to motivate and/or force deployment.
Develop a Search Center of Excellence (COE)
The Search Center of Excellence (COE) should focus on improving the content creation workflow practices, compliance levels, uniform best practices, policies, awareness, and measurement across the program. It's also highly focused on building a culture of search marketing excellence that will have a measurable impact on the bottom line. Your COE should bring together varied people and skills that promote collaboration and best practice usage to drive incremental business results.
I'm always amazed when companies don't coordinate and rally all their Web and search efforts around the world. Bring all of the roles together. Many of these people have never worked together, or even met, but their combined efforts will make the site a better search and consumer experience.
Set up a meeting (or meetings) and notify all the marketing, sales, technology, communications, and brand teams around the world about it, and then get your executive sponsor to "encourage" them to attend. Once they do, you'll find people already working or interested in search all around the world.
Leverage Force Multipliers
These are things you do once that impact all the sites. Often the easiest and most effective activity is to make your site templates are search friendly and then push those optimized templates out to all of the countries.
In many cases, these templates will have near perfect on-page optimization elements, thereby eliminating the need for those efforts in countries. This is helpful in markets where there are no Web resources or budgets to make search related changes.
Building on optimized templates and integration of search best practices into the localization process can help with economies of scale and reduction of costs. Larger companies use keyword research and searcher demand to help prioritize content.
For example, one large multinational recently used global keyword research to see what phrases globally had the highest demand across the most countries. This allowed them to reuse content more effectively by multiple countries rather than each doing their own localization and duplicating efforts.
Manage Local Sites With Google Webmaster Tools
If you haven't done so already, and especially if you deploy a dot-com portal for your global site, it's critical you set Google's Geographical Targeting. This Webmaster Tools feature will allow you to tell Google that content segments of your site are for a specific country.
Set up a master global account and manage it centrally so that you know it has been set correctly, and also monitor messages and performance globally.
Measure Performance with Scorecards
Global scorecards are an effective way to "motivate" local managers to participate in your search efforts. These can be as simple as monitoring traffic and/or ranking performance and encouraging improvement to specific goals and objectives that everyone is measured against.
One of my favorite scorecards that we used at Global Strategies was called the "Always On Scorecard." It mandated, for a set number of words, that each market/brand needed to either maintain a top five organic listing or ensure they had allocated sufficient paid search budget to achieve 80 percent share of voice in paid search impressions/clicks. This scorecard ensured that the most important words were "always represented" when someone searched. When set up correctly, each country could choose their own keyword phrases for the program, but the same number of words in each market allowed for uniform measurement.
This sort of scorecard methodology fosters a workflow management focusing on highest value keywords and pages first resulting in a monthly to-do list of pages to be audited for optimization or addition to a PPC campaign.
It's a lot of work to manage a global program, but the more you can make it uniform, measure it, and provide best practices to markets with little to no resources, you will have greater opportunities for success.
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