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Managing SEO on a Global Scale

Guillaume Bouchard
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Managing search engine optimization (SEO) efforts across different departments can be challenging. Different stakeholders have different priorities and they don't always understand the value of SEO.

But what about when you have to manage SEO efforts across different brands and offices in different locations or countries? How can you obtain synergy across different sites/properties? And how can you negotiate red tape and maintain momentum?

Well, first, you need to identify and align internal stakeholders, such as various department and decision-makers. Then you need to appoint an SEO director who can access decisions-makers and establish policies and procedures that will help you build and maintain your SEO momentum.

Building & Maintaining SEO Momentum

SEO momentum is a key variable in whether a business can scale and operate online at a global level. After all, SEO is something that takes time to get going (and start generating ROI), but that momentum can be hard to preserve.

If your SEO momentum slows too much or too quickly, years of effort can be lost in only a few weeks. Several factors slow your SEO momentum:

  • Any site relaunch (global or local) that lacks proper SEO guidance (such as proper redirects)

  • Losing any key stakeholder without an immediate or planned replacement can create debilitating bottlenecks

  • Any change in an agency of record (AOR) or local agency

  • Major IT changes, such as big site migrations

  • Rebranding efforts that involve renaming any sites

To prevent any such events from being unforeseen, it's important that every potential stakeholder is identified in advance, and a procedures/policies are in place to prevent any major bottleneck.

Stakeholders and SEO Roadblocks

Even if the majority of your traffic comes from organic search, it's unlikely that you've built a business model around search. After all, you still have a product to develop or a service to offer, and search is just one of your sources of leads.

This means that there are critical stakeholders in your organization who have nothing to do with SEO. These include brand managers, logistical experts, financial officers, and IT departments.

And when you add multiple brands/offices/countries into the mix, managing the roadblocks that each of these stakeholders pose can be challenging.

It's important, then, that you identify these potential stakeholders, and ensure that that they understand the role that SEO plays in their respective mandates and how their mandate affects SEO.

  • SEO Director: This is the stakeholder who will need to take the lead on aligning all internal efforts. They will need to ensure that SEO is involved early on and for the duration of all web projects, and will provide guidance/direction to your AOR and all local agencies.

  • Execs & Upper Management: This level of decision-makers is ultimately responsible for the results of any marketing initiative, including SEO. Consequently, these stakeholders are critical for holding people account for working properly with SEO, and shouldn't let things move forward if SEO isn't involved.

  • Sales, Marketing, & PR: While the sales team needs the leads generated by SEO, marketing knows that SEO will be its number one acquisition tactic. Similarly, PR is responsible for global messaging, and SEO should be a key part of that strategy.

  • Usability/Design: These stakeholders will be integral for creating SEO friend users experiences for all countries/brands, and optimized information architecture for all your sites. Consequently, usability/design in each office needs to be in close contact with local and/or global SEO staff.

  • IT/Dev: This layer of your organization is needed to develop multilingual, SEO friendly technologies and test every release of every site for SEO best practices. Having your SEO team closely involved in their development cycle, then, is critical.

  • Editorial/Content: One reason "content is king" is because of its importance in SEO. Your content team, then, needs to adapt content production according to search trends/volumes in each country, as well as ensure that there's a steady flow of local content across all your properties.

  • Legal: Your legal department will be important for developing a worldwide policy on SEO (i.e., whether you pursue certain practices). This is particularly important so that they don't become a roadblock. For example, you don't every piece of onsite or offsite content to get caught up in legal and slow your SEO momentum. So work out clear processes with them in advance.

Appointing an SEO Director

With a clear view of all the relevant stakeholders, your organization will need an SEO gatekeeper to ensure that all internal stakeholders are aligned with your SEO efforts, and policies and procedures are established to prevent bottlenecks. This SEO director, moreover, needs to have both the right skills and be able to influence certain operations.

A Skilled SEO Director

On the skill set side of the equation, your SEO director should have an intermediate to advanced grasp of technical SEO. This will help them prevent any major SEO meltdowns.

They should also have highly developed analytical skills that allow them to understand SEO trends, your global traffic trends (such as displayed in Google Analytics), and internal work cycles.

They will also need advanced communication skills that can be applied toward both internal teams/departments and the upper-management.

Also needed: strong business instincts that allow them to identify opportunities, as well as anticipate significant threats to your SEO efforts.

An Influential SEO Director

Having the skills to do the job in theory doesn't always mean being able to actually execute. For that reason, for your SEO director to be effective, they also need a certain amount of influence within the organization.

  • They should be based at your company's headquarters. This will ensure that they are in touch with the "big picture" and "global direction" of your company. It is here that they'll be able to identify opportunities and anticipate threats.

  • They should report directly to a key decision-maker (such as an SVP Digital or Marketing). This will ensure that they can influence projects in a way that protects your SEO momentum. Similarly, they will need the ability to stop any non-friendly SEO site release.

  • Your SEO director should have a team that can take care of daily SEO workflow. This way, they won't be distracted or bogged down in daily tasks, and can focus more on strategic and less on the tactical.

  • An SEO director will be much more effective if they are able to visit you local branches. This will enable them to evangelize the importance of SEO alignment/momentum, while ensuring that SEO policies/procedures are enforced and respected.

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

Think of your company as a restaurant and your various sites as tables in the dining room. Users are your patrons and search engines are the restaurant reviewers that refer them.

Your SEO director, then, is the head chef. It is his or her job to "set the menu" and make sure that everyone's dining experience (both user and search engine), is equally delicious.

There are other stakeholders, such a sous-chefs, dishwashers, sommeliers, waiters, and bartenders, but it's the SEO director's responsibility to ensure that every meal is consistently prepared and served to the same high standards.

Without an SEO director to manage that "dining experience," a beautiful piece of filet mignon or lobster might be served on a dirty dish (or by a rude waiter). And it only takes that happening once to a restaurant reviewer (search engine) to ruin your bistro's reputation and the years of hard work it took to build it up.


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