"Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's" was the mantra of the old Roman Empire. It meant that the central government, in the form of the Emperor, would get paid for its work, and all else remained with the states.
Search engine optimization (SEO) in large companies, for years now, has been driving relentlessly toward a Caesar model -- highly centralized for global companies -- and for good reason.
Roll the clock back to 2008 and SEO programs in most large companies were disorganized. The Great Recession forced a renewed discipline on SEO (and all corporate functions) as budgets tightened and control and efficiency became the key organizing principals.
There's no better way to drive standardization, budget control, and efficiency than centralization. And this is now the prevailing model in large companies.
Several factors, however, are making this model non-ideal in the coming 2-3 years. Our expectation is that there will be a wave of decentralization in media and marketing management functions, and SEO is no exception.
Integration and Adaptiveness
What's changing? Two things: the need for integration and the need for adaptiveness.
- The single biggest theme we hear from enterprise clients is "integration." SEO needs to be integrated into content development. SEO needs to be integrated into social media. SEO needs to be integrated into mobile advertising. And, paid and organic search need to be integrated. (Crazy talk!)
- As for adaptiveness -- advertisers, sold on the benefits of SEO, are looking for the process to become more adaptive to local needs, as well as for more rapid global expansion.
Localizing SEO Efforts
Larger advertisers are reorganizing their SEO activities, and rethinking their overall governance model.
- Key functions are being regionalized in order to drive more integration and flexibility. Localization has always been decentralized by geo, but now more aspects of the best practices design for content development and Web development are being decentralized to the agencies that are doing the localized Web projects. Content-related SEO efforts are being financed locally and are therefore being staffed, trained, and driven locally.
- Social media programs and their integration with SEO are being driven and financed locally -- at the country level (not even the regional) level. The reason is that the content necessary to drive viral social media programs, along with the identification and marketing to influencers, requires knowledge of the localized market dynamics. So this too is being financed and run at the country level.
As such, it's becoming more common for us to see SEO strategy run out of regional centers for Americas, EMEA, and APAC than we have for the past three years.
What remains centralized in most companies is metrics development, global strategy development, reporting, technology acquisition, and agency selection processes.
Interestingly enough, we see link building continuing to be centralized as well. The organized link building strategies of most advertisers continue to be haphazard and sporadic -- with inconsistent financing parameters. This is an amazing statement given the importance SEO experts rightfully attribute to linking.
However, it remains relatively common for link building to be done through a central group, or by the agency(s) contracted to the advertiser. Advertisers should redeploy this activity regionally or sub-regionally.
Linking, like social media, requires local marketing and local investment for success. It should be built into the content development process -- as part of the creative exercise. Good link building principals dictate that product marketers build relevant content for the target influencers, and the SEO team can help in the identification and syndication of those key influencers.
The identification of links can be centralized using global technologies. But the execution requires localized resource.
There will be a change in the governance models of large companies SEO activities -- away from centralization to regionalization. This is an obvious next step in the maturity of programs, which allows not only for global efficiency, but also improved agility and adaptiveness as well as integration with the other key pillars of earned media -- social media and content development.
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