Managing Your Global Search Program

One of the most frequent questions asked of the international search panels at Search Engine Strategies is how to manage a global search marketing program. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all organizational or operational model for managing your search program. In this article I will offer some rules of thumb used by successful global organizations to make their programs more effective.

Developing the Strategy

Developing a global and/or local search marketing strategy is a major undertaking. It’s also the first set of mistakes a company tends to make. Unfortunately, too many companies have a HQ-centric, one-size-fits-all strategy that causes problems and confusion in the local markets. The strategy needs to be a sharing of goals and objectives from HQ along with a detailed understanding of the nuances, resources and goals of the local markets.

Centralize or Locally Manage?

There is a laundry list of tasks that need to be managed in a search marketing program. You need to decide which actions are best centrally executed, and which are better done locally.

When deciding which tasks to centralize or keep local, the first step is to decide whether the task is new for your organization, or whether you already have a team that performs that task (or should perform that task). Many search marketing tasks require changing the way someone’s existing job is done (such as a copy writer adding keywords to page titles, or an information architect making template changes). Those tasks usually belong with your extended search team.

Implementing the Search Council concept is an effective way to manage the overall program. The idea is to centralize essential functions by creating a “center of excellence” across multiple disciplines. It becomes a centralized information repository and focus of governance on how search is deployed around the world in the organization.

This allows the key tasks to be separated across infrastructure, language, content and marketing activities. Additionally, it gives you direct access to the core skills and abilities of your local and central teams.

Budgeting for Global Search Marketing

Determining a budget for a global search project is not easy. It’s a topic worthy of a series of articles from multiple authors. However, once you understand your organizational structure and formalize the strategy and objectives, you will understand how to budget your resources.

In the vast majority of companies, advertising budgets are actually decentralized, with country and activity allocations based on the objectives of the local marketing management team. While this is the norm, case studies are starting to emerge that indicate it may make sense for search marketing budgets to be centrally managed from the Global Search Manager. The obvious benefit is a reduction of duplication of efforts, as well as overlapping keywords and campaign messaged in local and global markets.

Intel and SAP have presented at SES that when they collapse the local budgets into a single central location, then allocate budget based on attribution models and business objectives, they have reduced the duplication and increased overall paid search performance nearly 100%.

In-House or Outsource

This is one of the biggest questions after budget – should we do it ourselves or outsource? Well, I am not going to start a riot as to which is better, but I will urge you to foster a proper conversation within your organization. Begin by taking into account the following factors:

  • Corporate culture – Some companies have policies against hiring consultants where some companies must do so, since they do not undertake any activities that are not a core function of their business.
  • Budget – it is an unfortunate fact that too often, the main reason companies don’t hire external agencies is they don’t have the money to deploy a search program and pay an agency to do it for them.
  • Expertise & Quality – The most obvious question is whether you have the necessary skills to staff a search team internally, or the heart to pile additional work onto another marketer or IT person? However, if you have that hidden gem in your overseas office that is a closet search marketer, then you may not need external help.

Depending on the scope of your program and the number of languages and countries you are targeting it is often significantly easier and more effective to leverage a local or regional agency. at least to get you started. They have the advantage of specializing in the language, market opportunities and nuances of the search marketing environment in a country.

As you can see, there is a lot to consider. And since it is a big world out there, ripe with opportunity, we need to start now to effectively develop a global plan to better integrate and leverage search marketing into your operations.

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