For a major global brand like Adobe, international SEO is an integral and fundamental part of its online success. Ahead of speaking at the International Search Summit in San Jose, California on March 10th, Dave Lloyd, Global Search Marketing Manager at Adobe, shares his experience of running multinational SEO programs and provides advice for any marketer aiming to develop an effective international presence that delivers results.
What are the key fundamentals you think can make or break international search success?
Global SEO is all about creating a world-class user experience. If the customer (internal & external) is satisfied, through whatever means you choose to measure it, then you’re likely doing something right. I think there’s 4 main areas that require focus:
Metrics-focused and data-driven
I start with this one because if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it – and can’t easily influence others you may depend on to get the work done. So you must know the key data points that global stakeholders care about most, and be able to report on and explain them regularly.
Questions to consider in improving your work: Do you have KPIs familiar to key stakeholders? Are you able to measure & report regularly? Have you defined and aligned to your company’s top regions and languages and scaled your efforts accordingly? Is your team well-informed on data analysis and how to interpret metrics?
Next, ensure the right website architecture is in place. Having the right foundation on a house ensures a stable structure – websites are the same way. And ultimately this allows visitors from any country to find relevant content within a few clicks of searching or arriving to your site. Architecture pertains to things like generic top-level domains, redirect strategies, use of canonicals, URL naming conventions, internal linking within geos and across subdomains, use of microdata based on schema.org format, search-informed keyword discovery and content creation, and implementation of newer recommendations like Href Alternate Language tagging.
Consider questions like these: Do you operate from a Center of Excellence model where all valuable stakeholders receive consulting services with different service levels and frequencies. Can you scale for success by having just-in-time access to link strategists, content creators, and analysts in conjunction with the more stable Web Strategy, Web Production, and Social teams? Are you aligned closely with the global web strategy and web production teams? Do you have provide regular SEO training specific to their needs?
Budgeting & resources
Many organizations succeed or fail in International SEO on these two alone – justifying budgeting for localization (not just translation) opportunities and having the right skills within SEO and Localization to get work done accurately. If you can allocate budgets to effectively support your top tier countries, you’re halfway there – it’s all about justifying effort & maximizing opportunity with budgets available. That can mean shifting regional resource allocations to more active markets or investing more in search term lifetime value for a specific regional content bucket. Without appropriate global spend allocations, seizing opportunities to maximize value in the marketplace can be severely hampered, and your value to a geo-focused enterprise is diminished.
Once budget is established, and it requires a monthly or quarterly review, knowing that the right teams with skillsets and bandwidth to do the work is the obvious next step. Typically the breakdown is during launches, these teams are not able to scale effectively. So continue to align with your localization teams on planning ahead for these times.
Questions to focus on are: Do you know how to forecast ROI? How about scaling up or down based on budget available? Is your localization team properly trained on SEO for keywords, content, and geos?
Process & workflow
The final area to maximize opportunities as a global search manager is in decision-making and workflow — your processes. Search is work that requires, even mandates, operational excellence in order to influence stakeholders. SEO, especially, is a classic consulting discipline with a high degree of responsibility, knowledge, and autonomy, yet typically low authority to make changes independently. As you expand globally, you may be introducing automated functionality to non-native environments, integrating local and regional legacy systems, or deploying localization agencies to improve content quality and thereby boost rank. Each of these tasks provides opportunities to strengthen local presence, which returns value to your enterprise. If you’re able to put in ways to look for ways that your team can improve workflows to address these opportunities, they won’t all require manual tracking. As you do, you will identify many low-hanging fruit opportunities to deliver value within your geo-focused enterprise.
Questions to consider: Where can improvements in process improve overall results? What workflow dependencies need to be identified and overcome? How to better align with the localization’s teams workflow and priorities?
Which markets do you find particularly challenging to target? And why?
A few ways to think about this. All markets are challenging because of the constant alignment of customer needs, data to support recommendations, and prioritization to implement search best practices. Another constraint is whether locally distributed search teams are in place regionally to adapt quickly – we’re fortunate to have regional SEO people in J/APAC and EMEA to drive focused recommendations. More specifically, the Asian languages are complicated because of the character types and unique search behavior in certain countries. Also, English-language countries and differentiating between US, UK, India, Australia, South Africa, and other English-speaking countries in search results is inherently difficult – similar for Spanish, German, and French for the multiple countries where those are spoken. We’ve successfully used on-page modules and the href alt lang tagging to improve our results in countries that speak the same language.
What tips could you share on working with global search engines other than Google?
We don’t optimize for Google, we optimize for best practices. We’re keenly aware of algorithm changes, how much traffic we pull from all engines, and which countries and engines drive our best results – and where Google lines up versus other engines. Ultimately, our focus is on knowing & recommending the right tactic, regardless of engine. We do some minor modifications to tagging based on requests of global engines (especially Baidu & Yandex) but 99% of the time, we advise on the right work based on common architecture, technical, content, and social factors.
What impact has the growth in mobile had on your international SEO strategies?
We are engaged in a corporate Responsive Design effort, completely mobile & SEO friendly, so that’s our team’s focus – to ensure we’re following the right best practices for mobile. We’ve advised groups we work with on the resources available from Google on smartphone and tablet-friendly site creation.
Aside from this, we’ve looked at mobile-specific keywords to ensure we don’t have content marketing gaps on our site (typically shorter queries, fact-finding, informational, or corporate-oriented). We’ve also advised content teams on future content considerations based on the same. Next, we’ve aligned with ecommerce teams in top tier countries to look at optimizing for mobile conversion paths. Lastly, we work with those focused on website personalization to identify levers where a search-driven solution can give mobile visitors the best user experience based on their website behavior.
What do you most enjoy about working in international SEO?
As I discuss with colleagues often, we need to be business people first, marketers second, and SEOs third. And this is more important as the fields of digital & search marketing are now becoming more sophisticated and strategic imperatives at global companies. So what I enjoy most about international SEO is the combination of staying current with industry changes and working with different cultures, languages, and stakeholder expectations while constantly remaining customer-focused and data-driven. The necessity is that global search marketers must regularly align to key regional business strategies. At the same time tune in to the best search marketing levers for top country priorities. And then always improve at data analysis and reporting to best convey value. My advice for anyone in global SEO is to stay nimble, keep learning, practice ruthless prioritization, influence key stakeholders, and consistently focus on customer needs.
Why attend the International Search Summit?
It’s the best forum to meet a like-minded group, be able to share openly, and get practical insights.
Specifically, I’d say:
Meet people and follow up – Bring 10 business cards and make it a point to get 10 back – and then find a way to develop a connection, starting with LinkedIn. You could follow up by sharing resources, inviting them to a team call to share their perspective, or sharing valuable insights about mutual challenges.
Ask questions & debate topics – Few things in global web marketing are clean cut and work all the time for every site. Often best strategies come through thinking through all viewpoints. Take advantage of lunch and downtime between sessions to follow up with speakers and attendees on your specific use cases.
Take action – Get insights you can take back to your team to justify the time spent. Keep good notes, summarize your relevant points, and integrate into your future plans. Knowledge is only power when it’s acted upon. I look forward to meeting with and learning from many of you at the event.
The International Search Summit is takes place alongside SMX West, in San Jose. 2014 speakers included Preston Carey from Yandex, Sarah Holtzman from China Search International and Jeremiah Andrick from Logitech.