Over the past few months I have spoken with a number of international in-house search teams and many of them shared a common frustration that their corporate teams were not making changes or allowing them the latitude to take advantage of the growth in search volume in their local country. It boggles the mind that these issues are happening, but they are, and they are hurting many organizations’ exposure in local markets. Let’s breakdown some of these issues and discuss how you can eliminate them.
Web & technical resource allocation
We can lump a lot of problems into the ole’ lack of resources bucket. The global recession has resulted in deep cuts of people in local web teams or realignment into central hubs in Bratislava, Argentina and India. These teams now handle global issues and are often overwhelmed with their tasks and making search changes to local sites are some of the least important things they have to do.
A web content manager in Italy told me he is allowed to allocate 2 hours per month to anything related to SEO and the rest of his time was translating and making changes to the corporate and brand pages. He had a list of over 100 SEO improvements provided by his agency but could not allocate the time to make any of the updates.
I have seem this problem for many years where the farther from the mother ship you get the less time is allocated for web and search updates. The irony of this for many global companies is the bulk of their revenues are now coming from outside the US but they are still staffing their teams to create bells and whistles for the corporate site and creating little to no content for emerging markets that can help them increase sales and awareness.
This is why we need to bake search elements directly into site templates and push them into the regions which should make the pages far more optimized than they typically are—which would ease the burden of larger changes to the pages and content.
SEO is not a priority with HQ and IT teams
At a SEMPO Japan Meetup in February I met an SEO Manager from the Japan office of a large multinational who was completely hamstrung by his corporate office. He had been trying to get SEO going for the past few years and could not get any assistance from HQ—they just did not believe in SEO. They would not let him update pages directly and felt the focus should be on paid search, which did not require any changes to the site.
In another example, a German team who detected that they had a restrictive robots.txt file were waiting for over six weeks for the corporate IT group to make the simple change to the file to allow spiders to crawl the site. They simply replied that it was on the to do list as was the corporate mandate to increase search traffic in Germany.
Restrictive rules & web standards
I have always suggested that the search teams update the style guides and web standards to make them more search friendly. This is especially important for companies that use local agencies to create and maintain sites that may not have any search experience. This will ensure that at least minimal search best practices can be integrated into these sites.
There are many problems now associated with getting XML site map verifications and creating these little gems to ensure all of the pages are pushed into the engines. A webmaster in EMEA told me that she was not allowed to upload XML site maps into the root directory of the site since the corporate webmaster did not allow any pages other than the index page in the root directory of the server. As soon as she would load them he would go in and delete them. Fortunately she was able to host them on a local site and point them to that location via the robots.txt file resulting in an increase in indexing and traffic to the site.
In Amsterdam I talked with a SEO for the EMEA region for a company and she was frustrated that the corporate legal and PR teams restricted her from getting links to local pages. Apparently, a US SEO recommended that all links should point to the US site and let the “link juice” trickle down into the counties had told them.
A solution: Create a global search marketing council
The best recommendation I have is to set up a Global Search Marketing council and engage all elements of the organization to help them understand the value of SEO and how each of the roles within the content creation chain have an impact. In some cases you will need to escalate these issues and get an executive sponsor to help. Another best practice is to develop missed opportunity reports showing how much traffic and sales are possible in the local countries and share that with local or global management. Hopefully in these trying times this can help make the changes necessary to change the attitudes and resource allocations to tap into the gold mine of opportunity search offers.
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