Big-name technology companies offer their software globally, in dozens of different markets. Naturally this means their online sales operation encompasses lots of different languages, with each having to be catered for with specific, localized website copy. This is usually housed in the form of a sub-directory (more about those later).
To ensure each different market’s sub-directory is showing prominently on the search engines for the target keywords technology companies tend to hire a search agency in each individual country they wish to sell in.
For example, a French agency will be hired to optimize for a tech company’s French operation, a German agency for Germany, an Italian agency for Italy and so forth. For some of the bigger technology companies this can mean having upwards of 10 different search agencies on the books, and this usually causes problems.
No Centralized Strategy
Just as too many cooks spoil the broth, too many search agencies spoil the strategy. As I mentioned earlier, most technology companies opt for a sub-directory rather than a locally registered top level domain. So www.techcomapny.com/fr for France rather than www.techcompany.fr. This practice itself is not a problem. However, if the technology company is selling into lots of different foreign markets from one central domain with many sub-directories using a different search agency to optimize for each of these – this can be a problem.
First, it’s hard to manage. A US-based Head of Global Marketing will be responsible for managing the activities of numerous different agencies across the world. This makes it extremely difficult to maintain a centralized strategy. There is also the danger that content is not properly utilized. So, for example, the German agency may write a fantastic piece of content that gets lots of traction and attracts links in abundance. If there was just one agency, this would be translated and rolled out across every other targeted nation. This doesn’t tend to be the case when there are multiple agencies. Ultimately, this means your company is paying for duplicated work.
Not having a centralized strategy can be damaging for not only your site, but for your entire business. Having an agency in each individual country all working to optimize the same domain means that it only takes one agency buying spammy links or indulging in Black Hat practices to get your entire website hit with a Google penalty. The more centralized your strategy is, the more control you have.
Just as an outsourced agency optimizing a central domain in one country can negate the good work of the company’s agencies in other countries through bad work, the opposite is true for those agencies that are under-performing. For example, your French agency could be doing a great job of optimizing your website while the Italian counter-part is not pulling its weight.
You are paying for two agencies but could only be getting a good level of service from one – however, with many agencies working to optimize one top level domain (.com) it is going to be nearly impossible to attribute the correct value to each specific agency. One agency’s shortcomings could be masked because the overall domain is still benefiting from good search authority.
Once again a centralized strategy coordinated by a single agency can limit this problem. If your website’s leads from search increase you know who is responsible – the single agency – likewise if your leads drop you know who to blame and more importantly where to go and who to speak to in order to rectify the problem. One agency can only ever lead to one problem. Multiple agencies can create multiple problems.
Bigger Doesn’t Mean Better
Technology companies that don’t hire a different agency in each country usually go for one big agency to work across all markets. This is ideal, providing said agency has in-house multilingual capabilities. Taking on a big-name agency that has in all likelihood done a stellar job for domestic search marketing is going to see you in the fast-lane to failure if they’re planning on outsourcing your international campaigns to a translation company.
The problem with using translation companies for search marketing is obvious: translators are not search marketers. Just because you speak the language does not mean you know how to optimize for search engines. Your mother or father probably speaks English, but would you have confidence in them writing a pay-per-click advert for you?
Employing one agency because you want a centralized strategy – namely all the work done in one place, by one company – is pointless if they then outsource all the translation. Once again you have multiple problems rather than just one. If something goes wrong with one of the markets, how do you know it is not the translation company that is the problem, rather than the agency?
How to Succeed
So, how do you ensure you avoid these pitfalls and make your global search engine marketing succeed? The simple answer is to have a truly centralized strategy, with no outsourcing to individual marketing. This means you need to find an agency that can not only successfully optimize your website for numerous markets and search engines but also one you can trust to do the work themselves.
Check that the agency actually has the in-house staff that they claim to by asking to see LinkedIn profiles and to meet the team that is working on your campaigns. Obviously the latter may not be logistically viable if you opt for an agency not based in the same country, but you can always schedule a Skype session.
To succeed, keep it simple and keep it central.