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Effective SEO Management Structures For Multilingual And Multinational Websites

Gain support across the board and transform multinational SEO challenges into opportunities through collaboration.

Search teams working on multilingual websites may interact with different stakeholders in other languages or locations. There might even be different teams responsible for search in different countries.

The following suggestions can help build efficient management structures between multilingual teams. These practices can help achieve greater collaboration and success.

Fostering Collaboration

If there is no or little collaboration today, an easy first step is to create a Slack channel or even a shared folder on your company intranet for sharing tips, articles, or slides from a conference you attended.

Include the stakeholders from the different roles mentioned above across the different markets.

This will often elicit feedback on your content and encourage sharing by others.

Over time, you can do quarterly knowledge sharing or even regional road shows, conducting workshops during regional meetings.

Best Practice Guides

If there are not any documented SEO best practices, start by sharing your guides.

Linking to them in your email signature and recording them with a web meeting software where people can better understand the nuance are effective ways of sharing knowledge.

Most will welcome any knowledge sharing from more experienced markets and team members.

There may even be initial pushback if the process differs, but that is where the dialog can start. You can reconcile the differences to create a unified process for the organization.

Keyword Lists

Many markers do not have access to tools and are short of time, so sharing your list of keywords, especially with common language markets, can often save them a lot of time.

A great best practice is to identify mission-critical words for products or services available in all markets, start developing a centralized database of words, and rank reports to help identify content gaps, cannibalization, and localization backlogs.

Effective SEO Management Structures

In a perfect world, an organization would have a fully aligned and centrally managed global search team focused on achieving market-specific objectives that contribute to the collective benefit of the company.

As we have already established, that is far from reality for most organizations – but using the tips above to foster collaboration and develop strong relationships with the market companies will help jumpstart the framework of your management structure.

The most successful global search programs have some form of a Search Center of Excellence (SCOE).

These SCOEs take many shapes and sizes but do have a primary objective of fostering collaboration, a unified process, and common objectives for all markets.

A critical element of a COE is to include representatives from Search, DevOps/IT, Marketing, Content, and Product teams.

By including these stakeholders, you are better able to understand the collective priorities, challenges, and resources of each of these areas that directly impact the success of your search program.

In many organizations, especially those with decentralized management structures, you may not have direct reports and cannot mandate activities, but you can work to gain consensus for those activities that everyone must perform.

Performance Monitoring And Reporting

Every market has reports they need to generate.

A great first step is to share the current reports and establish metrics and various performance indicators that can measure the effectiveness of the local and global search efforts.

In one experience, the client found they were using multiple tools and twenty different formats of the same information.

By collaborating, they established a uniform report that could be merged, then required all teams, and especially agencies, to adopt this format.

The initial benefit was a significant reduction in time to generate the report, but it also easily identified gaps and challenges across all markets. This made it easier for managers to understand the challenges and see a clear benefit from actioning globally.

Search Management And Research Tools

SEO tools for all markets are expensive, and as we noted, not every market has a search budget. So there should be a discussion around which are the most valuable and whether there are any redundancies; you can add resources incrementally rather than the full cost of solutions.

This is possible with crawling and keyword research tools.

Centralized Sitemap And Hreflang Management

The centralization of XML sitemaps may seem like a simple task. However, I find it can be a major challenge to consolidate the Search Console and Webmaster Tools access across markets, especially if there are multiple agencies involved.

We all should be able to agree that getting and maintaining indexing is critical to any SEO program.

By centralizing XML sitemap quality control and management, you can ensure that the largest and best set of URLs are presented globally.

This activity will also ferret out those markets with very old CMS that cannot generate XML sitemaps.

If you have multiple CMS, varied domain structures, and cannot get all markets to agree on how to deploy hreflang, you can use XML sitemaps and cross-domain verification to manage it globally.

By centralizing these activities, you can facilitate maximum indexing and minimize cannibalization.

Core Page Templates

Depending on the site architecture and decentralized politics, you can achieve significant performance improvements if a common template with SEO elements integrated is deployed at least in the key markets and for core pages.

Enterprise websites have been doing this for years, requiring markets to use common page templates where you can make a single optimization, and that impacts all markets that do the refresh.

As collaboration increases in your SCOE, developers and content creators will adopt search-friendly best practices and hopefully work within these guidelines, enabling global scale.

For one of my clients that moved to core page templates, they started ranking for most of their mission-critical phrases in all markets. They ultimately reduced redundant development costs by over $100k annually, which enabled them to fund a full-time global search manager.

Location And Language Detection Reviews

More and more sites are using detection scripts to either gate content or attempt to route them to the correct market based on their location or language preferences.

The setup and ongoing management of this technology needed to be reviewed for all markets even if you don’t have a website for the market.

The web and marketing teams must understand and agree to the routing logic and ensure that you are not creating frustration for consumers or search engines.


While the “multi” in multinational SEO does bring unique challenges for the search marketer, they can become manageable with effective communication and collaboration between the stakeholders.

While you may never have a world-class Search Center of Excellence, you can enhance the overall search capabilities of the wider organization.

Through knowledge and process sharing, you can improve overall visibility and organic traffic, and deliver a better user experience through all digital channels.

More resources:

Featured Image: Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock

VIP CONTRIBUTOR Motoko Hunt President, International Search Marketing at AJPR

Since Motoko established AJPR in 1998, she has been providing the online marketing services targeting Japan, Asia and other markets ...

Effective SEO Management Structures For Multilingual And Multinational Websites

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