Global Search Integration: Yes We Can

Obama's inauguration got me thinking about how much work the U.S. has to do to improve its standing internationally -- and all the hurdles in its way. It's not unlike the laundry-list of challenges that search marketers face when trying to centrally manage global search programs from the States.

Here are some of the key differences that make international search integration difficult:

1.    Search Engines - While the Big 3 dominate worldwide --- especially in the U.S. and Europe --- some countries have local engines boasting top share of market: e.g., Yandex in Russia, Baidu in China and Naver in South Korea. Accordingly, there are different algorithms, ad specs, and T&Cs to consider.  Even the Big 3 have different contacts and agency incentives in various regions.

2.    Language - Search marketing is word play at its highest level. The nuances of various languages complicate matters like keyword selection and ad copy development. For example, German words often carry long compounds, rendering keyword insertion strategies moot.

3.    Culture - People in different countries use search engines differently. Fellow Search Insider Gord Hotchkiss  shared some interesting findings about how searchers on Baidu scan the SERPs in a scattershot fashion versus the golden triangle that ruled Google prior to universal search.

4.    Audience - The global search audience is quite diverse, and the almighty post-search sales conversion is often tied to economic fortunes. Not every country is stuck in a recession like the U.S. Accordingly, conversion rates will vary widely from market to market.

5.    Currency - Speaking of the economy and conversion rates, currency conversion rates are always changing. This makes it tough to benchmark costs from one country to the next, much less manage a global search marketing budget.

6.    Search Interfaces - Broadband and mobile penetration skew regionally and, in turn, so does search activity. For example, Asia Pacific boasts more mobile searches due to more advanced handsets.

7.    Marketing Organizational Structures - Many global corporations have decentralized marketing communications teams and multiple regional agencies, making it difficult to rally stakeholders around common objectives.

8.    Goals - With marketing teams fractionalized and consumer awareness levels ranging by region, it's not uncommon to have different markets managing to different goals: e.g., demand gen in EMEA, and brand awareness in APAC.

9.    Regulations - The oft-cited   issues of censorship in China is one example of how local government regulation can thwart the best-laid plans of mice and search marketers.

Some Assembly Required

Just as Obama had to put together the right Cabinet  to carry out his agenda, so, too, search marketers must commandeer the right resources to overcome the hurdles to global search integration. Here are some places to turn:

1.    Internal Champions - Find the person or team in the marketing organization that can take the business case to the C-Suite for centralizing global search strategy and budgeting. Show the efficiencies that consolidated management, shared learnings and cross-market optimization can have. Then it becomes easy (OK, easier) to take a portfolio approach to search, with each region managed to a goal that's a subset of the overall objectives. Some countries can be more branding-focused, others held to strict ROI metrics so long as the overall portfolio is hitting corporate goals.

2.    In-Market Experts - Beg, borrow, and steal, if you must, but find a way to procure in-market resources to translate the global search vision into the realities of each region. It's impossible to effectively manage search in different regions without feet on the street that know the market intimately.

3.    Agencies - Some search agencies have resources in all the major regions across the globe (or access to local resources via holding company networks) and are well-practiced at setting strategy globally and executing locally. Some also have workflow tools that standardize processes across regions.

4.    Search Engines - The Big 3 have tools like Google Insights that can provide country-level trends. They also have translation tools that can be helpful in a pinch -- but be careful not to confuse translation with regionalization. Finally, if your spend is large enough, or you work with a big agency, the engines can provide dedicated global account management teams to support your program.

5.    Bid and Campaign Management Technology Tools - Some (non-commoditized ) tools like Kenshoo are built for multi-region programs and have features to standardize currencies, build campaigns to different engine specs, suggest keywords in various languages, optimize based on different engine algos, etc.

6.    Systems-Integration Platforms - Technologies like Covario can suck in data from all the various sources in play and give you one worldwide dashboard to monitor.

Change We Can Believe In

Remember, while democracy may not be universal, search is.  Per TNS, search is the most frequent online activity worldwide, with 81% of Internet users using a search engine to find information.

The key to success for global search marketers is not to fall into the ethnocentric trap of assuming that what works here can work everywhere. Surround yourself with an army of international search advocates and weapons of mass centralization -- and you can bring about the change that your organization has been striving for



2 comments about "Global Search Integration: Yes We Can ".
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  1. Cat Wagman from Working Words, Inc., January 21, 2009 at 11:11 a.m.

    Bravo, Aaron ... and excellent post (to do list) that needs to be printed out and posted in each company who plans to reach beyond their current US markets. Thank you!

  2. Chet Gray from ASBTA, January 21, 2009 at 11:37 a.m.

    "how much work the U.S. has to do to improve its standing internationally".

    Whenever you begin a new program or venture, the key is to properly understand your starting point. Otherwise you will not be able to realistically measure your progress. When you rely on platitudes, stereotypes, and urban myths, it makes it easy to claim victory (ignoring the facts makes it easy to pat each other on the back for a job well done) but the meetings get awfully tense when the market conditions do not corroborate your assessment. I just returned from Australia where an article from the foreign editor from The Australian talked about how their research shows that the U.S.’s standing in Asia is higher now than when President Bush took office eight years ago. I also read an article while there that referenced a quote from the Indian PM stating that “Indians love President Bush” and that “America standing has never been higher in India”. Add to the fact that Africans understand that US aid to Africa has tripled in the last 8 years, surveys in Eastern Europe show that American standing is as high as it has ever been and suddenly you realize your baseline assumption is just that, an assumption based on a vocal but increasing irrelevant part of the market place, Western Europe.

    The reason that this is relevant to an article on international search as it is to all ventures in international business is that the number one complaint from many of our foreign partners is that Americans think that Western Europe represents the world and Americans develop programs and campaigns from this viewpoint and then do not understand why the results do not pan out. In business, we are always working with finite resources and if I am going to make a decision on how to best utilize those resources, focusing on fast growing regions like Asia, starting with no preconceived notions and actually getting their feedback, seems to be a much better roadmap to success than relying on viewpoints and unsubstantiated opinions that make sense to “our world”.

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