Globe Trotting Search Marketing

  |  May 5, 2008   |  Comments

Points to check before selecting an international agency for interactive marketing.

For the past eight years I've spent my time circumnavigating the planet on search marketing business. On average I spend about 20 weeks of the year traveling. It's fair to say I have a taste for international business.

I joined my current firm, in large part, because it's an international search marketing company servicing global organizations. And, international search marketing involves more than bringing in a translator and then knocking out a few campaigns around the world.

It's actually quite a complex process that takes into account a lot more than language issues. I know of a case where a global company launched a highly anticipated new product. Not only was the manufacturer selling the new product online, so were its retailers.

Competition was heavy and the product release was for 12 countries staggered over a three-month period. The initial push was in the United States and the search campaign got off the ground with ease. However, the international rollout became quite a bumpy ride.

The problem: as the product became available in non-English speaking countries, campaigns were activated by the native language agency with little or no interaction with the agency based in the United States.

It's essential to have a close dialogue on issues involving keywords, best practices, and what works best based on optimization. The result when that didn't occur: costs were insanely high, purchases were low, and reporting was tough to make sense of.

A better route would have been to have centralized communication and reporting. And, of course, to deal with an agency with past experience in international marketing. This then leads to higher sales volume and lower marketing costs.

Some SEM firms wave an international banner, when in fact, they are outsourcing the work.

So there are a number of points must be checked before selecting an international agency for interactive or conventional marketing.

Are all of the subsidiaries wholly owned by the agency of record and is there true communication among them? One of the greatest strengths of paid search is speed to market. But if the agency needs to work with many different partners without training or a centralized knowledge base, it's likely the implementation will be impeded or fail.

Striking a balance of local savvy and global smarts is important. If your campaigns are being run and optimized by partners in multiple locations, there needs to be a centralized reporting structure for top-line results. Knowledge gathered from each campaign should be disseminated and applied to all local optimization efforts.

Beyond just language differences, your agency must be aware of cultural difference an international roll out. What's more, even though here in the United States we talk about the major search engines (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft), that's not always the case in other parts of the world. For instance, in mainland China, Baidu is the most dominant player. Yet in Hong Kong, Yahoo's number one. In the Czech Republic, Seznam is still number one.

Even aesthetics such as landing page layout needs careful consideration for international audiences. Certain blends of looks and colors can be appealing in one market, but not others.

The list is pretty long and goes well beyond this overview here. But perhaps, the one most important aspect of international business is actually having boots on the ground in each territory you market in.

The Internet may have created a global village. One thing's for sure: you can't get a better understanding of your client's needs than sitting around the table with her. Face-to-face beats a Web conference anytime.

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Mike Grehan

Mike Grehan is Publisher of Search Engine Watch and ClickZ and Producer of the SES international conference series. He is the current president of global trade association SEMPO, having been elected to the board of directors in 2010.

Formerly, Mike worked as a search marketing consultant with a number of international agencies, handling such global clients as SAP and Motorola. Recognized as a leading search marketing expert, Mike came online in 1995 and is author of numerous books and white papers on the subject. He is currently in the process of writing his new book "From Search To Social: Marketing To The Connected Consumer" to be published by Wiley in 2013.

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