• Wed. Jan 12th, 2022

The 4 main challenges for brands using international SEO agencies

ByVirginia D. Bannon

Jun 23, 2021

International research is difficult, messy and complex work.

Agencies can add great value with specific international SEO knowledge and experience, but they can also be prohibitively expensive. You really want to be sure that you are getting the best return on your investment.

In this section, you’ll find practical tips to help brands get the most out of global SEO agencies and channels.

What is so difficult about international SEO?

Like everything else in digital marketing, in international research, there are no objective industry-wide standards or criteria – only a wide variety of best practices.

The world is a big field that often experiences uncoordinated and haphazard workflows and results.

Why is it so difficult?

First of all, let’s face the truth: SEO is a tough channel.

International research is complex, dynamic and multidisciplinary. Therefore, most internal teams need the support of agencies that are familiar with the space.

What they tend to find, unfortunately, are many “catch-up” approaches. While understandable in an emerging field, brands deserve and demand better.

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This is partly due to the complexity of the space and partly to the capacities of international agencies which are generally underdeveloped and oversold.

Today, it’s harder than ever, due to the competition for talent in search marketing.

1. Technical SEO is quite difficult

The complexity starts with technical SEO. Requirements for specialized expertise vary by country and region.

While Google maintains its global supremacy, there are areas of the world where Google does not dominate.

China, where Baidu reigns, or Russia where it’s Yandex. In Korea, it’s Naver. In Japan, it’s Google with a Yahoo! twist (or maybe it’s Yahoo! with a Google twist).

This is a wide range of knowledge that an agency must fully master.

Even disregarding the dominant search engine in a region, global companies wanting to monitor, for example, sitemaps and indexing statistics by region.

Usually that means creating multiple Google Search Console accounts (or choosing your version by country) and grouping them together in a shared view, then using a third-party tool on top of it for more in-depth crawls and information.

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2. The international content requirements are enormous

Next, we move on to the content side of SEO.

The obvious needs of a global search are translation, localization and keyword research performed with precision in the native language, taking into account local dialects and habits or behaviors.

But more generally, this work needs to accurately inform content strategy decisions which, if made effectively, should focus on on-page signals and relevant messages that drive customers and prospects down the funnel to a conversion goal.

This work cannot be neglected.

3. Paid search has its own problems

On the paid search side, not only must the keyword research under the old criteria be accurate, but bidding strategies and negative matches must control ad spend to ensure that the lack of ongoing management does not increase recklessly. CPCs.

Landing pages should be fast and efficient, taking into account specific country and region behaviors and expectations.

That’s way too much for internal teams when they’re spread across multiple countries and regions, but unfortunately most agencies struggle here as well.

4. Footprints of large vs. small and agile agencies

Traditionally, large agency providers with global footprints provide the most international research support.

Agencies like these have offices in all major regions of the world.

They have top notch clients. They have partnerships with the biggest technology providers.

It is all fabulous; however, there is a small problem: they are not very good at doing global work.

Many of these agencies have global coverage built by acquisitions over the years.

These acquisitions provided the region store with an over-the-door sign marking it as part of the “big agency”, but without any integration work other than the transition from the e- address. email everyone, adding additional meetings to calendars and implementing them. various operational and HR-led distractions.

Most of these stores in the region are not centrally managed. They are essentially independent but affiliated local agencies, lacking federated and centralized global processes.

Being more agile, independent agencies often have a unique advantage.

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As they are generally smaller and more flexible than holding companies, they are often able to focus on holistic approaches and are integrated by design.

Even without a network of offices around the world, they can manage international search using a centralized approach, sometimes even under the same (virtual) roof.

For these reasons, I tend to prefer smaller, lighter independent agencies for global work, even without the large footprints of the holding companies.

They are usually more focused on doing a complex SEO job and can really do it, not just sell it.

There are, of course, good examples of large holding companies doing their job well on a global scale.

Being a large company with a branded cache may be enough to grab the attention of top agency holding companies; being the latter and bringing a big media expense to the table secures attention.

To be fair, this also ensures quality delivery and account management. But that still doesn’t mean that agencies won’t face the same pitfalls that still exist in global research: complex organization and global execution of search campaigns carried out consistently and consistently.

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It is not only solved by budgets.

Factors Internal Teams Should Consider for Global Research Agencies

So what’s an internal team to do? When you need some holistic research work, I recommend going through the following list of criteria one way or another:

Does the agency have global case studies you can reference, and does the agency have experience with global clients and existing clients in the countries and regions you are focusing on? Can you speak to any of their current or former clients?

Who are the main actors of the agency in your key regions, and can you meet these people? This is a key consideration.

What is the account team structure recommended by the agency?, and who owns the global agenda on their side? Where is this person based?

What are the processes and the checks and balances of global governance the agency uses, and how does it work in practice? For example, what does an overall technical program look like to them? A global content strategy? What can be done centrally and what needs to be done in the specific country and / or region?

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Who do you call if there is a problem? If this is the person who manages # 3’s account, do you like that person? I would highly value the relationship and overall sympathy of the Account Manager and his team.

Conclusion: it’s still a work in progress

There are probably literally more pages that could be said about this. And that kind of brings me to the end point.

This stuff is messy. It is complicated. It’s hectic. It is not easy.

And no matter how good everything sounds in a pitch deck, it’s nowhere near what it really looks like on the pitch.

Talk to existing or former clients and get their views. Talk to Forrester or one of the major tool vendors. Talk to your friends and colleagues.

Maybe we can all figure this out one day. Until then, finding the right global SEO agency remains a process that requires better solutions.

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