This project corresponds to an American multinational (listed on the NASDAQ) in which we joined to support the entire European market (17 countries) in a process of business operations restructuration as well as of the revitalization of sales through the digital channel.
The situation we were facing in September 2018 was that of a Drupal-based framework for all countries, which they had been adapting according to their acquisition and conversion needs. All the Tag Manager configurations, Google Analytics goals, CTAs, and other elements had been made by each country without establishing common guidelines that would serve to carry out a global strategy. For example, the main objective was clear in some markets and not in others, or was in Estonian in one Google account and Polish in another, as well as other disparities.
Mass migration and centralization of resources
As always, when we start a project we do two things:
- To get a good understanding of the business and learn how our actions can be integrated with the client’s current protocols.
- Understand and calibrate expectations: What is being asked of us, under what terms, and for when.
We started a month before a massive migration from version 2.0 to 3.0, and what we detected was that there were no migration plans (neither SEO nor web analytics), in addition to problems with redirects, 404 pages… that had been persisting since the migration from version 1.0 to 2.0.
We take this opportunity to highlight the malpractice of some agencies in terms of analytics when in a data migration they create a new Analytics property and they do not try to keep the historical data. Please, stop Legacy and make more effort in maintaining the logic of historical data
After several meetings to align ourselves, we started with the whole study and migration plan:
At the SEO level
One of the main objectives of the client in this migration was to homogenize the information between its European delegations: at the level of data collection and analysis; in the management and internal administration of the CMS, CRM, and in the corporate image, including how the contents were displayed and organized.
While in the analytical and management aspect it was clear to us that its homogenization objective was essential for the project as a whole, we did not consider it feasible to apply the same architecture and contents in all the websites/countries, even if each one was correctly translated into its corresponding language. The reason is that nowadays it is not only crucial to respond adequately to the users’ search intention in order to rank well, but you also have to do it better than your competition. And it is well known that there are cultural differences between European countries that influence the behavior of their inhabitants. For example, the consumer habits of a Swede are not the same as those of a Portuguese, as well as the way they search for information.
We were able to empirically verify this when we carried out exhaustive keyword research for each of the markets, accompanied by search intent research. Therefore, from the beginning, we advised against applying content homogenization as we expected that it would not give good SEO results. However, despite our recommendations, they decided to continue with their initial plan due to the urgency to launch version 3.0.
When you work with a client, you don’t always have decision-making power and some factors or decisions that involve parties with different weightings, so we always have to adapt to situations as adaptively, quickly, and productively as possible. Based on this, we adapted the contents to the search intent of each market once the whole migration process had already been completed, even though the ideal would have been to launch the adapted contents from the beginning. Even so, with all the data we had from our keyword research, we made sure that everything was optimized as much as possible in terms of goals, headings, contents, alts, etc.
When it comes to migrations, we have managed to be meticulous thanks to our action protocols (migration protocol, content protocol, audits, link building, etc).
In this project, as we were limited with the contents, it was an indispensable requirement that the on page aspects were perfect:
- Within the limitation we had, we made sure that all the authority flowed properly through the domains by applying improvements in the architecture and internal linking.
- We fixed all the server errors that are usually generated when migration is performed.
- We carried out a redirection adjustment plan: URLs that were in version 2.0 should now point to those in the new version. In addition, we detected that during the migration from version 1.0 to 2.0 there was no adjustment in the redirects, and a lot of link juice from broken links from high authority external domains was being wasted.
- We created sitemaps prioritizing the most important URLs and optimized robots.txt to control crawling.
- Other technical tasks such as the correct implementation of HTTPS, massive deindexing of old URLs, blocking of parameters through GSC, canonicals, etc.
At the CRO level
We worked in 3 lines of business:
1. Clean, standardize and protocol the necessary information in Google Tag Manager::
For this task, we had to understand what needed to be kept in the new Tag Manager containers, while adding cross-domain integration; we reused variables for different tags and triggers and did this through documentation to standardize nomenclature across marketplaces:
In addition, we implemented all the third-party software tags that we would be using in the coming months to improve site conversion.
2. Check what information should be taken to Google Analytics and under what conditions::
In this section, while documenting, we did all the mapping of IP exclusions; parity of old targets with the new versions; we also created a global account to understand how the company was working as a group, and we prepared a staging system to validate the tags before going to production.
3. We prepared a KPI system in 2 levels::
The first level was focused on each market and allowed a high level of KPI customization:
The other level was a state-of-the-art executive system that allowed the detection of inefficiencies, business opportunities, and benchmarking against competitors.
At this point, we would like to point out that the data visualization revolved around 3 levels:
- 1. Monthly data
- 2. Quarterly data
- 3. Annual data (year-to-date)
The visual objective of the data was the standardization of the work together with a definition of methodology and joint analysis, while allowing the markets to work autonomously, as they are the ones who are with the clients on a daily basis and are well aware of the changes in market trends.
Actions after the migration
At the SEO level
After the migration, we took very seriously the monitoring of traffic, keywords, and the performance of the most critical URLs in the rankings because we needed to see how the websites were performing in the SERPs with the new 3.0 version.
From the beginning it was clear to us that we had to improve the content to make a better match with the search intent, so we gave priority to this aspect but, in parallel, we also made on page adjustments, as well as a link building action plan.
Using a tracking tool, we closely monitored the behavior of the most important keywords after the migration. At the same time, we collected data from the SERPs and competitors for these keywords which, together with the keyword research we had done beforehand, allowed us to design a content strategy adapted to each of the markets.
These strategies were presented to the marketing managers in each country so that, with their insights, we could define all the subtleties.
With all this, the different strategies were approved in order of priority and we set in motion the content generation plan, which involved writing and translation tasks. At the same time, we had to coordinate to upload the contents to the CMS and apply the noindex and index directives as required by the situation.
With the CRO implementations we performed, we were able to test which version was better for both the user and Google.
In the on page department, we made the necessary adjustments in the web architecture and internal linking to adapt to the new content strategies. The idea was to promote the most relevant sections in terms of business and objectives.
Data from Suite SEO de DinoRank
In addition, changes in the contents imply variations of URLs, so it is necessary to touch again the redirections, verify that no server errors are being generated, sitemaps, canonicals, content analysis, etc.
In the second stage, different meta titles will be tested in order to increase the CTR.
On the link building end, we found that we had sites from very large markets (such as the UK) with high domain authority, while sites from smaller markets, such as Lithuania, had low domain authority as they received lower quality and lower quantity links.
However, we also verified that markets with more authority also competed with large and high authority sites, while markets with low authority were not in the same situation.
Therefore, we decided to design a strategy both at a global level, intelligently transferring authority from one domain of the group to another (from the big ones to the small ones), and at a local level, getting important media links for all the domains.
At the CRO level
Throughout 2019, we focused on further improving data quality and data visualization. To do this, we standardized a set of microconversions that were useful to all markets and other on-site events that allowed us to understand user behavior. If any market needed a particular event and it could be replicated to the rest of the countries, we did so.
Moreover, one of the problems that centralization has in terms of conversion is that a product is not always understood in the same way in one country as in another. For example:
- Selling coffee in one country may be understood as the sale of coffee machines while in another it may be the coffee beans.
This situation made it difficult to scale the SEO, as Google (and even worse, the user) did not always understand the search intent of that particular landing page. With this situation in mind, what we did was to develop a pipeline of tests (obviously considering the effects of interactions between tests) so that the markets could prepare their commercial proposals and the result could be standardized to the company’s management.
It is important to mention that depending on the market and the sector it is difficult to achieve statistical significance in certain tests (i.e., the tire sector in a country like Lithuania), so what we did was to define a system of positive trends, implementation, and rollback if we found false positives. Here is an example of a test that trended positively:
These tests that were performed were superiority tests, with binomial data input and a statistical significance of 95% for a statistical power of 80%.
After several cases, the improvements have been positive in several markets, but they should always be monitored over time to avoid false positives, as mentioned above.
With all this, the results obtained after almost a year and a half of work are:
+26.56% increase in organic users and an 8.3% increase in qualified leads.
We hope with this case study to show that the challenges faced by multinationals when aligning a cross-markets strategy are sometimes incompatible with maximizing adaptation per country, but that protocols and systems must be implemented to maximize value for users and Google in each market.