August 1, 2011 Selecting An International Search Agency

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Jun 26, 2012 (5 years and 10 months ago)


Making Leaders Successful Every Day
August 1, 2011
Selecting An International Search
by Lucilla De Sarlo
for Interactive Marketing Professionals
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For Interactive Marketing Professionals
ExEcutI vE SuMMAry
The deployment of search marketing programs across different geographical markets has led marketers
to consider the support of an international search marketing agency, which offers advantages from
scalability to expertise across languages and currencies. Forrester looked at the landscape of popular US
search marketing agencies to diagnose how these providers are expanding their international capabilities.
Forrester recommends marketers define the type of agency relationship and the depth of international
search knowledge required before starting a vendor selection process and to create test scenarios set up in
different markets to ensure that the selected agency has proven its capabilities in key markets.
tAbLE oF contEntS
A Global Search Agency Brings Its Own
Global Agencies Must Offer Multinational
Technology And Service
Pick An Agency that understands your Most
Important Markets
Landscape Of US Search Marketing Agencies
Global Capabilities
Define Your Agency Relationship And Search
Knowledge Requirements
notES & rESourcES
Forrester interviewed several search marketing
agencies, including 360i, icrossing, covario,
Impaqt, iProspect, and Performics.
Related Research Documents
“Finding the right Agency Model to Support
your Global Search Marketing Programs”
May 11, 2011
“the Forrester Wave™: uS Search Marketing
Agencies, Q1 2011”
January 31, 2011
August 1, 2011
Selecting An International Search Agency
How to Evaluate International capabilities of uS Search Marketing Agencies
by Lucilla De Sarlo
with Emily riley, Shar vanboskirk, and James McDavid
2011, Forrester research, Inc. reproduction ProhibitedAugust 1, 2011
Selecting An International Search Agency
For Interactive Marketing Professionals
Increasing numbers of businesses — many with a substantial eCommerce presence — are looking
to expand their search marketing initiatives internationally in an efficient and sustainable manner,
ideally as part of their interactive program overall. The factors that guide marketers’ decision
processes include:
Scalable infrastructure. A global search agency approach will reduce the fragmentation of
technology used across the organization for bid optimization, campaign management, and
reporting — for both paid search and search engine optimization (SEO). This will allow
increasing automation even in markets where resources and budget dedicated to search
marketing are limited. By talking to different agencies, we found that the wider the variety of
tool sets needed to serve various markets, the greater the cost and the less efficient the reporting
is going to be, which decreases scalability.
Enterprisewide training. According to one of the marketers interviewed, “A central ‘tool kit’
(of search) education is the beauty of having a global agency.” Marketers can rely on the agency
to have consistent knowledge across markets on search marketing through a global training
program. The training can ensure the success of the program even when key team members in
the company may change roles or new markets are ready to embrace search marketing and need
to gain some quick knowledge.
Search governance. Governance by a global agency will not only determine a process for
consistent documentation for search program goals, processes, roles, and responsibilities
across the organization, but it will also indentify initiatives that can be centralized because
they are applicable independent from geographic location, e.g., SEO overall site structure
optimization. A clear campaign and structural governance will optimize resources and time of
implementation, as well as define roles.
Effective pricing. Marketers can leverage the overall size of the organization to secure a more
favorable global cost with a single global agency. What’s more, marketers can negotiate preferred
rates with select vendors when the technology is not provided directly by the search agency. As
360i said to us: “Technology is the area where cost-efficiency is easy to achieve — roll out the
same technology across the markets.”
Set of best practices. A global agency will bring best practices such as a keyword theme
framework and standard key performance indicators (KPIs) for campaign measurement.
Those practices will improve the performance of the search program across geographies as
lessons learned by marketers in countries with actual testing budgets and more flexible returns
on investment (ROIs) can be adopted by marketers in countries with less search marketing
investment. As iCrossing pointed out to us, using standardized KPIs allows for a common
language across the business units in different markets.
2011, Forrester research, Inc. reproduction Prohibited August 1, 2011
Selecting An International Search Agency
For Interactive Marketing Professionals
When looking for an international search marketing agency — internationally focused marketers
must evaluate agencies based on the following (see Figure 1):
Tools and reporting with multicountry flexibility. Marketers should ask the agencies about
the adaptability of their technology, not only whether they have the ability to seamlessly
integrate with any existing solution across markets to track search activities, but also if it can
support different languages, currencies, time zones, and search engines.
For instance, agencies
should be able to provide multicurrency reporting, but also on-the-fly currency conversion
tools as Impaqt does to avoid any currency fluctuation for accurate budget allocation. In another
example, global reporting in one language is provided from iCrossing, with the use of the
Google Translate application to translate search terms and ad copy on-the-go.
International research and copy writing process. For successful search campaigns, marketers
must capture language and cultural nuances, both when researching local users’ behavior to
create the list of terms and when localizing ad copy and content for the landing page. Marketers
must ensure that the agency has processes and resources in place for localization, beyond pure
translation from an English seed list of terms. When helping one of its clients in the Asia Pacific
region, Covario’s employees visited the local stores to understand what conversations people
were having with salesmen to inform what search terms to add to the campaign.
International site optimization process. Marketers must assess the abilities of the agencies
to manage site optimization across geographies by looking at their processes for content
deduplication, especially when in multiple English-speaking countries; capturing global ranking
data across different engines; and leveraging local link building. As one of the marketers
in the consumer packaged goods arena said to us: “Technology is more central, content is
more localized.” Scalability in SEO is reached with the right balance between centralization,
localization, and automation technology adoption.
2011, Forrester research, Inc. reproduction ProhibitedAugust 1, 2011
Selecting An International Search Agency
For Interactive Marketing Professionals
figure 1 International Features of uS Search Agencies
Source: Forrester Research, Inc.
Feature Explanation
Global bid tracking and bid
management tools
Multicountry reporting
What unique tools or capabilities does the vendor provide specifically to
manage bids across multiple non-US markets?
How well can the vendor accommodate its clients' reporting needs
outside the US?
International copywriting
International site optimization
What resources does the vendor have dedicated to copywriting for the
language and culture of non-US markets?
How well can the vendor optimize complex sites across geographies?
How does the vendor apply customer analysis per market to develop a
local list of search terms (i.e. using personas, understand local languages
and customs)?
International clients
International research
What percentage of the vendor’s client base uses the vendor to run
multinational programs?
International footprint In what countries does the vendor have offices? Which of these offices
are native offices? Which rely on relationships with partners, contractors,
or sister agencies?
International support How many staff members does the vendor have dedicated to supporting
non-US search programs? What are the capabilities/accreditation of the
Pick An Agency That Understands Your Most Important Markets
Global search marketing agencies can support multiple geographies by 1) having physical presence
in each market; 2) relying on sister agencies’ resources when lacking presence; or 3) creating
partnerships with local search agencies where needed. Regardless of the approach used by the
agency, marketers should:
Ascertain the presence. Marketers should be clear on the markets to target and ensure that the
agency has capabilities to cover them all. However, when looking for a search specialist, it may
be difficult finding an agency that covers all the geographies required. In this case, marketers
should discuss a hub-and-spoke solution. However, as Razorfish said to us, supporting a market
remotely can’t replace the in-depth localization process. Remote execution makes it difficult to
follow all the events happening in real time, for example, which is particularly damaging if one
of your major markets must be managed this way.
Understand the purview of the agency in each market. Marketers should ask for clarity and
transparency about the type of support and relationship the agency has in each market. You want
to know who is doing the work. There is nothing wrong with partnering with another domestic
agency or contractor, as long as it follows a stable and established relationship, similar to what
Covario has established with its partners in South Korea, Russia, and France. The local offices must
be held to consistent technology, training, and process standards to truly form a global presence.
2011, Forrester research, Inc. reproduction Prohibited August 1, 2011
Selecting An International Search Agency
For Interactive Marketing Professionals
Look for native-speaking search resources. To ensure that each market receives relevant
localization rather than a simple translation, the local team should have native-speaking
resources who can capture languages nuances, customs, and local behavior. Not only must the
resources grasp the local needs for a relevant and efficient campaign, but they must also be
trained in search marketing. Marketers should ask questions about the training program and
qualifications held by the local team.
Forrester looked at the global offerings and the international capabilities of 360i, Covario, iCrossing,
Impaqt, iProspect, Performics, and Razorfish. We focused on their ability to develop and support
international search programs in terms of technology, service, and geographic presence (see Figure 2).
In a search marketing landscape, we have found agencies talking about their challenges such as
spanning different markets and finding the right model to profitably support their clients. Agencies
have been dealing with global bid management similarly by supporting a variety of languages,
currencies, and time zones while offering report flexibility via third-party tools, — like Razorfish
and Performics, which rely on Marin Software — or proprietary tools — like iProspect and Impaqt.
However, these agencies have used different approaches when dedicating resources to non-US
programs or and local support. Marketers should consider the following elements of vendors’
international capabilities.
iCrossing. iCrossing has such a strong technology and service offering that even its lack of
global footprint — compared with iProspect and Performics — doesn’t diminish its effectiveness
for marketers with international needs. Any marketers looking for in-depth search knowledge
with local support in the UK and Germany or South America — along with the US — will find
iCrossing a valuable partner. Also, its forecast-based approach to campaign management and its
qualitative and quantitative research skills can certainly be of value to international marketers.
360i. This firm excels for its international copywriting capabilities for paid search with resources
dedicated to develop unique copy for international markets and its experience in optimizing
international sites. However, 360i has local presence in only four other markets outside the US,
significantly less than peers; but it has good coverage in the Asian market.
iProspect. This geographically well-represented firm has strong support for global clients
with a dedicated staff supporting non-US search programs and covers a large number of
countries. Its lack of site optimization skills and processes does not match its vision of spanning
geographically for SEO. On the other hand, its multilanguage capabilities insure an extensive
international copywriting process. In addition, the restricted customization for clients to create
reports by themselves may disappoint those marketers who want to provide some flexibility for
individual markets.
2011, Forrester research, Inc. reproduction ProhibitedAugust 1, 2011
Selecting An International Search Agency
For Interactive Marketing Professionals
Performics. Performics excels for both the breadth of international support with its 13
international proprietary offices and the number of resources for international copywriting.
However, copywriters typically develop local copy off of ad copy developed first by a central
team — usually in English. Marketers seeking closer local support should clarify how the
localization process works. In addition, Performics’ internationally broad presence has been
offset by its unclear plan and vision to expand geographically, especially with its lack of tools to
automate multichannel optimization.
Impaqt. Although Impaqt supports international programs for 60% of its clients through
automation and site-stays as needed, it lacks an international footprint. However, the new
acquisition by Merkle has reshaped its consideration of expanding outside the US. In fact,
Impaqt has talked about providing on-site support via Merkle’s Shanghai office with the
inclusion of some search specialist resources, ideal for marketers in the Asian market to leverage
its strong offering and automated tools with additional local experience.
Covario. Covario excels in technology — especially SEO. However, it lags behind other
leading vendors in terms of overall service and international presence, except in the Asia
Pacific region. Despite its strength in SEO, Covario’s pay-per-click (PPC) services have more
penetration internationally. It has the least experience servicing international clients of the
leading vendors reviewed.
Razorfish. We find Razorfish balanced in its international support and footprint, and one-
quarter of its clients use it for running search programs in more than one country; although
it has a clear framework to optimize sites internationally, its overall SEO offering falls short.
Although international marketers can leverage the company’s strong paid search competencies,
they must consider that Razorfish does not have dedicated search copywriters but can certainly
tap into its larger agency family staff.
2011, Forrester research, Inc. reproduction Prohibited August 1, 2011
Selecting An International Search Agency
For Interactive Marketing Professionals
figure 2 International Information of Key uS Search Marketing Agencies
Source: Forrester Research, Inc.

Source: Agency reported information
*Denotes more than one office in this country

Percentage of clients using the vendor for running search programs outside the US
outside US

International offices
outside US
by revenue
outside US
Hong Kong, Japan,
Singapore, UK
Canada, China, Japan,
Singapore, UK
Argentina, Chile, Germany,
Mexico, Peru, South Korea,
Spain, UK*
Australia*, Austria, Belgium,
Brazil, Canada, China*,
Denmark*, Finland, France,
Germany*, Hong Kong,
Hungary, India*, Ireland,
Italy, Japan, Malaysia,
the Netherlands*, New
Zealand, Norway, Portugal,
Singapore, South Africa*,
South Korea, Spain*, Sweden,
Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, UK
UK, Japan
UK, China
UK, France,
Razorfish 29% 27% Australia, Brazil, France,
Germany, Hong Kong, Spain,
Tokyo, UK
Performics 56% 54%
Argentina, Armenia and
Moldova, Australia, Austria,
Belarus, Belgium, Brazil,
Bulgaria, Canada, Chile,
China, Columbia, Costa Rica,
Czech Republic, Denmark,
Ecuador, Finland, France,
Georgia, Germany, Greece,
Hong Kong, Hungary, India,
Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy,
Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia,
Malaysia, Mexico, Middle East
support, Netherlands, New
Zealand, Norway, Peru,
Philippines, Poland, Portugal,
Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia,
Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia,
Slovenia, South Korea, Spain,
Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan,
Thailand, Turkey, UK, Uruguay,
China, Italy
2011, Forrester research, Inc. reproduction ProhibitedAugust 1, 2011
Selecting An International Search Agency
For Interactive Marketing Professionals
r E c o MME n D At I o n S
Marketers must consider the needs of different geographies, organization, and budget allocation
structure, on top of what the challenges may be in operating in different market conditions. It is
critical, as marketers, for you to:
Ask yourself what type of search agency relationship suits your business. We have
previously provided some guidance in finding the right agency model to support your global
search marketing programs. before identifying the firms you would like to evaluate, define
the type of relationship the better suits you and your business. review agencies according to
whether you need a centralized, decentralized, or localized relationship — this will shape up
the geographies and resources you would like your potential partner to have.
Define the depth of international search knowledge required. Marketers can find
themselves considering either in-depth search knowledge or comprehensive international
support. Marketers can select from three categories on international support. In one
category there are companies with the broadest footprint, with shallow search experience.
this is generally a firm owned by a parent holding company with agency offices all over the
world, which can give in-market support and expertise but not necessarily search-specific
capabilities, like razorfish or Performics through Publicis Groupe. In the second category,
you have a company with a pretty broad footprint, with moderate search experience. this is
generally a firm that still relies on sister agencies or partners to establish in market presence
but train resources in these markets in search, like iProspect does. In the third category, you
have a company with a smaller footprint but in-depth search knowledge across all offices.
these firms launch offices that are staffed with specialists who leverage the same processes
and tools that the home office does. because this is harder to scale, this category doesn’t
have access to a lot of resources in fringe locations, similar to icrossing.
Test your agency’s international capabilities in the RfP process. once you narrow your
list, use the request for proposal (rFP) process to probe the agencies’ capabilities further.
create test scenarios that let you evaluate the agency’s ability to run a search program
in your markets, to your customers, with your kind of business objectives. Leverage the
challenges that you currently face in your business and create scenarios that involve different
geographies and languages. Evaluate their approach to international search marketing,
which resources they would allocate, and what technology they would adopt to optimize
budget and processes. And, of course, talk to current clients to compare vendor claims with
actual results, preferably from different geographies.
2011, Forrester research, Inc. reproduction Prohibited August 1, 2011
Selecting An International Search Agency
For Interactive Marketing Professionals
We think that automation saves time and money. Today, a number of vendors provide paid search
automation tools at the enterprise level. Core paid search automation capabilities include bid optimization,
campaign management tools, and reporting. See the February 22, 2011, “The New Paid Search Automation
Landscape” report.
SEO technologies create efficiency by offloading formerly manual work. SEO automation technologies
perform SEO assessment, provide recommendations for optimization, and make it possible to track SEO
results, a la paid search. See the February 22, 2011, “Automation Helps Marketers Scale Organic Search”
As interactive marketers increasingly target different countries and markets around the world, many are
focused on how agencies can help them get the most out of search marketing. Forrester has identified
three primary models: centralized to provide one single point of contact, decentralized to balance central
resources with local support, and localized for an independent one-to-one relationship. See the May 11,
2011, “Finding The Right Agency Model To Support Your Global Search Marketing Programs” report.
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