Back in the 1990's, many companies had only one global website to represent their businesses. Now you’re likely to have a dedicated website for each of your markets, and may even have several.

If this story sounds familiar, your organization is probably facing the challenge of how to give these sites local color without diluting your global brand. It’s quite a conundrum: many local offices are used to autonomy and are reluctant to give the central marketing team control of what they see as “their” online assets.

At the same time, the central web team can never provide the kind of local market knowledge that clients and prospects need.

The solution, of course, is a combination of localization and centralization. The trick is in knowing what to include in each category. We've put together a handy list of where you can give your local teams free rein -- and where you should maintain an iron grip.

Localize Me

When managing a global web presence, there are some things you should always localize:

  • File and directory names: Meaningful file names will help your SEO and your users -- but only if they are in your target language. If you have a centrally defined IA, make sure it has the flexibility to translate directory names.
  • Page titles and metadata descriptions: These should be descriptive of your page content and preferably keyword-rich. They can improve your page ranking in search engines, but only if they are in your target language. So, if you are translating shared or global content, then make sure these are translated too.
  • Images: Images need to be culturally sensitive and appropriate. Local site owners need to be able to publish images which will be meaningful to their markets. This especially applies to "lifestyle" images. Having said this, centrally-provided images are usually the best way to ensure quality and consistency. Many large companies have image libraries which contain a wide selection of approved images from which local teams can choose to meet the needs of their market.
  • Legal notices: Legal notices need to reflect the legal requirement of each country in which your business operates.
  • Content plans: One of the best ways to ensure you are meeting market needs in each locale is to give your audience relevant content. Local teams will be best aware of what suits these needs.

Centralize Me

While localization is vital, giving up total control to local teams can spell disaster for your business. For visibility and consistency, here are five things that should always remain centralized.

  • Domain name registrations: Knowing what you have is essential; domain names should be centrally registered and managed.
  • Site setup processes: To keep your brand consistent across all your markets, it’s important for local teams to follow the same procedures, getting central sign-off where appropriate. Create a step-by-step process for setting up a new site -- it will make launches run more smoothly.
  • Web policies and standards: Shared policies and standards reinforce your brand and reduce risk. They will allow you to be more responsive to change, and save you money!
  • Social media account registration: Protect your business against sudden departures or rogue activity by ensuring all social media accounts are registered centrally. This keeps you in control and allows you to make sure that anyone who is no longer authorized to represent your brand online can no longer do so.
  • Global KPIs and measurements: To work out how successful your web presence is, you need to know how all your sites perform in relation to each other. Centralizing key performance indicators (KPIs) and performance measurements enables you to identify your most successful sites -- and replicate their methods across the others.

Image courtesy of ArtisticPhoto (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read more of Simon's suggestions for fine-tuning websites, check out Opportunities and Challenges of Mobile Websites