Global SEM in an International Not-For-Profit – International Search Summit

Global SEM in an International Not-For-Profit – International Search Summit

28th October 2010

The first session at the International Search Summit was delivered by David Carralon the head of SEM at the British Council.

The British council faces challenges like shrinking marketing budgets, scarce staff resources and increased government pressure to generate more income from English courses and exams. They have 560 websites spread over the globe. They have followed the subfolder route in terms of domain strategy which has limitations as discussed later.

Tech Issues they face

Their top level domain do not allow them to geo-target thus giving them a lot of localisation problems. Accessibility is also an issue as their website relies heavily on javascript. They also have duplicate content issues as 1 piece of editorial content is syndicated to 80 different websites. The issues with localisation result in Google picking one at random.

Solutions: Low Cost SEO that works


Their brand is their strength and they rely on the brand to deliver better SEO. Tone of voice, people and positioning is very important. It is core to how they operate. They use Google page rank to establish issues and it works.

Alternative ways to distribute Page Rank:

Use deep linking as they have issues with javascript navigation. Link juice pushes to each business critical area from the home page thus raising importance. Their status as a non-profit organisation helps immensely for inbound links from the BBC and other mainstream news organisations. They use low value links to push more anchor text based links where needed, they work because of the strength of the brand.

Online PR = effective link building

They have 8 applications that help to learn English. Online PR of a new iPad app resulted in 50 different portals for media news getting good links.

Identifying and educating champions:

Work with a key group of interested people and setup basic seo project templates in a program like basecamp.

Give credit to your colleagues:

Very important to give credit in cases of success to the entire team. Don’t take any credit, give it out to others and you will get the credit in the long term.


Traffic to the British council in France increased by around 100% and a direct correlation in the revenue earned.

See other related posts on the conversion conference:


Written By
Louis Venter is the founding director and CEO of MediaVision, a Search Engine Marketing (SEM) company specialising in all areas of search. His particular interests are organic search marketing, paid search marketing, conversion strategy and online PR.
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