Global Content Marketing Gets Granular: An Interview with Airbnb’s Head of Global SEO

3 minute read

Upland Admin

Global. It’s big. It’s complicated. And it’s hard for marketers to “do.”

The sheer logistics of organizing a global content strategy are astronomical: defining processes, categorizing content and assets across geographic regions, organizing the people involved, and dealing with language barriers.

But the real challenge of global strategy isn’t how big you can get, but how small you can get.

Take Airbnb, for example. Airbnb is the fifth-largest hotelier in the world, and one of the fastest growing global companies in the social economy space. From the founder’s rented San Francisco air mattress in 2008, Airbnb has emerged as (likely) the most important hotel chain in the Western World—and soon to be across Asia.

The real challenge of global strategy isn’t how big you can get, but how small you can get.

“Global” is an obvious part of any conversation, “especially in the travel segment,” said Dennis Goedegebuure, head of Global SEO at Airbnb.

Airbnb has the challenge of becoming an immediately recognized global brand, while also connecting with each and every guest and host across a myriad of cultures, Goedegebuure says. The solution?

Airbnb is going granular.

They’ve tapped into roughly 3,500 local photographers and videographers to produce the real-life photos that welcome and captivate visitors on the site. This guerilla-like tactic has made digitally re-creating global neighborhoods a possibility—and the result is a surprisingly realistic, evocative online experience for users.

Airbnb is going granular.

For example, the Neighborhood feature of the site has roughly 580 pages, spread over 20 cities and localized in more than 30 local Airbnb sites around the globe. Sites are built in native languages, and the visual content for these pages are initiated by Airbnb staff to on-the-ground freelance photographers and videographers who deliver real, authentic, honest photos.

It’s an innovative and authentic approach that taps into today’s “abundance” culture. And, though it’s a lot of work to gather, curate, and publish that amount of content…

  • It helps answers the question, “how do I get my content into the hands of actual people?”
  • It authenticates and localizes one of the world’s biggest companies
  • It helps connect a big brand to the cultural vernacular of places across the globe
  • And it underscores a culture of trust between Airbnb and its users

It’s also a bottom-up approach that turns the classic global strategy on its head.

Most people’s concept of a “global content strategy” is top-down, beginning with one message that filters out across regions. Check out the drawings that various people from the Copyblogger Authority Intensive event made to visualize “global content strategy.”

Many started their global strategy with one dot, and spread lines outward.

But Airbnb is challenging this concept. They’ve made “user-experience” so central that it’s driving their global outreach. They’ve put the reins in the hands of their users. They’ve empowered real people on the grounds and in the neighborhoods that Airbnb supports, and connected with them.

Their approach to localizing global content is starting ground up.

For those of your struggling with your global content strategy. Take a lesson from Airbnb. Start with your users, and don’t be afraid to turn traditional approaches on their head.

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