Your central search team drives your success in search marketing. The central search team will prevent the search crises you live with today by collaborating with the extended search team to maintain proper page tagging, avoid technology "downgrades," head off ill-fated navigational designs, as well as dozens more.
Perhaps your organization already has a central search team, but most do not. In Chapter 8, "Define Your Search Marketing Strategy," we discussed the mission it ought to have. Now let's see how to staff and develop your central team.
Staff the Central Team
How large should the central search team be? As small as possible. Even if you convinced everyone that the search opportunity is huge, it is always better to start small and prove the concept. It is far easier to expand a success than to get cash infusions for something that started too big and did not show value right away. So, be conservative and grow slowly. Even a huge Web site can start with two or three dedicated people, and small sites can start with you doing it part-time.
Remember, too, that the main purpose of your central search team is to help your extended search team. Your extended team must do the heavy lifting, with the central team setting strategy, performing training, answering questions, tracking metrics, and coordinating the overall program. So, staff your central team with the few subject matter xperts needed to assist the larger extended search team.
When staffing your team, you need to think carefully about the skills you are looking for. Because a generic list of search marketing skills can be quite long, consider only those skills actually needed in your situation. You must also recognize that you will never find all those skills in one person, so prioritize a few of the most important skills and find the best person you can. Here are some skills you might need on your central search team:
Web content skills. This array of skills ranges from copywriting to landing page optimization techniques to HTML coding. Because the central team will be working with the extended team on all of these tasks, the more familiarity the team has with those skills, the better.
Paid search. If you are planning a paid search program, the central search team needs expertise in each search engine's paid services, either because the central team runs the paid program or because they provide advice to the extended team.
Keyword research. The central team can aid the extended team by teaching them the basics of keyword planning, so the extended team can help choose the right search queries to target.
Search marketing tools. Because the central team chooses the tools and trains the extended team in their use, it is very helpful for team members to know those tools well.
Global skills. If your organization operates in multiple countries, having central team members that speak several languages and know the right local search engines to target in each country can be invaluable.
Web metrics. The central team must teach the extended team how to analyze metrics to prove return on investment. The central team often must define and track metrics for page rankings and other search-specific reports.
As important as these technical skills are, other skills are also needed for the central team to lead the extended team:
Familiarity with your Web site's purpose, content, and technology. Although easy to overlook, don't take for granted how much knowledge of your Web site is required to step in and be productive.
Knowledge of the company's products and customers. Similarly, it is much easier to perform keyword research and to optimize pages when someone on the central search team knows the subject areas and audiences of the content.
Working relationships with the extended team. As with any human endeavor, it takes time to build relationships, so bringing in someone who already has those personal connections will cut startup time.
Consulting experience. All the technical expertise in the world is wasted if the central team does not communicate it to the extended team. A team member trained to listen to problems and solve them might have more impact than an uncommunicative expert. If you cannot hire experienced consultants, teachers are almost as good. Folks with teaching experience excel at explaining complex subject matter, but consultants might be better listeners when specific problems arise for your extended team.
Although it is tempting to hire only folks who have deep technical expertise, it might be useful to hire one central team member from the extended team, because that person might already have the requisite familiarity with the Web site and the company, and might also possess some important relationships.
Keep in mind that it is the rare central search team that grows large enough to hire people with all of these varied skills. Aim to create the mix of skills that are most valuable for your organization's team.
Develop the Central Team's Skills
Because you cannot hire enough people to have expertise in every area of search marketing, it is critical to develop the skills of the people you do hire. There is no shortage of ways to grow your team's skills:
Just do it. There really is no substitute for trying to do something new. Even if you hire world-class experts, search marketing is changing all the time, so a good team will always have to experiment. Find people who learn by doing.
Read about it. We highly recommend that you stay informed about the constant changes in search marketing, and you should buy a copy of this book for every member of your team and for your 100 closest friends. (Okay, the publisher made us put that in.) The rise of search marketing has spawned excellent free and low-cost sources of information, including numerous high-quality Web sites and e-mail newsletters.
Take a class. Although not every search marketing technique is covered in formal classes, your team can learn HTML and technology skills this way. The Web has transformed training classes from time-consuming in-person experiences to quick online training that is ready when you are.
Attend a conference. Some of the best search marketing information comes your way at conferences such as Search Engine Strategies and Webmaster World. Send your central search team and get them the quickest education possible.
Cross-train. If you are able to staff a two- or three-person team, make sure they teach each other what they know. Not only does this help you over rough spots when team members move on to other positions, it also makes your team more well-rounded and better able to handle issues raised by the extended team.
Rotate extended team members. A real win-win that can stretch your resources is a rotation program. Identify promising extended team members and offer them free training for a few months serving as a temporary member of the central team. Not only do you get someone else to help do the work, you also expand your relationships with the extended team and your team benefits from their expertise.
In Chapter 16, "What's Next?" we show you a list of Web sites, conferences, and other stuff that will keep your team busy for a long time. There is no shortage of information about search marketing, so you need to use your judgment about the best use of your time.
As with any team, constantly developing skills has many other benefits. Team members who learn new skills are more likely to remain in their jobs, and you benefit from employees who are better trained for those jobs. In addition, extended team members rotating back from central team assignments become your best allies among the troops. As important as it is to hire well, it is also important to develop the team you hire.