Any strategy starts with a firm definition of what the project will do. When you set out to succeed in search marketing for your Web site, your most critical question might be the scope of your program. On what scale are you working? A single business unit? Corporate branding across the enterprise?
Before answering that question, you need to remind yourself of the distinction between your first search marketing campaign and your overall search marketing program. Figure 8-1 shows how Snap's overall program consists of many campaigns, starting with the digital cameras campaign we have discussed. Although we show just four in the figure, Snap's program will eventually consist of dozens of campaigns as it gradually covers each product in its product line.
Figure 8-1. Search marketing campaigns within the program. Snap's digital cameras campaign is just the first in its overall search marketing program.
You need clear objectives for your search marketing program before you start. Are you looking for a long-term solution or just a quick fix to get a few keywords ranking well? Are you expecting to do just a few campaigns or do you have dozens (or hundreds) of product lines? Without asking yourself these questions up front, you are likely to take the wrong actions.
Occasionally, these questions are moot. If you are reading this book because a particular executive has ordered you to "fix search" (as sometimes happens), you will know your program's organizational scopeit covers the executive's organization. In short, if the Snap executive for home entertainment had charged us with improving search traffic, we probably would not have chosen digital cameras as our first campaign! We would choose home entertainment as our program scope, and we would pick one of those products (such as home theater systems) as our first campaign.
Much of the time, however, you will be the one making the recommendation, so you need to take a close look at your situation. To make a smart decision on your search marketing program's scope, you must consider both the size and structure of your organization. We tackle size considerations first.
Although every company differs, large and small companies typically face different challenges in search engine marketing. (If your organization is medium sized, you might have some problems of each.) Because these are generalizations, your company might have some differences from its stereotype, but understanding what can go wrong can help you analyze your own situation.
Normally, large organizations have the advantage in marketing, but small companies frequently have the upper hand in search marketing. Big companies still have some advantages, but it is a far more level playing field than with other areas of marketing. Let's investigate the success factors for search marketing and see how they relate to company size.
Smaller companies are generally "light on their feet"more flexible than their larger counterparts. This flexibility provides small companies with fundamental advantages in search marketing, starting with a basic willingness to pursue search marketing in the first place.
Large companies are often "stuck in their ways"they execute the same kind of marketing programs year after yearand it can take them a long time to even try search marketing. Some corporate types are risk averse, not wanting to go out on a limb for the new thing. Small companies are often more willing to take a chance on an unproven approach and are more likely to raise investment in search marketing quickly when they see it is working.
Large companies are often slower than small ones, which hurts search marketing in several ways. First, search marketing inevitably requires changes to your Web site. The faster you can make those changes, the faster your search success can begin. Moreover, continuing success depends on frequent fine-tuning. Smaller sites tend to be able to make changes with more speed and less bureaucratic wrangling.
Small companies often have the advantage in search marketing, but not here. Large companies have a big edge in publicity. Searchers know their names and the names of their products. Searchers are more likely to include those names in searches, a big edge for the large companies that own those names.
But it does not end there. The bigger and more well known the Web site, the more other Web sites will link to it. Whereas little companies must beg and plead for every link, big sites get them without even asking. Because everything that big companies do seems newsworthy, they attract news coverage for every tiny product announcement (which means links from news organizations and other well-respected sources). Customers, suppliers, and resellers link to large companies to bask in their reflected glory. Large corporations frequently have multiple sites that are interlinked, adding to their advantage. The link popularity that large sites enjoy helps their rankings immeasurably.
But small companies can attract links as well, as we explain in Chapter 13, "Attract Links to Your Site." Every day, some large companies find themselves ranked lower than smaller companies for searches for the own products. These small companies are often resellers for the large company, and they rank higher just because they have done a better job at search marketing.
Larger organizations typically have a huge edge in marketing resources, but they are often slow to devote them to something new, such as search marketing. So, although larger budgets can be an advantage in paid search (and can be helpful for organic campaigns as well), sometimes small companies spend more than big companies do.
In addition, the largesse of big companies sometimes gets in their own way. Small companies are much quicker to seek outside expertise, and might get better advice from consultants than corporations get from their less-experienced internal personnel who are not search marketing experts.
Analyze Your Organizational Structure
When deciding your search marketing program's scope, think about how your Web teams are organized. Figure 8-2 shows four kinds of organizationsyours might be different yet. Regardless, you need to consider how your organization works when choosing the scope of your search marketing program. Your organization certainly has some elements of these four if it is not a direct match.
Figure 8-2. Analyzing your organization. Most organizations have some underlying principle that they are organized around, so figure out yours.
There is no "right" way to organize and you might firmly believe that your organization ought to be reorganized. (Take heart, it probably will be soon.) What is important for your success as a search marketer is to understand your current organizational style.
Functional organizations tend to have a small number of products that are similar to each other and are sold to the same customersmany small-to-medium companies are organized functionally. Your teams have been divided into specialties based on what people do (such as marketing versus sales)their functions.
If your organization has one Webmaster group, a single team of programmers, and one marketing department (for example), your Web organization is structured more by function than one with groups for every country (or every product, or every audience, and so on). The more your Web organization is organized functionally, the easier it is to adopt a site-wide scope for your search marketing program. You can use existing functional groups within your organization to carry out many search marketing tasks.
One of the challenges of search marketing in a functional organization is to persuade the functions themselves to collaborate. In the good old days, the marketing department was in charge of delivering brand messages to groups of customers (market segments) and the sales department was in charge of selling the product to each individual customer, and they did not have to work together all that closely. With the advent of the Web, you might find these longstanding functional relationships in flux, because no one can agree where Web marketing leaves off and Web sales begin, for example. They need to collaborate now, whereas they did not need to work together as closely in the past.
Despite these challenges, implementing search marketing in a functional organization is less challenging than in some of the others we touch on later, simply because you do not need to coordinate across many different groups of specialists. All the marketing folks are in one group, for example, so you can train them all in search marketing at one time.
Product-oriented organizations might have centralized a lot of business functions into corporate headquarters, but they leave manufacturing and sales to product groups. Does each product have its own Web site? Do the Web sites share the same technology and content infrastructure or different ones? The more they work the same, the more easily you can engage in a site-wide search marketing program.
Do the products have a common set of customers? Do some of the search queries overlap between your products? The closer they are to each other, the more likely a company-wide search marketing program can succeed.
On the other hand, if your products appeal to completely different market segments, or each product area has a separately managed Web site, you might need to treat each product area as its own scoped search marketing program.
Product-oriented organizations (in which each product has its own Web site and Web team) require significant coordination for site-wide search marketing programs to succeed. You might need to bring together a dozen Web programming teams to explain how search marketing changes their jobs. You might require agreement from several groups for new standards and procedures.
Apple Computer is a good example of a product-oriented company (whose products share common customers), but because its Web site uses a single approach, its search marketing might be centralized, too. The more different ways that your Web team operates your Web site, the more coordination you must do.
Alternatively, if your products are sold to different customers who use different search queries, and your product sites are organizationally separate, you might pull back from centralizing a lot of tasks, and use the same approach discussed below for conglomeratessetting up separate search marketing programs for each product. General Electric does not sell aircraft engines and light bulbs to the same customers, nor use the same Web site for each, so perhaps its search marketing programs should differ for each product line, too.
There's no one right answer. What you decide depends largely on how your company is organized today.
As before, you need to look at the details of how things are done in your organization. Look for parallels to search engine marketing. Are technology investments managed centrally? Advertising? Marketing? Find one or two examples of central management of something similar to search marketing and use them as prototypes for setting the scope of your search marketing program.
IBM is an example of a company that is organized by country. It has centralized a lot of its marketing and advertising, however, so centralizing search marketing is accepted by the corporate culture. Other companies might provide the country organizations with more autonomy, so they might need to do more of the search work locally, with separate search marketing programs in each country.
Conglomerates are highly decentralized. Your corporate Web site (www.conglomerate.com) might be a small undertaking that exists mainly for investors because all the action happens in the individual companies that make up the conglomerate. Each company makes its own decisions about what to do and how to spend its money with little direction from corporate. Each company has its own Web site (www.company.com) that many customers do not even realize is part of the conglomerate, because the brand identity mainly resides with each company.
In some conglomerates, such as Berkshire Hathaway, a centralized search marketing effort makes no sense because their corporate culture is not centralized. You are far better off setting up separate search projects in each individual company, possibly sharing ideas and consulting across the companies.
Finalize Your Search Marketing Program's Scope
Now that you have analyzed the type of organization you work in, you are ready to make some decisions about your search marketing program's scope. How broad should the program be in your organization? Should it cover your entire enterprise, just your business unit, only your country, or something else? Choosing your program's scope affects which executive(s) and which Web team(s) you need to persuade, a topic we address in Chapter 9, "Sell Your Search Marketing Proposal."
If you work in a small organization, this decision will not take terribly long; in a medium-to-large company, however, it might take some thought. Consider the points we covered as you analyzed your organizational structure. Do you work in a highly decentralized conglomerate or a highly centralized functional organization? In a conglomerate, you might decide to limit your program's scope to one of the semi-independent companies, whereas you might decide to tackle the entire enterprise in a functional organization.
You should also consider your role in your organization. If you are the Webmaster for the North American Web site, maybe that is the easiest scope to tackle first. If you are a product manager, maybe the best scope to start with covers just your product. If there is an executive you know you can convince to invest, perhaps his organizational scope is the right one for you. Remember, you can think big for your search marketing program's scope, but still start small with a single campaign. It is common, in medium-to-large companies, for the initial search marketing campaign to be limited to a single product. Think about what is practical for you.
Company size also plays into your program scope decision. The larger the company, the more difficult it is to take on the whole organization at once. Larger Web sites suffer from many technical and organizational complexities that make the effort more difficult as you make the scope larger. Similarly, the larger the scope you choose for your program, the longer it takes to get approval. You might decide to start small to show some success before requesting an enterprise-wide commitment.
The lesson is for you to think critically about your own situation. No matter what generalizations we write here, your company is not a generalityit is your own specific reality. You might work in a culture that likes to try new things, so maybe you can give paid search a shot. Perhaps your conglomerate has a tradition of working together on marketing, even though everything else is separate, so you can undertake an enterprise-wide search marketing program. If your product-oriented organization centralized its technology group, maybe you can tackle organic search across your whole site. Think carefully about your situation and choose the best program scope for your organization.
The folks at Snap Electronics carefully considered what the best scope would be for their search marketing program. Because Snap is a large company with significant name recognition, it has already attracted many links to its Web site, giving it a big leg up on organic search. Unfortunately, as you saw in Chapter 7, some of Snap's most important pages are not in the search indexes, and it is not clear how easy that will be to fix. Snap's management is generally open to new ideas, but is a bit suspicious of paid placement because it sounds too much like the dreaded banner ads (which Snap got burned on a couple of years ago). Snap is a highly product-oriented organization, but its marketing is aligned by country.
After taking all of this information into account, Snap chose to focus on the United States, its largest market, across its entire product line. So, Snap's overall scope for its search marketing program covers its U.S. products and its first campaign will be for digital cameras. Snap decided to concentrate on organic search, targeting the five major worldwide search engines: Google, Yahoo!, Ask Jeeves, MSN Search, and AOL Search. Although concentrating on organic search, Snap chose to experiment with paid search, too, deferring a final scope decision on paid search until the experiment is complete. These basic scope decisions will drive the rest of Snap's strategy.