Successful search engine marketing requires highly specialized work. If you thumb through the remaining chapters in this book, you will see all sorts of arcane techniques important to your success. You can't rely on everyone learning search marketing on their own, however. You cannot rely on specialists being motivated to do search marketing. (Although it is true that some specialists will embrace search marketing without a larger program in place, most will not.) And no amount of evangelism on your part will prove sufficient by itselfyou cannot execute an enterprise program based on the sheer force of your personality.
You need to organize. And when you organize, you will split into two groups:
The central search team. When you start your search marketing efforts, the central team is you. In a medium-to-large organization, that is not enough. (In Chapter 15, "Make Search Marketing Operational," you will learn which skills you need and how to staff your central team.) Although we use the word central throughout, central is relativerelative to the program scope that you have chosen. So, if you have chosen a scope of a single country within your multinational company, the central team manages search marketing throughout the country, not throughout the enterprise.
The extended search team. Your organization already has an existing team (maybe lots of teams) to manage your Web site today. These specialists decide your Web site's strategy, write the content, create the pages, design applications, and do many other things. You must take advantage of these existing resources as your extended search team, because search marketing cannot succeed unless they do the right things. You need to understand these specialists and speak their language, because you must convince them to add search marketing tasks to their day-to-day jobs.
You need to carefully plan what work will be done centrally and what will be done by your extended search team. You must make search marketing part of the normal processes that every Web specialist performs each day. If you do not, you are fighting a losing battle with a new search crisis every day:
Last month, they finally fixed the title tag so customers can find our top-selling product page in search engines, but yesterday they updated the page again and the title is now wrong, as before.
They just released a new version of the e-Commerce application, and no spiders can see the pages anymore. Now we have to wait until the next release to get them back in the search index so customers can find them.
They just changed the left navigation bar across the entire site, but now search spiders cannot follow the links, so interior pages are not being crawled for storage in the index. Now we have to get them to change it all over again, which could take months.
What do all these problems have in common? The amorphous "they" in each scenario are the folks on your extended search team. But they don't know they are. Or they don't know what they need to do. See, they are probably good at what they do. They probably work hard, and they want to do the right thing. You just need to make "doing the right thing" possible for them.
Exactly how you do that depends on how your organization works today. Methods that work in some organizations might be rejected in others. But here are some ideas on how to prevent these three crises:
Last month, they finally fixed the title tag so search engines can find our top-selling product page. Last week, the page needed to be updated for an unrelated reason, and the title was inadvertently messed up. The central search team checked the page as part of the normal review process and spotted the problem before it was promoted to production.
The release plan for the next version of the e-Commerce application included a new technique for displaying pages, but in the customary design review it was found that it did not adhere to the searchability standard. The technique was modified to comply before the coding began.
The team assigned to redesign our Web site's linking structure came up with three alternative ways to implement their new navigation idea. Because that redesign team included someone from the central search team, they realized that one of their approaches would stop spiders from crawling the site, so they chose one of the other ways.
Sound like a dream? It's not. But it does take planning and hard work to get your organization to function this way. It will not happen by itself. Defining the search marketing tasks, and then dividing them between the central and extended teams, is where you start turning that dream into reality.
Search Marketing Tasks
Before you can divide the work, you need to make a list of exactly which tasks are involved in search engine marketing. Some search marketing tasks apply to organic search, others to paid search. Many are used for both. This list is not intended to be exhaustivewe've got the rest of the book for thatbut we want to show the broad categories of tasks that search engine marketing requires:
Choosing the search marketing strategy. Someone needs to set the search marketing strategy. Do we hire a search marketing agency? Do we do everything in-house? A little of each? Are we focusing on organic or paid? Where does the budget come from? How can we prove return on investment? All of these questions must be answered by someone.
Targeting search engines. Which search engines are you trying to get traffic from? Are they the same worldwide or do you need to target different engines in different countries? Someone must decide.
Planning keywords. This is a fancy search marketing name for deducing which query words your visitors will be searching for. To optimize your content so that your pages have the right words on them, someone needs to decide what those words are. Who does that?
Managing bids. If you are using paid search services, you must bid against your competitors to get a sponsored listing on the search results page. Each time your competitors change their bids, you might want to change yours. Every paid search campaign needs someone to manage it.
Optimizing content. If you are pursuing organic search, a lot of the work revolves around changing the content on the pagestitles, descriptions, and any other words you seeand making sure that the HTML is coded and maintained properly. Each page has someone (if not lots of "someones") assigned to maintain its content.
Developing technology. Web sites are based on technology, even if your site uses only a simple Apache Web server to display HTML files. As they grow, many Web sites start using more technology to display their pages and provide other functions, from e-Commerce servers to registration systems to personalization techniques. Each of these technologies can make or break your organic search marketing efforts by making it easy, hard, or even impossible for spiders to crawl your site. Someone needs to make sure that the technology is developed to be search enginefriendly. Whose job is that?
Defining standards. Every Web site has standards for how HTML tags should be used, or what URL patterns are acceptable, or what kinds of software technology might be used. Many existing standards need to be amended and some new ones need to be created to make organic search marketing work. Someone is in charge of each one.
Selecting search marketing tools. Search engine marketing, like anything else, requires specialized tools to manage your bids, check your page rankings, analyze your pages, identify which sites are linking to yours, and many other functions. Someone must be in charge of identifying the need for a tool, justifying the expenditure, selecting the best one, and making sure it is installed and operating properly (and that those who need to use it know how). Who is that someone?
Reporting metrics. How many visitors came to your site from search engines this month? What is the trend from last month? Which queries seem to be the most popular? Which popular queries do not find our pages in the search engines? Someone must be assigned to track and report these measurements. Who?
Don't worry if you do not deeply understand all of these tasks yet. You don't need to. By the time you finish this book, you will understand them (and more). It is also normal for the list to seem overwhelmingwe help you tackle them one task at a time. Right now you know enough to decide which tasks ought to be performed by your central search team and which ones you need the extended team to do. Later in this book we help you get each one done properly.
Decide Which Search Marketing Tasks to Centralize
There is no one-size-fits-all organization. You might have to experiment to see what works. You might find that some of the tasks above might need to be modified, divided up differently, or even shared between groups. That's okay. Every organization and process is a work in progress anyway. In this section, we give you some rules of thumb that work in many organizations. In the next section, we help you analyze your organization to see whether you want to break any of these rules.
As we look at each task, and decide whether to centralize them or give them to the extended team, keep in mind that centralize is a relative termrelative to the scope of your search marketing program, that is. If you have chosen your program scope to cover a division of your company, your central search team operates across the entire division; if your program's scope is your whole company, the central search team works company-wide.
When deciding which tasks to centralize, the most important guideline is to decide whether the task is new for your organization, or whether you already have a team that performs that task (or should perform that task). Many search marketing tasks require changing the way someone's existing job is done (such as a copywriter adding keywords to page titles)those tasks usually belong with your extended search team. Other tasks require deep search marketing expertise or heavy additional workload and are not being done in your company today (such as setting the search marketing strategy)likely tasks for the central search team. Let's look at each of the major tasks and think through how they might be divided in your organization:
Choosing the search marketing strategy. If this task could be performed well by the extended team, you probably would not need this book. This task requires enough search marketing expertise and enough time that it needs to be centralized in almost all cases.
Targeting search engines. Your central search team is probably best equipped to select the worldwide engines to focus on (such as Google and Yahoo!), but picking the right local search engines in each individual country around the world might be best done by the people on your extended team that maintain your Web site in each country. If you work for a small company with few international sales, just focus on Google, Yahoo! Search, MSN Search, Ask Jeeves, and perhaps a few others. However, a large multinational company, with sales in dozens of countries, must explicitly target local search engines in each country, in addition to the big worldwide players. Let your extended team members in each country do that.
Planning keywords. Some organizations can allow the extended team to handle all keyword planning, if the keywords for one business unit do not overlap with the ones desirable to other business units. For many businesses, however, it is essential for the central search team to arbitrate keyword contention between the business units. It would not be good for General Motors to discover its Buick division trying to outbid its Cadillac group for the paid search keyword "luxury sedan." Both business units would be paying more than necessary. Better for the GM central search team to create a great landing page for "luxury sedan" that shows off both Buicks and Cadillacs, allowing visitors to click either one to learn more. That way, Buick and Cadillac can pool their paid search budgets for that keyword and drive traffic to both of their sites. So, even if you distribute bid management to the extended team, be sure that the central team monitors any overlapping bids across the organization. In addition, some keywords truly apply to the entire organization, and therefore must be handled centrally.
Managing bids. Where this task lands depends mostly on who pays for it. If you are running your paid search campaigns centrally, the central team holds the budget and manages the bids. But if each business unit is managing its own paid search budget, they will undoubtedly want to manage their own bids. In a large organization, it is easier to let each business unit handle its own paid search budget rather than manage it centrally, just because of the amount of work involved in juggling thousands of bids simultaneously.
Optimizing content. This task is rarely one the central search team can do well. The central team will educate and help the existing content teams to do their job with search in mind, but they cannot make the actual changes themselves. Your organization might have a single content team that maintains the entire site, in which case the central search team can work closely with itmaybe even be part of the content team. If, like most businesses, the folks that maintain content are scattered hither and yon across the various parts of your organization, however, the central search team must evangelize each team, helping them to understand what processes they must change to optimize their pages on a daily basis.
Developing technology. If you have a central information technology group, it is already purchasing and developing all of your Web site's technology. You just need to get them to understand how their decisions affect search marketing. Let them tell you how to make it workwhether they need your help when they do their designs, or they need to update code review procedures, or add some automated tests that prove their new technology works with search engines. If your IT group is not centralized, you might need to hire a technical architect for the central search team who can work with each IT group so that they each make the needed process changes. No matter what, your central team cannot take over the technology role, so you need to figure out the best way to persuade this crucial part of your extended team to meet search marketing requirements.
Defining standards. Wherever possible, have the extended team modify your existing standards. For example, you probably already have content tagging standardsmake sure those standards include what makes a good title for search marketing purposes. Modifying an existing standard allows you to police compliance using whatever procedure already exists; if your central team creates a new standard, however, you need to set up your own compliance process. For every task you need to persuade the extended team to do, try to find an existing standard and persuade the standard owner to modify it. The central team should define new standards only when they are clearly needed and have no obvious extended team owner.
Selecting tools. It is usually best for the central team to choose the tools and pay for them out of a central budget and distribute them to the extended team. You need specialized search marketing expertise to make good selections, and your life will be easier if everyone is using the same tools. You will get a volume discount, and you will have only one set of tools requiring training and support.
Reporting metrics. Your Web site certainly has a group already responsible for traffic metrics, so you can ask them to add a few reports on referrals from search engines (if they do not have them already). But most Web metrics groups will balk at providing reports that are not traffic based, such as summaries of search rankings for important keywords, or a list of all the pages that do not have titles. You will probably have to devote part of your central team for these new reports that fall out of your metrics team's comfort zone, but it cannot hurt to ask.
Regardless of the advice given here, use your own good judgment when deciding what to centralize and what to leave with the extended team. Consider the existing groups in your Web organization to be your extended search team and try to get them to do everything appropriate, because search marketing must permeate so many jobs in your organization to be successful. You will find that your existing organization provides the best clues as to which search tasks should be centralized and which ones the extended team must be persuaded and trained to do.
Different Organizations Centralize Different Tasks
There's no recipe for who does what. As you formulate your plans, you need to carefully consider which tasks should be centralized and which tasks should be distributed to the extended team. Some tasks might need to be shared across the two. Table 8-1 lists a subset of these search marketing tasks and summarizes some possibilities of how centralization decisions might differ based on your organization type. Even when each organization has chosen the same scope (in this case, their entire Web site), the table shows that they might make different decisions about how each search marketing task is executed.
Table 8-1. Centralizing Search Marketing Tasks (Different types of organizations centralize different tasks even with the same site-wide search marketing scope.)
Targeting search engines
Our friends at Snap Electronics faced the same decisions on dividing tasks between central and extended teams. Snap decided to pursue both organic and paid search, so every task on our list requires a decision. Snap adopted the approach suggested above for a product-oriented organization. As its search marketing program's scope eventually expands to encompass countries outside the United States, however, it might adopt the multinational approach, allowing each country team to choose the local search engines to target.
You can see that there are many ways to divide up the search marketing work between a central and an extended search team. There are no sure-fire answers, but if you carefully consider the type of organization you work in, you can choose a mix of responsibilities that offers the best chance of cultural acceptance, and therefore success.