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What makes big sites and big brands so much harder for search marketers? Usually marketing of all kinds is easier for larger companies, but search marketing is different. This presentation from the San Jose Search Engine Strategies Conference, coupled with the Working Together session from the same conference, is an expanded version of the well-received Big Company and Big Site Search Marketing talk from the New York SES show in March.

The Fragmentation Problem

Organic search marketing is tough for big sites because there are so many different groups that all have to do the right thing to make it work. Your site might be organized in several different ways, but, regardless, it is divided up into groups, and that’s what causes the problem. That necessary fragmentation of splitting up the site is exactly what makes search marketing difficult in a large business. Depending on the size of your company, you might have all of these problems:

  • Multiple specialist teams
  • Multiple product sites
  • Multiple audiences
  • Multiple countries
  • Multiple technologies

Getting all of these teams/organizations/technologies to work together is not easy, but it can be done. And that’s the only path to organic search success.

Paid search in a big company isn’t quite as difficult as organic, but it has its own problems. One of the biggest is intramural bidding wars. You may find that several of your product groups are bidding against each other for the #1 result. They are each trying to maximize their paid search sales, but the bottom line is that your company is paying more then is needed for each click.

Big sites have other problems as well, but the biggest problem is that when it’s not working, it can be very hard to diagnose what’s wrong. And if you do happen to figure out the cause, you need dozens of approvals and “exceptions to the process” to be able to fix it.

What Must a Big Site Do to Succeed in Search Marketing?

Your site is no different from small sites in some ways, but you it can be much harder to carry through the same steps that small sites do.

  • Get your pages indexed. Improperly coded page redirects, incorrect robots instructions, sloppy JavaScript coding, and tricky dynamic pages are just some of the spider traps that prevent your pages from being placed in the search index in the first place. If your pages are missing from the index, they’ll never be found. Site maps and product maps are especially useful to create spider paths for big sites. After you remove your spider traps and spruce up your spider paths, verify that the pages are now in the index.
  • Choose your keywords and landing pages. Use existing search referrals, your site search engine, product lists, and brainstorming among the team to research the keywords that searchers are using to find your products. Then create search landing pages for each group of keywords to attract the search engines to your site.
  • Audit and optimize your pages. It’s not enough to create the landing pages—you must ensure that your keywords are used on those pages. Sprinkle them throughlout the pages of your site, especially in titles, and the search engines will recognize your pages as the ones to find. Use content audit programs if you need help identifying how your pages should change.
  • Inplement company-wide reporting. For small sites, the above steps might be enough to succeed, but not for big sites. To get everyone who manages your Web site to remove spider traps, to target the right keywords, and to optimize their search landing pages, you need to measure your results. Report monthly on the quality of pages by business unit—show which units consistently have good page titles and which do not. Create scorecards for this and all search metrics, so that poorly-ranking search landing pages for critical keywords draw unwelcome attention. Check to ensure search referrals are steadily increasing. And most important, review all these key metrics with senior executives at least monthly. When things are going wrong, count on their help to persuade your co-workers to make the time for the improvement work required.

The good news is, if you fix these nagging problems and get your entire extended Web team to follow the right practices, your big site will derive advantages from its well-known name (causing searchers to click on your page), your high-quality content (causing other sites to link to yours), and your larger marketing budget (allowing you broader and deeper paid search campaigns).

If you thought that search marketing can’t really work on a big site, think again. You can master the steps if you give it a try. Download the complete set of slides for this talk on big brand search marketing. For even more ideas, check out the book Search Engine Marketing, Inc.

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Mike Moran

About Mike Moran

Mike Moran has a unique blend of marketing and technology skills that he applies to raise return on investment for large marketing programs. Mike is a former IBM Distinguished Engineer and a senior strategist at Converseon, Revealed Context, and SoloSegment. Mike is the author of three books on digital marketing and is an instructor at Rutgers Business School. He is a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO, a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research, and a Certified Speaking Professional.

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