Working as a Team might sound all touchy-feely, but for large sites, there is no other way to succeed at search marketing. So many different teams touch your Web site, and they each specialize in something different. Copy writers do one thing, Web developers another. Only when they each do the right things does your search marketing program succeed. This session grew out of the Big Company and Big Site Search Marketing presentation at the March (2005) Search Engine Strategies conference, along with its sister session, Big Brand/Big Site SEM.
How Can I Get Everyone to Work Together?
In large companies, your two best tools for getting your crew to row in the same direction are:
- Process. Big companies thrive on standards and processes. Change your existing content standards to ensure each page has a title. Create a standard for the proper way to code a robots.txt file. That way, each specialist will do it because complying with standards is part of the job already. Make sure you take advantage of existing processes for checking compliance, too, such as page and code reviews and project checkpoints, but don’t be afraid to create new processes if required. You can’t change a huge organization by the sheer force of your personality—you need to use the governance system of a big business to change it.
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.
How Do You Start a Big Site Search Marketing Program?
First, start with your site’s goals (e-Commerce, offline sales, leads, or something else)—you do the same thing for a big site as for a small site. You must count when visitors reach the site’s goal to justify the cost of search marketing.
You will need to devote one person (sometimes more for a very big site) to search marketing, so you’ll need to show what value will be returned for that cost. That central person or central team will work closely with the rest of your far-flung Web team to teach them, persuade them, and force them (if necessary) to do what is required for search marketing to succeed.
What Must a Big Site Do to Succeed in Search Marketing?
Big sites must do all of the search marketing basics that small sites do, but there are key methods unique to big sites to make sure your whole organization does the right things:
- End the keyword bidding wars. Centralize all keyword planning. Ensure that all business units coordinate with the central team before placing bids. You can create a landing page for a keyword that has links to several business units and pool their per-click costs so you can bid higher than any of them could with their own budget, if the return on investment warrants it.
- Staff a central search marketing team. You must analyze your organization to decide what “central” means, because conglomerates and some other forms of corporate organization don’t truly centralize much of anything. You can decide which search marketing functions should be performed by a central team and which should be performed by your extended team that you train in each business unit. You should establish a search marketing council that includes representatives from all business units—your internal stakeholders for all search marketing activities.
- Report your progress. Develop search scorecards that are reviewed with senior management each month—design your scorecards to address your key problems. If the copy writers ignore your pleas for good titles on each page, set up a spider to examine every page on your site and report which ones have missing titles. If your Webmasters won’t toe the line on redirects, use a spider that checks redirects and report on what you find. If your paid search listings generate few search referrals, count referrals and impressions to see how high the clickthrough rate is. Most corporate employees don’t want that kind of attention—they’ll quickly comply with the standards to make their organization look better than others.
Working together won’t happen by itself. Your extended (sometimes overextended) teams that run your large Web site have a long and distinguished list of tasks to do each day and they aren’t sitting around waiting for you to give them another one. But if you show them the value of search marketing, you explain what they need to do, and you measure the results, you can get your organization to work as one team and your search marketing will succeed as a result.
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 about Working as a Team. For even more ideas, check out the book Search Engine Marketing, Inc.