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Lotus competences

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Last month, I wrote about 2 challenges to keyword collaboration. Among other things, I argued for the importance of developing a corporate keyword database for digital marketers. Without keyword collaboration, your digital assets will compete for the limited time and attention of your audience. Chances are, a relatively small set of words are both relevant to your product offerings and your client’s needs. In large organizations, like mine at IBM, multiple sales and marketing organizations will chose the same words as the basis of their assets, unwittingly competing against each other for space in Google’s search engine results and diluting their search effectiveness.The solution to this problem is a centralized keyword discovery system, which helps companies learn, manage and govern the keywords most strategic to their business.

Keyword collaboration isn’t just important for digital marketing. Every major function in marketing and communications needs keyword intelligence to do their jobs:

  1. Market researchers need the right keywords to listen to the whole conversation and find the most influential voices in it.
  2. Brand marketers need the right keywords to do a better job naming products and writing messaging guides.
  3. Media relations and PR professionals need the right keywords to know how to build more relevant press releases and build better anchor text in them.
  4. Advertising copywriters need the right keywords to create ad copy that resonates with their audiences.
  5. And bloggers, of course, need to know what words their audiences use to describe their pain points.

Of course they all could discover the right words independently. But that’s extremely unlikely. They need to collaborate on a common set of words from a common database.  You might create that database to avoid conflicts on your website, but you don’t need to limit it to that purpose. When all five roles are using the same keywords as the content strategists and information architects (IAs) who work on your website, that’s when the magic we call content marketing happens.

The key principle of content marketing is that all these roles are interdependent for success. I could tell you how that works. But I would rather show you with a real-life example, once again from my work as IBM’s search strategy lead, in coordination with my colleagues Lynn Porterfield (@lynnport) and Lisa Lanspery (@lanspery), who ran the advertising and media relations aspects of the campaign, respectively, and did the lion’s share of the leg work. In the campaign, we used one keyword data set for all activities related to our US Open marketing. If you’re interested in the case study, please read on.

Case Study: US Open Marketing

For IBM, the US Open Tennis Championship is kind of like the Super Bowl. IBM sponsors the event. Its technology and expertise help the organizers run the tournament. IBM also produces every kind of marketing and communications asset you can think of related to the event across the major channels:

  • Paid: TV ads,  print ads, banner ads, iPad mobile ads, paid search
  • Owned:  ibm.com sites, including ibm.com/analytics and ibm.com/cloud-computing
  • Earned: Press releases, blogs, organic search, social outreach, Facebook, Twitter

In 2012, IBM made a concerted effort to use a unified keyword database. Market research used the words to tap into existing conversations and develop talking points for messaging. Brand marketers built a messaging guide that all participants used. Ads were built with common words and visual expressions from that guide. The content strategists, IAs and designers built pages within their sites to serve as landing experiences for the ads, again using the messaging as the core of their search-optimized content and interaction design. The related communications teams helped press release and blog writers include the right links and anchor text in their efforts. And the words enriched all related social outreach.

Thirty-eight people both within IBM and its agencies were connection points between these activities. Hundreds of people had some part to play in building the assets, sites, press releases, and blog posts. Thousands participated in related conversations on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and LinkedIn. All of the stewards of these conversations needed a common set of keywords and central repository of URLs. Imagine the noise we would have created without it.

Clients and prospects (and Google) appreciated the high signal/noise ratio. Search rankings dramatically improved. Traffic and engagement to the target ibm.com pages more than doubled over the prior year. Social conversations increased exponentially. In the past, results from advertising looked like a temporary spike because the paid and organic activities were not integrated. Now we see a lasting plateau of traffic and engagement. Paid created the buzz, while owned and earned kept the audience engaged.

The challenge for IBM is to scale these efforts across all of its campaigns and events. Perhaps even more  challenging will be to scale to the inter-event organic efforts. IBM’s audience doesn’t gear its information needs around an event and campaign schedule. IBM needs to have content to meet these needs on their clients’ and prospects’ terms and schedules. This is where the enterprise keyword database is central to the strategy. It will help IBM build the content that pulls prospects into ibm.com at their convenience, rather than pushing content to clients and prospects when it is convenient for IBM.

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