Big sites really are different. If you can gather your entire Web team into a conference room and explain the new way that we are all going to code our title tags, or if someone on your Web team knows by heart all the keywords that you buy, you don’t have a big site. You may have a very successful business, but you are probably already running it well. Big Web sites, on the other hand, are quite a bit harder to run than small sites, especially for search marketing.
Why is Search Marketing So Hard for Big Sites?
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. 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.
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.
- Set standards and enforce them. 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.
- Report your progress. 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. 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.
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 site search marketing. For even more ideas, check out Search Engine Marketing, Inc.