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Big company search marketing

I was reading an excellent post today by David Meerman Scott on EMC’s troubles with search marketing. I work for IBM, so EMC is a competitor of ours, but I have trouble being too critical because I know what they are struggling with. Organic search marketing for big companies is just really hard. Small companies struggle to get attention—their big problem in organic search marketing is attracting links. But they have it easy compared to big companies, because larger Web sites struggle with absolutely everything else.


Large sites frequently blow money on fancy technologies that stop spiders from indexing their pages. They have intramural competitions for the same keywords. (At IBM, we once had several different groups all bidding against each other for the paid search keyword “linux.”)
But the biggest problem is that these companies can’t centralize search marketing, but they must control it. That requires not just search marketing smarts, but also skills in corporate governance and organizational behavior. You must be able to put procedures, standards, and training in place to get large numbers of people to do what is needed. You also need to consistently measure that they continue to do it as time goes by.
Small companies have few, if any of these problems. If you can gather your Web staff around a table, hand them a copy of a book and say “Do this,” and that solves your governance problem, you have no idea how much harder it is in a large company. In any major corporation, you’d have to spend a month of conference calls to speak to even a small number of the folks responsible for your Web site. I am certain that a number of smart people at EMC know exactly what they need to do to fix their site, but putting a program in place that gets everyone rowing in the same direction takes a lot more than merely recognizing there’s a problem.
Big companies are often blinded as to the problems because the large number of people can sometimes foster an insular culture. But from what I know about EMC, I don’t think that’s their problem, nor is it the problem of most large companies that are flailing about in search marketing hell. Their problem is that they know what to do (or at least most of what to do) but they can’t figure out how to get a massive number of people to do it all.
If you’re a big company, like EMC, struggling to gain respectability in search marketing, check out an article I wrote that enumerates the problems and helps you take the first few steps to solving them, called “Big Company and Big Site Search Marketing.” IBM increased its search traffic to 25% of visitors from less than one percent when it came to grips with the difficulties of behemoth search marketing, so don’t despair. Your monolith can do it, too.
And if you are small company, I don’t expect you to shed any crocodile tears for the large ones out there. Just be happy that this is one area where being small is far less of a disadvantage, and make sure that you are doing everything you can to compete with everything you’ve got. Organic search marketing, unlike traditional big-money marketing, favors the nimble and the small.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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