How does one integrate search with a company’s overall marketing effort versus running disconnected and uncoordinated campaigns? It’s a problem that we’ve found to plague many larger organizations we deal with – and there’s no silver bullet answer. We’ve noticed the following situations in some of our larger customers:
- Internal Competition in Paid Search: Large organizations typically have intersecting lines of business, usually targeting the same or similar terms. Without central management of keywords and landing pages, business units end up actually competing with each other and driving CPCs through the roof.
- Problems Optimizing Spend: Many times it’s a rogue marketer or product manager who’s leading the charge into search. Without a holistic, enterprise-wide approach, it’s impossible to intelligently determine where and how to best invest in technology, professional services and PPC bidding. The end result is lower ROI numbers, which makes it that much more difficult to sell the value of search within the organization.
- Value Proposition in Search is Still Unclear: Even with the basic metrics in place showing positive ROI, traditional marketing execs are still hesitant to make big bets on search. They just don’t understand the opportunity cost associated with not ranking well in organic or not intelligently managing paid campaigns.
No matter where you are with your search strategy, chances are that you deal with at least one of the above challenges. Again, there is no silver bullet answer, but some approaches are better at integrating search into an overall marketing plan than others. Of the programs that we know about, the best are those that:
- Educate and Evangelize: Going back to SES New York again, Jessica Bowman had a great presentation in which she spoke of being the search evangelist inside of Business.com. Her key to success was to get in front of as many department heads as possible and position search as an asset for their goals. Aligning search with their objectives led to them quickly adopting her ideas and becoming champions for search.
- Adopt Standard Processes: Standardization is an integral component in any large technology initiative, search included. Use structured site templates and brand style guides to enforce search best practices. Don’t rely on content producers understanding the importance of title and header tags.
- Measure Everything: This is Marketing 101, which makes it that much more important in an up and coming medium like search. Our advice to our customers is to worry less about ranking and more about the conversions driven off of search referral traffic. Another key component is to measure organic search traffic alongside efforts in paid search. By normalizing organic spend down to an effective CPC, spend can be targeted across paid and organic to initiatives to where it has the greatest potential in terms of ROI.
- Prove Value: Number one rankings are great, but it’s better to show decision makers the dollars and cents. Drill down from total traffic from search engines, to traffic by keyword, ending with conversions. Tell a compelling story with the numbers and go after the hearts and minds of those that matter.
If you’re starting at square one, focus on the low-hanging fruit and demonstrate potential by delivering quick, low-cost victories. For example, hone in on your site’s title and header tags and begin monitoring backlinks using Yahoo’s site explorer. If your program is more advanced, deploy analytics to make sure you’re making the best, most informed decisions when it comes time to allocate spend across different search initiatives. Regardless of where you are with your search strategy, there will always be room to better educate team members, standardize processes, measure results and prove the value of an integrated search campaign.