Category Archives: Integrated Marketing

The integration of SEO and Social Media

The integration of SEO and Social Media should be as natural as a peanut butter and jelly. While a natural fit, few companies are even thinking of having these teams meet let along work together. Yes, many SEO teams have created some best practices and thrown them over the fence to the many Social Media task forces and teams that are sprouting like weeds but few have really integrated them. Even few have looked beyond the collaborative value of link building.

In the following paragraphs, I will try to illustrate why these two practices should be more tightly integrated.

Inbound Links

The desire for lot of high quality and relevant links is the main reason us SEO folks follow around the Social Media teams like lost puppies. Links have a pretty significant influence your rankings for specific search terms and the Social Media team can be on of our biggest allies in getting them but we need to ensure they have the knowledge and data integrated into their social media workflow.

Social Media teams are busy cranking out content on blogs, working their influencers and tweeting relevant tips, ideas and content that creates buzz, traffic and increased awareness but what if they use a less than optimal page, flowery words, and “click here” as the anchor text? That is more common than you think which is why we need to have collaboration to make sure every precious link and piece of UGC created ads incremental value beyond the social media uplift.

One key thing to remember is not to get too excited about the bounty of links that can come from Social Media site. Unfortunately, many of the biggest social-media sites don’t actually pass along any direct search benefit since they often apply a “nofollow” attribute to their outgoing links. This tells the search engines that they can’t really vouch for this link so don’t transfer any value or “link juice” to this page. This is the norm for major social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Digg, Flickr as well as the comments sections of some of the most common blog platforms.

While these big sites won’t pass you any value, don’t get discouraged. We want the exposure on these sites to introduce our site and content to the visitors and participants in these sites. Once they do click through and visit our site they will often add links or other relevant information to their social media sites and blogs that will pass value to us.

Many companies are adopting short URL services such as bit.ly or developing their own. If you do use these shortened URL’s you want to make sure that they are using a 301 redirect to send people from the short URL to your site. By using a 301 you can often pick up some value from these links and tweets especially if that URL is taken and added into a blog post or website.

Consumer Intersection and Engagement

Understanding the key points of intersection with your target market is essential. We learned from Forrester’s Social Technographics profile, published in Q4 2009, that identified 70% of social media users as ‘spectators’ – “those who actively read blogs, tweets, customer reviews and content in forums as part of their regular online activity.” They went on to state that 33% “regularly engaging in conversation, and this conversation hasthe ability to live on indefinitely within the World Wide Web.”

With 70% consuming and 1/3 participating it is essential that we as search marketers need to understand how consumers find these “hubs of conversation.” We further need to ensure that they are aware and, whenever possible, talking about our brand. This will require an unparalleled level of participation and engagement from brands than they have been willing to undertake previously.

Most of us have learned to work with our PR teams to have them integrate keywords and relevant anchor text into the press releases but few have really looked at the bigger picture and the downstream influence of these releases especially in Social Media. Take for example Sony’s announcement recently on the large selection of 3d-capable HD TV’s.

sony3d

To date this press release has been picked up over 14,000 times with the exact subject line they sent it out as. The sites referencing it range from obscure review sites to major news outlets. The unfortunate face is there is only 1 link in the whole press release but fortunately that is to the home page of the 3d product category. The moral of the story is this release was picked up as is and then places on 14,000 sites with many of them being highly relevant such as Engadget and the Consumer Reports blog. In this case, this release generated over 600 new links to this category page, which is the Sony poster child for 3D TV but it has also resulted in a significant amount of ShelfSpace and intersections with people interested in 3D Televisions.

Digital Asset Optimization

This is where us on the SEO side get to help the new kids in social media. Their goal is to generate as much “earned media” as possible. We fully support that and want to make sure as much of that newly minted content ends up in the search results and is indexed as possible. This is why all Marketers need to consider their “content enablement strategy” to understand how they will leverage all the digital touch points with their target market. This takes shape in three ways:

Uniform and Engaging Messages – You need to understand how to do it uniformly while providing relevant, useful and engaging messages to compel them to spread the word within their own individual networks. With an understanding of this ecosystem of awareness, Marketers need to ensure their digital assets are effectively optimized and distributed to the widest points on the net possible. Search is the logical team to help ensure this happens. They already manage the XML site maps and feed content into the search engines making it relatively easy for them to also integrate video, image, news and mobile feeds into that process and monitoring their performance.

Identify and Target the Ecosystem – Second to identifying the ecosystem is ensuring we have a key destination page within the site that will last beyond the any promotion or campaign. This page needs to be identified and shared with all stakeholders to ensure we get the widest distribution of the central page and the assets and messages contained therein. For many companies, this type of content mapping has already been done by the SEO team and just needs to be adapted for Social Media and PR uses. A well-organized SEO program will often have dozens, if not hundreds, of keywords that they have matched to highly relevant pages. By leveraging this list we will nearly ensure that we are pointing to the optimal page and use the keywords as anchor text. This uniformity ensures we get not only relevant inbound links but offer a common customer experience across all digital media.

Digital Asset Optimization – This is a key element where we are starting to get more alignment. This concept was introduced by Lee Oden at Top Rank Blog a few years ago in his article Extending SEO With Digital Asset Optimization that talked about optimizing all of your digital assets and ensuring they are findable in all search channels especially those beyond search engines.

match_media

Once you have alignment of optimized assets and the specific landing page we can start the process of submission and ensuring the assets are found, indexed and ranked in the major aggregation portals as shown below.

By enabling the submission and indexing in as many places as possible each of them offers incremental opportunities themselves but as more of them get indexed they in aggregate, foster a significant opportunity to dominate the shelfspace of various search engines.

Search Results ShelfSpace

This is a term I coined many years ago when working for a company that has multiple sites in the same category. The GSI team and I further perfected this approach while working on various categories at P&G. The goal then was to get as many of the brand pages indexed as possible on the first page in order to dominate the results the same as they would the physical shelf of a local supermarket – think Kellogg’s cereal.

As you can imagine, this would only work if you had a bunch of sites and you could get them to make the changes since the engines only allowed a maximum of two listings per domain in the search results. Yes, for the lucky, you could get benefit from multiple subdomains or international site but that was killed by Google.

Today we can do this a lot easier by leveraging the multitudes of social media sites. It works brilliantly for domains and brands but is a bit harder for specific categories but it is not impossible. This is where the collaboration and cooperation is the most important to make sure we are feeding the most relevant information that will help us get into the news, natural listings and the ever changing “real time” search results.

A great example of this is Old Spice they have all but 1 of the listing with a combination of their TV ads, images, news and specialty sites

oldspice

Reputation Management

For those thinking out of the box, the concept of dominating the SERP ShelfSpace should be sparking ideas and does have a significant opportunity in your online reputation management toolbox. Many companies struggle with “sucks sites” and those pesky negative blog posts which seem to make their way to the top of the search results for brand or product searches.

As I mentioned, ShelfSpace optimization was originally developed for companies like P&G to get multiple brands from the same company on the first page of the search results. Social media has made it been a great way to help dominate the ShelfSpace for a single brand company. By using the key social media outlets you have a great opportunity to push all or most of the negative listings off the first page for your brand or product name.

The overused example of the need for reputation management in many presentations was “Delta Airlines” and the infamous “Delta Sucks” site. That site and the other blog-based detractors are now gone, replaced by Delta’s Twitter account, mobile site, and their news site in addition to Wikipedia and a large block of “new” most of which was generated by Delta

delta_airlines

To make this work you have to participate in Social Media and leverage the optimization tactics to ensure the right use of names, keywords, tagging and of course, brand and keyword rich content.

Voice of the Consumer

Another key value of the integration is the shared data. Search gives you a lens into what people are “looking for” and Social Media conversation mining gives you insight into what they are actually talking about. Looking at both pieces of data can often find key emerging opportunities to develop content along specific conversations people are having. This will create additional content elements that you can use to intersect with consumers at the critical point of interest where you have the best opportunity to influence the next step in their purchase behavior.

Imagine if the content team could prioritize content best on not only this historical demand from search query volume but also real time input from social media monitoring.

Search Rankings Identify Relevance and Influence

Bloggers are especially important to identify and classify by their relative influence as well as their organic rankings for relevant terms. An often discarded by-product of ranking reports is the “other listings” that are in the top 10. If we look at these results we can often find blogs or other social media participants that are contextually relevant enough to show up on the top 10 listings in the search engines. These influencers with a high ranking blog will help increase the potential consideration from visitors since they are often looking for recommendations and reviews from places other than from the manufacturer.

Once we indentify these relevant blog and social media sites we can reach out to these bloggers who are always looking for new content. Once we reach out to them with quality information they will often register for your RSS feeds, press releases, and social media mentions of companies in the product area or vertical they are writing about. This can be the gift that keeps on giving since they will then be feeding them selves with this optimized content being pushed via these other distribution

As has always been said about SEO it is the content that matters from both a ranking as well as getting links. The best thing you can do is create relevant content and participate in the conversation

TV advertising and effective targeting

I have always thought that media planners do a reasonably good job of geographical targeting for ads.   Now, I am not a big fan of 99% of the ads on TV and have two DVR’s to ensure my ad viewing is minimal.   The two ads I will mention below were not bad – they got my attention but I could not convert so was that a waste?

I always thought it was pretty easy – you want your ad to show in Hartford you simply buy the Hartford geography and your ad is shown within the fixed parameters of the local TV station signals.  I realize there is a lot of overlap but the following are two examples of where I think the planners have made a mistake.  I don’t even know how they company would know other than looking at a report to see what areas they are covering.  How can problems like this occur?

Joe’s Crab Shack

I ate at one of these restaurants for lunch once when I was in Orlando for a meeting with Disney.  The food was good and it had a nice atmosphere.   A few months ago I was watching some local TV show and saw their commercial.  Since they were advertising in Hartford I assumed that they may be opening a restaurant in the area and it might be a good place for a weekend lunch with the family.  I went to the site and put in my zip code and got the following:

joes_crab_shack
No locations within 100 miles!  What? Then why am I seeing the ad in Hartford?  Maybe they assume people from Hartford travel and if they have seen the ad they will remember?  I can possibly buy that since when Motoko and I were in San Francisco recently went to the wharf for a seafood lunch and I saw their sign and knew who they were.  Unfortunately, when I am in the wharf in San Francisco the last place I want to eat is a chain store full of unknowing tourists.

Stein Mart

They had a good ad – large selection and inexpensive.  My wife told me she wanted to go to their store this past weekend.  She thought it was over on the the street with all of the other box stores.   I did not mind since the big mall is near the local shooting range and gun store so I had my excuse to stop in.  We headed over and turns out that was not them.  It was a different store.  We pulled out our iPhones and checked to see where it was.  They had a locator on the first page and we learned the closest to us was near Boston nearly 100 miles away.  We looked at each other and wondered why they were advertising in Hartford if the nearest store was about 100 miles away.

stein_mart_map

What I found interesting is that the default for their map tool was 10 miles.  I had to widen it to 100 miles to get any store to show up. I guess they know people will not drive that far to visit a store – unless it is a Cabela’s or Bass Pro shop which people typically will drive 100 miles to visit.

The reality is in both cases the ads worked.  They got our attention and created an interest to attend.  In either case, without seeing the ad there would not have been a stimuli to even take the next step.  In both cases we immediately went to the web to look for a local store.  Had they been near we would have visited and become customers.

Not sure what the cost for these ads were but they were effective in gaining attention but equally frustrating since we could not act on the interest.
The big question I have is it a waste to show TV ads in an area where you don’t have a store or have products not conducive to online shopping?

Leverage Search Marketing for Demand Intersection

I recently had an interesting discussion with a CMO of a personal computer manufacturing company about how little they were leveraging search marketing.  He told me that their main objective in this recession was to maximize traditional advertising to generate awareness and therefore increase demand for their products.

I told him that was admirable but what are you doing to capture those who are already aware of these types of products? You are not doing anything to leverage the existing demand demonstrated by the millions of searches each month from consumers who are already aware, and are actively looking for information for products like yours.  He seemed stunned by the comment for a moment then asked me to explain what I meant.

I explained that all of your current advertising is generating awareness as is the advertising of your competition.  There are over 10 million searches each month for variations of the phrase laptop and notebook computer this is existing demand and all we have to do it be there with the right message when they are looking for your type of products and services.

These are “hand raisers” or consumers who have explicitly told you they are interested in a laptop or notebook computer.  Many of these are actually using phrases directly related to your brand.  Surely you want to capture those who took the extra step of searching for your specific product.

Companies are too focused on “creating demand” since that is what they have always done.   This is what we now call “faith based marketing” which is spending money to attract consumers and hoping that we have a corresponding increase in sales.

In these trying economic times it is imperative that we “intersect” with the existing demand and ensure we are capturing as much of these opportunities as we can.  Nimble companies are seizing this opportunity already — is it not time for your company to capture your share?

The Web task-oriented environment

The word “search” is a verb and implies to look for something.  Consumers use search engines to find information. In fact, research shows there are only three types of searches that consumers do:

  • Navigational searchers want to find a specific Web site (perhaps because they do not know the exact URL), and use queries such as “PADI” or “Beijing City Airport”.
  • Informational searchers want information to answer their questions or to learn about a new subject, and use queries such as “what is scuba” or “green tea diet”.
  • Transactional searchers want to do something (buy something, sign up, enter a contest, and so forth), and use queries such as “Sydney weather” or “discount laptops”.

We need to examine each kind of searcher so that you can reach them with content from your Web site. Understand that real people shift roles all the time the same searcher might enter informational queries to learn about your new product and suddenly decide to use a transactional query to buy it. A clear understanding of the types of searchers and their respective intent will help you reach more searchers with less effort.

This is what turns much of traditional marketing on its head because customers find content themselves, rather than the traditional model of content being carefully placed in front of them (such as with print or TV). In order to be found (and not summarily rejected when the user is dissatisfied with the resulting Web site), you must know what words customers use when they search.

Speaking the Customers’ Language

As already stated, with search marketing we are simply trying to intersect with existing demand.  One problem we face is that “search demand” is in the language of the customer with does not often sync with the language you use on your website to describe your products or services.

If you do not use your customers’ language you provide little value, as your content does not match their mission. By speaking your customers language, you uncover opportunities to find new customers or better serve existing ones.

So, how do you know what language your customers are speaking? Keyword research is the practice of mining various sources of data mixed with intuition and a little brainstorming with a dash of guesswork.

Although searchers are growing more sophisticated each year, the task of actually choosing the words for the query is one of the most difficult parts of searching.  It is especially complex in China where entering characters into a keyboard or a mobile handset is a challenge.  Chinese searchers tend to use fewer variations of keywords than they would in the west.

Develop a Keyword Strategy

The objective your keyword strategy is to identify, prioritize and map a complete set of keywords that best match the business objectives of your company but more importantly, the terms searchers are using to find you.

This process consists of a number of steps each of which is designed to make the case for or against a particular keyword by gathering and examining a variety of data. We suggest that you look at demand volumes provided by the search engines, your current paid search program, conversion metrics, the content you have, your on site search engine database, your competitions website and most importantly conduct searches in Baidu to see how many pages containing those phrases are currently indexed.

Once you have your list, there is no rule on how large or small the list should be, the next step is to understand why a searcher would use that phrase and what type of content they are looking for when they do the search.

Understand the Searchers’ Intent

John Battelle refers to search engines as the “Database of Intentions” because of the vast amount of data about what people want to know or do that has been amassed by the various engines over the last 10 years.  By carefully looking at “why” someone did a search and “what they hope to find” we can discover many opportunities to connect with the searcher and truly offer them exactly what they are looking for at that phase of their discovery process.

The “why” is actually a very simple question that not enough companies ask when they start their search marketing program.  Too many times companies want to “tell the searcher” what they want them to know or do rather than understanding that the searcher wanted when they did the query.  We must remember the searcher is in control and if we understand their needs and wants we can create an unmatched opportunity to connect with them and lead them down a path that will result in significantly higher engagements.

For example, a leading art and print site in the US was spending millions of dollars on paid search placements for art-related search queries. The marketing manager knew that “monet” was one of its most heavily trafficked queries.  He noticed that the cost per click for the phrase “monet” had increased significantly.  What had changed?  There were two new competitors for the phrase who were willing to pay significantly more for the click.

This prompted a deeper look into the click and conversion data for the phrase “Monet”.   As well as a survey on the landing page to ask the visitors why they did this query.  Of the survey respondents, 95 percent indicated they were students simply looking for biographical information on Monet and information about his paintings. These were informational searchers who had no desire to ever buy a Monet print.

Armed with this information, the marketing manager switched his paid placement buys from an informational query (“monet”) to specific transactional queries (the names of Monet paintings such as “water lilies”). This strategy not only increased traffic but also increased sales, by capturing people who were more informed about the painter and more likely to buy a specific print.

As you can see, careful study of the searcher’s intent pays off in more visitors who are focused on your site’s goal. It can be just as important to avoid the wrong traffic as to get the right traffic.   By focusing on queries that real purchasers use, the art and print site reduced the art students and attracted more art buyers at the same time, thus selling more and getting more overall value from their search marketing program.

If you, as the experienced marketer, do not believe the searcher is in control, simply look at the bounce rates for not only your paid search campaign but your site in general.  The bounce rate refers to the visitors who came to a page on your site and immediately clicked the back button leaving to go back to the search results.  Most companies who do not try to leverage searcher intent experience bounce rates of sixty to eighty percent.  A goal would be to keep your bounce rates to below twenty percent.

Emphasizing your Value Proposition in 95 Characters or Less

The switch to PPC from traditional marketing tactics was a big one.  This monumental change has forced companies to drop imagery and communicate their message through words alone.

With PPC, marketers today are forced to present their value proposition to consumers in 95 characters or less which is the typical size of the search ad space.  This new brevity can be a daunting task for those experienced in using voice, images and full-page newspaper ads to create a compelling and moving experience and generate awareness to their product or service.

With search the awareness is there since they have stated what they are looking for and it is our opportunity to connect with them by saying “yes, we have what you seek” and get them to click our listing over those of the competition.

You can dramatically improve your search marketing by thinking about the “need behind the query”.  This knowledge helps you deliver the best possible content to your visitors when they search while ensuring you only pay for the clicks which convert and guarantee a positive searcher experience.

Add Search Marketing to your Marketing Mix

But the fun does not stop there.  Many companies are integrating paid search into their other marketing mixes with great success. They are leveraging paid search ads to test their email subject lines and even starting to test TV and print advertising messages before they are integrated to see which work best with consumers.

Search is unmatched as the logical next step for those consumers who have seen any of your other advertising.  If they saw the newest mobile phone commercial and want more information on that phone their option is to go to a local merchant or simply do a search in Google.  Many companies in the west are using increases in search volume and clocks from search as a proxy for awareness of new products and how well the message is received from consumers.

While search marketing may seem to be a daunting task, leveraging even a few of these simple best practices described above will reap significant gains and help you to see that search marketing is the most effective marketing tactic available to marketers. We are finding more and more savvy marketers not only adopting search marketing but mandating that it be the first dollar you spend of your precious marketing budget.

Centers of Excellence are Critical for Success in Search and Social Media

When I look at the common element of large companies that are doing well in search marketing I almost always encounter some sort of Center of Excellence (CoE). While they may not always be called a CoE, some call them Search Council’s none the less, they are some sort of centralized information repository or governance on how search is deployed around the world in the organization.

The CoE should be focused on improving the content creation workflow practices, compliance levels, policies, support and awareness and measurement across the program. It is also highly focused on building a culture of Search Marketing excellence that will have a measurable impact on the bottom line.

Center of Excellence Defined

Essentially a Center of Excellence brings together varied people and skills that promote collaboration and best practice usage around a specific focus area to drive incremental business results.

Search Center of Excellence Role & Function

The COE, to be effective, needs to be an aggregation of multiple disciplines and levels of the organization in order to provide insight into the various stakeholders roles and how they should collaborate with each other in order to be more effective.

In addition to role representation, the COE needs to provide a broad base of information, guidance and should provide the following:

Shared Learning – first and foremost a proper CoE will prevent, or minimize the reinvention of the wheel for most business units with a base from which to start their understanding of a process or technique. These formalized and uniform roles and process enable shared learning:

  • Aggregation and evangelizing of best practices
  • Training and certifications
  • Skill assessments & team building

Measurements & Metrics — CoEs should be able to demonstrate they are delivering the valued results that justified their creation through the use of output metrics.

  • Uniform Metrics
  • Uniform tools and collection methods
  • Aggregation and evangelization of the results

Support — For the specific area of focus, CoE’s should offer support and mentoring to the business lines. The level of support will vary based on ability and resources and organization.

  • Sourcing and procurement of shares tools and resources
  • Share subject matter experts
  • Air cover and support with executive management
  • Develop process and opportunity for scale in the service offering
  • Where possible, financial and resource support

Governance – Not be confused with the dictatorship or gatekeeper of a process or strategy but an enabler, arbitrator, and motivator and in some cases the decider of what is the better of two practices.

  • Creation and arbitration of common standards, policies and methodologies
  • Enforcement of a consistent architecture and uniform approach across the organization
  • A common method and set of techniques for managing information
  • Developing and enabling well defined Roles and Responsibilities for team members

Search Center of Excellence Benefits

The most effective Centers of Excellence are ones that offers a variety of benefits that can be gained from centralizing a set of essential functions to support global search and social media marketing programs. Some of the benefits include:

  • Better reuse of capabilities across programs
  • Reduced speed of delivery
  • Cost reduction or elimination through shared infrastructure and tools
  • Cost savings through shared skill sets and elimination of redundant or inefficient process or approach
  • Reduction in frustration and disorganization for those just adopting search marketing or another marketing function that have no previous experience or basis to form their approach or deployment of the new activity

In summary, a Center of Excellence brings together varied best practices in program development, deployment and measurement to achieve better speed to market, consistency and reduced complexity. The quicker the organization adopts this centralized process for information sharing the quicker they will see a more wide-spread adoption of these practices and a reduction to barriers for improving performance in their specific discipline.

Note: I think companies that are struggling with social media adoption in their organizations can take a page from the playbook from the Search Center of Excellence and the adopt the same set of principals to deploy their social media strategy.

Consolidating Multiple Local Brands into Single Global Brand

I was in Wal-Mart a few weeks ago with my wife picking up a few things.   I do have to say the price difference at Wal-Mart for household cleaning products is amazing compared to other retails stores that carry them and even supermarkets.  Now I understand why there is such a big P&G contingent in Arkansas but I digress.

I was sent to get a bag of Cascade dishwasher detergent pouches. When I got to that section I noticed there were two boxes that looked very similar but had different names.  Taking a closer look they are the same product.  Electrasol the leading brand of dishwasher detergent in the US is rebranding as Finish.

electrasol_1

This is the first time I can ever recall both the before and after brand being on the shelf at the same time.� Many do as they have done on the box to the left, have the old name and tell us that it is now� but to have both I thought was interesting and should ensure you don’t confuse either the aware or the unaware.

Electrasol & Finish Brands
Electrasol & Finish Brands

It gets more interesting when you look at the number of the boxes remaining on the self of each.

I guess people have not really made the connection yet since the box with the old brand seems to be selling more than the one with the new name. I suspect as coupons come out and the brand advertising kicks in they can swap them out.

So why the rebranding anyway? Unlike most of the major product rebranding activities happening lately could not find any articles about the activity.

If I had to guess –  I would assume they are trying to merge the Finish brand that is popular outside the US, with the Electrasol brand which is very popular here.

Having the same brand around the world saves a lot on production, marketing and packaging. Most of the large global brands have done this and just produce boxes that are in multiple languages.

BTW, I have used Electrasol before and went back to Cascade. We received samples with our new dishwasher. When you take it out of the box you have to open the plastic wrapper that the product is in and then put it into your dishwasher. Since it is chemicals you obviously have to wash your hands after. With Cascade, I just pull out a pouch and drop it into the machine and it is ready to go.

Update: I continued to be curious about this rebranding and I kept searching and found a post from Stuart Elliott from the New York Times that referenced it. Stuart’s article references an email from James Watson, the Marketing Director for Finish that confirms my thinking. They are doing the rebranding to consolidate the various names of products into individual global brand entities.

Update 2: They appear to also be running new positioning commercials around Finish being the preferred brand of the major dishwasher manufacturers. They have some play around ” diamonds” and on the Website they go way overboard with the diamond metaphor – worse than what students in branding 101 would come up with.

electrasol_diamond

Your biggest barrier to ranking well may be — your own company

I was in a meeting earlier this week that had nothing to do with search marketing. However, once they learned of my background in search marketing they started lobbing search questions. They went on to tell me they have hired a half-dozen agencies and consultants over the years and nothing has ever really gotten them the results they wanted.

Not sure if it was the inappropriate misuse of the situation or just frustration from years working with large companies but I sort of snapped and told them that it was most likely them and not the search consultants. They were obviously taken aback by may answer so I had to explain what I meant.

In my experience if you can get a half-dozen of the recommendations implemented from a site audit you are in luck. I believe iProspect conducted a study a few years ago and found that 87% of all recommendations are never implemented by the client.

I do have to say that my last real project working on Adobe they implemented nearly all of them but that happens about as frequently as an eclipse.

It all starts out innocently enough with all sorts of excuses but the reality is the deck is stacked against the SEO from the start. My first project as an embedded search strategist for a health information portal I learned that if SEO fixes are not in the top 10 planned projects for the IT team it is not going to get implemented.

Everyone is an SEO Expert

You cant throw a rock now and not hit someone who things hey have real SEO skills. You encounter them everywhere. If they are internal search talent, they are often threatened by the external SEO consultant who, in many cases, will try to make them look bad so they can look good to the client. Unfortunately, many internal SEOs can experience a form of Stockholm Syndrome where they actually no longer fight the issues but simply agree and continue the rhetoric that things cant be changed since they have tried hundreds of times already.

I worked with a large advertising agency where every site they made was as far from search friendly as you can get yet they tell you they know SEO and integrated it into the site. It was a great source of revenue for us at the time since we just needed to wait for the site to launch and about a month later swoop in and show the client that it was now invisible in the engines.

But we cant change that

The following is from a real conversation with a brand manager from a designer goods company:

Brand Manager: We are one of the worlds leading brands of designer handbags and we must rank well for this key phrase so we can show case our products against our key competitors. We are sick and tired of those affiliates and scammers welling knockoffs ranking higher than we are.

Search Expert: Great, since it is so important to rank well are you prepared to make the changes necessary to you site to get higher rankings?

Search Expert: If you want to rank for the phrase handbags you need to add it to your title tag and while you have it as a header now, that needs to be changed to text rather than an image.

Brand Manager: Hmmm we cant change the title since that is the way the CMS was developed and that title, we have our own special font and since people dont have it on their computer we need to present it in an image so it renders correctly.

Search Expert: Are you certain the CMS wont allow you to make that change? We have done it before on that same system. Also, can we get an exception to the unique font on the page for the header so we can make it text?

Brand Manager: We are not willing to make an exception since our image is very important to us.

In this case we did not work with them very long. In a focus group they did shortly after they learned that the font type had no impact on visitors and when asked none realized that the font was any different from other standard fonts on the web.

Integrating Change Management into SEO Programs

I think SEO has evolved to where it needs to be handled as a change management project and not your standard audit/optimization program. You need to really understand the organizational dynamics and personality of the wider team to understand why there is a problem min the first place.

SEO consultants need to develop an operational and organizational auditing process to understand the team and workflow dynamics which will make the process of integrating marketing and analytics functionality into the content creation workflow of the organization exponentially easier.

This process should start with interviewing all the key players to understand their role, perceived needs, barriers and next steps for improvement. The learnings are amazing. We should understand the web workflow and once understood and then mapped out, we could integrate marketing best practices into that workflow. For search it allows you to integrate and identify key quality assurance checklists at each of the development phases. This ensures that you dont have to dig up the concrete and rebuild the site to make it search and analytics friendly.

Yes, you are barrier to success

Search consultants need to start getting tough with clients especially those who have been through a number of consultants before they got on board. In the situation I recently encountered I was not pitching search nor could I so I had no reason not to be brutally honest with them. Hearing what was recommended by the consultants and then their lame excuses for not making the changes were just that lame excuses. If you want success you need to be willing to make the changes necessary.