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.

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  • You are spot on, Bill!

    Unfortunately I still find it hard to convince too many companies that they should make the investment it takes to build some sort of CoE.

    I expect though that more larger companies will go this way as they realize how valuable good SEO really is and how focused you need to be about it to get the right results.

  • Hi Bill,

    Interesting blog post. I completely agree that companies should have centers of excellence or some sort of workflow, collaboration methodologies for relaying the same message online and offline. (Shameless plug coming). My employer, WordStream, offers a keyword discovery and management workbench for marketers to collaborate and take action on real time keyword data for benefiting PPC, SEO and Social Media Marketing. WordStreams founder, Larry Kim is speaking on thursday at #sessj.

    Best,

    Ryan

  • Totally, it is a challenge to get them to do it but I find that those that on on their 4th or 5th agency are starting to want to have some continued value for the wider organization.

    I have not found a magic bullet (I wish) but find that a well articulated value proposition seems to be helping now of how they can simply share information.

  • Managing search and developing a social media presence have become sufficiently complex to warrant a dedicated group focusing on this, whether it comes in the form of a center of excellence or a loose group of search and social media evangelists.

    The main difference I see in social media adoption is the reach: where managing paid and organic search programs involved content owners and producers only, social media is for everyone and not limited to the classic Web teams.

  • I agree with you Bill – although I believe your emphasis is much more on companies building internal Centres of Excellence. What I’ve been trying to do for more than a decade is to build an external CoE – working alongside typically a small global team or even, in some surprisingly large companies, a single Search Champion – as a sort of Plugin CoE. That’s why we centralize and don’t distribute our core knowledge or effort around locations. Maybe I should re-brand the business as ‘Magic Bullet’ 🙂

    By the way, where’s the pic from? That looks like a Yorkshire wall where I live – though I know if I showed that to a farmer here they’d be a tad embarassed and want to go out and fix it 🙂

  • Thanks Andy – yes, the article slants to companies doing this internally. I agree if the company does not have the resources or structure to develop this sort of program internally the best option is to leverage your “Plugin CoE solution.

    Alternatively, they can develop their own under the guidance of a skilled agency like yours or Global Strategies. At GSI, we offered a CoE in a box solution through our knowledgebase and most of the point of view documents we put in place. However, over time it evolved as the programs grew and now the smae process is being leveraged for social media best practices.