If there is one thing I’ve seen over these years of continual Google updates, it’s that the search marketing community’s response to adjustments in search behavior is often unstructured and lacks effectiveness. Unfortunately, the common approach is typically ineffective because search marketers are not developing strategic adaptations according to a distinct set of search management stages. Instead they aim to chase the algorithm, which my colleague Mikel Chertudi wrote clearly about..
For example, companies large and small have suffered from penalties incurred following search algorithm changes—in some cases, falling completely off the map. This leaves search marketing managers scrambling to adjust site search, paid search, and organic search strategies to the new environment. Some are successful at responding quickly to algorithm changes while many face weeks of rehabilitation.
Adobe has shifted its approach from a traditional SEO-based approach to more of a customer optimization strategy. For companies that have remained entrenched in an SEO strategy, there is still hope when trying to recover from a search engine penalty or search behavior modification. The first step to addressing algorithm penalties is to develop an approach that incorporates the multiple stages that define what we call the search impact life cycle.
The search impact life cycle is a closed-loop series of stages that takes search managers from change identification to a determination of supplementary steps used to adapt to said changes. Let’s examine the stages within the search impact life cycle.
Search Impact Life-Cycle Stages
1. Change. A change can result from a number of situations: algorithm changes, search trends, new available tools. Once a change has taken place, search marketers must be quick to recognize when the change occurred. Not all updates are announced so global search marketing managers have to be vigilant in monitoring results. Once a change has been identified, it is an opportunity to adapt that requires analysis, prioritization, and implementation.
2. Analysis. This is a critical point that many search marketers avoid or mishandle. To what extent does the new opportunity impact search results? In which geographies is the change most notable? Which segments are affected? What adaptation options are available? During the analysis stage, managers must examine both the change and their subsequent responses. Once that task is complete, the impact of their response should be forecast in order to provide recovery goals.
3. Prioritization. Every solution will not be equally effective or easy to implement; therefore, solutions must be prioritized to address speed and cost of implementation. Search managers must gauge the impact of a proposed response versus the difficulty of implementing it. Gathering POV and buy-in from stakeholders on your SEO team (such as IT, C-suite, product managers, Web strategy, etc.) is essential to developing a prioritization schedule that aligns with company goals and maximizes the effectiveness of your response.
4. Implementation. This stage is pretty straightforward. Enhancements to search marketing strategies are rolled out according to the prioritization defined in the previous stage. Optimally, response to change should be implemented in a manner that returns the biggest bang for the buck first then addresses affected segments individually.
5. Impact. Another critical step that search marketers and SEO managers often miss is the measurement of how effectively their responses impact search rankings and traffic patterns and then disseminating the impact among stakeholders. Search marketing managers should take every opportunity to share results on a regular basis with key stakeholders—this requires that search professionals become well versed in analytics and products available from Adobe (Adobe Analytics, previously called Site Catalyst and Discover) and Google (Google Premium Analytics). It’s one thing to analyze the impact, but sharing enables a wider audience to understand how and why your enhancements worked and which responses may lead to the next change.
6. Next Steps. Finally, search teams should be consistently identifying opportunities to enhance search marketing and SEO results. We must manage for future updates and continue looking for additional change response opportunities. Without a constant eye toward improvement, your SEO team may struggle to become a center of excellence (COE) for your enterprise.
To be effective at managing the search impact life cycle, SEO and search marketing teams must deploy solutions such as the integrated tools available within the Adobe Marketing Cloud. Each stage of the life cycle delivers opportunities to improve response to change and enhance site structure, paid and organic results, and localization practices. I encourage each of you to create and follow a search impact life cycle that aligns with your global search practices and allows you to respond effectively and efficiently to the next big change. In future posts, we’ll deep dive into some of the technical SEO issues that result from changes in search engine algorithms.