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.