Think about your favorite bank heist movie (I’m par­tial to the recent Tower Heist). What do most heist movies have in com­mon? They typ­i­cally involve mul­ti­ple par­tic­i­pants with inte­grated, yet sin­gu­lar respon­si­bil­i­ties. The dri­vers, the guns, the tech per­son all seek the same objec­tive. Enter­prises seek­ing to opti­mize search mar­ket­ing oper­ate in the same way, though from a nobler place. If the goal is to max­i­mize your dig­i­tal assets for search pur­poses, you need stake­hold­ers to come together and get involved.

Stake­holder Alignment

Stake­hold­ers need to be aligned in a com­mon cause estab­lished with a clear cus­tomer opti­miza­tion strat­egy. When SEO and search mar­ket­ing prac­tices are siloed, the enter­prise runs a dis­jointed search cam­paign that can’t effec­tively accom­mo­date the over­ar­ch­ing goal: to opti­mize dig­i­tal pres­ence toward brand leadership.

It may sound obvi­ous to say “get­ting buy-in is crit­i­cal,” but the fact is with­out appro­pri­ate stake­holder on board­ing, there is lit­tle chance of achiev­ing a suc­cess­ful com­pre­hen­sive search strat­egy. No sin­gle search dis­ci­pline is effec­tive in and of itself, so man­agers across paid, organic, and site search opti­miza­tion func­tions must align to effec­tively deploy assets.

When we talk about stake­hold­ers, we mean any func­tion area that is impacted by SEO. And there can be many. The first step is to ana­lyze which func­tions in the enter­prise ful­fill the SEO stake­holder role. IT, Web pro­duc­tion, social, Web strat­egy, and global local­iza­tion teams are most com­monly involved in SEO, but as the graphic below shows, man­agers from prod­uct mar­ket­ing, exec­u­tives, UI, and other func­tions will need to be engaged with and influ­enced by SEO best practices.

SEO Team

Align­ment involves enterprise-wide strate­gies that involve com­mu­ni­ca­tions, key per­for­mance indi­ca­tors (KPIs), func­tional objec­tives, global devel­op­ment, and mar­ket seg­men­ta­tion. Align­ment is also nec­es­sary for your engage­ment strat­egy. When to time launches, where to build audi­ences, what key­words and URLs to deploy? The myr­iad of ques­tions that come out of stake­holder align­ment some­times derail well-intentioned efforts to build a cohe­sive strategy.

The next step is to align func­tion­al­ity and account­abil­ity with respect to SEO prac­tices. There are tools avail­able that sup­port cross-functional align­ment while allow­ing area man­agers to mea­sure unique KPIs. Adobe Ana­lyt­ics, for exam­ple, allows SEO stake­hold­ers to report and ana­lyze online user behav­ior and cus­tomize the report­ing dash­board to suit their indi­vid­ual met­rics analy­sis needs.

Search mar­ket­ing can be your most cost-effective global rev­enue chan­nel when imple­men­ta­tion leans on the align­ment of all stake­hold­ers asso­ci­ated with search. If nec­es­sary, a service-level agree­ment is a good way to gain com­mit­ment. Stake­hold­ers know clearly what the goals and objec­tives are, what is expected from each func­tion area, and when out­comes will be evaluated.

Con­sider the func­tional objec­tives required to max­i­mize search pres­ence: con­tent dis­tri­b­u­tion, site archi­tec­ture, link­ing, media deploy­ment, and so on. Each stake­holder brings exper­tise related to inline func­tions that may or may not be syn­the­sized into your enterprise’s over­ar­ch­ing objective—digital pres­ence optimization.

The next step is to develop a stake­holder align­ment model which includes

  • Expec­ta­tions
  • Mea­sure­ment
  • Feed­back channeling
  • Account­abil­ity
  • Exper­tise
  • Emo­tional investment

The last cri­te­rion is crit­i­cal to suc­cess within the sec­ond realm of devel­op­ing a Search Cen­ter of Excel­lence (CoE) model. Emo­tional invest­ment leads to buy-in, which is fun­da­men­tal to stake­holder engage­ment. Dishar­mony at the man­age­r­ial level is often a sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tor to unsuc­cess­ful align­ment outcomes.

Stake­holder Engagement

After all stake­hold­ers have been aligned, the sec­ond step is to ensure that all par­ties are engaged in the effort. Build­ing an SEO CoE requires a few fun­da­men­tal engage­ment pil­lars. Engage­ment should be con­sis­tent, some­what fre­quent, and lead to best prac­tice devel­op­ment. Meet­ings tend to be more effec­tive when they’re held at a con­sis­tent inter­val, at least quar­terly. Early in the process, a biweekly or monthly sched­ule might be appro­pri­ate as processes mature. Once prac­tices have been stan­dard­ized, monthly or quar­terly meet­ings are usu­ally suf­fi­cient. How­ever, for some stake­hold­ers (espe­cially con­tent and Web), con­sis­tent weekly meet­ings lead to the most effec­tive partnership.

Training—both for­mal and ad hoc—is typ­i­cally a neces­sity as dis­parate func­tion areas such as Web strat­egy and prod­uct mar­ket­ing become aligned. Sta­tic train­ing will be nec­es­sary when align­ing inde­pen­dent func­tion areas. While the search engine land­scape con­tin­ues to evolve toward a cus­tomer opti­miza­tion strat­egy (COS), ad hoc train­ing will fill in to address changes in tactics.

Once the team is engaged, the next step is to opti­mize the team to focus on SEO sig­nals. The chart below shows the break­down of a Moz analy­sis of 2011 search engine results page (SERP) fac­tors. Each stake­holder has a pres­ence within most fac­tors; some will have a sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence. There­fore, engage­ment among man­agers of affected func­tion areas will, at a min­i­mum, be occa­sional and, opti­mally, be frequent.

SEOMoz-Ranking-factors2

Image Source: http://​www​.seo​moz​.org/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​/​s​e​a​r​c​h​-​r​a​n​k​i​n​g​-​f​a​c​t​ors

The SEO team should be deployed with pri­or­i­ties and work­load expec­ta­tions. While cer­tain areas will be focused on key­words and con­tent, oth­ers will be opti­miz­ing site archi­tec­ture (remem­ber, site opti­miza­tion is one leg of Adobe’s COS). Prod­uct sup­port, social, link­ing, report­ing, and local­iza­tion should each be within the SEO scope.

It’s not always easy. As fel­low Adobe blog­ger War­ren Lee puts it, “most stake­hold­ers do not will­ingly (assum­ing they know how) incor­po­rate search best prac­tices into their daily work.” In the end, how­ever, the results of your SEO cam­paigns will be improved and opti­mized toward dig­i­tal brand leadership.

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