Glen­garry Glen Ross. Have you seen it? The clas­sic “Always Be Clos­ing” scene with Alec Bald­win never gets old. If you haven’t caught it yet, take an evening, grab some pop­corn, and watch the characters—real estate salesmen—compete to sell a cov­eted prop­erty. Although the movie’s theme addresses the pres­sures asso­ci­ated with high-end sales, the take­away I get after watch­ing is that suc­cess is depen­dent on cre­at­ing a com­pet­i­tive advantage.

Com­pet­ing enter­prises must lever­age their com­pet­i­tive advan­tages to achieve global suc­cess. My focus is on devel­op­ing search mar­ket­ing com­pet­i­tive advan­tages for Adobe. In order to be effec­tive, we’ve got to con­tin­u­ally man­age within an evolv­ing land­scape. Over the past 15 years, the only con­stant in SEO and search mar­ket­ing has been change. Changes to algo­rithms, changes to dig­i­tal chan­nels, changes to avail­able data sets—and these are part of the sea change as mar­ket­ing has moved heav­ily toward a dig­i­tal and data-driven focus. It’s a won­der we haven’t lost our minds try­ing to cap­i­tal­ize on the next dig­i­tal advancement.

Accord­ing to a Moz esti­mate, Google changes its algo­rithms 500 to 600 times each year. Since we opti­mize for best prac­tices, not a par­tic­u­lar engine, we do a quar­terly exer­cise on our team to assess and eval­u­ate the changes needed in our orga­ni­za­tion to stay con­sis­tent with the indus­try expec­ta­tion. Over the past two years alone, we’ve seen Panda, Pen­guin, and Hum­ming­bird. (Remem­ber the “Phan­tom” update ear­lier this year?) As a mat­ter of fact, they just released an update, with less than favor­able reviews—to put it mildly!

The trap doors and land mines that lit­ter the SEO space are too com­mon to ignore. And while the land­scape is chal­leng­ing to nav­i­gate, there are a few tac­tics that help main­tain a search mar­ket­ing com­pet­i­tive advantage.

  • Cre­ate a site with an archi­tec­ture that, when indexed, tells the same brand and prod­uct story to search engines that human vis­i­tors get. The engines must have clear instruc­tions as to the rel­e­vance of each page and asset.
  • Opti­mize your unique assets. Are you nim­ble and self-contained and dri­ven by con­tent cre­ation? Or is your domain long-standing, with a mas­sive global foot­print, and a heavy focus on per­son­al­iza­tion and con­ver­sion (much like Adobe)?
  • Incor­po­rate all pos­si­ble SEO best prac­tices into your CMS tem­plates. This is far and away the most effec­tive way to raise the SEO bar across your site—it requires an exec­u­tive spon­sor, a great part­ner­ship with IT and Web teams, and a tech­ni­cal staff to do it well, however.
  • Develop a site for the user expe­ri­ence. Nav­i­ga­tion, con­tent dis­play, and archi­tec­ture all play a part in pre­sent­ing an expe­ri­ence that keeps vis­i­tors on your site.
  • Dis­trib­ute con­tent that attracts and con­verts. Your front line is made up of dis­trib­uted dig­i­tal assets that build aware­ness and direct traf­fic to your Web properties.
  • Dis­trib­ute con­tent peo­ple will want to share. Your dig­i­tal brand must have “legs” – it’s got to be shared among your mar­kets, employ­ees, and other stakeholders.
  • Pay atten­tion to social. While site archi­tec­ture and key terms will long be impor­tant, social sig­nals now cor­re­late more heav­ily as rank­ing fac­tors. The weight asso­ci­ated with author­ship in Google+, for exam­ple, has to be con­sid­ered when it comes to SEO and search mar­ket­ing success.

So, on the one hand, you man­age for changes in exter­nal fac­tors like algo­rithms. But just as impor­tant to suc­cess is lever­ag­ing the advan­tages that reside within your enter­prise. You’ve got a bit more con­trol over those, but as with exter­nal fac­tors, the inter­nal advan­tages you have can change with­out notice—like if exec­u­tives choose to reduce con­tent, deem­pha­size cer­tain regions, or roll out new Web tech­nol­ogy or test­ing pro­to­col. The key ques­tion to ask your­self is this: What changes are needed within your enter­prise in order to main­tain your team or cor­po­rate advantage?

Fre­quent read­ers of my blog know that we fol­low Agile Scrum man­age­ment pro­to­cols when it comes to our search prac­tices. Some of the team was recently cer­ti­fied as Cer­ti­fied Scrum­Mas­ters through Scru​mAlliance​.org. Although I’m not going to reveal our secret sauce (com­pet­i­tive advan­tages), I will share a few thoughts about what’s nec­es­sary to main­tain global SEO and search mar­ket­ing success.

First, opti­mize glob­ally through teams on the ground that can local­ize effec­tively. Dis­trib­uted team struc­tures max­i­mize your local search capa­bil­i­ties while being aligned with cor­po­rate goals and objec­tives. Teams should be struc­tured to sup­port mobile, social, and ana­lyt­ics func­tions (and ide­ally cross-trained on and work­ing with these respec­tive teams), with stake­hold­ers being mea­sured by KPIs that sat­isfy team and cor­po­rate goals.

Sec­ond, opti­mize for mobile, ide­ally through a con­certed effort that incor­po­rates Respon­sive Design prin­ci­ples. Accord­ing to Busi­ness Insider, mobile search accounts for 26% of all local search traf­fic. Dig­i­tal prop­er­ties must dis­play using respon­sive design ele­ments that adapt across devices and suc­cess­fully engage the mobile customer.

Third, build your man­age­ment prac­tices to meet chang­ing search require­ments and expose hid­den com­pet­i­tive advan­tages. Monthly train­ing events, weekly hud­dles, or daily stand ups can be oppor­tu­ni­ties to build and sus­tain com­pet­i­tive advan­tages. Prac­tices that fos­ter cross-team col­lab­o­ra­tion typ­i­cally lead to suc­cess­ful outcomes.