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 ScrumAlliance.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.