Digital marketing continues to evolve and search remains a big driver of performance within it. Industry terminology continues to shift into things like “performance marketing.” Regardless of what we call it, search marketing and drilling down specifically into SEO and paid search, is often still siloed or walled off from the rest of the marketing mix.
There are several factors as to why the search is treated differently. Some come from the broader marketing team, company, or agency, and trouble prioritizing and categorizing the channels. The other side of it comes from the search team and the strategies, tactics, and metrics that look and sound different than other marketing channels. Regardless of the reason why silos and walls still exist, there are some compelling reasons to find the common ground and benefits of integrating search into company culture more and removing perceived and literal barriers to unlock some great benefits for the search team, the company (or agency), and overall.
Search Team Benefits
Acceptance The search team has a fast-paced market to compete in and search has been around long enough that at a basic level, they want the work they do to simply be accepted. With the maturity of the industry, there is more common knowledge of what SEO and paid search metrics, strategies, and tactics are. However, there are still people from the outside that don’t get it or want to question it as a valid marketing channel and challenge the search team’s process and competency. When an organization integrates search and accepts it, there’s an added layer of transparency that comes with it.SupportTwelve years ago, I was able to do SEO mostly in a silo by myself. I worked directly with my clients and the only outside things I needed were their feedback and approvals.
The world changed with several fundamental updates the search engines made over the years (and that’s a good thing). Now, SEOs need UX, IT, content, social media, PR, and other areas of support. I have yet to meet an SEO who wears all of these hats – or should. While the shift to context and engagement has been a good one, the dedication of these resources outside of the search team by brands and agencies hasn’t always been.SpeedSimply providing support to the search team through the resources they need is not enough. I can tell stories of many cases where SEO requests go to die in IT ticketing systems or on corporate content request lists.SEO is a long-term process but requires short-term iterative updates. Paid search is real-time marketing and often needs new and updated assets and resources in specific timeframes to shape success. The speed of execution is critical for the success of a search team especially in areas where they rely on other resources for support.collaborations may be easy to use SEO as a verb and ask someone to “SEO this blog post.”
While an SEO can probably help with that, the production model and reactive nature of the request is short-sighted. Search in both organic and paid channels benefits greatly by collaboration with the broader marketing team and initiative. To get the most out of the search team, it’s important to: Know what the top-level goals are. Know the performance in other channels.Know the content and strategies being conducted in other parts of the marketing plan. Be given a chance to collaborate.ExpectationsEver wonder why search marketers always seem to be non-committal when pressed for performance forecasts and timing? By easing up on seeking absolutes and breaking down the silos by implementing the aspects noted above (acceptance, support, speed, and collaboration), you can expect to get more commitment to absolutes in terms of timing and performance from the search team. The Company or
Most brands and agencies understand their target audiences, have built personas, and have conducted specific research into prospects and customers. Does any of this research include data from search? A benefit to the brand or agency in breaking down silos is realizing the opportunity to tap into the search team for valuable insights.
Keyword research is part of audience research
If your search team is doing it, why not use it and package it up with the rest of your insights. Do you have an insights team? Include a search person in it! Just don’t abuse search or move them into your research operation as they still have to conduct the performance marketing aspect of their campaign(s).
Competitor ResearchSimilar to audience research, you can probably find a wealth of competitor research in your search team. A critical component of both paid and organic search is knowing: Who the competitors are. How effective they are.What they’re doing. Utilizing competitor content profiling, link profiling, and the various ways that search marketers reverse engineer competitor sites can provide some great insight to help other marketing channels and sales efforts. Website ImprovementsDue to ranking factors and the growing importance of organic search, SEO professionals care about website security and UX factors like the accessibility of code and page speed. When considering conversion rate optimization, UX improvements, or even updates to layouts and design, be sure to consult the search team. Efficiencies and new ideas can be gained by getting the perspective of search marketers. Whether it is in navigation, page flow, forms, or technical factors, getting on the same page of the search team can greatly benefit the brand or agency. It will also prevent the need to do work in different buckets to meet different channel needs. Testing OpportunitiesPaid search is a great place for quick results and reactions when testing branding and marketing initiatives. Whether it is updated messaging, offers, calls-to-action, or sales tactics, the search can return quick results compared to other channels. ClarityTreating search like the rest of the marketing team can help align the search campaigns around broader activities in the organization. By bringing it into the fold the benefit of gaining more clarity and visibility on activities and performance can be unlocked. Much like the search team not wanting to be unfairly pressed on expectations, they don’t have to be if the brand or agency integrates them and includes them throughout the process. This brings clarity without having to ask, demand, or challenge the effort.Cultural AlignmentCultural alignment isn’t a measurable or tangible thing. However, by looking at the benefits of the search team and of the brand or agency detailed, it can be achieved. Having shared goals and KPIs is important. There’s nothing worse than having everything look good on an SEO or PPC report and then the stakeholder or client says, “But I don’t care about any of that as I saw no new real sales or leads.”Aligning on top-level business goals and trickling down to the channel-specific goals allows for the development of a shared vocabulary. What I call keyword research and you call audience research can be synced up. In reality, there’s a lot more in common than there seems on the surface when integrating search in with the rest of the marketing channels. The overall culture also benefits from the resource efficiency that comes with the integration of search. No one has to produce content or make dev updates just for the search team. A more holistic approach can be taken by having shared duties and shared teams working together. Chances are if there’s content the SEO team wants, it probably also could benefit email and social media audiences. Starting at the top and working down is much easier than having channels come up and ask for things to take back down into their silos. Collectively, by embracing the benefits for both the search team and the brand or agency, the culture over time will integrate search and it will become second nature rather than something off to the side.
ConclusionThe integration of search into brand and agency culture has many distinct and shared benefits for the search team and organization as a whole.
Silos and walls come down when efforts are aligned around common, top-level goals. Acceptance and understanding come through the development of a shared vocabulary. Overall, organizations become smarter, better integrated, and more efficient when valuing search and getting it in alignment with the rest of their marketing channels and efforts. The first step is to work on getting a search to the marketing table and valuing it.