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Creating an In-House Search Marketing Center of Excellence

Bob Tripathi
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thought-leadership-bob-tripathiAs a search marketer I take great pride in how we collectively generate more revenue per head count or revenue generated per employee. It isn’t uncommon for in-house search marketers to be numbered in single digits (if you’re lucky), unlike burgeoning social media teams.

But when it comes to search marketing, much can be accomplished in a small to medium company by even an army of one. Seriously, it can!

Over the past few years I’ve been an active proponent of many different in-house search team models – centralized, outsourced, hybrid – but of course my preferred model is the Search Marketing Center of Excellence (SMCOE). Let’s look at why it benefits in-house search teams to use a SMCOE model.

What is a Search Marketing Center of Excellence?

The center of excellence (COE) model originated in the IT environments, more specifically in the quality assurance and product testing practices. A COE is created with the objective of creating a central repository of knowledge and best practices that can support other business divisions with their business goals.

If it’s a QA testing center of excellence in an IT group, then the objective is to create testing standards to maintain quality in testing across all business divisions. So if it’s a SMCOE, then the objective is to ensure that SEO and PPC are integrated into a well-honed process and best practices are followed across the organization.

The Search Marketing Center of Excellence works wonders for a small team or even for the lone ranger SEO. In one of my previous lives, I had a great meeting with one of my management leaders who asked why I didn't create a search marketing center of excellence.

Soon enough (soon enough being a year later), I created a SMCOE and the financial benefits I was able to drive for my organization were mindboggling.

Now I always advise companies to explore the COE model before going out and hiring an army of SEOs. Of course, a lot also depends on the organization structure, but that’s a discussion for a different day.

A Search Marketing Center of Excellence can provide the following benefits to the organization:

Centralized Expertise on Search Engine Marketing

Under a COE model you or your team is the go to people on anything related to search. The SMCOE is the place where all search knowledge is housed and acts as a central repository of knowledge. It isn’t uncommon for any business unit to tap into this COE center for any search related question.

Creation of Search Best Practices

The COE creates all search marketing best practices and standards across the company. Creating SEO best practices is important so as to ensure that company standards are maintained and best practices are followed that benefit the entire organization.

A Central Bid Management or SEO Platform

The Search Marketing Center of Excellence team also provides infrastructure support from time to time. Again this would depend a lot on individual companies but this team can maintain a central SEO or PPC platform and extend that benefit to the rest of the organization.

In other cases, this COE team could also source new tools and platforms which again could be leveraged by departments across the company. The SMCOE team is also better poised to introduce new vendors to the company as their subject matter expertise allows them to choose the right vendor platform for the right job. Conferences like SES are a great place to meet new vendors face to face.

Reduced Costs

Since search engine marketing is so measurable and drives tremendous revenues for organizations, sometimes not focusing on the right tactics could hinder your progress. At the same time, a SMCOE team can help in shaping new ideas or launches that business units in other units may come up with. Not having to tap into outside resources for many mundane tasks can be cost savings. These cost savings can at the end of the day save the company a lot of money.

Enhanced Search Visibility by Continuous Training and Development

One of the most critical tasks that a search team does in this COE model is imparting continuous search marketing training inside your company. Continuous training helps employees understand, and heighten the visibility of, search marketing within an organization.

Centralized Suite of Reporting

Many reports are standard across all search marketing campaigns, such as search ranking reports, search visibility reports, referral traffic, search engine traffic, conversions, and so on. It makes sense to create standardize templates. The SMCOE team can provide templates for this report that can be standardized across the organization. By creating these standardized reporting, company can also cut costs on a per report basis.

So if you're convinced about creating a SMCOE then you will find yourself regularly doing the following activities:

In-house Search Marketing Training

You can expect this team to train other department folks on search marketing. This group will almost entirely train the entire organization but notable among them are the IT group, development group, copywriters, corporate communications, design group, project/product managers, and so on.

Success depends on other groups contributing to search marketing. When everyone speaks a common language, your projects will get done much faster.

Providing Search Tools That can be Leveraged by the Entire Organization

Just like any professional, as search marketers we also have our tools of the trade. Some of the common tools we use are keyword research tools, link building tools, competitive intelligence tools, and standard webmaster tools, among others.

Search Marketing Center of Excellence can house all these tools centrally and provide access to other teams within the organization. This team can also make recommendations on new tools to acquire depending on the need of the organization.

Creating Best Practices Documents

Compared to many other daily activities this can be considered fun. Creating best practices guides across all SEO functions like on-page best practices, content best practices, link building, development best practices, and so on. Considering all the changes in search engines, you may find yourself periodically updating these documents.

Onboarding New Vendor Agency

As a search team member you will find yourself championing internal RFP processes or onboarding new search agency partners. This team is a good fit since they have the expertise to ask the right questions and the ability to look beyond the obvious when it comes to finding new external search marketing partners.

Supporting Individual Business Units in Achieving Their Goals

The SMCOE team also acts as a support for other business units within the organization.

That being said, one common task of this team is to help formulate, forecast, and strategize search marketing for different areas of the business. In some cases, search marketing goals are also shared between the business unit and this team making this team accountable for search marketing objectives. Again, all this will just depend on your organization and how the SMCOE is placed within your organization.

The Perfect Platform

The above are just some of the daily or weekly activities that are built into a search marketer’s job profile. Trust me, I can go on and on with the above list of activities.

The most important activity that a search marketer does is providing thought leadership to their organization. Turns out, the Search Marketing Center of Excellence model can be the perfect platform to demonstrate that kind of thought leadership.


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