It's a few days into 2010. By now most of us have made some kind of resolutions for the new year, some personal, some career focused, while a few of those resolutions have already been broken. Those resolutions still alive face a critical few weeks that can make a few words on paper either a turning point or something that you laugh at with your friends and colleagues this time again next year.
It's an important time in the life of brands, too. We're all coming off two tough years of being asked to do more with less, and for search marketers, we're coming up on a year with a lot less Yahoo to leverage and a lot of changes at Google to maneuver. Even with economic times looking up, we're all under pressure to start this year big and to be more effective at our jobs.
For those with a lot moving parts in search, here are a couple of resolutions you should add to your list -- especially if your list of resolutions has, shall we say, already had some space open up.
Have an Open Line Between Development and SEO
Like PPC before it and social media after it, SEO can be a hard function to place. Ideally it crosses lines between marketing and development effortlessly and it doesn't really matter who owns it, but between tight staffing and human nature we all know that "ideal" is deceptively simple.
To save yourself and your team last-minute scares and build SEO fixes into 6-month-old site updates, get them working as close together as possible. Many concepts for site updates that can help or harm your natural search are discussed in several different meetings. By integrating your SEO and development efforts, you can much more readily catch all opportunities and threats before they're put into place.
Does your development team have an e-mail alias? Your SEO or agency rep should be on it. Do they have a weekly meeting? Add them to the invite. Have your SEO speak with them regularly and teach quick lessons to remind your development team that they're there and all efforts are being made to keep them in the loop.
Look at SEM as a Whole, Rather Than Two Independent Efforts
Given the huge sums of money involved in large-scale PPC campaigns, the planning that goes into SEO and the tremendous amount of information that pours from both sources, it's easy to forget sometimes that paid search and natural search are drawing from the same audience. Changes in one affect the performance of other -- especially when it comes to branded keywords -- and the strategies of the two can and should complement each other.
Start with combined reporting, whether it's combining it yourself or asking your team or agency to do so. Look at your traffic, sales, and revenue from PPC and natural search next to each other to see if they're both growing -- as well as combined, to see if one is leading over the other or if it's a net gain.
Lastly, look at both of them compared to the site as a whole to see if you're experiencing real growth or just rising with the tide. Knowledge is power, and if knowing these numbers means you'll have to yell at someone due to results, at least you'll know for sure who to yell at and why, and have a better expectation that it will do you some good.
Have your SEO team review your PPC campaign performance, and not just look for top-performing keywords, but also top-performing tails (do more shoppers tend to convert more often on "shop widgets" or "buy widgets"?). Look at top-performing ad variations and integrate them into your meta descriptions, so that you can both drive a higher natural search CTR and match messaging and branding across your search presence.
Stick by These...Really
Granted, these can be just as challenging as any other resolution. In a few weeks when you could easily find yourself struggling with the new exercise routine, backsliding on that leaner personal budget, or wondering why your search performance isn't quite where it should be. Like the other resolutions you're making, however, they're all important and will lead to greater success in the coming year.