6 Tips For Increasing Search Team Communication
In my last article, Big Win & Fails For Global Search Marketing, I recapped some of the failures and successes in Global Search Marketing and identified the lack of communication and collaboration as the biggest failure. While it is the biggest challenge, it is actually the easiest to fix.
When Mike Moran initially brought me in to create the IBM search team (a team of 3 — me, myself, and I), I quickly learned that in order to solve the organizational and operation challenges we had at IBM, I would need help. I set about creating an army of search loyalists that could help me solve the problems.
We had no shortage of interest in search, and we quickly had a waiting list of business units wanting to start. I also found that for every person I could help self-educate, there was at least 2 hours of meeting time I could avoid. I found that by presenting the basic concepts, providing checklists and intake forms, I could reduce new business unit on-boarding time from 18 hours to just 6. This allowed me to work with more of them more quickly.
Local Resources Need Help
No matter if your organization is highly centralized or decentralized, the local resources do need and want your help. I was told by a very decentralized multinational that the local markets do not need nor want any help other than money from the corporate team. Not buying that logic, I did a survey of the teams in the 26 markets.
Once completed, it showed that all of them wanted and needed support from the global team. It was very interesting that they spent a lot on PPC and had multiple agencies, yet that is where they wanted the most help. It turned out the resistance was from the global and local search agencies that wanted to continue to use outdated techniques to just skate by in their programs.
You don’t have to build a major support organization, but use any and all of the following to help the local teams with a place to start, process and have the ability to ask questions.
1. Lunch & Learns
These are easy to do – set a time on the calendar and invite anyone related to the Web to attend. Bribe them with food if you have the budget. You don’t need any fancy format for these. The following is my typical agenda:
- 10 – 15 minutes – updating them on any major changes being implemented
- 10 – 15 minutes – results from previous changes and any industry or search engine changes
- 30 – 45 minutes – recently submitted questions or problems anyone on the call encountered since the last meeting
Pick a time that makes sense for the most people. It might be a Breakfast and Learn for many time zones. Depending on the size and distribution of the potential attendees, I would do two to three versions to accommodate the various time zones. We would record them for people who could not attend or as a reference.
2. Create A Search Knowledge Base
Your knowledge base does not have to be complex ,but simply a shared area on your server or Google Docs that people can access to get basic questions answered through existing resources. This is a great place to keep best practices, guides, templates and any other company-specific search knowledge that will be helpful in your company.
As you attend conferences or webinars, take all the relevant presentations and notes from those meetings and load them for the rest of the company to benefit. I like to monitor which topics are the most popular and then turn them into a Lunch and Learn to go a bit deeper. It is amazing how some of the simplest bits if information can be helpful.
Over the recent holiday break, I went through my 2012 email and projects and found I had answered over 5,000 different search and social questions from clients, articles and blogs, with 600 of them being completely unique and about 50 being asked over 100 times. This motivated me to update a Enterprise Search knowledge base that I originally created back in 2003.
3. Create A Uniform Process
In my opinion, the companies that have been the most successful in global search, such as Adobe and SAP, have worked hard to create and maintain uniform and repeatable processes in their teams that are well-documented, allowing anyone in any market to understand and conduct them. This is critical for diagnostics and reporting, allowing you to quickly and easily identify new problems with the site.
By documenting the various procesess and conducting ongoing training, you can get new members up to speed quickly and have the confidence that they are doing the same things that have been tried and true.
4. Develop Worksheets & Templates
I find a lot of time is taken in the local markets getting started and developing forms, templates and worksheets. If these are not provided, they need to be created or they are adapting something they find online or by an agency. Simply making a keyword planning and research template with suggestions related to your company and products makes things easier.
In one case, this saved one company, on average, 3 to 5 hours per business unit and an estimated 100 man hours of meeting and review time since it was developed with easy-to-understand instructions and examples.
5. Mandate Uniform Reporting
I have only had a few occasions where I started a project with a company and more than two countries and even brands have shared similar reports. This is what happens without a central leader that mandates a basic set of reports that are the same across markets. Even if you have a dozen agencies, you can require them to provide reports in a uniform way.
It is common that not all markets will have the same data, but 90% of what we review in search is the same in any market, so at least the basic performance set can be uniform. This lets you see this data quickly and identify trends and problems in the various markets. It is also good to set baseline success metrics that the local markets can adjust, such as click rates for branded and non-branded terms, bounce rates, and even preferred landing pages and tiers for prioritizing keywords.
Uniform reporting also lets you roll up data to see the global picture as well as quickly understanding the local performance. A few companies that have done this recently have told me it let them identify new markets where minimal efforts have increased search performance exponentially, making up for lost performance in larger markets.
6. Develop Cross-Team Communication
It is easiest to start with getting the search team communicating. Also, a major fail I mentioned last month is the lack of communication between paid and organic as well as social media teams. I can’t even believe how in 2013 this still happens. As Google takes away SEO ShelfSpace, we need to replace it with local, product, paid and social media listings. Doing these as independent programs is wasteful and foolish. These can and should be integrated as a holistic program.
Once you have the search teams communicating, start integrating IT, PR, Marketing, Sales and anyone else that touches the Web and the content creation workflow.
As we often joke at conferences, bribe them with food, energy drinks or budget increases to get them to talk to you. Most of the time, just taking the time to reach out and share is all it takes to get things moving.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)
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