My last article on Integrating Search into the Localization Process prompted a few emails from people asking what other areas are important to the process, and how they can integrate them into the SEO process. My recommendation has always been to develop a search council or search center of excellence (COE) that fosters collaboration between the various business stakeholders.
The central search team typically has the mandate maximizing the global performance of the search program in the organization. The only way they can focus on what is most important is to simply try to minimize the number of search related crises you encounter each day.
The global COE should focus on improving the content creation workflow practices, compliance levels, policies, support and awareness, and measurement across global reach of the program. It is also highly focused on building a culture of search marketing excellence that will have a measurable impact on the bottom line and scale the efforts to reach even the most remote of business units. When it is extended to the larger global audience the scale of the program grows exponentially with less effort required by the local markets.
As I mentioned in the previous article, few include the localization team in the search discussion yet they can have significant impact in the performance.
Search Center Of Excellence: Role And Function
The COE, to be effective, needs to be an aggregation of multiple disciplines and levels of the organization to provide insight into the various stakeholders roles and how they should collaborate with each other to become more effective. In addition to role representation, the COE needs to provide a broad base of information and guidance, and should provide the following specifically with a global slant:
Shared learning: A proper COE will prevent, or minimize, the reinvention of the wheel for most business units with a base from which to start their understanding of a process or technique. These formalized and uniform roles and processes enable shared learning:
- Aggregation and evangelizing of best practices
- Training and certifications
- Web-based training and best practices that are easy to use by the local teams
- Skill assessments and team building. I am amazed at the lack of integration of global search teams, let alone alignment with the global web infrastructure teams.
Measurements and metrics. COEs should demonstrate that they deliver the valued results that justified their creation through the use of uniform metrics:
- Uniform metrics that can span business units and geographies
- Uniform tools and collection methods
- Aggregation and evangelization of the results
- Monitoring of local performance to identify opportunities in other markets
Mentoring and support. For the specific area of focus, COEs should offer support and mentoring to the business lines. P&G’s search team does this well. They have a central services group which sources tools, vendors and aggregates best practices and shares them with their business unit teams saving them from reinventing the wheel. The level of support will vary based on ability and resources and organization:
- Sourcing and procurement of shared tools and resources
- Share subject matter experts
- Provide air cover and support with executive management
- Develop process and opportunity for scale in the service offering
- Where possible, offer financial and resource support
Governance. Not be confused with the dictatorship or gatekeeper of a process or strategy, but an enabler, arbitrator, and motivator—and, in some cases, the decider of what is the better of two practices. This is especially important where markets have brands that overlap or business segments such as SMB and consumer which want to target the same keywords. The shared best practices will go a long way towards adoption and compliance. Many companies are starting to leverage the procurement process to require development vendors to develop search friendly create search friendly sites. Other key governance activities are:
- Creation and arbitration of common standards, policies, and methodologies
- Enforcement of a consistent architecture and uniform approach across the organization
- A common method and set of techniques for managing information
- Developing and enabling well defined roles and responsibilities for team members
Benefits Of A Search Center Of Excellence
The most effective COEs offer a variety of benefits that can be gained from centralizing a set of essential functions to support global search and social media marketing programs. Some of the benefits include:
- Better reuse of capabilities across programs
- Enhanced speed of delivery
- Cost reduction or elimination through shared infrastructure and tools
- Cost savings through shared skill sets and elimination of redundant or inefficient process or approach
- Reduction in frustration and disorganization for those just adopting search marketing
While having a search center of excellence doesn’t guarantee success, it does bring together the varied best practices of program development, deployment and measurement to achieve better speed to market, consistency and reduce the complexity, resulting in highly successful outcomes when executed properly. The quicker the organization adopts this centralized process for information sharing, the quicker they will see a more widespread adoption of these practices and less barriers for improving performance in their specific discipline.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.