SEM for Large Companies

    January 8, 2008

I was reading an excellent post today by David Meerman Scott on EMC’s troubles with search marketing. I work for IBM, so EMC is a competitor of ours, but I have trouble being too critical because I know what they are struggling with.

big company headquartersOrganic search marketing for big companies is just really hard. Small companies struggle to get attention—their big problem in organic search marketing is attracting links. But they have it easy compared to big companies, because larger Web sites struggle with absolutely everything else.

Large sites frequently blow money on fancy technologies that stop spiders from indexing their pages. They have intramural competitions for the same keywords. (At IBM, we once had several different groups all bidding against each other for the paid search keyword "linux.")

But the biggest problem is that these companies can’t centralize search marketing, but they must control it. That requires not just search marketing smarts, but also skills in corporate governance and organizational behavior. You must be able to put procedures, standards, and training in place to get large numbers of people to do what is needed. You also need to consistently measure that they continue to do it as time goes by.

Small companies have few, if any of these problems. If you can gather your Web staff around a table, hand them a copy of a book and say "Do this," and that solves your governance problem, you have no idea how much harder it is in a large company. In any major corporation, you’d have to spend a month of conference calls to speak to even a small number of the folks responsible for your Web site. I am certain that a number of smart people at EMC know exactly what they need to do to fix their site, but putting a program in place that gets everyone rowing in the same direction takes a lot more than merely recognizing there’s a problem.

Big companies are often blinded as to the problems because the large number of people can sometimes foster an insular culture. But from what I know about EMC, I don’t think that’s their problem, nor is it the problem of most large companies that are flailing about in search marketing hell. Their problem is that they know what to do (or at least most of what to do) but they can’t figure out how to get a massive number of people to do it all.

If you’re a big company, like EMC, struggling to gain respectability in search marketing, check out an article I wrote that enumerates the problems and helps you take the first few steps to solving them, called "Big Company and Big Site Search Marketing." IBM increased its search traffic to 25% of visitors from less than one percent when it came to grips with the difficulties of behemoth search marketing, so don’t despair. Your monolith can do it, too.

And if you are small company, I don’t expect you to shed any crocodile tears for the large ones out there. Just be happy that this is one area where being small is far less of a disadvantage, and make sure that you are doing everything you can to compete with everything you’ve got. Organic search marketing, unlike traditional big-money marketing, favors the nimble and the small.