Daina Middleton’s Imaging and Printing Group (IPG) is only one part of the overall picture at HP.com, but she still has countless consumer segments to think about and just as many or more SMB verticals. While her job as Global Interactive Director is naturally complicated, those concerns were truly just scratching the surface when she took over the division's search strategy 16 months ago.
“There are roughly 750,000 pages on HP.com that relate to products in IPG,” she says. “I’d say around 95% to 99% of the product pages were built a long time ago -- without search in mind. So, we cannot rely on organic results.”
In other words, paid search is even more integral to extending the brand online than for firms with decent SEO. Add in the fact that the division Middleton inherited had more than 16 employees spread out across the US and even more around the world, but no one ever spoke to one another. Even worse, these people were unknowingly competing against one another for the same search terms. Other problems:
- Lack of top five placements
- Campaigns weren’t tied to overall business objectives
- Corporate couldn’t monitor their activity
- Not integrated with print, TV/radio, Web or email
Here are five strategies Middleton implemented to overcome the obstacles:
-> Strategy #1. Distinguish global buys
Once Middleton let the search team know that their days of doing solo search campaigns without corporate synch-up were over, she began organizing keyword buys into three tiers:
After looking at Web analytics for online stores in each of their 11 countries, they decided that general terms, such as “color printer,” were to be purchased across all three levels in English, due to the widespread use of the language. These are high-cost, widely searched buys that higher-ups consider must-have because of branding and conversion reasons. Higher ROI purchases such as “HP photo printer” are also often purchased across the three tiers.
-> Strategy #2. Take regional words into consideration
Not surprisingly, search buys get more specific at the regional level. For instance, “digital camera” performs well in the US and Canada, while “digicam” or “snappy” are the regional terms HP uses in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe.
“You have to consider, ‘How do people use language?’ ” Middleton says. “There will be some examples where you need to make significant changes from one market to the next.”
-> Strategy #3. SEM by country
The keywords become language-specific and sometimes dialect-specific for campaigns in countries such as France, Japan, China, India, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia. Middleton and her team employ search partners (see hotlinks below) to hone in on their international target markets, but she advises to do as much of the work in-house as possible.
“You can't rely on your search partner to automatically optimize this area,” she says. “You have to keep your team attentive to linguistic issues.”
-> Strategy #4. Organize special offers
One of the later pieces Middleton added to the puzzle was the ability to coordinate search buys with campaigns going on in other media. In a general example, they employed the keyword buy “school printer” for back-to-school campaigns.
“We have been able to try more promotions at the local level like, ‘HP Photosmart 230, $100 off.’ Before, these efforts were very disjointed, and that hurt our ROI.”
-> Strategy #5. Keep regular correspondence
Next, Middleton instituted weekly teleconferences with her team, using the meetings to alter campaigns mid-stream when necessary. She also set up formal quarterly reports that show campaign performance on the three tiers of global, regional and country.
“We are making sure that things like special promotions are moving as they should be and we work on improving seasonality.”
Since Middleton instituted the program, she has been able to reign in her division’s sprawled-out search initiative. The structure is more uniform, and they have implemented profitable, time-specific campaigns in 11 countries because of the strategies put in place.
“We have seen our online revenue go up because of our improved search,” she says. “The sum total effect of implementing those three layers has enabled our ROI needle to noticeably move in the right direction continuously. In addition, we've absolutely increased keyword coverage on position. Mainly, I think we've improved the customer experience.”
Marketers taking over far-reaching search initiatives shouldn’t hope for a quick fix. It will take time. “One of the things I always tell my peers is to not give up hope,” she says. “The longer you do this, the more information you get and the more you can adjust your campaigns, programs or model. You can turn that data into insight that actually affects marketing and ROI.”
Middleton also offered five additional search tips for huge organizations:
Tip #1. Cover all of your bases and do not solely focus on purchase components. All of our data shows that if you do that, you will sell yourself short. You will have a better ROI if you look at all layers.
Tip #2. Don't forget that your search customers are seeking knowledge. What we need to remember is that people are not just find out there to find a bargain.
Tip #3. Take what you know about merchandising at your Web site and integrate it into your search campaigns.
Tip #4. Don't forget metrics. Look how things perform last quarter versus this one and last year versus the current. There are important seasonality differences. You start to see trends that prove themselves out from a seasonality standpoint.
Tip #5. Make sure you follow customers through the funnel and their buying cycles for accessory products.Useful links related to this story
Performics - HP's search partner in the US:
Modem Media - HP’s search partner in Europe:
Daina Middleton is speaking at this month’s ad:tech San Francisco conference. For more details, go to http://www.ad-tech.com