Search Marketing

Who Defines Technology at your Company?

The definition of technology is:

the practical application of science to commerce or industry

A while ago, I asked, “If your IT department was killing innovation“. It was a question that solicited quite a response! Many IT departments do have the ability to stifle or enable innovation… can IT departments even stifle or enable productivity and sales?

Today, I had the pleasure of meeting with Chris from Compendium. It was a spirited conversation and we wound up going about 45 minutes past where we wanted to.

One of the interesting pieces of the conversation was discussing who owned the decision to purchase a platform or SEO services. We both sighed when that decision fell into the hands of an IT representative. I’m in no way trying to disparage IT professionals – I rely on their expertise on a daily basis. Blogging for SEO is a strategy for acquiring leads… a marketing responsibility.

However, it’s intriguing that an IT department is often put in charge of a platform or process that determines business results. Too many times, I see business results (innovation, return on investment, ease of use, etc.) taking a backseat in the purchasing decision.

In selecting us as their corporate blogging platform, it’s often the IT department that believes that they can implement a free solution for blogging. A blog is a blog, right?

  • Nevermind that the content isn’t optimized
  • Nevermind that the platform isn’t secure, stable, maintenance-free, redundant, etc.
  • Nevermind that the platform isn’t scalable to millions of pageviews and tens of thousands of users.
  • Nevermind that the company who built it spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in research and development to ensure best practices and search engine compliance was incorporated.
  • Nevermind that the user interface is simple for anyone to use, without any need for intensive training.
  • Nevermind that the system is automated so no knowledge of tagging and categorization is needed.
  • Nevermind that our staff monitors our clients’ progress to ensure their success.
  • Nevermind that the platform comes with ongoing coaching to help the bloggers develop their skillsets and increase their return on investment over time.

With SEO, it’s often the same argument. I’ve even been on the opposite side of the SEO argument, telling you that you don’t need an SEO expert. Jeremy reminded me of this post… doh!

My point was that too many companies have NO search engine optimization and are missing out on a lot of relevant traffic. If they just did the minimum, they could at least put that beautiful site they spent $10k on in front of a few visitors. This post was written for the large majority of companies who have no competition and no optimization… it was a plea to at least do the minimum.

For companies in competitive industries, though, 80% optimized isn’t even close. 90% isn’t enough. To get a #1 ranking on a highly competitive term requires the expertise of one of a handful of companies in the world. If you’re in an even moderately competitive search engine results page, your IT department isn’t going to get you to #1. You’ll be lucky if they even get you on the first page of results.

You wouldn’t put your IT department in charge of your sales team, yet you’ll put them in charge of a technology that could prevent your company from getting sales. If you’re going to apply technology practically… make sure you fully investigate the opportunities and advantages before you think you can do it alone!

5 Comments

  1. 1

    There's a world of difference between a blogging platform and an SEO strategy.

    A blogging platform is just a combination of software and hardware, and IT departments are pretty good at putting those together. There are also many vendors who do this work, either because they have proprietary software, or because they already own or lease hardware, or because they have lots of expertise in maintaining this particular IT stack. The question of how you divvy up the management of your blogging platform between in-house folks and outsourced folks is the canonical "buy/build/borrow" IT problem.

    An SEO strategy, however, is almost entirely independent of your blogging platform. You can have great or terrible SEO regardless of the platform. But using an SEO company is not like using a third-party IT company. It's more like hiring copywriters who can translate your ideas into the language of Google.

    Sure, you can use free, open source blogging software. And let's be fair, Doug—WordPress does run on secure, stable, highly redundant infrastructure. Users of WordPress include the Dow Jones, The New York Times, People Magazine, Fox News and CNN—all of which pass your "millions of page views, tens of thousands of users" test. Automattic (the people who make WordPress) have tens of millions in venture funding, which I think constitutes a pretty extensive research and engineering budget. WordPress is not a toy.

    However, WordPress is just a blogging platform. Actually, it's just half a blogging platform—the open-source WordPress software (though there are countless WordPress hosting services, including WordPress.com.) If you are interested in any degree of reliability or scalability, you need to invest in the relevant hardware and expertise.

    So, the IT department is right that a blog is just a blog and they can use free tools to get the blog part going. But most of the work and most of the potential value is not in the software. Almost the entire point of having a blog is made possible through a comprehensive and continuous SEO strategy. And once you realize that is what you need, it's something you should be willing to pay for.

    The challenge is getting IT departments to realize that good SEO is not a handful of silly tricks, that it's hard, that it is always changing, and that it makes all the difference in the world.

    @robbyslaughter

    • 2

      Hi Robby!

      I'm not sure whether or not you're agreeing or disagreeing with me. You and I know that the Dow Jones, The New York Times, People Magazine, Fox News and CNN are not running WordPress 'as is'. They are running it with no additional infrastructure costs, theme development costs, search engine optimization costs, etc.? You don't think they're spending money educating their staff on use of those platforms? Or development to pass content to those platforms? Of course they are! Each of those businesses has invested quite a bit of money to make a 'free' platform work for them.

      A blog is just a blog, but a blogging platform is NOT just a blogging platform. The keyword strength meter, automation of tagging, categorization and content placement in Compendium are huge differentiators. It requires that the user spend less time worrying about 'how' to blog, 'how' to optimize their content, and more time worrying about 'what' to blog. Business bloggers should be concentrating on their message – no their platform.

      I guarantee you that any person can open Compendium and intuitively post and that post will be optimized. This is not the case with WordPress. The majority of people that I've personally taught how to blog effectively with WordPress had no idea how much they were missing with each post.

      Again, the focus of the IT department isn't often the focus of the business. I've always appreciated my IT peers 'reviewing' my software purchases to ensure I'm not putting the company at risk; however, they will never be able to recognize the benefits of the platform or strategy and its impact on the business. That's not what they are educated for, what their experience is in, nor what they should be utilized for.

      Let business people make the business decisions! Let IT be their trusted advisors.

      • 3

        I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with your overall point, I'm just clarifying your comments.

        Nobody said that the big users of WordPress are running the software without additional customization and infrastructure costs. You said "nevermind that the platform isn’t scalable to millions of pageviews and tens of thousands of users", but that's just not true. It's clearly possible to scale WordPress (or Blogger, or Drupal or DotNetNuke or Compendium and so on) to this level, but you have to invest in the hardware, supporting software and technical expertise. The question is not whether it's possible, it's whether you want to do it yourself or if you want someone else to do it for you.

        Yes, a blogging platform is just a blogging platform. It's a combination of software and hardware that produces a blog. Sure, some have different features, and those features might have more value and worth more money. Whether you have an IndyCar, a full-featured BMW or reliable truck, you have an automotive vehicle that can be driven from point to A to point B. Is it true that some of those vehicles are better suited to certain tasks? Absolutely. The question is: what task are you trying to achieve?

        I'm sure that if you put a user side-by-side with Compendium and any open-source blogging platform, the the post on the Compendium blog would drive more traffic—-even if the posts were word-for-word identical. That's a great value for your company! If this use case is representative, it makes for a fantastic selling point for CB.

        But let's examine why that single post would get more traffic. The reason is mostly because Compendium the company has an ongoing strategy operation. You're updating the codebase all the time. You are linking to client posts to help them build reputation. You meet with clients and provide additional training and resources. You maintain highly reliable infrastructure. Much, if not most of the advantage of Compendium over a free tool is the ongoing service and support you provide for your software, your clients, and their content.

        And again, that's a wonderful benefit and many of your customers are very happy. But it's not a fundamental part of your software and hardware "blogging platform." You could achieve the same result by using different software (but it would be more work!) This is in effect what companies like DK New Media do every day. Anyone involved in decision making for corporate blogging needs to understand these nuances.

        The fundamental issue here is where one department's responsibility ends and someone else's begins. There are no easy answers to that question. Even worse, if any part of that line crosses outside the company to a third party vendor, there start to be blurry spaces between entities and it becomes harder to assess risks and benefits. How do you protect your perimeter if outside people have access? Or, from the marketing side: how are you sure that the outsourced platform provider isn't going to screw up and ruin your brand? These risks may be small or large, but they are not zero.

        I'm sure that many decisions regarding technology are made by IT without sufficient respect to business implications. But the problem goes both ways—business people need to understand more about IT and vice versa. Working together instead of against each other will benefit everyone.

        • 4

          Thanks for that clarification, Robby! I'll stand by last comments. I trust my IT resources to be my advisors so I don't do something stupid. However, I won't give them the final decision on platforms and strategies that are in the best interest of moving the business forward. We each have our own strengths and they need to be leveraged appropriately.

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