HP’s year-old search marketing initiative bears fruit

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About a year ago, Hewlett-Packard Co.’s chief marketing officer put out an edict to dedicate more of the company’s marketing budget to interactive efforts. Included in that directive was a call to make search marketing a significant part of the mix.

Mary Bermel, director of interactive at HP, has spent the past year knee-deep in many of those efforts. One of the first things she and her colleagues did was create a search group.

“We formed a search council that would work together across the company to do a couple of things: Increase our capability, develop best practices and develop a metrics framework,” Bermel said.

The council included marketing professionals from a variety of disciplines within HP, including marketing communications, e-mail marketing, e-commerce and advertising.

“The one thing that’s true about search is it isn’t one thing owned by a particular department,” Bermel said. “It is part and parcel of everything we do in marketing.”

Initially, the council worked on things such as developing standards for keywords, how to gather metrics from front end to back end and the means for managing conflicts among various departments’ search strategies.

Bermel said hashing out all those details is crucial in order to streamline the process for a large company like HP that markets so many products and services on a global basis. “The group has gotten together to identify internal issues and challenges, as well as opportunities we want to focus on.”

“Bringing this group together helps us leverage that,” she continued. “We want search to work hard for us and take advantage of search being integrated into all elements, such as PR, or pulling paid search more closely together with search engine optimization.”

With this operational structure is in place, multiple campaigns can be viewed and managed by the group. The end result? Campaigns are better coordinated and easier to track.

Bermel said HP is employing SEM Director, an analytics tool that incorporates a dashboard to give marketing one place to get tracking and reporting data on search activity worldwide that also ties in the with company’s back-end tracking system.

“Not only front-end data like click-through-rate and cost-per-click, but we’ll also now fully integrate the back-end information,” she said. said. Depending on the campaign objective, that back-end information could be, for example, number of downloads of a white paper, number of people who visited certain pages, number of people who registered for a webinar or number of people who signed up for a newsletter. She said that the back-end tracking piece is being piloted this month in its Imaging and Printing Group. “Because we can get at the back end, we can measure things that are beyond ‘transactional,’ like awareness,” Bermel said. “We’ll start with one business group [this quarter] and roll it out to the next business group [in the following quarter].”

HP has three main business groups. The second group to roll out back-end tracking will be the Technology Solutions Group, which targets enterprise customers.

The hard work and planning companywide will pay off severalfold in the months and years to come, Bermel said.

“Now that we have this established and an operational structure for how to do search, we have the opportunity to look at what comes next in search,” she said. “What are the future opportunities? Mobile search and video search are around the corner. This is a way to highlight that opportunity. It will help us evolve our strategy to include those new strategies as they emerge.”

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