Tips for Writing your Annual Search Marketing Plan
It’s October and ’tis the season for pumpkin lattes. For me, this means one thing: The fourth quarter is upon us and all of a sudden it’s time to start thinking about search marketing plans for next year.
2011 will be my third time going through this process, and each time I have managed to apply learnings from the time before. Here is an outline and some tips that I’ve found useful when building out an annual search marketing plan.
1. Objectives, Strategies and Key Initiatives
Start with your objectives for the year, tying these back to the overall company objectives and strategies. Is it about achieving growth (either overall, or for a particular business area) or efficiency (doing more with less), or something else? Once you have these in place, your strategies and key initiatives can flow from here.
As a guide, I like to have 2 to 3 solid objectives to set the direction of things to come, and then 4 to 5 strategies to help achieve those objectives. Each strategy will then have 4 to 5 key initiatives/tactics linked to it.
As an example: you might want to grow your presence in the SERP (objective) by focusing on universal search results (strategy), in particular developing video content, adding ratings and reviews, working on real-time content on social networks, and using Google shopping feeds (tactics).
You can’t do everything at once, so it’s helpful to try and map out a timeline. Start by prioritising which activities need to be completed first versus those which can wait, or those that need more time to organize (EG: scheduling additional resources, like IT). Next, decide which quarter you will work on the tactics, before splitting this out further by month.
If there are tactics that fall outside of your budget, then highlight which are funded versus unfunded within your timeline. This is a good way to pitch for additional budget up front.
Your timeline should act as a guide to help organize your time throughout the year and keep you focused on achieving your overall objectives. At the same time, keep in mind that search marketing is constantly changing, so it’s important to be able to adapt as needed throughout the year.
3. Budget Allocation
Hopefully you’ve managed to secure the budget you need to cover all of your initiatives. If not, then make sure you highlight within your budget those activities that are not funded (and what metrics you will not achieve as a result of not doing them).
In your budget section, make sure you cover:
- Overall budget splits (including PPC vs. SEO, media spend vs. services, region/country splits, and business segment splits)
- Monthly forecast
- Year-on-year comparisons (and variances)
This is the part of your plan that will undergo the most scrutiny from above, so expect to spend the majority of your time figuring out the numbers.
Some things to think about include:
- What are your top-level metrics (KPIs)?
- How do these split out by PPC and SEO?
- How do these split out by region/country and business segment?
- Do your metrics link as close as possible to revenue?
- How do these numbers compare to last year?