Enterprise SEO is difficult, it is hard, tricky and political at times. That is best way to describe it in a nutshell. Speak to anyone working in SEO (agency side) who has had the privilege of working with big brands or enterprise level websites, they will pretty much share the same frustrations. That is why they get paid the big bucks $$$.
What is enterprise SEO?
Let’s first understand what classifies a website or an organisation as enterprise-level. According to good-ol Dictionary.com, it is defined as:
[alert-note] a project undertaken or to be undertaken, especially one that is important or difficult or that requires boldness or energy[/alert-note]
Put it simply, any large online business or brands such as Amazon.com or Anz.com would be classified as enterprise-level. Optimising a website at this level is a different cattle of fish compared to small-to-medium sized business. When you have to deal with thousands and thousands of pages on a website or have multiple stakeholders to satisfy, that is when you are knee deep in to enterprise SEO.
Different organisational structure
Dealing with SME websites, you generally only have to deal with a single person in that organisation. It would either be the business owner, the webmaster or the marketing manager. Everything is pretty fluid, you provide SEO recommendations to them, they get it implemented. You report on the results on a monthly basis, schedule a few meetings every now and then, do a few presentations – everyone is happy.
In the world of enterprise SEO, it is almost impossible to adapt the same model as you would on a SME website. Due to the multiple layers and hierarchy of management and the different business units within a large organisation, SEO is a lot more difficult to manage. The website is now not the sole responsibility of a single person, it now involves multiple stakeholders. You are now having to deal with marketing managers, product managers, brand managers, compliance officers, legal department and the list goes on. Can you even imagine what it would take to optimise a single page on the website?
Budgets allocated towards SEO at an enterprise-level are normally 6-figures ($xx,xxx) per month. In comparison to a SME who would normally be in the thousands ($xxxx). Imagine if you are the CMO of a large organisation and every month when you look at your department’s expenses you see a recurring cost for SEO. Every C-level executive (who gives a shit) would have the same questions:
- What am I getting for that cost?
- What is the ROI from this activity?
- Am I getting what I paid for?
- Is it worth it?
This leads on to the next section…
Different levels of reporting
Every single stakeholder that you will be in contact with will have different priorities and agenda. Depending on where they sit within the organisation, they also have different levels of understanding and knowledge of SEO. It is important to provide them data that they want that is easily digestable, hence the need for different types/levels of reporting.
Chief Marketing Officer
Typically time poor and only has a short attention span. Generally only cares about $$$ & ROI.
These are the guys who are typically in-charge of a specific product category on the website. Metrics that they normally care about are traffic and conversions. They normally don’t care about the details as long as they are hitting KPI’s.
Online Marketing Manager
This is where reporting will start to get more granular. This group tends to care a little more about SEO. They would prefer detailed reports with deep analysis in to the why(s) and how(s).
You are now dealing with geeks. These guys would want to know that all the code changes, technical updates and server tweaks have paid-off. It is important that they understand the impact (performance, traffic, conversions) of their efforts to the website.
I would classify this group of people that you do not have day-to-day contact with. They could be the PR, legal or HR department. It is always a good idea to give them an update every now and then with some stats and numbers to show that SEO is making a difference.
Now some ideas on how to manage these challenges
Agree on the Scope of Work
- Before you kick-start any work, always make sure that everyone (client and agency) is in agreement with the scope of work.
- Understand your stakeholders
Get to know the people that you will be dealing with on a daily basis. Take the time to understand how they operate and what their KPI’s are. Evaluate their knowledge of SEO and empower them with the right data and reporting for them to report back to their superiors.
- Understand who is responsible for what
Take the time to understand the organizational structure. Once you understand the responsibilities of each stakeholder, you can then better manage the day-to-day fulfillment of SEO.
- Set the right expectations upfront
Be realistic, transparent and honest about your SEO approach, clarify and agree upon all the different tactics and strategies upfront. This is when you tell the client that in order to achieve positive results and KPI’s, recommendations will need to be implemented in a certain timeframe.
- Training and workshops
Organise periodic SEO training and workshops to educate the business about the latest SEO. It is important to understand how is SEO evolving internally and externally (ie, Google algo updates). The objective is to get everyone excited and pumped about SEO.
- Keep It Simple Stupid SEO (K.I.S.S.)
Enterprise SEO is all about getting SEO basics in place. Prioritise recommendations based on “effort vs impact”, always tackle the quick wins first. Once you get all the usual SEO 101 stuff implemented and pushed through, that is when you can start dabbling with more advanced stuff.
- Use Enterprise SEO tools
BrightEdge, Conductor and Searchmetrics are just some examples of enterprise-level tools that can help make your day-to-day management of SEO easier. They will not only help with analysis but can also help remove some of the reporting pressures. Check out Enterprise SEO Tools: The Marketer’s Guide for more information.
- Be organized and keep a log
Have a WIP (work in progress) document to help you keep track of outstanding actions/items. Excel does a pretty good job but if you want something more fancy (which you can easily share with clients), check out Basecamp or Trello. It is also a good idea to keep a log on when updates and changes to the website occurred. If there is an improvement/decline in performance, you have a track record.
- Keep yourself updated, keep client informed
Stay abreast of the SEO landscape: latest trends, tactics, algorithm updates. Inform the client of any movements and updates in the SEO world and communicate the impact that it will have on their website.
- Stay strong and keep going
Always remember that roadblocks and miles of red-tape is common at an enterprise level. Don’t get discouraged and give up, find different and better ways on achieving the end goal.
- Work as a team, not in silos
If there are multiple agencies and business units involved, leverage each others strengths and work collectively as a team. Be approachable, open-minded and willing to help. Harnessing good relationships and working colloboratively will help implementation much smoother and more streamlined. (update thanks to Mike Hudson, @seriocomic)
Disclaimer: This is my first attempt at writing a proper blog post. Any comments or pointers would be greatly appreciated.