The comprehensive guide to all you need to know about Scalable SEO for large Enterprises..
Scalable SEO for Enterprise Companies
Businesses that want to develop scalable SEO strategies must go beyond the basics. Monitoring traffic, rankings and conversions, working towards set goals, and tracking revenue are all still important, but if you really want to get to the top as an enterprise company, you need a more complex SEO strategy that’ll ultimately give you a stronger return on your investment (ROI).
That said, developing an innovative and scalable SEO strategy and implementing it across different business units is often easier said than done. If you’re running the SEO for an enterprise-level company, you’ll face the unique challenge of developing a cohesive strategy and ensuring it’s implemented across a complex business infrastructure.
Instead of making executive decisions about SEO and how to execute it, you may lack control over your website and find yourself grappling with the red tape and requisite diplomacy that characterise all enterprise companies.
But – believe it or not – you can implement a scalable SEO strategy that encourages exponential ROI for an enterprise company, as long as you follow the right steps.
The first thing you need to do is analyse the state of the current SEO at the company.
In my experience, looking at your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses when it comes to SEO is one of the best ways to identify new strategies that’ll help your company can gain a competitive advantage.
Depending on your situation, this could include tracking the performance of current competitors, as well as identifying any new competitors that many have entered the market since your last audit. Don’t just look at their SERPs results; analyse all of their strategies and develop a plan to overcome any advantages they may have.
Specifically, one of the things your competitor report needs to identify is the specific areas where they’re performing better than your company, taking their content, promotion, and link building strategies for individual departments or sectors of the company into account. These analyses will help you identify the differences between their overall performance and performance in certain areas.
Let’s look at an example of this process in action…
The following chart from Search Engine Land highlights the competitors Sears faces, based on the keywords for which it ranks well overall:
And here’s a graph that represents Sears’ keyword performance for appliances only:
As you can see, there are big differences between how Sears is doing overall, compared to how it’s performing for different appliances. These are the kind of details you need to piece together when developing a scalable SEO strategy for an enterprise company.
Of course, you should always analyse aggregate data from your competitors. But it’s just as important that you segment the data and compare those analyses to your own, as doing so will help you pinpoint new opportunities for improvement that won’t be apparent in an overall analysis.
One of the challenges I’ve seen plenty of enterprise companies face is that they’re often well-known and associated with branded searches. People know about the company, and they associate its name with the products or services they offer.
As a result, the company’s web pages rank high in SERPs for these branded terms and rank poorly for other keywords that might make sense for the company to rank for.
Failing to focus on non-branded keywords is a missed opportunity that gives competitors room to edge in. Consider, for example, how Adobe avoided missing out on important keywords by broadening their focus away from branded searches:
For their launch of Adobe TV, the company’s SEOs decided to try and expand their “marketable universe” by identifying new keywords to rank for. They found 168 new, unbranded terms and used some basic SEO strategies (like optimising their H2 tags, adding meta descriptions, creating non-branded tag clouds and improving internal linking) to boost their rank for these words and phrases.
For their efforts, they not only saw their keyword rankings improve, but organic visits grew by 48 per cent, and free subscribers to Adobe TV increased by 50 per cent over the next nine months.
Take a page out of their book. If your SEO results are lacklustre, make an effort to identify any gaps in your company’s keyword strategy – both for branded phrases and for broader keywords.
Enterprise Website SEO Execution
Aside from the competitive analysis requirements described above, one of the biggest challenges enterprise-level companies face when it comes to SEO is simply carrying out best practices in an efficient manner.
Best practices would suggest, for instance, that all web pages be optimised around a single keyword, using such techniques as integrating the target keyword into the title tag, heading tag and body content, adjusting the ALT text of any images on the page and including the appropriate internal and external backlinks.
That’s one thing to carry out when you’ve got 10 pages on your site, but what if you’re a large company with more than 10,000? That’s why enterprise SEO requires its own set of implementation instructions.
At a foundational level, most enterprise websites run on a central CMS platform that draws information from a centralised database. Imagine it sort of like “mad libs” – your company creates the initial web page template, but then your CMS fills in the gaps by pulling the right pieces of information from your database.
This simplifies the process of optimising individual pages, but it does introduce a few new challenges as well.
First, you’ll still have to ensure information is optimised upon entry into the database. We’ll discuss project management later on in this article, but if the information that goes into your system isn’t optimised, it’s not going to magically become SEO-approved when it’s pulled onto your site. This requires two things: accurate data entry by staff members that are familiar with SEO best practices and an established set of internal SEO protocols.
The accurate data entry is somewhat self-explanatory, but let’s look at an example to see why internal protocols are so important…
This page sits at the URL http://www.att.com/cellphones/iphone/iphone-6s.html
One of the best opportunities for enterprise-level websites to improve the optimisation of their individual pages is to incorporate tiered keywords into their URLs; as you can see, AT&T’s URL structure gives them the chance to include “cellphones,” “iPhone” and “iPhone 6s.” This is also great from a user experience standpoint, as it gives visitors a clear understanding of where they are in relation to the site as a whole.
But for this kind of optimisation to take place, initial protocols must be set that determine how products will be categorised in order to facilitate entry into the database, to enable the “hooks” in the site’s code that allow product pages to be dynamically generated and to allow the website to write SEO-appropriate page URLs.
As an enterprise website is live, its code facilitates communication between the database and the hooks in its scripts to create product pages. This, however, reveals another important enterprise SEO challenge: the site must be able to adjust for errors on the fly.
Suppose, in the AT&T example above, an error in the site’s underlying database meant that no product images were stored for the iPhone 6s. What should the site do? However these types of issues are handled, the site needs to be coded in a way that allows for dynamic adjustments that preserve both its SEO and UX value.
Oh, and if all of that wasn’t complicated enough? Enterprise websites need to be architected in such a way that load times don’t suffer, that conversion pathways are preserved and that enables proper indexing by the engines.
Simply put, educated SEOs who can effectively analyse the competitive landscape, build an effective keyword strategy and implement these requirements across an enterprise website are a must – as are the teams that support them.
Knowing proper enterprise SEO isn’t enough. Good intentions won’t get you traffic which is why, once you’ve audited the state of your company’s current performance, it’s time to set your goals. Remember, they don’t say, ‘What gets measured, gets managed,’ for no reason!
If you’re anything like the companies I’ve been privileged to work with through Online Marketing Gurus, you’ll likely find that there are many areas – both large and small – that need your attention.
How do you decide where to begin? Simple. Start by prioritising the tasks that’ll give you the highest and fastest ROI. What is the task’s priority, and what do you expect the impact to be? If you aren’t sure, you might find it helpful to forecast the impact of your proposed changes (which we’ll talk about more below.).
Once you’ve made a list of your individual projects, you’ll need to plan how to delegate the tasks. Decide what can and should be done yourself and what can be done by others on your team in different departments. If you do plan to delegate tasks, make a plan for how you’ll follow up on their progress.
Here are a few of the specific areas – besides those already addressed above – you’ll want to account for that present challenges to enterprise companies in terms of planning and implementation, but that are essential to the creation and implementation a successful, scalable SEO strategy.
Large enterprises must pay special attention to local SEO, especially if your company operates at multiple different locations.
Since Google has improved their algorithms for local search, incomplete or inaccurate information for one or more of the business’ local properties will cause your rank to suffer – not to mention put off potential local customers.
Interestingly, Google’s research on local searches has demonstrated that 50 per cent of people who did a local search on their phone and 34 per cent searching via computer visited a store related to a search within a day.
For this reason, it’s critically important that you develop a comprehensive strategy for optimising SEO on the local level. This may mean managing separate local sites for the company and updating business profiles for Google+ for Business Pages, Facebook Pages, and Yelp for each location. You’ll also need to keep an eye on local rankings and identify any factors that are affecting the SEO performance of certain locations, such as bad reviews or inactive social profiles.
Don’t make this harder on yourself than you need to. At the enterprise level, it’s essential for you to delegate – and this is an easy place for you to pass on easier, less admin-intensive tasks to your team members.
Social SEO is another area that’ll likely require collaboration across departments. For most enterprises, social media responsibilities are siloed, which can – unfortunately – make it difficult to coordinate with SEO.
The team in charge of your company’s social media needs to understand that social media isn’t only an alternative avenue for people to reach your website; it also affects organic search.
That’s why there needs to be a balance between writing those catchy titles that encourage clicks and optimising them for the right keywords. Talk to your company’s social media team to ensure they’re aware of SEO considerations and using the appropriate content and tagging strategies to support your campaigns.
This doesn’t have to be a contentious relationship. Look for ways to work together to ensure that optimisation for social sharing and optimisation for SEO go hand-in-hand.
Building Informed, Connected and Inspired Teams
From what I’ve seen, one of the biggest challenges when it comes to building a cohesive, scalable SEO strategy is simply getting members of the SEO team in separate departments working towards the same overall goals. While not everyone is trained in – or even thinking about SEO in their work – they still need to be a part of your team, as the work they do will affect your rank.
Content creators, merchandisers, designers and IT workers are among the many people who can impact SEO. Connect with them using the following techniques and strategies to build team unity and advance your SEO goals:
Certainly, it’s important for everyone who’s involved in the content and structure of your company’s website to have at least a basic level of SEO understanding. It’s your to either train them or to convince the higher-ups of the merits of offering training as part of an orientation or workshop.
You’ll also want to ask whether it’s worthwhile to hire an SEO or marketing agency to help your team.
Take John Shehata, the Director of Search for ABC News, as an example. In an interview on Search Engine Land, Shehata says that educating others in the company about SEO best practices represents between 40 and 50 per cent of his job.
Don’t have time to support your own team in this way without compromising your ability to work towards your higher priorities? An outside agency or consultant could help.
Ultimately, your team is going to need tools in order to operationalise a cohesive SEO strategy. At the most basic level, you’ll need to find a way to integrate the analytics data generated by different departments in order to support your link building initiatives and keyword analyses; though, depending on the level of data analysis you intend to do, the tools you’ll need to adopt may be significantly more complex.
You’ll also want to get a content management system (CMS) in place. If you don’t already have one running, it’s an essential tool for facilitating collaboration across teams and giving content creators the SEO capabilities they need to produce content that appeals to both readers and the search engines.
If you haven’t yet implemented a CMS, look for one that’ll allow you to put three different title fields into the system: the headline, the HTML tag, and a third title suitable for social sharing. Little hacks like this will help you work seamlessly with your social media team to do good SEO for sharing.
Once your teams have the tools, training, and assigned tasks needed to improve your company’s SEO, you’ll need to implement systems to track their progress and to ensure that everyone understands both how to complete their tasks and why they’re important.
While there are plenty of different tools out there to help track workflow at the corporate level (such as BrightEdge’s project management platform), I’ve found that informing and inspiring your teams to improve their progress requires a personal touch as well. This is where those competitive analyses and keyword research I mentioned earlier will come into play.
Let’s look at an example from Microsoft’s Search Marketing Director Alex Volk:
Microsoft was ranking very well for branded phrases, as demonstrated by the following graph showing the search visits to Microsoft and the company’s monthly estimated search volume for branded keywords:
Microsoft’s SEO teams were pretty satisfied with those numbers, so Volk needed to find a new way to inspire them to do better (he calls it creating ‘discomfort’).
He managed it with this graph:
Thanks to Volk’s digging, it became clear immediately that Microsoft was doing quite poorly when it came to search visits from non-branded phrases. By identifying and displaying these statistics for the company’s SEO teams to see, Volk was able to help them visualise exactly how much room for improvement there was in organic search.
A lot of the strategies I’ve suggested for building a scalable SEO strategy at the enterprise level involve using content management and analysis tools – or even hiring contractors to teach your teams SEO. These things cost money.
While anyone working in SEO understands the positive impact of such resources, your C-suite may not. That’s why it’s your job to encourage commitment from the upper ranks in order to secure the resources – both in terms of finances and personnel – needed to do good SEO.
Forecasting is the best way to help company leaders visualise the potential benefits of improving SEO. If you don’t already have advanced tools for this purpose, here’s a great way to forecast keyword improvement, developed Mitul Gandhi of Search Engine Land:
Start by defining your keyword set. Include keywords that your company ranks for and those that are relevant, but not ranked for. Use keyword indexes like SEMRush and seoClarity to collect the data you need.
Next, find and apply the average click-through rates for different organic search rank positions. For every month in your scenario, apply these CTRs to estimate traffic you stand to gain for that keyword, month-by-month.
You can even take things a step further and estimate total traffic by summing up each month. Finish your forecast by estimating your internal conversion rates to measure possible revenue each month as your rankings go up.
Use visual forecasting aids to demonstrate to your higher-ups the potential improved SEO has for the company overall. Remember, when it comes to executives, hard numbers – especially those with dollar signs attached – matter.
After using your forecast to encourage buy-in from company leaders, maintain the confidence you’ve been given by reporting on how your strategies have improved the website’s SEO and, even more importantly, how the effort put into improving rankings across departments measures up to increased revenue and ROI.
If you’ve done your job right by prioritising opportunities for SEO improvement, building knowledge and cohesion across departments, and inspiring individuals to reach beyond ‘best practices,’ your newly scalable SEO strategy should deliver impressive results for your company.
Got another tip on building a scalable SEO strategy? Share it by leaving a comment below: