Implementing an SEO strategy within complex organizations can be one of the most difficult challenges for an enterprise company.
That's because, in order to both plan and launch a successful SEO strategy, it must be cohesive and consistent across departments, as well as the various goals of the company.
That's an easy task to pull off when you’re a small shop with a ten-page website.
It’s another challenge entirely when your organization boasts thousands of employees and even more pages of web content.
The vast majority of SEO advice out there - as well as the research that measures a strategy’s success - is geared towards small to medium businesses.
These are the basic steps for an enterprise SEO strategy:
Choose the right technology and tool that suits your needs.
Train your team to use the tool/s.
Set goals and standards and make sure they’re reached by designating SEO leaders.
Develop formal agreements and communication channels between departments, such as sales and marketing.
Establish the right KPIs and track ROI.
However, there are certain tools and strategies that work best for the unique challenges of complex organizations. I’ll review them here to help even the biggest of players maximize their search exposure.
The Top Challenges
According to Hubspot’s 2015 State of Inbound Report, the biggest marketing challenges for large companies are proving ROI, securing a budget, managing their website and identifying the right technologies.
It’s important to note that all of these problems are ultimately connected to the unique challenges of complex enterprise organizations, such as:
Developing a centralized SEO program
Facilitating cross-company SEO collaboration
Guiding and training across departments
Having thorough and consistent metrics for a large company
By having an actionable plan in place to address these challenges, complex organizations can simultaneously improve their effectiveness at tackling other important business efforts while improving their SEO performance.
The Right Technology
Your company probably has a person or team of SEOs in house who know exactly how to research keywords and implement an SEO strategy.
Their role in the company is vital, but it doesn’t negate the need for an SEO platform.
For smaller businesses, manual keyword gathering techniques and simple browser plug-ins may be enough to help them execute their strategy.
However, when your website has hundreds or even thousands of pages, a cohesive SEO process becomes even more difficult to manage.
SEO platforms allow you to research, implement and analyze all in one place with one tool. If your in-house SEOs can benefit from the simplified process on an SEO platform, then they can spend more effort on strategy and execution, an important focus for a successful campaign.
There are a wide variety of enterprise SEO platforms available, including BrightEdge, AWR Cloud, Conductor, Rio SEO, and SEOmoz, among others. Search Engine Land offers a great buyer’s guide to enterprise SEO platforms.
It’s interesting that identifying the right tools and measuring ROI both appear as top challenges for large businesses, because they seem to be intrinsically linked.
Specifically, Hubspot’s report found that companies that use tools like marketing automation systems not only achieve greater ROI for their campaigns...
...they were also able to lock in higher budgets, further enhancing their ability to enact SEO best practices effectively.
While having a platform specifically designed for a complex organization is the most essential tool you’ll need to implement and effective SEO strategy, there are a large number of other tools that can add extra layers of data.
I made a comprehensive list a while back: 30 of the Best Tools for Enterprise SEO. Give it a closer look to identify the tools your team needs.
Managing Your Teams
When it comes to larger, more complex organizations, the task of managing your website is more about managing the people who work on it.
This isn’t limited to the SEOs in your company, but encompasses anyone who influences the way your website looks and works, such as content creators, designers, merchandisers and IT workers.
All of their work can impact SEO.
For complex organizations, there’s no way for SEO to rest on the shoulders of one or two trained individuals. Since it’s inherently a team effort, the biggest role of the SEO is ensuring that everyone involved understands how to achieve the company’s overall goals.
For this reason, SEOs must develop training programs for relevant departments, such as marketing, product, development, engineering, and creative services.
But setting up a one-time training that isn’t tailored towards the tasks of specific departments won’t be enough. Comprehensive, personalized training with periodic refresher seminars will be essential for developing consistently informed teams.
Beyond just training individual team members, it’s important to identify SEO leads in every department - someone who can be put in charge to guide other key players and ensure that everyone is connected and informed.
Every time new SEO targets are defined, the SEO leads can then work to disseminate information and keep everyone on track.
I’ve stressed the importance of SEOs communicating with different teams, but it’s equally important to encourage relationships between individuals across departments.
One important way to do this is to develop formal agreements between departments whose work affects each other, such as sales and marketing.
Hubspot’s State of Inbound 2015 found a strong relationship between this kind of agreement and increasing ROI:
Taking the time to set up meetings with important team members across departments and creating formal agreements can be incredibly valuable for overall strategy success.
ROI and Budget
Another major challenge for implementing SEO within complex organizations is that individuals in charge of the task are often not allowed to make decisions on their own, especially when it comes to allocating and securing departmental budgets.
Instead, they have to get buy in and approval from the upper ranks - which can seriously slow down progress.
However, there are strategies that can be implemented to simplify the process of securing budget and approval. The most important, surprisingly, is proving the ROI of your SEO efforts.
Hubspot also found a strong relationship between proving ROI and securing budget:
In fact, even just tracking ROI - without proving it - is enough to secure a higher budget in many cases.
When your team is better able to prove its ROI, you’ll facilitate the trust needed with the C-suite to remove budgeting barriers that would otherwise slow its ability to act quickly in the face of changing SEO priorities.
There are plenty of different methods for demonstrating SEO ROI. Optimize Smart offers a helpful walkthrough of one method. KissMetrics has also made a useful infographic on how to do it, as has QuickSprout.
However, the important thing to remember is to determine the ROI of specific SEO strategies - not just your overall effectiveness. This data will be valuable for proving the necessity of certain SEO techniques to company stakeholders.
While demonstrating ROI after the fact can be a difficult task, it’s nothing compared to the challenge of forecasting ROI before any changes have been made. But if you want to get buy in, forecasting ROI is an essential step.
SEO can do this manually by estimating web traffic and resulting conversions month by month, or they can take advantage of the enterprise SEO platforms listed above (many of which are equipped with an ROI forecasting tool).
Delivering on ROI
The most important part of ensuring future budget increases and the freedom to implement the right SEO strategy is to deliver results.
And if you’ve identified the right tools for your organization and worked hard to train your teams, then much of the work of delivering on ROI is already done.
The important thing to remember to help ensure a positive ROI for your efforts is the necessity of regular meetings and adjustments with team leaders.
Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 B2B Content Marketing Report found that businesses increase their content marketing effectiveness the more they meet (61% meet daily or weekly).
Considering the intrinsic connection between content marketing and SEO strategies, it’s safe to assume similar results will apply here.
So regardless of how your SEO teams are performing, it’s important to set up regular meetings to evaluate progress and develop strategy. Alex Volk, search marketing director at Microsoft, recommends weekly, monthly, quarterly and ad hoc meetings and performance updates:
Implementing enterprise SEO successfully within complex organizations comes with its own unique challenges - especially for large companies with many locations and departments.
The key to implementing a successful SEO strategy in this environment is to bridge the gaps between the company’s disparate parts.
A combination of helpful technology and SEOs who focus most of their efforts on training and guiding individuals that have a say in the website’s content and design is essential for this goal.
Understanding and facilitating the necessary task of convincing company leaders of the merits of certain SEO strategies is equally important, and can be most easily achieved by demonstrating past and future ROI from SEO.
Unlike in smaller businesses, the SEO strategies of complex organizations require special care and maintenance. While the challenge of doing this is greater, the payoff of a successful enterprise SEO system can be exponential.
Are you working on SEO for a larger enterprise company? If so, what else would you add to this list? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below:
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.
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