It sounds really attractive: 9-5 hours. You get to focus on a single product. You can win over a single IT department. The grass is way greener over there.
But the truth is, in the SEO world, the large enterprise is in trouble. I know about brand favoritism. And I know large enterprises have massive resources at their disposal.
All marketers have if only moments: after a particularly grueling client meeting or a day of fighting one fire after another, we think ‘If only I was an in-house SEO at a big, big company.’
The problem? They can never seem to use those resources. And except for a tiny slice of world-leading brands, most enterprises can’t lean on their overall market visibility.
My List Of Warning Signs
So, here’s my list of reasons enterprise SEO is in trouble. This list is an ongoing project for me, and it’s not just the usual Lurie cynicism—I’m hoping to figure out solutions. If you have input, post it in the comments:
- Data over-dependence. The 21st-century enterprise wants to be “100% data driven.” Problem is, you’re selling to human beings. So some chunk of your Internet marketing budget has to be spent on creative thinking. SEO is no exception.
- Lack of content agility. Big organizations can’t seem to support fast-changing, fast-adapting content strategies. Have you tried to get a blog post reviewed, approved and published in less than two weeks? I’ve seen exceptions, but in most organizations, two weeks is wildly optimistic. That doesn’t kill content strategy, but it sure wounds it.
- Slow development turnaround. I’ve already whined enough about development turnaround times. You get it.
- Fiefdoms. Teams end up silo’ed. The marketing department breaks up into separate content, e-commerce and social media teams. Their paths never cross again. At that point, a synchronized SEO plan requires Kissinger-esque diplomacy.
- Lack of patience. At the same time, C-level executives and vice presidents want to see fast results. They often want results faster than their small business counterparts. Pressure from the board and from bosses makes for more pressure and shorter honeymoons. So you’re hobbled by bureaucracy and have less time to get results.
- Organizational clarity. Top company priorities aren’t always clear. That makes it very difficult to place SEO within the hierarchy of goals. Which makes marketing meetings look like an Orwellian barnyard.
- Access to data. Sadly, I’ve seen big, Fortune 2000 organizations where the marketing team can’t get access to basic Web traffic data. I’ve seen many more where simple adjustments to goal-tracking take months. Combine that with data over-dependence and lack of patience, and you’ve got head-exploding contradictions.
- Risk aversion. Got a great, edgy content idea? Good luck getting it approved. Enterprise managers are justifiably shy about pushing the envelope when it comes to the brand.
- Team stability. Average tenure for a CMO is about seven months. Average tenure for an enterprise marketing team member? One year. That makes continuity difficult, and SEO is all about long-term planning.
- The confusion magnifier. You’ve finally gotten permission to start a serious site-speed improvement campaign. Just as you’re about to adjourn the meeting, someone pipes up with “I heard we can just buy some links! Why don’t we just do that.” The larger the group, the greater the chance for chaos.
I could make a board game out of all this. But you get the point: enterprise-size organizations have some big Internet marketing and SEO disadvantages. It’s an uphill battle.
The Good News
With all this, I still love working on enterprise gigs. Big organizations have more resources, access to more content, more pages and bigger brands. Small changes can have a huge impact. And, now and then, you get to do stuff that makes a brand dominant in the SERPs.
And small companies have their own issues: resource constraints, wildly changing expectations and lack of long-range planning make them a whole other kind of challenge.
So, I’d never say “ignore enterprise clients.” Au contraire.
My real point: enterprise SEO is subject to the same challenges every other enterprise initiative faces. If you get a shot at a big-time gig, grab it with both hands. But, learn how to blaze a trail for your whole organization.
What To Do To Fix It
A few quick tips, learned from hard trial-and-error:
- Above all, set reasonable expectations.
- Don’t scream and yell. You’ll rarely get a good response by throwing a tantrum. Always be diplomatic, and chip away at issues a bit at a time. Keep a punching bag in your office for stress relief.
- Build relationships before you need them. It’s hard to build a good relationship under duress. Get to know the development team. Schedule a monthly lunch with the creative group. Network. You might even enjoy yourself.
- Educate like crazy. Whatever you have to do, get folks to attend regular education sessions. Use video, or an internal blog, or in-person training. Bribe them with food.
Sorry, there aren’t any easy answers. But, enterprise SEO can be a blast, if you understand the special requirements of big organizations.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.