Many large enterprises face the challenge of dealing with a diverse portfolio of sites. This by itself is very complex, but that complexity is multiplied when those sites are operated by different teams of people.
Some common scenarios where this happens are:
- Different product lines which are owned and operated by different business units.
- International sites operated by local country based divisions / subsidiaries.
- Marketing sites designed to run separately from the main company sites.
This brings up a host of problems, including:
- Some internal groups may resort to questionable SEO practices to get traffic, and to make matters worse, they may even be unaware they are doing risky things.
- There may be a lack of consistency in the approach used to SEO.
- Lessons learned are not shared across the various site owners.
- You may face lots of overhead in trying to prevent the first three items on this list from happening.
It goes without saying that you don’t want to wake up to this nightmare:
Avoiding this type of catastrophe is reason enough to get some controls in place, but there are many other reasons which we will get into a bit later in this article. First, let’s dig into how you structure a centralized group.
Setting Up Centralized Practices
I am a fan of having a corporate SEO team that helps establish policies in a way that is both understood and agreed on by executive management. This is where, hopefully, clear guidelines can be set on policy items, such as what types of practices for obtaining links is considered spammy, or how SEO teams work with engineering or PR.
The corporate SEO team can then work with vertical SEO teams specific to each business unit / local country subsidiary / marketing group (we will call them business units for simplicity in the rest of this column) that owns a website.
It is important to not carry the notion of centralization too far. There are valid reasons for a certain amount of local control. If your corporate SEO team is based in California and you have a country-based office in Taiwan, there is a need to be able to make some decisions locally simply so actions can be taken quickly.
In addition, there are some specific things that will apply to search in Taiwan that are not at all intuitive to someone based in California.
The same is true across product lines. Certainly, the keyword space for each product line will be different, and the business unit that owns the site needs a certain amount of independence.
To ensure long-term success, the corporate SEO team must work at building constructive relationships with the vertical SEO teams. I can tell you from direct experience that the vertical SEO teams will rapidly develop disdain for a corporate SEO team that simply tries to mandate policy without their input.
One key step is to take into account the unique challenges the individual teams face and act as a resource to those local teams.
To help build these relationships, the corporate SEO team should work together with the vertical SEO teams in a variety of areas. Some examples include:
- Get input on corporate SEO policies.
- Be available as a resource to answer questions on best practices.
- Provide access to SEO tools to facilitate the efforts of the local teams.
Once this atmosphere of internal collaboration is established, there are a variety of areas that the corporate SEO team can be involved in.
Some example areas include:
- Driving the selection of enterprise SEO tools that are used corporate wide, thereby enabling standardized reporting on SEO results.
- Creating and maintaining a corporate-wide data repository for all the SEO data collected over time (the “SEO Database”).
- Potentially implementing applications to come up with reports drawing on the information in the SEO Database.
- Working with the executive management team to set policies to avoid risky SEO practices, and publishing those policies within the company.
- Defining a standard for implementation of title tags and meta description tags. You can take this further and create a automated default metatag template as advocated by Yahoo’s Markus Renstrom.
- Establishing a standard to ignore keyword metatags (except for the news keyword metatag that Google just announced).
- Evaluating new announcements by the search engines and providing information to the vertical SEO teams on the potential impact.
- Creating standard page templates for common page types that are to be used by each vertical SEO team.
- Outlining standards for link building practices, both to minimize the risk of manipulative link building and also to provide leverage.
- Assisting in the integration of the SEO efforts with the social media efforts of the company. These areas should not be seen as independent activities!
A properly structured central SEO team can bring a lot of leverage to the diverse business units across the enterprise. It is wasteful to have each independent vertical team try to become an expert in everything, and chaos can ensue if you don’t have some basic, agreed upon controls and policies. Once you have established your corporate SEO team as a trusted resource, you can effectively establish policies that will bring you many benefits.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.