A few years ago, I was attending a training session on brand guidelines for a large technology company. The products and services they provided were described by the presenter as the “plumbing” in the wall – something you don’t see, but it allows things to work properly, which makes your life easier. It’s tough to appreciate all the work that goes into a plumbing system, because it is not always visible.
Enterprise SEO has the same problem. There are many complexities of building and maintaining a world class SEO program, especially within a large organization. In order to be successful with SEO, it must be “baked” into the organization.
Many companies struggle with this concept because they are under the impression that SEO is a set of deliverables that can just be purchased with more and more budget. Building a good Enterprise SEO program can literally take years before it truly becomes successful and begins to yield a good ROI story.
It is actually very similar to instituting a new Content Management System (CMS) at a large company. A CMS can be purchased, but in order to customize it to meet the needs of a large organization, it takes time.
This is why it’s important to set proper expectations – that an enterprise CMS can realistically take 1-2 years before it gets implemented correctly, and only then will you start to see any real progress and success.
Think about the specific “plumbing” that needs to happen with a CMS. There are the technical requirements, design guidelines, template requirements, content definitions, error traps, localization, just to name a few. Then there is the organizational workflow. Who has access to the content? Who needs to be trained? What approval is required? How does it fit within production cycles? Who owns Quality Assurance and Testing? What is automated vs. what should be reviewed?
These issues may not be a big deal if you’re dealing with 20 employees. But when you have over 200 employees and many different departments and layers of management, it’s important to work through all of these issues to successfully use the CMS to define and publish web content.
The same “plumbing” needs to happen with Enterprise SEO. Similar to a CMS, the success of a good SEO program is also dependent on the company’s infrastructure and technical requirements, design guidelines, content development, localization – not to mention all of the specifics with the search engines themselves.
The organizational workflow also plays a pivotal role with SEO. Usually it begins with identifying who the important stakeholders will be – Multiple Business Units, Public Relations, Editors, Web Development/IT, Designers, Information Architects, Marcoms, Social Media, Producers, Marketing Directors and Executives, just to name a few.
All of these stakeholders will most likely need training and education on SEO as well as the ability to monitor progress provide input where necessary.
Then there is the process of getting SEO fully integrated into the production cycle, where it is considered a top priority and not an afterthought. Keyword research, content strategy, audits, and other SEO recommendations must be engrained into the overall production cycle, which require both resources and additional time to allow these recommendations to be implemented.Without the actual implementation, SEO is pointless.
Let’s not forget about the ability to track SEO and provide accurate metrics. This is usually one of the biggest challenges within enterprise organizations and it is rarely done successfully. Meeting with IT staff, purchasing analytics software, gathering requirements and making recommendations are just some of the things that must be done in order to establish accurate SEO metrics that will eventually lead to the ability to look at results, make modifications and enhancements, and tell an accurate ROI story.
Finally, there’s the fact that the search industry is so innovative and is constantly changing. Keeping up with the latest trends is yet another aspect of it all. As you can see, this “plumbing” is the work that sets the foundation for SEO success, but is rarely recognized as a “success metric” because there is not a number or a ranking position you can tie to it. It is important to communicate the importance of the plumbing, otherwise the building falls apart.
Keep this in mind the next time you are faced with a question like “where are we with SEO?”, or “are we ranking #1 yet?”. Being able to effectively communicate this will help you establish proper expectations on progress, and, ultimately, SEO success.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.