The Keys To Success In Enterprise SEO

In the world of search engine optimization, Enterprise SEO is an odd bird. Most professional SEOs cut their teeth for years in agencies or independent consulting, doing a jack-of-all-trades level of work.

Image via Shutterstock

As a result, they are used to digging into source code issues, optimizing individual landing pages for content and metadata, running a variety of detailed, hands-on social media campaigns, running deep analysis on their customer’s Web analytics data, and much, much more. You’d think these would be great skills to have in the enterprise.

Well, for the most part, you are right. But, not exactly so. When websites scale up to the enterprise level, the typical work that one SEO might do for a small customer running a modest website is typically divided up and performed by many large, separate teams of people.

Sure, you’ll want to have a solid understanding of that work because it gives you context to the quality of the deliverables these teams produce. It’ll help you evaluate whether the work they produced is what you want it to be or not. But as an enterprise SEO, you won’t likely be doing that work yourself.

Whose Work Is It, Anyway?

In fact, you won’t likely be doing a whole lot of tactical SEO work at all. OK, I hear the few random voices out there screaming, “Hey, I do SEO work for an enterprise site, and I do all of that!”

Well, every work situation is different, but in general, I stand by my words. To assert otherwise implies either you don’t know or understand the scale I am referring to when I say “enterprise” (think Big!), or you are in one of the most woefully under-resourced organizations in the world. (I trust it’s not the latter because, like trying to drain the ocean with a garden hose, you’ll be hard pressed to accomplish anything significant. Heck, even Sisyphus eventually got that giant boulder rolled up to the top of the hill from time to time!).

More likely, if you are doing SEO for a site with several million unique published pages, your organization’s Web team will be scaled to meet the challenge, including entire teams dedicated to development, content development, and reporting (and likely other facets of the work as well).

In fact, the site may be broken up into departments, each one with its own development, media, and marketing teams! Worse yet, where SEO sits in your enterprise organization may not be an optimal place to get even the minimal support you’ll need to move that mountain.

So how can you be successful as an SEO in such an environment? You need to understand your role, what is expected of you, what you can hope to accomplish, and most importantly, know how you can accomplish those tasks. Yes, you certainly need a variety of SEO skills and education as fundamentals, but probably even more important than that, you need excellent interpersonal and communications skills.

Communication, Huh?

Why are interpersonal and communication skills so important, you ask? Well, for the most part, your job as an enterprise SEO will be a small piece of the enterprise website pie (potentially very small). Most likely your role will be predominately strategic in nature rather than tactical.

And in fact, the tactical part of your job will likely be conveying the strategic challenges of the other teams who actually do the tactical implementation of the work you identify, not to mention the strategic interpretation of the reports created by the data teams for executive management!

In terms of the classic cross-organizational RACI matrix, where the roles of project members are categorized as either Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, or Informed, enterprise SEOs are often accountable for the work without being responsible for doing the work.

Image via Wikipedia, used under Creative Commons

Dotted lines org charts rule here. To succeed in this role, you need to have excellent people skills. After all, you won’t get people to do the work you need done if you treat them with condescension or disrespect. You need to understand they have other work to do, and that you are (typically) not their manager.

So, even though SEO is likely an executive-sponsored organizational goal, the workers upon whom you will rely to do the work needed to move the needle on improving search click-throughs, page views, time spent on site, conversions, online revenues, and other key metrics will get their bonuses, raises and promotions by doing the work their direct managers ask of them.

You need to accommodate the needs and goals of those folks, find what motivates them, help make their jobs easier, and most important, publicly share the successes you earn through SEO work with them.

6 Point Success Checklist For Enterprise SEOs

While this is a short list (there are certainly more things to consider), here are a few of the things I think every prospective enterprise SEO should be prepared to do (and none of this is tactical SEO!):

1.  Training & presenting

As the enterprise’s SEO strategy person, you know more about the topic than the people doing the daily work of developing new site features, creating new content pages, and building up online communities. You should be prepared to offer training sessions or workshops for each of these teams, helping them understand, in the terms of the work they do every day, how SEO considerations can be seamlessly integrated into their daily workflow.

If your enterprise doesn’t already do such training, volunteer to start up such a program. In the meantime, offer lunchtime brown bag sessions dedicated to one basic concept and leave time for Q&A.

2.  Writing documentation

When the training is over, offering a quick reference guide or 1-pager SEO cheat sheet as a takeaway is great reinforcement of the ideas conveyed.

You can also create an internal intranet website with links to your training session PowerPoint slide decks, cheat sheets, and other documentation on about the what, how, why, when, where, and even who of SEO in your organization. Of course, all of that has to be written. You might even consider making short training videos, too!

3.  Working with others

Ultimately, the enterprise SEO role is a people-person role. You’ll need to engage with other people and teams to do the work you define as needed to improve the site’s performance as you’ll rarely have a chance to do it yourself (it’s hard to scale you!). To be really successful with this, keep the next few steps in mind. 

4.  Being empathetic with others when their priorities are not SEO

Respect the hard work these folks have to do that has nothing to do with your SEO needs. If they are sitting around with nothing to do (and even if they’re not, it’s not your place to call them out on that!).

If you can get them to be on your side in the efforts to get SEO tasks done, to improve the way they write page metadata, or learn to include you in new Web project planning meetings (where your work will have the greatest impact instead of looping you in just before the product ships when you can barely put an SEO Band-Aid on senseless, gaping Web optimization wounds), your work will be far more successful.

5.  Making others great!

Focus on making the other people successful, and you’ll earn their trust. Make your emphasis how SEO will make them successful, and when good things happen, make a big deal of giving public acknowledgement of their vital contribution.

If your focus is self-centered, you will always find it hard to get others to work toward goals that are important to you. And just to set expectations, please understand that when you make others great, it may not be reciprocated. Some people may not thank you for your help in meetings. They may keep the kudos without sharing credit with you.

That’s fine. As long as your manager knows what work you’re doing, you can live without the reciprocated kudos. Indeed, your selflessness may itself be the key to your organizational success. In a healthy organization, others will notice the value of your work, rest assured.

6.  Being a great technical resource, but don’t BS folks

This is paramount. You are the designated expert in the field, and people expect that you will know it all. Of course, you and I both know that you and I don’t know it all. And, that’s OK.

To be the most valuable resource, in the long run, it’s far less important to deliver information instantly than it is to deliver it accurately. When you are not certain about a question, promise to get them the right answer ASAP rather than giving them a glib, wrong answer immediately.

Why? When they take your bad info to their team and it is revealed to be wrong, they’ll be embarrassed, they’ll blame you, and as a result, they’ll probably refuse to work with you in the future. It’s ultimately self-sabotage. Don’t do that!

Successful Enterprise SEOs

To be a success in enterprise SEO, you need to be a lot of things. You need to be smart, well-versed in the field, willing to learn, and resourceful about where to get the best technical information (which typically changes over time).

You need to be ready to work with the many people it’ll take to get the job done. Show them respect (even the few who might not deserve it!), give them the tools and information they need to succeed, and when success comes, let them (and their managers) know of their good work.

Don’t be insincere about it – false praise is in the same realm as condescension. But, when the job is done well, make them great. Your enterprise SEO career will get the same bounce as the website on which all of your teams work.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Enterprise SEO


About The Author: is an in-house SEO at, and was previously part of Microsoft’s Live Search and Bing Webmaster Center teams, serving as the primary contributor to the Bing Webmaster Center blog and then later as an in-house SEO for the Bing content properties. He also randomly adds to his own blog, The SEO Ace.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn


Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • Luis Arteaga

    Thank you Rick for this article!
    I wished every accountable person would be like that.
    How do you keep your work-life-balance? Being empathic, charismatic and have an eye for your people’s development is hard to fulfill if you are under fire.
    Are you going to sports? What made you this type of person?

  • eCommerce

    SEO for enterprise is require vast experience and knowledge to perform it successfully. There are large ecommerce shopping sites on the web earning a lot and seo is the part that.

  • health insurance

    Great post. I am happy to find so much useful information right here in the article. I really enjoy reading them every day. As a blogger I think this post will help me in my work.

  • Mazhar Shah

    This is very good article with great guidelines and tips. I have learned a lot from it..

  • health insurance

    I really appreciate your post and you explain each and every point very well. Thanks for sharing this information. And I’ll love to read your next post too.

  • Nickolass Jensen

    Hi Rick, thanks for a great article. Recently I have been thrown into the Enterprise SEO world, after working freelance for a long time, doing anything related SEO for clients. Allways scaling myself to the clients needs and wants:)

    Now I must say that I really have felt the pressure from presenting in a room with 5-6 teammembers and eight or nine people from the clients staff where people from both, productdevelopment, market, IT and customer service was placed around the same table discussing SEO issues and their future online strategies.

    The best thing you can ask for then is experienced collegues with great human relation skills. They really come in handy when preparing for such an environment. My advice for Agency SEO professionals is to allways ask the advisor with the longest history with the client, to share as much intel about the people attending as possible, in order to adapt the presentation for all personas.


Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!



Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide