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Why Enterprise SEO Shouldn’t Focus Solely On Keywords
I’ve got a joke for ya: What has 250,000 URLs, a content team of 15 people and three target keywords?
I understand SEO’s keyword obsession. It’s hard to let go, and a nice, high ranking for a really juicy phrase tends to justify budget. But, as I’ve written before, there’s more to justifying enterprise SEO than keywords alone.
In fact, in enterprise SEO, I’d say keywords should be the last thing you look at. You can get your biggest, best wins with a a general focus on site visibility, content clarity and site performance. Here’s why:
Someone’s Already Picked Your Keywords
Most enterprises have been around a while. If you fit that description, you already have a brand. Your audience already uses certain non-branded phrases to find you. And there are hundreds or thousands more long-tail terms that they’re using.
But you’re not getting any traffic from those terms, because you don’t appear. See “You’ve got bigger problems” below.
You’ve Got Bigger Problems
Show me a website larger than 10,000 pages, and I’ll show you a site with:
- Massive duplication
- Thousands of un-crawled pages
- Poor page load times
- Improper response code configuration
- Broken external and internal links
- Utterly nondescript, probably duplicate title tags on at least 10% of all pages
- Content slightly less compelling than Ishtar (the movie, not the deity)
So far this year, we’ve crawled and tested 10-15 sites I’d qualify as ‘enterprise’. Every one of them had the problems above. Address any three of them, and you build organic traffic.
The bigger the site, the more easy wins you’ve got. Go after those first — each easy win boosts every page’s SEO-readiness just a bit. Multiply that by every page on your site = Big Wins.
Keyword Selection In A Large Organization = Herding Angry Cats
Have you ever tried to get 5+ product teams to agree on a keyword set?
If you want a preview:
- Get four grumpy, hungry alley cats.
- Hold them in opposite, equidistant corners of the room.
- Put a nice big chunk of tuna in the middle.
- Let go of the cats.
When you send out the fateful “We’re starting an SEO campaign. Please send keywords.” e-mail, it’s like that, only uglier.
Everyone wants their ‘share’ of the keyword ‘pie’. Product managers who have poo-poo’ed the idea of SEO for years suddenly buy you lunch. Sales teams start calling you complaining they lost a sale because the company isn’t #1 for ‘Failover hardware with bright green enclosures.’
As difficult as it may be to convince your VP that yes, shaving 1 second off site-wide page load times is worth it, getting everyone in a large organization to agree on a keyword set is even harder.
Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.
Keywords Are Getting Harder To Track
With Google’s lovely not provided rollout, it got a whole lot harder to track keyword-specific traffic.
You can track:
- Leads from organic search
- Overall traffic from organic search
- SEO’s contribution to the bottom line
And those metrics are what really matter.
It’s About Business Objectives, Not keywords
Most important: Enterprise SEO is not about a few fat head keywords. It’s about visibility and discoverability in the long tail. That’s the best path to a natural rise in the rankings for relevant ‘head’ terms, anyway.
Your efforts help a page on your site rank for ‘legacy COBOL integration’. But they do more than that: They help you optimize for ‘COBOL integration’ and ‘integration’ at the same time. You get the early long-tail gains while building for more competitive terms later on. Trying to optimize your homepage for ‘integration’ is like emptying the Pacific Ocean with a thimble. You won’t make much progress.
Enterprise SEO is all about business objectives. I know what you’re thinking: All SEO is about business objectives. True. But in enterprise SEO a focus on visibility, clarity and site performance achieves those objectives far more easily than chasing a keyword list.
So please, do your brand a favor: Stop worrying out keywords. Focus on business objectives, instead.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.