You Know You’re An Enterprise SEO If…

What the hell is ‘Enterprise SEO’? Most people use the phrase when:

  1. Angling for a raise.
  2. Selling me their SEO widget.
  3. Trying to re-define their now-banned content spinning service.

Those aren’t good criteria. So, I’m tackling the question: What is enterprise SEO? Are you an enterprise SEO professional?

Here’s a test. Check off each item, adding up points as you go. Then see the scoring at the bottom:

1.  You Don’t Control Site Changes

Your site recommendations shuttle between at least 3 e-mail inboxes before implementation. You say a silent prayer every time you submit an SEO tweak. And your last three title tag changes came back rejected because the game of SEO telephone morphed ‘title tag’ into ‘tidal hag’.

If you read this and then nodded in agreement, +20 points.

2.  Content Changes Have To Go Through A Branding Team

Most of the time, branding teams make great SEO partners. They know what makes folks buy. They research little turns and twists of phrase that can turn a one-time customer into a loyal community member. And they’ve probably fought a lot of the battles over wording and content that you’ll face.

But now and then, they run amok. Ever heard something like this?: Never mind what folks are buying. We make bicycle stabilization and traction surfaces, dammit, not tires.

Nurture your relationship with the branding team, or you’ll live to regret it.

If you report to a branding team, +10 points.

If you take the branding team to lunch once a month, +5 point diplomacy bonus.

3.  The Legal Department Is Watching

This is a uniquely American issue, I suspect. Americans are sue-happy. Presidential candidates might start suggesting National Lawsuit Month as an economic stimulus strategy.

OK, that last bit isn’t true. But in the USA, companies get sued. A lot. So they hire lawyers. A lot.

If your content, social media and linking strategies are subjected to legal scrutiny, +10 points.

4.  You’re A Diplomat

Here’s a little role play:

You: We should change our home page title tag to start with ‘Bicycle tires’.
Other: No can do, sorry.

You:  Why?
Other:  Our CEO likes to see the company name first.

You: But our CEO also likes profits, right?
Other: Yes, but this won’t help profits.

You:  But… we rank #2 for ‘bicycle tires’. If we change the title tag, we might move up. The extra traffic…
Other: Sorry, but you can’t prove that. Until you can, we can’t make the change.

How would you handle this?

  • Scream, grab a beer from the fridge, pop the emergency slide and leave. -10 points
  • Nod quietly, while imagining how it’d feel to shove someone out a 10th story window. -5 points
  • Laugh, thinking the person is kidding (I did this once). +0 points
  • Explain, calmly, why the title tag change would help. +5 points
  • Write a detailed 2-page explanation of clickthru rates vs. ranking, the title tag’s importance to ranking, and the potential earnings impact. +10 points
  • Produce the above report, since you knew this would happen and already wrote it. +20 points

Note: Do not come to me for advice on this topic. On a diplomacy scale, I rank somewhere between a manic wolverine and Joe Biden.

5.  You’ve Got Complex Infrastructure

If your site uses a content management system (CMS), +5 points.

If your site uses two content management systems, +10 points.

If your site uses:

  • Multiple CMS’s;
  • An e-commerce platform;
  • A discussion forum;
  • Three different blogging packages set up by the last three CMOs (all with an average 2-month tenure); and
  • An undocumented custom store location tool that was written in PERL 1 in 2000 and crashes if a store address has a space in it.

+30 points.

6.  There’s Content Everywhere

Enterprise SEO isn’t just about challenges. There are some huge advantages, too. Big companies spawn heaping mounds of content:

  • Sales training;
  • Product documentation;
  • Technical specifications;
  • Knowledge bases;
  • Marketing copy; and
  • All other content imaginable.

Harvest all that stuff and you’ve got an SEO powerhouse.

If you’ve got more content resources than hours in a year, +20 points.

7.  Size Doesn’t Matter (As Much As You Think)

Note what I left out of this test: Site size. Here’s why: I’ve seen plenty of 2-person companies with 100,000+ URL websites and none of the challenges/advantages I listed above. And, I’ve worked with many corporations that had anemic 50-page websites.

Enterprise SEO isn’t so much about big sites as it’s about big teams, big resources and complex challenges.

If you already knew this, +100 points. You’re an enterprise SEO.

Score Yourself!

Check my handy-dandy scoring matrix:

  • 0-30 points: No enterprise SEO for you!
  • 31-60 points: In the ballpark. Chances are, you’ve started the enterprise thing.
  • 61-100 points: You’re a battle-scarred enterprise SEO veteran.
  • 100+ points: Boba Fett gives you a respectful nod. You are an enterprise SEO machine.

Where This Post Came From (I Go Edgar Allen Poe)

Once a month, I write this column. My topic selection goes something like this:

  • Have I written about this SEO challenge/problem/bugaboo before?
  • Is it unique to large organizations?
  • Does it make me grind my teeth down to small, flat, domino-shaped nubs?

Then I type furiously until done.

But every time, there’s a teeny voice in the back of my head. And it keeps getting louder, saying:

“Why is this ‘enterprise’ SEO?”

It’s my own personal Telltale Heart. Louder and louder, until finally, this week, as I sat and stared at my keyboard, I shrieked, “Enough already! I’ll tackle the question!”

And so, I wrote this list.

Leave your comments below, as always.

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 Chief Marketing Curmudgeon and President at Portent, Inc, a firm he started in 1995. Portent is a full-service internet marketing company whose services include SEO, SEM and strategic consulting.

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  • Maurice Walshe

    “Testify” Brother “Testify” – I think you missed out thinking you know Leroy Gibs managment technique seems to work wonders on NCIS – on particlarly dark days it is of couse Ziva who’s approach appeals.

  • Matthew C. Egan

    I’d like to actually create a Monopoly Parody called “Enterprise SEO” where instead of going around the board, you go up and down in rankings on Google.

    Could you imagine the cards?

    “CHANCE – Take the Corporate Branding Team out for drinks after work.  Unfortunately, their Project Manager is a closet alcoholic and his wife now hates you for getting her husband drunk.  Lose 15 rankings and Copywriters now cost $100 more to buy.”

  • RyanMJones

    THIS! This! THIS!  This is the first time I’ve seen somebody actually understand the concept of enterprise SEO and not just assume it means tons of pages.  Excellent article

  • Maurice Walshe

    Excelent could make it a euo game using little wooden meeples of Mattcutts, penquins pandas and so on or even make it a coop game with the SEO’s vs the Engine

  • marknunney

    Spot on. The legals are the same in UK, by the way.

    Here are two more ways you know you are an enterprise SEO…

    1) You’ve never met the person who approves your recommendations (you saw him once but he ignored you).

    2) Those you report to are more concerned with your SEO report than anything you actually do or achieve.

  • Joost de Valk

    Thanks for a good chuckle Ian :)
    “This is a uniquely American issue, I suspect.” I so wish that was true. Unfortunately I’ve seen it everywhere I’ve worked, in the US, UK and mainland Europe…

  • Toby Barnett

    Awesome Ian – I failed at question #1.

  • Derrick Hicks

    Ohhhh man… too funny! I was nodding and laughing all the way through this article. I guess I really am an enterprise SEO!
     I think my biggest issues are dealing with a “Rouge” Content Team and Trigger Happy Legal Department. lol

  • Dennis Goedegebuure

    Now, the challenge is: How to sneak this article print into the CEO’s email box, without having your fingerprints all over it…

  • George Michie

     Brilliant, Ian.  I laughed, I cried…

  • Clark Taylor

    Awesome! You could add that even simple tasks such as making a change to a robots.txt file or tweaking a description tag requires that the tasks get added to a complex project management system where it later gets scored and prioritized by someone else. By the time your task gets implemented, the requested change is no longer relevant or needed.

  • Mark McLaren


  • Ian Lurie

    I often consider whacking people on the back of the head.

  • Ian Lurie

    Dang. So my plans to relocate to Amsterdam are a no-go…

  • JadedTLC

    If you’ve actually had to send a TPS report – BONUS POINTS. #enterpriseInHouseSEO

  • roachdawg

    I’d say points also for finding a trend months before Product Management announce that they’ve found the same trend.

  • Eric Wu 吴 ¯_(ツ)_/¯

    I scored a +25 if you don’t include the last +100 pt question. I don’t disagree that there are challenges at most organizations, but large scale SEO with big teams isn’t always that bad. We don’t have any of those headaches and I consider what I do somewhat “Enterprise” SEO. 

  • Saikat Bose

    Come down to India…the legal issues are not as serious :-)

  • Mike_Arnesen

    Thanks for summin up my life. Each maximum point scenario was all too like what I deal with everyday, especially having to make a case for a title tag change. I recently put together a multi-pager so I could back up my off-the-wall recommendation to add text content product pages.

    Thanks for putting this together. I’m glad that others go thorugh this kind of stuff as well. At the end of the day though, it’s worth it. ;-)

  • Winooski

    It’s the rare writer who contributes to our understanding (i.e., of SEO) while being so entertaining. Mr. Lurie is that writer, and Search Engine Land and we readers should be grateful.

  • Ian Lurie

    Totally true. Note that I point out the content as a huge strength. 

    However, VERY few companies have the right culture. That, sadly, is a fact of corporate life – culture is only as good as the worst person involved.

  • Ian Lurie

    Thanks!!!! I’m totally flattered.

  • KaifSiddiqi

    buhaha Look at this I realize I am  on 0-30 points stage .will shout an email to all my clients to stop calling me “Enterprise SEO”  :). thanks anyway, there is too much to learn in this col.

  • Maurice Walshe


    +25 Points you scan the FT /WSJ at reception every morning to see if your organisations has brought or sold anything that will require SEO input.

    +25 points if you cannot acuratly say how many sites your organisation has

  • Mary Kay Lofurno

    Well, I scored 200.  So I guess I am there.  Thanks for the piece.  Funny but true.  Mary Kay

  • Deepali Barthwal

    Very True, It made me chukled and at the same time realized me that I have to wait for the content 

  • Tom – FIMS

    Fortunately I personally work on smaller sites where have more control either via direct access to site or direct access to person who makes them.

     I’m sure enterprise level SEO sites pay better, however expect even the most basis changes can involve an arduous process to get things done!


  • Jenny Halasz

    Say it, Ian! I laughed out loud on all of these. Hey all you Enterprise SEOs out there, be sure and print out this article for the CEO. ;-)

  • Nato (Nate Orshan)

    Meant every word, Sir. I don’t have to exhort you to keep up the good work, because I have the utmost of confidence that you will. :-)


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