Enterprise SEO: Lessons from 20 years in the trenches
Want to gain market share rapidly and boost profits? Learn the key elements of a winning SEO strategy for large enterprises.
Technical search engine optimization (SEO) for large enterprise companies is much different from traditional SEO because they often have complex, advanced infrastructure along with numerous integrations and dependencies.
SEO professionals seeking to work with enterprise clients should be adept at technical SEO and require overlapping competencies in related disciplines.
But here’s the problem.
SEO experts with a broad range of knowledge and experience with enterprise SEO are hard to find. Most agencies and SEO firms don’t have these specialists on their staff.
With enterprise SEO, you don’t just migrate. You re-platform, redesign and replace a well-oiled machine – with one that’ll hopefully work even better and be more profitable.
It’s like replacing a former Olympic gold medalist with a rookie contender. And that’s risky.
If the new person is MVP material or isn’t used to competing at a high level, your team will lose. You want someone who has trained hard every day to win – someone who will give their absolute best.
That’s precisely how you should hire an SEO expert for your enterprise company.
Going by the old mindset that “SEO is just an SEO project” is lousy leadership. Even if you have a great relationship with your current SEO agency or its people, that alone doesn’t qualify their team to handle your enterprise-level SEO needs.
Good business leaders are careful to pick an SEO consultant for their enterprise company, be it a retailer, service provider or another type of organization.
SEO in an enterprise is like a lake
Many brooks, streams and even rivers flow into a lake. Likewise, many teams at an enterprise (marketing, content, developers, IT, traffic, UX, etc.) all flow into the SEO “lake.” Many of my clients are initially shocked when they first realize this.
They had thought of SEO as being limited to Google and search engines alone. And they frankly admit to underestimating the true potential of this vague, fuzzy, long-term-focused mystical thing called SEO.
Once they start thinking of enterprise SEO differently – and see how everything “walks over that bridge and leads into the SEO lake” – they understand the big picture better. And get excited about the financial implications of SEO on their business.
Most of these business leaders quickly begin to appreciate how enterprise SEO overlaps across teams, departments, specialized roles, strategies, technologies, systems, and entire infrastructure.
The long future potential of SEO
An effective enterprise SEO strategy can be a powerful weapon that, when detonated, blows competitors out of the market – and keeps them away for years. But it requires an investment in the early planning phase before you re-platform, redesign, migrate and launch.
With a good communication plan, anchoring and knowledge transfer – all backed by leadership, an adequate budget, and trust – the upside potential can be amazing.
My clients are often delighted that, while crafting their UX templates (PLP, PDP, local store pages, etc.), I identified and fixed a few more things that will build a strong, scalable, automated highway for Google’s crawlers – all within the same budget and timeline.
Such planned modifications have several benefits:
- They help Google understand how pages relate to each other and which ones to suggest for search queries and topics of interest.
- They stand out more clearly for Google, as what, why and how they deserve to rank for topic and search queries.
- They hone and refine the editorial and commercial content strategy, where each form of content serves a different purpose and meets diverse needs.
- They drive offline customers to storefronts and attract buyers in important categories and product groups by better intuiting keyword intent to enrich the store’s webpages on Google’s local search results.
This requires a solid one-time setup, after which everything works automatically without maintenance costs. It’s like wine that gets better over time.
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Enterprise SEO is a strategic investment
SEO has a business-critical impact that is long-lasting.
However, search optimization is the least important ingredient of success in enterprise SEO. What matters more is how it enables the interplay between sales, marketing and branding to span your customers' buying journey.
Google has become an integral part of lives and is vital to most purchase decisions. Without a dominant presence on Google organic search results, your business will be out of sync with clients on the biggest marketplace in the world.
This is why many savvy business leaders view an investment in platform development and SEO as an evergreen, non-seasonal activity. SEO can be massively effective in stimulating ROI, increasing revenue, forecasting profitable scenarios and more.
But you cannot slice it up into bits and do it in installments over time. Everything has to be ready to roll before going live. You must be willing to invest in analysis and shift away from the self-destructive mindset that "too much analysis equals paralysis." The worst strategists believe that "10% analysis, 90% implementation is better."
When you conduct detailed situational analysis to research, analyze and combine available data externally and internally with precision, it cuts timelines by years for the same budget and with less staff – while gaining market share rapidly and boosting profits for owners.
The unmeasured cost of missed opportunity
Being passive about all of this has a hidden cost unrelated to SEO metrics, traffic or the website itself.
Unless relevant, enterprise-level re-platforming (especially on an unrealistic budget) becomes merely more of the 'same old, same old.'
Most businesses only benchmark themselves against past performance from the same month in a previous year - meaning YoY. They seldom compete against their own highest potential. And this does not maximize value to owners, shareholders and customers.
With improper situational analysis, you might discover that you've grown 30% over your own historical performance but overlook the search queries that didn't rank in the top 100 or 200 results on Google!
This means you don't get any impressions in Google Search Console, or traffic in Google Analytics, for these terms. This is a blind spot. Making decisions without correcting this is like driving a car with your eyes closed!
Without this information, it's hard to earn trust, which is critical to enable the proper mindset required for an SEO transformation.
But once you have all relevant data, it will soon become evident that something with the potential to earn one billion deserves more resources and a higher priority than another alternative that's historically been worth no more than a few thousand.
Interestingly, even those alternatives might have been limited to thousands only because somebody mistakenly decided they were irrelevant and didn't pay enough attention.
It may well turn out to be a critical ingredient that can generate $1 billion indirectly and over the long term. And by making fresh decisions along with a strategic redistribution of resources, it could be pushed to generate even $5 billion.
And this reinforces the "cost of alternatives" that go unpicked.
Choose correct benchmarks
Benchmark against your full potential by combining:
- External data (e.g., from keyword analysis).
- Internal data (e.g., from Google Analytics).
- Financial data that documents the cost of various alternative options
Do all of this before determining an SEO budget. Your decisions will be more effective.
All proposed timelines, plans and decisions that involve the following will grow synergistically:
- Online and offline sales
Everyone who desires the best for your company will pitch in to help, laying a solid foundation for SEO success and, eventually, business growth and greater profitability.
This is why I recommend a process and method that:
- Starts with a broad, deep and comprehensive situational analysis that takes a holistic approach.
- Needs a big budget to cover everything necessary.
- Avoids improvisation based on incomplete or incorrect information – no more shooting from the hip based on sample data.
To determine the appropriate budget for a one-time initiative like this, consider what it would cost to retain an SEO professional for three months. That is a realistic time frame to paint a revealing picture of your company.
This analysis will help close the gap between where you are right now and could be on a higher trajectory toward rapid growth with a higher bottom line.
So, there you have it.
The arguments for why you should do this and how, when it is relevant, and why you shouldn't be passive no matter whether you are:
- An SEO consultant, like me.
- An internal SEO professional working on enterprise SEO at a company making these mistakes, reducing SEO to "only a project."
- Or someone caught in the crossfire between overlapping roles and specialized disciplines, seeking help with bringing a derailed train back on the tracks.
They can help you avoid mistakes. Or even transform them back into grand successes.
If you underestimate their importance in enterprise SEO, you're setting things up to fail. But if you get it right, even if only in part, the rewards will be rich – and well worth the effort.
The best strategy for enterprise SEO
Many think SEO is purely a technical discipline.
That is wrong.
The trouble with enterprise SEO is more often a leadership problem.
A winning strategy for SEO in enterprise companies is ideally one that will:
- Discover a suitably skilled, knowledgeable and experienced SEO specialist.
- Invest a high grade of trust and flexibility in the experts.
- Allow them to pick what to do, when and what to change, and whom to involve in specific areas and phases, activities and meetings.
- Test and validate to ensure business priorities and KPIs are constantly being covered and maximized.
Over two decades of my own experience, and countless similar ones shared by my colleagues in the industry, both locally and internationally, the same patterns and success ingredients are revealed as the most critical.
The plan outlined in this report has long proven successful, been effectively documented, works in real life, and is specially tailored for large enterprises.
It can, however, be implemented only when:
- The importance of Google for your business and finance is anchored in top leadership and through them to team leaders and others at project management levels.
- There is follow-up with reminders and calendar-based activities in a siloed manner that is carefully planned and controlled, platform-independent and non-department.
- Implementation is possible across departments, roles, locations (online and offline) through co-operation internally and with external teams you hire to work with you.
Achieving all of this gives you a "golden ticket" that consistently:
- Brings clients the best results.
- Helps them scale further to reach new heights.
- Gets them featured in national financial newspapers and magazines, over and over again.
- Continues to grow and scale for a long time afterward.
- Secures them a dominant position and commanding market share.
For this, SEO must work across streams, from foundational planning through to the final stages of implementation.
Enterprise SEO permeates every facet of your business, flowing like blood through your company's heart, brain, and guts.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
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