How to choose an enterprise SEO platform
Here's what you need to know to help your organization choose the right enterprise SEO platform for your business needs and goals.
Understanding your current marketing processes, knowing how to measure success and being
able to identify where you are looking for improvements are all critical pieces of the SEO platform decision-making process.
In this guide you will learn:
- 5 key benefits of enterprise SEO platforms
- How much enterprise SEO platforms cost
- How to make an informed purchase
5 key benefits of enterprise SEO platforms
With thousands, tens of thousands, and even millions of pages, sites, social conversations, images, and keywords to manage and optimize, enterprise SEO has become increasingly complicated and time-consuming.
Using an enterprise SEO platform can increase efficiency and productivity while reducing the time and errors involved in managing organic search campaigns.
More specifically, managing SEO through an enterprise toolset can provide the following benefits:
- Many tools, one interface. Enterprise SEO platforms perform many tasks in one system. A comprehensive dashboard can help your organization monitor SERP rankings and trends, how you measure up to competitors and your share of voice. The integration and prioritization of tasks, reporting and user permissions can offer substantial benefits to enterprise-level SEO operations.
- Intent insights. Because of the search engines’ increased focus on user intent, enterprise-level SEO tool vendors are developing machine learning models that analyze user behavior and site content to help marketers answer searchers’ questions. This information can inform content development strategy –- a critical element given the foundational importance of quality content.
- More efficient management of global operations. Enterprise SEO tools have built-in diagnostics that can be invaluable on a global scale to identify site-wide issues across languages, countries or regions. These tools uncover macro and micro issues with pages, templates and infrastructure.
- Keeping pace with the search engines. SEO software vendors have dedicated teams and engineers to follow frequent search engine algorithm changes and their impact on the SEO reporting required by enterprises. Through education as well as software tool development, a relationship with a quality vendor can give marketers a competitive advantage.
- Automated reporting to provide data in near real-time. Many brands end up trying to put a lot of data in spreadsheets and updating them manually. But that doesn’t provide a complete view of the data. Most enterprise SEO platforms offer highly customized reporting capabilities that are widget- and wizard-driven to make reporting faster and easier. Many also allow for the export of data to business intelligence tools or other analytics software
How much enterprise SEO platforms cost
Licensing an enterprise SEO platform can be a significant investment, particularly for ecommerce or retail brands with hundreds of thousands of SKUs or product pages.
Marketers typically spend tens of thousands of dollars each month in licensing fees. They may also pay for installation and staff training to maximize the value of the platform and its capabilities.
Virtually all enterprise SEO platforms are provided on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) basis (i.e. the vendor makes the software available online and is responsible for all maintenance and system administration).
Enterprise-level pricing models vary and are often customized based on the number of users, sites, keyword rankings, link volume, international coverage and other SEO activities.
How to make an informed SEO platform purchase
Ready to help your organization choose the SEO platform that is the right fit for your business needs and goals? Here are four steps to help.
Step 1: Do you need an enterprise SEO platform?
Deciding whether your company needs an enterprise-level SEO platform calls for the same evaluative steps involved in any software adoption, including a comprehensive self-assessment of your organization’s business needs and resources, staffing, management support and financial resources.
Use the following questions as a guideline to determine the answers.
- Do we have the right human resources in place? Employing people to implement and use SEO platforms is a prerequisite to success. If you have marketing staff, utilizing SEO toolsets can make them more efficient and effective. The vast majority of organic search marketers struggle to justify their SEO budgets. SEO platforms and tools are a key component of helping to keep overall costs down while getting the required work done. Their analytical capabilities can also help SEOs prove the impact of their work on the bottom line.
- Do we have C-level buy-in? Enterprise SEO software can be a five- or six-figure investment annually. It is critical to demonstrate the value of SEO to C-level executives by running pilot test projects and agreeing to a definition of “success” in advance.
- Do we have the right technical resources? Successful enterprise SEO needs dedicated technical resources deployed to it to act on the recommendations and opportunities surfaced by the analytics and reports. With many SEOs reporting a technical backlog as the primary thing hindering their SEO success, allocating resources to this task can be the factor that determines whether an implementation is successful or not.
- Who will own enterprise SEO? Enterprise SEO is commonly placed into marketing, editorial or IT, depending on the nature of the business. Unfortunately, in large companies, it usually ends up with either whoever has the budget or whoever can best articulate the business case. In a best-case scenario, it should be both.
- Can we invest in staff training? It is vital to provide training to technical, design, content and marketing teams, and reinforce it on a regular basis. A successful enterprise SEO implementation will find ways to inject SEO knowledge into existing training programs and identify internal evangelists to broadly distribute the messages. Training needs to be comprehensive, consistent and continuous. Some tool companies include or offer training for an additional fee, so be sure to ask about this.
- To what extent do we need to share reports with non-SEO staff? Some tool providers focus significant development resources on simple interfaces that can be utilized by people in other organizational roles – such as writers or C-suite executives. If this is important to you, make sure you specifically look for this when evaluating possible platforms.
- Have we established KPIs and put a system in place for tracking, measuring and reporting results? It’s important to know upfront what you want your SEO to achieve. Do you want to improve SERP rankings or the time visitors spend on your site? Is conversion – whether a product purchase or whitepaper download – your key objective? Having goals will help you decide if you’re ready to put an enterprise platform to good use, as well as help you decide which tool will best meet your organizational needs.
- How will we measure success? Depending on your site’s monetization strategy, make sure you know how you’ll determine if the rollout of the platform and the successful execution of the established KPIs actually increased sales, conversions, or page views.
- Do we have realistic expectations? It is not uncommon for enterprise SEO efforts to take at least six months to generate tangible results. If SEO is a new initiative within the organization, cultural shifts and workflow processes will need to be implemented and refined. Setting realistic timelines and goals will help build support at all levels of the enterprise.
- Do we have an SEO culture? Many organizations begin to invest in SEO but find that a lack of understanding of SEO across the organization cripples its progress. Broad educational programs are often required to provide consistent performance and results.
Step 2: Identify and contact appropriate vendors
Once you have determined that enterprise SEO software makes sense for your business, spend time researching individual vendors and their capabilities by doing the following:
- Make a list of all the SEO capabilities you currently have, those that you would like to have, and those that you can’t live without. This last category is critical and will help you avoid making a costly mistake. If you find that one vendor doesn’t offer this “must-have” capability, it’s obviously not a fit. When it comes to international data, it can be cost-prohibitive to track all your markets, so you may want to use an enterprise-level tool to track your most important market, then use simpler tools for secondary markets.
- Take your list of capabilities and then do some research. Many of the vendors profiled in this report also provide whitepapers and interactive tools that can help.
- Narrow your list to those vendors that meet your criteria. Submit your list of the SEO capabilities you’ve identified and set a timeframe for them to reply.
- Decide whether you need to engage in a formal RFI/RFP process. This is an individual preference, however, be sure to give the same list of capabilities to each vendor to facilitate comparison.
The most effective RFPs only request relevant information and provide ample information about your business and its SEO needs. It should reflect high-level strategic goals and KPIs. For example, mention your company’s most important KPIs and how you will evaluate the success of your SEO efforts. Include details about timelines and the existing digital technology you have deployed.
When written properly, an RFP will facilitate the sales process and ensure that everyone involved on both sides comes to a shared understanding of the purpose, requirements, scope, and structure of the intended purchase. From the RFP responses, you should be able to narrow your list down to three or four platforms that you’ll want to demo.
Step 3: Scheduling the demo
Set up demos with your shortlist of vendors within a relatively short timeframe after receiving the RFP responses to help make relevant comparisons.
Make sure that all potential internal users are on the demo call, and pay attention to the following:
- How easy is the platform to use?
- Does the vendor seem to understand our business and our marketing needs?
- Are they showing us our “must-have” features?
- Is the reporting actionable?
Other questions to ask each vendor include:
- How do you calculate search volumes? Knowing how the system treats information types will impact how you ascribe value to certain keyword terms, make decisions about keyword and content choices and affect the ROI of your search marketing efforts. Find out from where raw data is extracted (i.e., analytics, log files, or a proprietary tracking pixel).
- Can this system track millions of searches, visits, site pages, etc.? Knowing whether the platform is a true enterprise solution or a simple tool that may not scale for your business needs is crucial. Limits on the numbers of keyword rankings, pages or traffic tracked could impact your use of the system or significantly increase the cost.
- Do you support international search? There are many nuances within international SEO that can mislead even the best SEOs. Find out if the numerator in the calculation of the platform’s average clicks per search or average search volume is normalized for global or local (in that market) search, and whether search ranks are calculated from within the country or remotely. Does their tool make hreflang coding recommendations? Will it manage the page relationship and directional recommendations? The misapplication of international data could impact the ROI of your search marketing efforts.
- How do you track and report universal search results? You will want to know if and where your site was listed on the results page. For example, did your listing appear in web results, the In the News segment, an in-depth article or the video results? That location and reporting feedback helps to quantify strategic and tactical efforts.
- Does your tool help customers understand what competitors do, and derive actionable insights from that? What are the most important features the tool has for providing competitive research? Competitive intelligence is a standard feature for virtually all enterprise SEO platforms – but the scope and cost differ between vendors. Find out what level of data is provided about your competitors and vertical industry, and make sure it fits your requirements.
- How robust and flexible are your reporting options? Different users have different reporting needs. Find out if reports can be customized and automatically delivered to different users and types of users, and whether data can be exported in CSV format.
- Where are the actionable reports? Enterprise tools have dashboards and generous amounts of data but it’s important to understand how (and which) reports can immediately benefit your business. A good sales team will understand your company’s objectives and KPIs and will have reports ready or be able to run them in real-time. This is data that can be handed over to the appropriate teams and promptly acted upon.
- What other meta-information does your system collect that may be made available via API? Being able to trace search traffic data from the front of the funnel all the way to sales data in a CRM or business intelligence (BI) system will help you to more accurately calculate ROI.
- Is there a workflow built in that allows me to coordinate the work of my marketing, content, web development and social media teams across the organization? SEO cannot operate in a silo. A true enterprise platform should provide built-in workflow management that includes task assignment, management and monitoring of completion rates across groups.
- What does the onboarding process entail and how long will it take? What are the training options (i.e., is it online only or will you send people to our location to train us on-site)? Be sure to find out what onboarding and support is included in pricing and what is an add-on.
- What kind of ongoing support and client engagement will your account team provide? How will you gauge our use or non-use of the platform’s features? One of the most common reasons a company transitions out of an enterprise platform is because they don’t use it enough. How do they propose you avoid tool fatigue and checkout for your organization? A vendor should be prepared to address this issue and specifically how the tool creatively engages users and gets them back into the environment.
- What new features are you considering? What are the long-term roadmap and launch dates? The SEO landscape is constantly changing with new features to further leverage digital assets rapidly coming out of Google and Bing. How quickly do they respond to the implementation of new SERP features and begin tracking them? It’s important to understand the level of innovation and the ability to add and track emerging technologies. Knowing a vendor’s new feature release date schedule and its ability to stick to committed timelines is also important. This helps establish long-term trust and an expectation with the vendor that it will always be on the cutting edge of SEO.
Step 4: Check references, negotiate a contract
Before deciding on a vendor, take the time to speak with one or two customer references, preferably someone in a business like yours. The SEO vendor should be able to supply you with several references if you cannot identify them yourself.
Use this opportunity to ask any additional questions and find out more about any topics that weren’t addressed during the demo. Make sure that the person you’ve been referred to is a primary user of the solution.
Consider also asking these basic questions:
- Why did you move to an enterprise SEO platform?
- Why did you select this platform over others?
- Has this platform lived up to your expectations?
- How long did the system take to implement?
- Are you also using additional tools for crawling, page evaluations, competitive analysis, domain and link data?
- Were there any surprises that you wish you’d known about beforehand?
- What was the quality of the training resources and the onboarding process?
- Where have you seen the most success? The biggest challenges?
- Do other teams in your company use the tool? How did you get their buy-in?
- How are you measuring your own success?
- How easy was the set-up process and how long? Did the vendor help?
- How responsive is customer service?
- Has there been any downtime?
- Do you use all the resources provided? If not, which ones and why?
- What is the most useful, actionable (favorite) report the tool generates?
- What do you wish they did differently?
- Why would you recommend this platform?
Although not all vendors require an annual contract, many do. Once you’ve selected a vendor, be sure to get in writing a list of what technology and support are covered in the contract. Ask about what kinds of additional fees might come up.
- Are there charges for custom integrations, if so, how much (and how long will the onboarding take)?
- What is the hourly charge for engineering services, and is there a minimum?
- What partner organizations are available to install and integrate the tool?
- If you need to train a new hire midyear, what will that cost?
- What is the “out” clause?
- Are they open to a trial period with options to exit the contract?
Obtaining the answers upfront – and having them in writing – will ensure fewer surprises and fewer
costs down the road.
Enterprise SEO Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide
Our MarTech Intelligence Report examines the market for SEO platforms and the considerations involved in implementation. The 65-page report reviews the growing market for SEO platforms, plus the latest trends, opportunities and challenges.
Download your free report here: Enterprise SEO Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide (12th edition).
This report was prepared by conducting in-depth interviews with leading vendors and industry experts. Research took place in the first quarter of 2022. These, in addition to third-party research, form the basis for this report.
You can compare 15 leading enterprise SEO software vendors in the full report:
- SE Ranking