How to build an SEO-forward culture in enterprise organizations
Learn ways to navigate the challenges of getting SEO buy-in and managing stakeholders in enterprise settings.
In my SEO career, I’ve worked with various enterprise organizations, including major CDNs, encrypted email providers, American insurance companies, and commercial passenger airlines.
One underlying challenge in these enterprise organizations is stakeholder management and the wider buy-in of SEO activities.
I’ve learned and worked with organizations with unique internal culture, communication and team interaction approaches.
This ranges from monthly town halls to recording and publicly sharing client meetings on the company’s YouTube channel – a total transparency consulting approach for a community-invested organization.
Below, I’ll share my insights and methods for fostering an SEO-forward culture and mindset among non-SEO stakeholders.
Additionally, I’ll cover how to assist other non-SEO marketing teams in achieving their website goals without compromising organic KPIs.
Understand the existing SEO knowledge and process
For most organizations, organic search has the potential to be a significant driver of traffic, brand visibility and revenue.
In mid-market to enterprise-level organizations, there is typically a history of SEO efforts, whether it’s during the website’s early development in terms of architecture or through content-related processes employed by teams.
Some organizations will have SEO practices documented internally or have established checklists and processes for team members to follow.
Your initial discovery meetings with different stakeholders and teams are a great opportunity to:
- Establish any existing processes.
- Gauge the level of SEO knowledge internally.
- More importantly, assess the viewpoints on certain SEO practices and if they align with yours.
At this stage, you can grasp the varying SEO expectations among different business levels and stakeholders, enabling you to communicate and engage meaningfully with them.
Often overlooked at this stage is acknowledging and rewarding existing good practices.
Simple gestures like comments on project management tools, Slack channels, and highlighting in analysis can be effective and do not require grand gestures or overzealous comments on calls.
Align with business-level objectives
Aligning and reporting SEO impact against business-wide metrics, such as OKRs (objectives and key results) and shareholder or investor KPIs, is crucial.
Use the 7 Cs of communication and consistent reporting and information flow to your advantage, namely:
Remember that the C-suite or VP-level stakeholders responsible for business-wide OKRs and KPIs are likely time-poor. Thus, ensuring communications achieve these seven criteria is vital in building effective relationships.
Align with team-level objectives
It’s vital to understand and collaborate with non-SEO stakeholders in the organization.
For instance, you may be required to work with brand and customer engagement in improving the website and conversions without impacting any SEO-associated variables.
This also flows the other way in offering insights into the organic user journey, potential pain points, and mismatches between query intent and the presented content.
SEO cannot be siloed within the marketing team for the best results. Collaboration must happen across content creators, developers, UX designers, sales (online and offline), customer success, and community managers.
When all teams recognize how their work influences SEO, they can better support each other through an integrated approach.
Communicate task-level objectives
Effectively communicating SEO-focused recommendations involves emphasizing their business impact and prioritization beyond just ranking.
This includes their influence on wider metrics like brand visibility for non-brand terms and the impact on site user experience.
Gain leadership buy-in
Executives and managers must understand the value of SEO and support initiatives to optimize content and technical aspects of the website.
This can be achieved through five key focus areas:
- Explain that SEO focuses on creating a great user experience that also ranks well in search engines.
- Discuss how SEO leads to increased organic traffic, conversions, and revenue. Provide case studies and statistics to demonstrate the impact.
Highlighting the business impact
- Frame SEO in terms of achieving key business objectives like:
- Increasing market share.
- Boosting brand awareness.
- Reducing the cost per acquisition.
- Connect SEO best practices to revenue and ROI.
Proof of concept
- Run a small-scale SEO initiative to prove the value before requesting major changes or resources.
- Measure and share the results of the pilot to gain support for an expanded program.
Address concerns proactively
- Anticipate leadership’s objections and questions about SEO and be prepared to respond to them.
- Discuss risks and how to mitigate them.
- Highlight how SEO complements other marketing channels.
Strategy feedback loops
- Involve leadership in determining high-level SEO priorities and key performance indicators to:
- Ensure alignment between SEO objectives and business goals.
- Give leadership a sense of ownership in the program’s success.
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Incorporate SEO into the organizational strategy
Optimizing internal processes is key to cultivating an SEO culture within a large company.
By streamlining how information is shared and tasks are completed, SEO best practices can become second nature.
Open communication pathways
Open communication is essential for implementing any new initiative in a large organization.
Regular cadences, internal newsletters, and presentations explaining SEO objectives and strategies help ensure all teams are on the same page.
Discuss how SEO impacts each department and share recent wins and key metrics to demonstrate its value. Solicit feedback to address any concerns early on.
Documenting SEO standards, guidelines and workflows provides a reference for employees to ensure consistency.
Create handbooks, cheat sheets, and checklists covering technical SEO audits, content optimization, internal linking, and more.
Store these in a shared portal where anyone in the company can access them. Standardized documentation helps avoid duplicated efforts and speeds up training new team members.
Storage should be in a centralized, accessible location, such as Confluence or Sharepoint, and maintained proactively.
Documentation is also a useful tool for the organization should they onboard new staff members, as the documentation repository can help with onboarding and bringing them up to speed on current and past initiatives.
Clear accountability and responsibilities
Designate SEO responsibilities and key performance indicators for each department and team to keep people accountable.
For example, make content writers responsible for optimizing a certain number of pages each month and web developers in charge of fixing a set amount of technical issues.
Accountability at all levels is necessary for real culture change.
This should be as transparent as possible across the organization and can easily be achieved through a RACI or RASCI chart.
Post is in a place where everyone can see their status on projects and create a self-governing culture of accountability.
Actively seek perspectives
One of the most effective collaboration techniques I’ve used in recent years is simply asking non-marketing teams for their perspectives.
While working with a DevOps platform, I reached out and held a call with one of their product teams.
This was not something they were used to, and it took a few minutes to get the conversation going, but asking the question:
- “What would you change about the website, content, and how the products are presented?”
…opened up an hour-long conversation, feedback, and perspectives that helped inform and became content and template redesign initiatives.
Facilitate SEO education
Educate employees about SEO best practices through online courses, webinars and internal documentation.
Focus on how SEO relates to and supports their specific roles.
- Teach content creators about keyword research and topic clustering.
- Inform web developers about technical SEO.
- Instruct product teams on optimizing product pages.
Raise awareness about the value of SEO for achieving business goals.
Create internal SEO champions
Look for employees who are passionate about SEO and digital marketing.
They should be excellent communicators who can explain SEO concepts in a simple, engaging way.
Consider individuals in positions able to influence others, such as managers, directors and team leaders. Offer additional SEO training to ensure they have a strong grasp of best practices.
Integrating SEO within enterprise organizations
Establishing an SEO culture within an enterprise takes time and patience.
By securing executive buy-in, offering educational resources, promoting collaboration, recognizing SEO wins, and fostering an experimental mindset, you can achieve an “SEO transformation” and integrate SEO into all activities.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.