Whether it’s juggling multiple websites, confronting a lack of resources, poor scaling, or attempting to align the ambitions of marketers with the abilities of its content teams, it can be easy for big companies to lose sight of why they are working to improve SEO in the first place. (Reminder: Nearly 90% of consumers begin the buying process with a search engine. That’s a pretty good reason.)
But building—or fixing—an effective enterprise SEO campaign doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Educate yourself, educate your C-suite and your team, and then diagnose or build your strategy one step at a time.
SEO is a constantly evolving concept. Though it’s easy to invest considerable time and effort into “SEO work,” focusing on the wrong parts of SEO yields minimal impact.
The CMO’s Guide to Modern SEO includes a detailed look at how this framework leads to meaningful, impactful SEO campaigns.
When it comes to building an effective SEO strategy, big companies face a lot of roadblocks.
In the early days of SEO, companies focused on technical tricks and tactics in attempts to boost search engine rankings. Today, though technical SEO still has its place, SEO requires a new mindset.
Search engines revolve around positive user experiences, which means improving SEO has to become more about improving UX. We call this “engagement SEO.” Engagement SEO centers on creating the most helpful, popular, and engaging content.
Enterprise-level organizations are notoriously difficult to pivot, however, which is why we find that most struggling enterprise SEO has to do—first and foremost—with this mindset shift. Modern SEO has to focus on the user, not the search engine.
SEO is not PPC. You cannot just flip a switch and turn it on. Launching an SEO program that drives real results requires the support of the entire executive team—from approving a pragmatic budget, to understanding exactly how SEO works—because SEO needs several months of investment before it starts to pay off. Brands that have a hard time with SEO almost always lack buy-in from the very top.
Earning executive buy-in starts by demonstrating the true ROI of modern SEO. Simply “increasing rankings,” is not a meaningful goal to the C-suite. In general terms, the value of good SEO is hard to dispute:
Reports like these are good foundations, but to really get an executive team onboard, you need to demonstrate the value and the urgency of SEO to your brand. That takes a little bit of research and forecasting, but can illustrate a powerful point.
Another often-effective sidebar strategy is showing how your brand and your top competitors rank for your target keywords. Your brand’s ranking alone isn’t always compelling to the C-suite, because they want to know how SEO is going to impact revenue. But if your primary rival is ranking ahead of your brand, a simple screen capture can sometimes ignite all kinds of passion for SEO.
However you do it, and however long it takes, executive buy-in is crucial for your SEO strategy. You need the C-suite on your side if you’re going to build a team, improve your brand’s overall SEO focus, and build a strategy that both draws on and benefits the entire organization.
In organizations where SEO doesn’t seem to work, we find that it has often been isolated to one corner of the marketing department. No single department, especially in an enterprise, can lead a winning SEO strategy on its own.
Successful SEO improves a brand’s digital presence and overall authority, which impacts nearly every aspect of the organization. As such, it’s important to align a variety of internal teams to execute truly effective SEO. An SEO team that produces real results will include representatives from:
With the C-suite anxious to get started, your next step is to get the SEO team assembled and excited about the opportunities they get to work on.
The rapid evolution of search engines has uprooted SEO best practices time and time again, and requires more than one team member to keep up with pace. More than any other digital marketing category, it is important for SEO team members to embrace an attitude of constant learning and willful collaboration.
Every marketing outlet changes as the market evolves, but none perhaps more so than SEO. In addition to changing consumer and buyer expectations, search engines are constantly updating their algorithms to provide better, more fine-tuned results for their users. The pace of change in search engines has uprooted SEO “best practices” time and again over the last 15 years.
Staying nimble can be difficult for enterprise organizations, which is why some struggle to stay up-to-date with modern SEO strategies. The SEO manager needs to foster an atmosphere of constant learning and creativity within your SEO team.
Even after the team is established and functioning smoothly, keep those emails and/or coffee breaks going. Make sure part of that time/space is reserved for SEO industry updates, creative brainstorming, and reviewing metrics related to recent efforts.
SEO has the ability to generate a lot of metrics, and it is easy to lose sight of the forest for the proverbial trees. Many times, an enterprise struggles with creating and maintaining a meaningful SEO campaign because its team is monitoring the wrong metrics.
There is a lot of data you could look at, but the metrics that matter are the ones that tie SEO to the bottom line. A modern SEO strategy should be based on three core metrics:
Other metrics may be important to your executive team, or to the progress of your SEO team specifically. Those will vary by industry and brand, but start with the big three above.
There are usually two kinds of people in a hardware store: the ones who love tools and the ones who need a specific tool for a project. The former probably has a garage full of tools and is constantly creating busywork in order to justify their purchases. The later more likely has a modest collection, a house in good shape, and time for other things.
The same is true of SEO tools. The right tools can help you measure and analyze the right metrics, keeping your team and your SEO strategies on-track. The wrong tools will create a lot of unnecessary maintenance and probably inspire a lot of unproductive SEO work.
If your SEO is struggling, don’t start shopping for tools until you identify the right metrics. With accurate KPIs in hand, you can choose the tools to fix your actual problems:
There are a lot of shiny SEO tools out there that do some pretty cool tricks, but remember to start with the metrics. The right tool will help solve the problems your analytics uncover. The wrong tool will create SEO busywork that doesn’t drive the metrics that matter.
Many enterprise companies look at their organic traffic numbers and believe their SEO is doing better than it actually is, because they are not separating branded from non-branded traffic. On closer review, we often find that the majority of enterprise-level organic traffic is branded, which does not accurately reflect the value or impact of an SEO campaign.
Branded organic traffic is not bad. Climbing branded traffic data indicates improving brand awareness, which is a great analytics insight and something every marketer loves to see.
But branded organic traffic doesn’t tell you how your SEO is working, because those aren’t your target keywords. If a user searches your brand name, he or she will find you. Your SEO campaign should be delivering your website for non-branded terms—when users are searching for your product or services in general.
Failing to separate branded from non-branded traffic produces false SEO data, and makes it impossible for marketers to diagnose and improve their SEO efforts. If your SEO metrics seem to show growth but overall revenue doesn’t, make sure your team is pulling the branded search data out of the set.
The difficulty with removing branded traffic data from the overall organic traffic set is that it doesn’t leave you with much these days. Since 2013, Google has been hiding keyword data from marketers behind the much-despised “(not provided).” For enterprise organizations, this segment can represent a lot of data … that most marketers can’t decipher.
But there is a way to get that data back, by combining Google Analytics metrics with Google Search Console Data:
Both tools have an API that will allow you to extract the data you need. Or, you can use a tool like SEOmonitor that will automate this entire process for you.
Keywords and user intent insight are crucial for any successful SEO campaign. If your team is struggling with keyword data, make sure they are set up to get as much accurate information as possible.
SEO is a big project for any organization. And as search becomes more and more important in almost every industry and vertical (both B2B and B2C), the stakes become higher in parallel. All of that becomes compounded in an enterprise, where there are more decision makers to consult, more teams involved, more competitors in the space, and more revenue at stake.
Whether you’re finally kickstarting a serious SEO strategy, or trying to fix a faltering effort, start by making sure your SEO philosophy is up to date. (Pro tip: You can get even more of all this good stuff in our new ebook, The CMO’s Guide to Modern SEO.) Then, make sure you have executive buy-in before you start mobilizing people or re-energizing efforts.
With the right framework, the right people on-board, and the right goals and tools, your enterprise SEO can grow your company’s bottom line and make Marketing a force to be reckoned with in your organization.