Most enterprise-level organizations expect a strategy for SEO before the fiscal year begins.
This strategy is usually communicated up through the key stakeholders (Directors, VPs, and even C-levels) who tend to show an interest in SEO for the company.
Once the strategy is agreed on and confirmed by all involved, it will act as a sort of reference throughout the year as the SEO team lead (Manager, Director, or sometimes VP) to report against progress and key performance indicators (KPIs) that could include revenue increase, team efficiency increase, or other metric everyone has agreed on.
Having been through this process on numerous occasions while working both within the organization and as a consultant, I put together an outline of what to consider when getting your strategy in place.
Planning Your Enterprise SEO Strategy
Google is continually updating and optimizing its search results based on user intent.
So we need to understand the nuance of what these changes mean to understand where Google is going and identify growth opportunities.
Some of the latest opportunities can be found by looking at patent releases by Google the last couple of years (Neural Matching, RankBrain, BERT, E-A-T., etc.), webmaster guidelines best practices updates, and trending searches.
Your SEO strategy for enterprise SEO should reflect all of the latest trends with the addition of plans for team improvements and additional help to increase efficiency.
Below is a recommended outline that sets your strategy to encompass all that is important today in SEO and includes the needs an enterprise SEO strategy has that sets you apart from the smaller SMBs.
The outline isn’t “one size fits all” since every organization is different – from team structure to communication across the organization, technical issues (or none at all), to agency and/or a consultant and any reporting tools needed.
Let’s dive deeper into each point so you can decide if what I recommend fits your organization.
Technical Foundational SEO
Every enterprise SEO organization I have worked with/for has always needed some form of technical and/or foundational SEO.
If a website has issues surfaced in Google Search Console, or other reporting tools, more often than not any effort made to increase SEO from growth strategies will fall flat.
The key to this part of the strategy is to communicate that this part should be flexible.
Engineering hours should always be allocated for bug fixes and larger projects to resolve any major issues.
Reporting on success for your technical SEO at an enterprise level can vary.
If reporting on revenue increase, estimate an overall .5 or full position improvement for the main domain resulting in an increase in CTR and therefore a revenue boost from the additional traffic.
I have found some organizations I work for like to state that the technical SEO fixes fall under a simple “keep the lights on” (same as stress testing and general engineering processes) and therefore won’t need any key performance results.
Whatever you decide to add for projects or checklists, I highly recommend including this in your strategy, no matter how well (or how bad) your site’s foundation is.
Google Search Console & Bing Reported Issues
500 errors, soft 404s, AMP issues, structured data issues, crawl rate, etc. All of these should be checked regularly and addressed quickly if anything should come up.
Crawl Reports: Content & Bug Fixes
Hopefully, your organization has crawling tools to report on issues that Google or Bing won’t tell you.
Similar or duplicate content, non-compliant URLs, canonical issues, internal linking issues, etc., should all fall under fixes just as GSC and Bing reported issues do.
Page Speed Improvements
While page speed is important for SEO, it is also important for conversion improvements.
If your organization has conversion optimization, or user experience team(s) this is a good opportunity to line with additional teams to gain more exposure and prioritize any fixes identified to improve page speed.
I will usually identify pages (or sets of pages) that have good SEO value but tend to be slow and determine a KPI to a specific time at the “time to interact” (TTI) level.
If your company doesn’t have AMP, this is a good opportunity to set a strategy on which pages should have AMP counterparts.
If you have AMP, they will most likely need improvements, or could need some fixes within the year.
Allocate time under a strategy that defines where the pages are at, and what work needs to get done with AMP.
Every organization is different, so add any issues you have now or could potentially see when search engines update their algorithms or update their guidelines.
By allocating engineering time for technical SEO this will avoid any discussion on prioritizing and fighting for resources later in the year ensuring the work will get done, and the site will see improvements from SEO work by the end of the year.
Playing “whack a mole” alone doesn’t work for enterprise SEO.
Planning for larger strategies that focus on growth potential will show your organization that you can impact the business in a positive way with SEO.
Understanding trends, new position opportunities (discovery, answer boxes, etc.) and keywords being searched by your target audience is key.
At Nordstrom, my team met with the buyers that were identifying fashion trends each season. We would look at up and coming designers, brands that were trending hot, and new style trends that were hitting the market.
My SEO team used reports to see what people were searching, which helped us target those terms and related terms (for neural matching) and generate pages for them that the merchandising team added products for.
At Groupon, we used local search trends with popular things to do, trendy food and restaurants, etc.
GitHub focuses on terms that emphasize the security provided, CI/CD workflows, project management tools, and many other related terms.
If you don’t know what to optimize for at the start of the year, define a strategy called “seasonal trends” or “food trends” that allocate time from resources needed to optimize when you are ready to define them.
Reporting of growth opportunities is probably easier than the other strategies you will have in your SEO plan.
With a simple keyword analysis you’ll be able to:
- Estimate impressions from search volume (use the percentage of the search volume based on potential rankings not the entire search volume number).
- Calculate click-through rate based on estimated position (use your current CTR report per average position).
- Calculate revenue based on current revenue per visit overall (or specifically for the pages you’re improving for a more accurate number).
For Discovery and Answer box, use your current numbers and estimate a percentage increase in traffic, then revenue.
Look at any low-hanging fruit with gap reports that you could gain some potential.
Some possibilities for improvement that should be easy to include:
- Terms that you get rankings for that have a high search volume but the page isn’t monetizing well.
- Pages that have high impressions and the position is on the second page.
New Keyword Search Trends
This is where your trends come into play. Set a strategy around new opportunities that could get you ahead of the competition.
Keyword discovery plays an important role in search.
Google and Bing are anticipating what a user wants before they search.
If your site isn’t optimized for this, then you’re missing out.
Answer Box Opportunities
Answer boxes have been around for a while now and have proven to be lucrative for SEO.
Sites that have taken the time to optimize and monetize this position are winning at the SEO game.
Neural Matching Optimization
Google is releasing updates around the neural matching algorithm regularly.
What does this mean for enterprise SEO?
Focusing on user intent more so than just optimizing a page for a keyword is becoming more important to your success.
Chances are that at an enterprise level, the site has been optimized for SEO in the past and needs some updating.
Given that this is an improvement on what already exists, you can estimate a slight increase to the existing pages, or focus on pages that might have dropped from the various updates.
Current Content Adjustments
Take a look at pages that are doing well in impressions, position, and revenue and revisit them to ensure that synonyms are mentioned on the pages.
New Content Synonyms & Internal Linking Strategy
Write articles and blog posts on related terms and link to those pages to keep them at the top of the results throughout the year.
Having this in your strategy will show your key stakeholders that you are keeping up with the latest SEO trends and will stay ahead of the competition throughout the year.
One aspect that sets enterprise SEO from the small or medium businesses is that within a larger organization there are multiple teams that deal with SEO.
Weeding through the bureaucracy and red tape that it takes to get any SEO work done is the enterprise SEO’s main role.
Determining a strategy of communication across these teams will guarantee support and that work will get done within the year.
Establishing improvements to report against with regards to communication can be tricky.
If your company has tools like BrightEdge or Conductor you can reference usage reports or dashboard access as a key performance indicator.
If you don’t have such tools available grab a report on how many meetings you have each month with each team, or use reports on SEO revenue for each vertical you communicate with.
Determining subject matter experts (SMEs) within each team you work with will make your life easier in the long run.
If you don’t have people you work with now, make it your strategy to establish who these people are and how you plan to educate and/or communicate with them.
Engineering holds the keys to the castle and if you don’t have a working relationship with the team you won’t get your work done.
If you need to focus on product or project managers to get to engineering then be sure to outline that in your strategy.
Key Stakeholder Communication
Enterprise SEOs need executives and key stakeholders across the organization in order to help prioritize SEO as the business level.
Oftentimes, you will hear teams say “The business sets the priorities” when you ask why something isn’t getting done, or why your project moved down in the queue.
If you have buy-in from the business then your SEO projects won’t fall down.
Coming into enterprise corporations on numerous occasions I have found that this part of the strategy often gets overlooked or isn’t documented.
By defining what it is your plan to do throughout the year to keep communication flowing, the overall health of SEO for the site and for the business will continue to grow.
Team and Tools
Another key aspect of the enterprise corporation is establishing a good SEO team with clear roles and responsibilities, along with an agency and/or consultant to assist in work and help champion SEO with reporting and crawl tools.
All of these play an integral part in the overall success of SEO within a larger organization.
Reporting on key performance improvements can be a bit tricky because it doesn’t directly relate to revenue.
However, by having a solid strategy, you can show improvements in efficiency and overall growth from SEO that will affect the bottom line.
Agencies and Consultants
If you don’t have an agency or a consultant to help you with your enterprise SEO, I highly recommend you find a good one.
Check your ego at the door by taking advantage of the extra help and the back-up expertise when you find other teams challenge your recommendations.
Setting a strategy on finding an agency and/or consultant is key, and once you have one be sure to have a solid plan to utilize them throughout the year.
As your SEO will grow throughout the year it’s good to have a plan for new hires that can assist with the additional work.
In The 4 Pillars of Enterprise SEO Success, you can learn more about the key aspects of enterprise SEO success.
Falling in line with the strategic recommendations in this chapter, your hires can take on each aspect as a specialization and turn into team leads as you grow.
If you avoid thinking hierarchy and lean more towards roles and responsibilities, then your enterprise SEO will benefit and your team will be a strong unit in the long run.
Reporting and Crawling Tool(s)
Whether you have tools and need to review and maximize current costs (I managed to cut the SEO budget by including a tool review one year by $600,000) or you need to add new tools, it’s important to list them as part of your strategy.
If you’re adding tools that you didn’t have before, and need to justify the spend, this is a good time to say this is a team efficiency improvement as a KPI.
By including the above three in your strategy, it will help you to get buy-in from finance for headcount and the costs associated with the added costs.
While you aren’t spending money on advertising that your SEM counterparts do, this is where your overhead comes into play.
Your return on investment will still be much higher than any paid advertising channel, so document what you need and fight for the budget.
A complete strategy that encompasses all of the latest SEO strategies, as well as organizational team growth and improvements, will provide a holistic view of the role SEO plays within the organization resulting in overall growth for the business.
Featured Image Credit: Paulo Bobita