Developing and executing SEO strategies across large enterprises can often prove to be a difficult challenge. In many cases, those responsible for search marketing are comprised of a small team of people with the hopes, desires, and knowledge to improve the company's bottom line. However, they are met with many obstacles ranging from limited resources, budgets, and an overall lack of knowledge and understanding from other departments. In order to receive buy-in, build momentum, and show positive growth that the SEOs know is possible, there are three critical steps to take in order to foster an enterprise-wide adoption of SEO.
Educate the Masses
Often in large enterprises, SEO is thought of as some magical fix that only technical people can and should understand. This is far from the truth. While there are many technical aspects of SEO that must be addressed, a large part is comprised of marketing and content development. Sites having thousands and thousands of pages are not feasible to optimize by one person or even just one team. Instead, search marketing teams should focus efforts on developing training materials, presentations, and guidelines that can be taught to content owners. System-enabled SEO, like the features available in some content management systems, and quality gates can take you to the next level. Empowering the "content supply chain" to put at least basic levels of SEO in place from the ground up will allow for a more scalable approach and faster results.
Develop the Bigger Picture
Although the search team may spend the time developing and conducting training sessions on best SEO practices, there are still challenges. A common challenge in enterprise SEO is developing the bigger picture so that content owners and IT resources understand why they should bother with SEO on top of all of their other responsibilities, as well as how what they do can affect others. Creating the open lines of communication and thought process is critical to seeing maximum SEO benefit and driving business value. Content owners must strive to minimize content and keyword overlap while IT resources need to consciously consider how certain changes can affect their websites. What could be considered a simple change, such as taking a page down without redirecting, can have serious consequences on traffic and conversions. It's up to the search marketing team to advocate these streams of thought and communication in order to stop the tunnel vision and potentially negative effects.
Hold People Accountable
No matter how much education the search marketing team provides, there are always those who either refuse, or feel they are too busy to be concerned with the details of SEO. To combat that mentality, it's extremely important to frame the benefits of SEO in the context of conversion and revenue, or "business value," and then to put processes in place that will hold everyone accountable for the "performance" of their content and the site as a whole. This should be driven from the top down. After all, the goal of SEO is the same as the CEO's - constant improvement of the bottom line. Whether it's tying bonuses to organic-driven revenue, developing checklists that must be followed and reviewed for content development, requiring regular reviews of traffic and conversion performance, or a combination of all of these, people must be held accountable.
The success of organizations' SEO efforts truly does come down to everyone working together toward a common goal. When you show that this common goal is "business value" (whether that be traffic, leads, or revenue), you bypass many of the organizational obstacles. With so many moving parts, it's simply not feasible to think that one person or one team can do it all alone. The quicker organizations realize this and begin putting these three practices into place, the more successful they will become. What other strategies and processes do you use to foster a greater adoption of SEO throughout your organization?
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Crispin Sheridan is the Senior Director, Global Search at SAP. As part of the digital team, he established and leads the search and testing practices at SAP. Crispin is responsible for paid, natural, and mobile search and all online testing. Search and testing at SAP are fully centralized and globally funded and run under a hybrid in-house and agency model.
Crispin has proven that search learnings and keyword insights work hand in hand with social media marketing and together can effectively drive B2B lead generation. Furthermore, the development of the SAP.com Test Lab has contributed significant success to SAP's digital marketing efforts.
A frequent guest speaker at conferences, including SES New York, San Francisco, Toronto, London, Delhi, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, Crispin was appointed to the SES Advisory Board in December 2009. He has also been a guest speaker at the e-Metrics Summit and ad:Tech, and is a member of Google's B2B Technology Council. You can follow him on Twitter at @crispinsheridan and read his monthly SEO column on ClickZ.