Winning at Enterprise SEO in Asia

Enterprise SEO, which is doing SEO for large organizations with thousands of pages, can be very different from doing it at a small scale. Very often there are many more stakeholders, a more formal process to making changes to the site, and multiple changes happening at once to the site. It all adds up to many more risks and opportunities for SEO.

When I took on my first enterprise SEO role I was surprised when i pulled on my trusty old levers and nothing happened. Going to an editor to get copy written was once a one-step process, now it involved several meetings. This is especially true in APAC where decision-making can sometimes be hampered by hierarchy.

Here is what you can do in your first six months as an enterprise SEO role in Asia – it is all about influence:

SEO hires in Asia are usually made into the marketing department but this is often where they can get sidelined and become ineffectual. As an SEO you need to influence IT, product, editorial, and marketing. Being identified as a member of the marketing team means that the clout you have with IT is suddenly weakened.

In some organizations – especially those doing acquisitions – you could be lucky enough to be hired into strategy/special projects regional team and you could end up reporting to someone with overarching influence in the organization. This can be very beneficial – I remember arguing for hours with the marketing manager at my side with IT about the importance of 301 redirects for a major site relaunch. (Google had already been advising site owners for years about 301s and yet here we were still being questioned about the need to do it –  because of the scale of the effort.)

On the other hand, asking for the same thing was very different when I reported to the COO. There is an argument for SEO to be placed in the product or marketing or IT teams but I believe it should be placed under the most influential department/person whenever possible as this will increase the chance of success.

What if you have no choice? If you are hired into marketing and you have no choice, you can set up a committee of influential people who are tasked with getting SEO off the ground. In this way you have a bird’s eye view of site relaunches and strategic decisions that impact SEO.

It is important to realize that in Asia, IT and product structures are at a different level of maturity compared to Europe/U.S. You can expect the unexpected when it comes to reporting structures – be prepared to be flexible and come up with contingency plans if things are not ideally set up for you.

  • Extend your team. Leverage your team so that it consists of more than you. In Asia, you need as many eyes and ears on the ground as you can manage. I work in an office where six languages are spoken and communication takes more effort and thought. The more supporters you have in each team, the more likely you will see opportunities and risks before they happen.
  • Be seen in the right company. You should make sure you are giving regular briefings from week one to all the senior people from CEO downward. I remember an extreme case where I was asked to create a briefing document for Rupert Murdoch about SEO when I was at News Ltd. Doing this sort of thing will elevate SEO awareness in the organization. On this note, get onto the invite list for product and IT so you know what is going on.
  • Get a peer review system in place. I am always on the lookout for SEO people in other companies that I can rely on to review work pro-bono. Collaborate with non-competitors and refine solutions for SEO together.

Looking back at the enterprise SEO projects I have led there are strong similarities with the change management projects we ran for clients at Accenture. Both involved changes in people’s level of understanding, habits, and KPIs. SEO is often relegated to the role of geekdom but rather than a lone geek you need to operate as a senior advisor helping steer stakeholders in making the right decisions in product, IT, editorial, and marketing.

Max Sim, head of regional digital marketing at JobsDB will speak at a panel session, “Keyword Optimization” on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at SES Singapore.

SEO image on home page via Shutterstock.

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