Enterprise SEO: What You Need to Know to Be Successful
The web is more crowded, competitive, and complex than ever before. With companies operating remotely and relying heavily on doing business digitally, the dependence on the web for business-critical functions has soared.
Keyword-focused search engine optimization (SEO) doesn't cut it anymore. A complete approach to SEO is crucial to support everything. The SEO strategy needs to include content creation, marketing, sales, customer service, product knowledge, and subject matter experts (SMEs) from across the enterprise.
Before diving in, you'll want to understand the definition of SEO. Eric Franzon, Diamond's in-house SEO expert, defines SEO as the practice of altering a website's content for improved discovery, visibility, and use. Discovery refers to your content being found. Anyone with vague familiarity with SEO starts with the assumption that they want their viewers and customers to find their content.
But there's a step that has to happen before that. Search engines need to find your content before your customers. Then, the visibility part of the equation enters the picture. And that is people looking for information. You need to think about how, where, and when your content is being served to searchers.
Here's how your enterprise can create a more effective and scalable SEO strategy to boost your bottom line. The first step is to determine where it belongs in your organization chart.
Where Does the SEO Belong on the Enterprise Organization Chart?
The team responsible for SEO varies greatly between organizations. At Comcast Xfinity, SEO falls under digital marketing. Laura Lippay, Comcast Xfinity SEO Consultant, explains the SEO team encompasses both Comcast Business Xfinity and mobile. They split it up between content SEOs and technical SEOs. They also have a writer who focuses on SEO.
Ulli Muenker, senior manager of SEO at Thomson Reuters, says SEO falls under product at her company. However, this is unusual. Thomson Reuters has three SEO employees spread out by segment or business unit.
While it may be uncommon, Lippay mentions that she believes product is actually the best place. While she was at Netflix, she was under engineering while working closely with product. The product was the website, so it worked well. SEO's place on the organization chart depends on how things are set up, and there really isn't a one-size-fits-all answer on where it should fall. It's all about finding a place that aligns with your organization's goals and structure.
Still, product often has governance over marketing, development, and accessibility. All these things go into the product. Hence, it's important to have their attention even if you're not on the team.
Lippay has also been on SEO teams that fell under marketing and engineering. SEO staffers collaborate with everyone and they make it work. The reason product works well is because of the accountability of sitting on product that governs other teams and gets things done. SEO also makes sense under marketing. Muenker agrees.
Franzon engages with different parts of the enterprise of Diamond's clients. He works with content creators and engineers to figure out the best ways to implement SEO throughout the enterprise. He takes a holistic and multidisciplinary approach by interfacing with as many departments as possible to ensure the client gets comprehensive, successful results.
Truly, every enterprise is different in where it places the SEO team. And who manages SEO? Some companies hire agencies. Some have an in-house team. Some use both.
Which Is Better for SEO? An Agency or In-House?
When you hire an agency, you can hold them accountable. Although, they may have too much on their plates depending on the number of clients they manage. With agencies, you don't have visibility into how many hours are devoted to your project compared to an in-house team.
The advantage of working in-house is that you have a budget. You know what you're spending on SEO. If there's extra money in the budget, you can use that to consult with an outside agency. As a member of a large team at NBCUniversal, SEO Specialist Jordan Quaglietta believes this is the best approach.
It can be cheaper to start with an agency. Doing this when you're just starting on SEO can help make a business case for SEO and building an in-house team down the line. Additionally, a consultant can provide expertise to verify things and make suggestions. Agencies can bring fresh eyes and a lot of value to the table.
So, which is better? It's not black or white. Every situation is different. In-house has the advantage of institutional knowledge and direct access to the different parts of the enterprise. However, with in-house teams, it can be easy to fall into the "it's always been done that way" trap. Nonetheless, if you do choose to work with an agency, you will want an in-house champion who can run interference with the agency.
"Your SEO is going to touch all the different parts of your business," Franzon says. "Don't be afraid to include people in the house; just be prepared for a conversation at the beginning to make sure everybody's on the same page. It's most effective when you get everybody on board and when everybody is really focused on those business goals."
Should you choose to go with an agency, Muenker advocates looking for one that has experience in your industry. They'll get up to speed faster. Another option is to go in-house and hire from within.
If you decide to opt for in-house, find someone who is comfortable speaking and can get others excited about SEO. This person needs to be confident in meetings and able to manage the disruption that comes with starting a new initiative. This type of person knows how to connect well with others to move things forward. If you go this route, bring in an agency that can help you train that person to become an expert.
After you have an idea of where to put SEO and whether to hire outside or in-house, how do you get the ball rolling with SEO? It's a behemoth in the enterprise.
Where to Start with a Beast of an SEO in the Enterprise?
The SEO team needs data and clear business goals. What is the enterprise trying to achieve? What story does the data tell on how to get there? Identify the pain points, areas of opportunities, and clues for where to look. Identify the teams that are involved in the data and SEO, which teams can be accessed, and build it from there.
When the SEO program is new, it's easier to get started, advises Lippay. Talk to the developers. Talk to the PR team. Learn how sales is involved. Look in different places. This also applies if you're trying to grow an existing in-house SEO program. Who is the team already working with? How are they accomplishing things that will drive growth?
In terms of knowing what kinds of SEO people to hire, pinpoint the problem areas. For example, if the biggest problems or weak areas are in technical SEO, hire a tech SEO person. If SEO is running on the technical side, but no one is doing strategy or editorial, then you need someone with an editorial background.
Additionally, you want to set up reporting that answers questions from different layers. The reports will help people understand the impact of their work on the SEO efforts.
"Data is very useful because you can find weaknesses you can see on some templates, but not on others," says Muenker. "Then you explore processes like, why? Why is this type of template weaker or not as strong SEO as this? What is there in the process where SEO is not considered that certain teams aren't strong in SEO?"
All that said, the key is having enough data available to review. Is the enterprise tracking the data across all their properties? Typically, they're not. Joe Devon, Diamond co-founder, recommends launching there, doing an audit, analyzing the data, and building a plan. Next, do a review of the timing for SEO.
How Do Timelines Factor into Enterprise SEO?
Some content and pages have a sunrise and a sunset date. This is particularly true in media with licensed and seasonal content. For example, Diamond worked on "American Idol." You have the break between seasons. The show will want to ramp up before the next season starts. How do you retain the fanbase's attention in between seasons?
That's why it's important to keep moving and engage the fans during the off-season. Lippay shares what her team did at Netflix. The team would launch a page with little information on it. Maybe it would have a title and who's producing it. Maybe some box art.
The SEO team would then team up the with press release team to do things to outrank sites like IMDb and Wikipedia. PR would then provide a link in the announcement. Netflix would have a page before everyone else, giving them a head start on rankings. By this point, journalists would pick up on the PR and copy it along with the links. This helps the show's Netflix page gain backlinks from publications.
This all goes to show that it's possible to maintain fanbase interest over time. Take AMC's "Better Call Saul," for example. The show is currently in its longest offseason; There has not been a new episode in more than 18 months. As of this writing, it may be almost two years between seasons. Yet, AMC successfully continues to engage fans.
Usually, it takes months for search engines to discover your content and for you to see the effects of that. But there are exceptions in terms of temporality. A show like "American Idol" can't wait months for search engines to serve up what fans seek. Search engines will ramp up faster.
Think about it. When people know another season is coming, they'll start searching. They want to know who's going to be on the show and when will it start, among other things. Perhaps the host has left the show and they want to know who's taking over. When search engines are hit with a lot of queries about the show, it'll speed up SEO.
Enterprises publish the information by putting a lot of structured data behind it in an authoritative way. This is where they push out to search engines identifying themselves as the owner or publisher of the show. When they build up authority and trust with search engines prior to the season or episode, they're going to have better success with whatever data they push out.
How Do Accessibility and SEO Work Together?
Think about search engines. They're bots without eyes and ears. The search engines crawl the web looking for signals, tagging, and structures. That said, accessibility and SEO have a lot in common in that they are optimizing for the enterprise's audience. They're both optimizing for the same tags, such as H2 and title tags.
Unfortunately, many SEO professionals pack keywords or use H1 tags in a way they shouldn't be used. In times like this, they won't play well together. But that's due to the SEO team's efforts, not accessibility's.
"The one thing I really love about the accessibility team, if you are lucky enough to have an accessibility team at your company, is that what they're doing on that team is really, genuinely, honestly for good," Lippay says. "And it makes me really just proud to that we have something like that. And in some companies, not everybody has it."
Quaglietta advises packing your structured data with information that may not be obvious to search engine crawlers. This includes full body text, information on video, closed captioning, or anything of that nature. It should reflect well on accessibility.
SEO touches all parts of your business. Be prepared for a conversation at the beginning of any SEO effort to ensure everyone is on the same page. "It's most effective when you get everybody on board and when everybody is really focused on those business goals," says Franzon.
The information in this article was sourced from Diamond webinar, "A Comprehensive Approach to Enterprise."
Special thanks to our panelists: