“Captain’s log, Starship EnterpriseSEO, Stardate 20161122. Soon after entering the Bigbrand system we receive a distress call from a planet in the inner revenue-generating belt. Rankings and traffic were down seriously. We proceeded at impulse power with all due caution.”
If you’re involved in enterprise SEO, you may sometimes feel like you’re a red-shirt crew member beamed down to a hostile planet. (For you non-Trekkies, in the original Star Trek series, the red-uniformed crew members seemed to always get killed first.)
To be successful in SEO at the enterprise level takes more than expert knowledge of technical SEO. You have to be prepared to navigate internal authority structures, inter-departmental politics, and the tendency of humans to resist what they don’t understand. To help with all of that, Eric Enge wrote a summary of key insights from three highly-experienced SEOs at major companies. In this post I will expand on the seven strategies he recommended at the end of that article.
1. Educate, educate, educate
Ignorance is your enemy, so take every opportunity to help people understand SEO better. Spend time educating tech people, marketing people, product people, management and nearly anyone you can find who will listen.
[Tweet “Enterprise SEOs need to help educate their companies about SEO. Find out why at”]
How do you do that? Here are some suggestions:
- Start an in-house newsletter about SEO. Write briefly about one topic in each newsletter, and also include links to good resources for further study. Also, include news of any successes or gains your SEO efforts have had for the company.
- Create an in-service or workshop, either one-off or as a series. Maybe do a “lunch and learn” with good food as an incentive to attend.
Education is a critical part of the plan, but don’t forget to continuously dig up examples of what SEO can do, and sell the value of your craft.
[Tweet “Enterprise SEOs should seek to become SEO evangelists in their own companies. Find out why at “]
Where can you do that? In addition to the suggestions for education given above:
- Keep a log or journal of all your SEO success stories so you have them at hand when it’s appropriate to share them.
- Keep a list of case studies from other companies that you can use to support your ideas.
- Ask for an opportunity to attend a staff meeting in each department from which you need cooperation to present how SEO has and/or can benefit their mission.
- Look for informal opportunities to share the benefits of SEO in conversations with key stakeholders.
3. Bring data and proof points
Data is your friend, so make as much use of it as you can to help with your education and evangelism efforts.
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Obviously to bring the data you must have the data. Spend time investing in and improving your data collection and analytics. Develop dashboards that give you instant access when questions come up. Show yourself to be on top of the SEO situation for your organization.
4. Establish clear KPIs
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While data is good, so is establishing clear ways to define what success in your job looks like, and then, clear ways to measure it. Then, of course, make sure to hit those goals.
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The idea here is not only to establish KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for your own benefit, but also get buy-in on them from other key stakeholders. In particular, you should share and explain your KPIs to any upper-management above you, and secure their agreement that they represent how your efforts should be judged. Then regularly report on those KPIs to those people.
5. Build relationships
All of these things are helped by having strong relationships. Socialize with people, buy them lunches, beers, talk family, sports, whatever it takes.
[Tweet “Enterprise SEOs should spend time building relationships in their company and industry. Find out why at”]
This may be the most important of these seven strategies. We SEOs tend to be technical, geeky sorts. I’m not saying we’re anti-social! But our profession does tend to attract people who assume that just providing data and results is enough to get cooperation and support.
The truth is that business, even at the enterprise level, is always a profoundly human endeavor. People will be more open to ideas and proposals from people they feel they know and like. Make sure you get away from your monitor every so often and get to know the people who have a hand in how much SEO matters at your company.
6. Be technical
…or be able to bring in technical help with ease.
SEO professionals inevitably need to speak with developers, and this goes most easily if you’re technical yourself. If you aren’t, make sure you have a tech person who is by your side whenever you get into those dialogues.
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Set a goal of becoming the indispensable SEO expert in your company. But also seek to learn more about areas that touch upon what you do. Eric gave the example of interfacing with developers. If you can show that you understand some of the challenges that your developers might face in trying to implement changes you want, you stand a better chance of getting empathy from them, causing them to be more open to your recommendations.
Another example might be content and social media. If you’re a savvy SEO, you know these days that those areas can contribute greatly to your own success. Just as with the developers, having familiarity with the needs, goals, and unique challenges of the departments that handle those areas can help you create better pitches for cooperative efforts.
7. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Last, but not least, keep on communicating. That means listening at least as much as you talk, and then being very effective with each of the things that you have to say.
[Tweet “Enterprise SEOs must be as good at communication as they are at technical SEO. Find out why at”]
It’s natural to get fixated on your own needs and goals. You know the value of SEO; you know what it could do for the enterprise if only people in power and/or other departments listened to you. But to gain those opportunities you have to first be willing to really listen to those people and gain an understanding of their needs and goals. That way, you can craft your recommendations as a win/win for you and them. If they can see that what you propose will further their interests, they are far more likely to give you a fair shake.
Also, choose your battles wisely. Of course, you see everything you want to do in SEO as important! However, if you speak as if everything is a crisis, everything must be implemented, and as soon as possible, your recommendations may begin to fall on deaf ears. Prioritize what you want to go after and start with those things where you have a sense you will most likely get buy-in for.
While all SEO is technically the same, the unique challenges and opportunities for SEO at the enterprise level stand out. On the one hand, the enterprise SEO has resources at hand that his colleagues in smaller operations lust after. On the other hand, the political, interpersonal, and organizational hurdles are magnified exponentially.
The wise enterprise SEO will implement strategies like those above to maximize the chances of success. If you’re an SEO at the enterprise level, what strategies have you employed successfully to forward your initiatives?
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