Enterprise SEO: How to Fix a Big Company’s Bad SEO

When it comes to building an effective SEO strategy, big companies face a lot of roadblocks. Discover the proven framework, key metrics, and best tools that will help you restore or design an effective enterprise SEO strategy.
August 15, 2016

Whether it’s juggling multiple websites, confronting a lack of resources, poor scaling, or attempting to align the ambitions of marketers with the abilities of its content teams, it can be easy for big companies to lose sight of why they are working to improve SEO in the first place. (Reminder: Nearly 90% of consumers begin the buying process with a search engine. That’s a pretty good reason.)

tools for enterprise seo

But building—or fixing—an effective enterprise SEO campaign doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Educate yourself, educate your C-suite and your team, and then diagnose or build your strategy one step at a time.

Critical Foundations: Embrace the Modern SEO Framework

SEO is a constantly evolving concept. Though it’s easy to invest considerable time and effort into “SEO work,” focusing on the wrong parts of SEO yields minimal impact.

The CMO’s Guide to Modern SEO includes a detailed look at how this framework leads to meaningful, impactful SEO campaigns.

When it comes to building an effective SEO strategy, big companies face a lot of roadblocks.

In the early days of SEO, companies focused on technical tricks and tactics in attempts to boost search engine rankings. Today, though technical SEO still has its place, SEO requires a new mindset.

Search engines revolve around positive user experiences, which means improving SEO has to become more about improving UX. We call this “engagement SEO.” Engagement SEO centers on creating the most helpful, popular, and engaging content.

Enterprise-level organizations are notoriously difficult to pivot, however, which is why we find that most struggling enterprise SEO has to do—first and foremost—with this mindset shift. Modern SEO has to focus on the user, not the search engine.

Get Executive Buy-in

SEO is not PPC. You cannot just flip a switch and turn it on. Launching an SEO program that drives real results requires the support of the entire executive team—from approving a pragmatic budget, to understanding exactly how SEO works—because SEO needs several months of investment before it starts to pay off. Brands that have a hard time with SEO almost always lack buy-in from the very top.

Earning executive buy-in starts by demonstrating the true ROI of modern SEO. Simply “increasing rankings,” is not a meaningful goal to the C-suite. In general terms, the value of good SEO is hard to dispute:

Reports like these are good foundations, but to really get an executive team onboard, you need to demonstrate the value and the urgency of SEO to your brand. That takes a little bit of research and forecasting, but can illustrate a powerful point.

    1. Start by isolating the top 10 keyword families for your business. Determine which terms are core to your product and/or solution, used commonly by your audience, and have the potential to drive significant value for your company.

    2. Conduct preliminary user intent research. Study search results, talk to sales and customer service representatives, and listen to your social media audience. Determine what questions your target market has about your industry or product, what words and phrases they are using to express those questions, and what they want to find when they type your target keywords into search engines—information or products?

    3. Outline a content strategy based on the needs of your market. Even an initial round of user intent research will reveal what kind(s) of content your audience is looking for, and how they are looking for it. All that remains is to identify what your brand needs to create, how you are going to execute it, and what the potential response—based on search demand, current CTR and goal completion rates, etc.—will be.

Another often-effective sidebar strategy is showing how your brand and your top competitors rank for your target keywords. Your brand’s ranking alone isn’t always compelling to the C-suite, because they want to know how SEO is going to impact revenue. But if your primary rival is ranking ahead of your brand, a simple screen capture can sometimes ignite all kinds of passion for SEO.

However you do it, and however long it takes, executive buy-in is crucial for your SEO strategy. You need the C-suite on your side if you’re going to build a team, improve your brand’s overall SEO focus, and build a strategy that both draws on and benefits the entire organization.

Build a Cross-Functional Team

In organizations where SEO doesn’t seem to work, we find that it has often been isolated to one corner of the marketing department. No single department, especially in an enterprise, can lead a winning SEO strategy on its own.

Successful SEO improves a brand’s digital presence and overall authority, which impacts nearly every aspect of the organization. As such, it’s important to align a variety of internal teams to execute truly effective SEO. An SEO team that produces real results will include representatives from:

  • Marketing—including content, social media, print, and events teams
  • Sales
  • Customer service, support, and/or success teams
  • PR
  • Web design and development
  • IT
  • Product marketing

With the C-suite anxious to get started, your next step is to get the SEO team assembled and excited about the opportunities they get to work on.

  • Establish an SEO lead. It’s true that no one department can be responsible for a great SEO effort, but someone does have to own it—even if you’re working with an outside SEO agency. Find someone who already has his hands on a lot of the content strategy, knows about digital marketing, and demonstrates some natural leadership abilities.
  • Teach them some basic SEO. Even if someone’s role is mostly supervisory or consulting, make sure the entire team has a modern understanding of SEO. Send a series of emails, create a Facebook group, host regular coffee breaks—whatever works best for your team. Help them understand how SEO benefits their departments, and how it relies on their departments as well.
  • Celebrate the wins. Share wins with the entire team, point out how those wins are helping the company, and defer credit for them to the appropriate department and/or team member. Keeping SEO progress in front of the entire team will help keep them engaged and more SEO-focused.

The rapid evolution of search engines has uprooted SEO best practices time and time again, and requires more than one team member to keep up with pace. More than any other digital marketing category, it is important for SEO team members to embrace an attitude of constant learning and willful collaboration.

Foster a Creative, Learning Atmosphere

Every marketing outlet changes as the market evolves, but none perhaps more so than SEO. In addition to changing consumer and buyer expectations, search engines are constantly updating their algorithms to provide better, more fine-tuned results for their users. The pace of change in search engines has uprooted SEO “best practices” time and again over the last 15 years.

Staying nimble can be difficult for enterprise organizations, which is why some struggle to stay up-to-date with modern SEO strategies. The SEO manager needs to foster an atmosphere of constant learning and creativity within your SEO team.

Even after the team is established and functioning smoothly, keep those emails and/or coffee breaks going. Make sure part of that time/space is reserved for SEO industry updates, creative brainstorming, and reviewing metrics related to recent efforts.

Identify the Right Metrics

SEO has the ability to generate a lot of metrics, and it is easy to lose sight of the forest for the proverbial trees. Many times, an enterprise struggles with creating and maintaining a meaningful SEO campaign because its team is monitoring the wrong metrics.

There is a lot of data you could look at, but the metrics that matter are the ones that tie SEO to the bottom line. A modern SEO strategy should be based on three core metrics:

    1. Keyword ranking—Ranking is an important SEO metric, but should also only be considered and reported to the C-suite in a big-picture, long-term framework. Ranking changes should be monitored in light of factors like personalization, position, keyword volume and importance, and more.

    2. Traffic from organic search—A step up from monitoring rankings is monitoring actual traffic from organic search. In general, increases in organic search traffic indicate that an SEO campaign is working.

    3. Conversions and ROI from organic search—Revenue is the ultimate metric, so make sure you are monitoring conversions from organic search. Monitor all conversions—from downloads to purchases—and multi-touch attributions.

Other metrics may be important to your executive team, or to the progress of your SEO team specifically. Those will vary by industry and brand, but start with the big three above.

Choose the Right Enterprise SEO Tools

There are usually two kinds of people in a hardware store: the ones who love tools and the ones who need a specific tool for a project. The former probably has a garage full of tools and is constantly creating busywork in order to justify their purchases. The later more likely has a modest collection, a house in good shape, and time for other things.

The same is true of SEO tools. The right tools can help you measure and analyze the right metrics, keeping your team and your SEO strategies on-track. The wrong tools will create a lot of unnecessary maintenance and probably inspire a lot of unproductive SEO work.

If your SEO is struggling, don’t start shopping for tools until you identify the right metrics. With accurate KPIs in hand, you can choose the tools to fix your actual problems:

  • On-page SEO—If your CTR is struggling, or you have reason to believe that on-page SEO needs some help, try the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress or DeepCrawl.
  • Keywords and organic traffic—If your team is having a hard time understanding and applying organic traffic data and trends, look into SEOmonitor (our personal favorite), SEMrush, or AuthorityLabs.
  • Content—If you need help generating content ideas or maintaining a calendar, check out BuzzSumo or Trello.
  • Links—If your SEO team can’t readily identify where links are coming from, if you’re building high-quality links, or what links the team should be targeting, see if a tool like Ahrefs or Majestic can help.

There are a lot of shiny SEO tools out there that do some pretty cool tricks, but remember to start with the metrics. The right tool will help solve the problems your analytics uncover. The wrong tool will create SEO busywork that doesn’t drive the metrics that matter.

Differentiate Between Branded and Non-Branded Traffic

Many enterprise companies look at their organic traffic numbers and believe their SEO is doing better than it actually is, because they are not separating branded from non-branded traffic. On closer review, we often find that the majority of enterprise-level organic traffic is branded, which does not accurately reflect the value or impact of an SEO campaign.

  • Branded organic traffic reflects visits to your site from searches that include the brand name. “Nike shoes” and “Profound Strategy marketing” are branded search terms.
  • Non-branded organic traffic demonstrates visits to your site from queries that do not include the brand name. “Running shoes” and “best SEO ever” are non-branded search terms.

Branded organic traffic is not bad. Climbing branded traffic data indicates improving brand awareness, which is a great analytics insight and something every marketer loves to see.

But branded organic traffic doesn’t tell you how your SEO is working, because those aren’t your target keywords. If a user searches your brand name, he or she will find you. Your SEO campaign should be delivering your website for non-branded terms—when users are searching for your product or services in general.

Failing to separate branded from non-branded traffic produces false SEO data, and makes it impossible for marketers to diagnose and improve their SEO efforts. If your SEO metrics seem to show growth but overall revenue doesn’t, make sure your team is pulling the branded search data out of the set.

Build Reporting to Decode “(Not Provided)” Keyword Data

The difficulty with removing branded traffic data from the overall organic traffic set is that it doesn’t leave you with much these days. Since 2013, Google has been hiding keyword data from marketers behind the much-despised “(not provided).” For enterprise organizations, this segment can represent a lot of data … that most marketers can’t decipher.

But there is a way to get that data back, by combining Google Analytics metrics with Google Search Console Data:

  1. In Search Console, view the full list of keywords that drove traffic to your site.
  2. In Analytics, segment organic traffic by landing page.
  3. Using the landing pages as common threads, connect the keyword clicks from Search Console with sessions, revenue, and conversions from Analytics.
  4. Divide the total number of sessions for each landing page by the number of clicks each keyword generated. Then, divide the sessions by conversions, then revenue.

Both tools have an API that will allow you to extract the data you need. Or, you can use a tool like SEOmonitor that will automate this entire process for you.

Keywords and user intent insight are crucial for any successful SEO campaign. If your team is struggling with keyword data, make sure they are set up to get as much accurate information as possible.

Build an Effective Enterprise SEO Strategy

SEO is a big project for any organization. And as search becomes more and more important in almost every industry and vertical (both B2B and B2C), the stakes become higher in parallel. All of that becomes compounded in an enterprise, where there are more decision makers to consult, more teams involved, more competitors in the space, and more revenue at stake.

Whether you’re finally kickstarting a serious SEO strategy, or trying to fix a faltering effort, start by making sure your SEO philosophy is up to date. (Pro tip: You can get even more of all this good stuff in our new ebook, The CMO’s Guide to Modern SEO.) Then, make sure you have executive buy-in before you start mobilizing people or re-energizing efforts.

With the right framework, the right people on-board, and the right goals and tools, your enterprise SEO can grow your company’s bottom line and make Marketing a force to be reckoned with in your organization.

Nate Dame
CEO and Founder
Nate is the founder and CEO of Profound Strategy, a results-oriented SEO consultancy trusted by forward-thinking companies, including a few of the world's largest B2B and technology brands. Profound Strategy builds holistic SEO strategies, supports internal teams, and offers full-service execution to create an organic search presence that generates significant revenue.

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