In my SEO worldview, there is a distinct strategy and playbook for enterprise SEO that is different than what works for general SEO.
Enterprise SEO is generally bucketed with sites that have thousands of pages, dozens of employees, and likely hundreds of thousands to millions of organic search visits per month.
Just like there is a specific nuance and functional expertise required to make local SEO (also very different than general SEO) a success, the same holds true for enterprise SEO.
I have been privileged to have spent most of my career building and implementing strategies for enterprise SEO. I am often approached with questions on how to create a foundation of enterprise SEO in an organization that has never really focused on SEO before or how one should structure SEO from the outset if a company has ambitions of growing a very large site.
This topic likely needs a whole guide, maybe even in a book, but in the next few paragraphs I will lay out the abridged version of what will help any site get started on building enterprise SEO efforts.
1. Technology Stack
Before any thought can be given to building out SEO, the technology in use has to be flexible or customizable to service SEO needs.
The CMS or static page architecture need to have the option to customize metadata like title tags, meta descriptions, headers, photo tagging, structured data, and cross links.
Ideally, this should be able to be done somewhat at scale, so corrections can be released to all pages simultaneously when necessary.
There should be a way to build XML sitemaps and split them into multiple sitemaps when the 50k URL limit is reached. XML sitemaps might not be that useful for crawling and indexation of a small site, but they can be pretty important for sites with tens of thousands of pages.
Additionally, the tech stack serving the web pages need to allow for HTTP headers that follow best practices:
- 301’s for a permanent redirect when moving content.
- 404’s when content is not available.
- 503’s when the site needs to be taken down for maintenance.
2. Architecture & Hierarchy
Regardless of whether this is a brand new site or a site that has been around for many years, building an SEO campaign requires one to plan out how pages will live in a structured hierarchy.
Without a clear framework that can scale to thousands of pages, both users and search crawlers will get confused as the site continues to grow.
Early on in the campaign is the time to think about how folders should be structured and how to prioritize directories in URLs.
This becomes even more important for e-commerce sites that will need to have a clear construction of products that ladder down into refinements and child pages.
Content is a key component of all SEO efforts, but there is an enterprise SEO variation here, too.
Whereas a standard SEO campaign might focus on building dozens of pieces of content targeted at key audiences, enterprise SEO will require hundreds to thousands of articles of content to be created.
The challenge is figuring out how to prioritize the efforts – what ideas should make the list?
One way I like to start on brand new projects is to think about who the audience for my content/products will be and where in the funnel they will be when they discover the content.
This can be a formal personas project or it can just be an ad-hoc process of reverse engineering the search process using keyword tools that map to user intent.
For a site with hundreds of thousands to millions of visits, there are lots of opportunities to test ideas that will actually reach statistical significance.
Testing and experimentation should drive company-wide SEO best practices rather than search blog posts.
Tools like Google Optimize and Visual Website Optimizer can be critical in developing SEO best practices that also drive revenue.
The larger the site and the more employees a company has that are working on user-facing web content, the more failure points there are for SEO efforts.
Without a plan for educating various stakeholders on SEO best practices, all the positive SEO efforts could be like filling a leaky bucket.
Ensure that there is a channel for people to ask questions about SEO, but also set up lunch-and-learns to share out SEO knowledge across the company.
Manual link outreach for key pages might work for smaller sites, but on sites with thousands of pages, this does not scale.
A link building strategy for enterprise SEO will need to focus on how to attract links to hub or category pages rather than specific spoke pages.
Developing a solid internal linking plan is also critical as many pages will never get external links, so internally linking those pages might be the only way to boost their value.
Lastly, depending on the size of the enterprise there might be an in-house PR team or agency on retainers, so the SEO team will want to make sure they are coordinating with this resource to maximize link value.
There are a number of enterprise SEO software packages on the market, but ensure that you clarify what you need out of software before you spring for the tool with a hefty price tag.
Take the time to understand what you will need to research and report on to executives before making a purchase decision.
Tools that are popular with smaller companies like Ahrefs, Screaming Frog, and Stat can work just as well for an enterprise.
Hiring for enterprise SEO is an incredibly hard role to fill. SEO in an enterprise setting will be a very important function and one that leaders would likely want to recruit an experienced hire.
The challenge is that there are just not that many experienced hires that will fit the bill for what most companies want.
A good approach to at least get enterprise SEO off the ground might be to fall back onto an agency or a consultant that has had experience building out SEO efforts in an enterprise.
Done successfully, enterprise SEO has the potential to build one of the most profitable acquisition channels for a company.
However, it also comes along with many potential pitfalls due to all the moving parts.
A successful enterprise SEO effort needs:
- Long-term strategic thinking.
- The creativity to scale SEO into thousands of pages.
- The diplomacy necessary for cross-functional work in a large organization (this one is most important).
I know I only scratched the surface with the foundation above, but it should be enough to point you in the right direction.
More SEO Resources:
- SEO Strategy for Large Companies: Where to Focus
- Why Big Brands Shouldn’t Ignore SEO
- 5 Enterprise-Level Link Building Best Practices