More pages, more visibility, more problems.
SEO can be challenging enough, but when your pages and links number in the thousands or even millions, it’s a whole new ballgame.
The stakes are higher, and there are more internal stakeholders to satisfy.
Successful enterprise SEO makes a website eclipse the competition in its category and improves online brand perception.
On the flip side, enterprise SEO failures can have a substantial impact on revenue and brand reputation.
A major news story can send a flood of traffic to your site.
A technical issue can tank your products’ ranking in search results.
Plus, there are challenges that are just a matter of scale.
An acquisition can add thousands of pages (and all the problems that come with them) to your site overnight.
And that’s what sets enterprise SEO apart.
The sheer scale and impact of the site’s performance require skills that go well beyond traditional SEO.
What Is An Enterprise Site?
There’s no general consensus on what makes an enterprise site.
But the common thread is that the number of pages on the site, and the impact they have on revenue and the company’s reputation, are key identifiers.
One school of thought says it’s all about the size of the site.
A high volume of pages (1,000+) and brand authority are determining factors for an enterprise site.
A small business like MarketingProfs has less than 50 employees but thousands of pages on its site. Plus, it’s seen as a leading authority for marketing thought leadership.
By this logic, it’s an enterprise site.
There’s another school of thought that says enterprise sites are determined by the size of the organization working on the site.
The logic behind this line of thinking is that, if a business needs a big team to maintain its site, then the site must be important for generating revenue and brand recognition.
Regardless of what school of thought you fall under, all enterprise sites have some things in common:
- The impact of the website on the business’ bottom line and reputation.
- The level of project management and collaboration required to maintain the site.
- The level of automation needed to perform tasks across thousands or millions of pages.
Why Enterprise SEO Matters
Traditional Fixes Don’t Always Work
Enterprise sites are sometimes plagued with problems that seem like obvious, fixable issues. But their complexity makes these “simple” issues much more difficult to fix.
Making changes is like turning a ship.
For instance, you may be tempted to create new pages to replace legacy content.
But you have to consider how those changes will affect the inbound links and domain authority those pages have acquired over time.
That’s the double-edged sword of an enterprise site. They often enjoy all the perks of amazing brand authority.
But they have to be careful not to undermine it while keeping content and SEO fresh.
Sometimes the barrier to change is organizational. It often takes resources from IT, marketing, product, and subject matter experts to execute content improvements.
Enterprise SEOs have to be able to demonstrate the business case for the resources and time needed to make changes.
Another hurdle can be the sheer volume of pages, links, or technical issues that need to be addressed. This is often the case with sites that have a long history.
Depending on the issue, and the circumstances behind it, the cure may be worse than the disease.
Internal Collaboration Is Critical
When a business revolves around its website, there’s bound to be more cooks in the kitchen.
It’s not uncommon to work with stakeholders from purchasing to public relations to maintain an enterprise site.
The site doesn’t just affect the bottom line.
For some employees, it has a direct impact on their job performance.
A category manager in purchasing has a personal stake in whether pages are optimized for her products.
A PR director wants to make sure his press releases are ranking properly in search.
And on the other hand, there may be stakeholders whose actions (or inaction) have an impact on the site’s performance, but they don’t understand the ramifications.
Both challenges require a collaborative, proactive approach to SEO.
Competition Is Stiff
Enterprise sites have to compete with other well-known brands that have sophisticated SEO.
Take Airtel for instance. The company is a leader in the telecom space, but it couldn’t crack the top three search results because both national and local competitors were one step ahead of them.
It took an enterprise SEO strategy – which included optimizing content for 2,000+ keywords and 440 local sites – for the company to beat out its competitors.
The aggressive approach paid off, with 2,100 keywords getting into the top three positions, and a 3,500% increase in traffic from local search queries.
Even well-known brands shouldn’t rest on brand recognition alone to perform well in search.
In fact, Brian McDowell says limited opportunity to capture attention is one of the biggest threats to enterprise ecommerce SEO right now:
“When you have such little real estate, people are going to scroll right past…They’re going to spend a tenth of a second more if there’s an image, a star rating, or availability.”
Schema markup may be basic SEO, but McDowell points out that big brands, such as Best Buy and Target, were slow to adopt the practice.
Online shopping has created enough headaches for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. Failing to keep up with SEO basics can lead to being edged out by younger, less well-known brands with more sophisticated SEO.
Just look at the mobile search results for “40-inch tv:”
The user sees two full product listings and a sliver of the third.
While Best Buy has upped its schema markup game and landed in the first spot, the second listing is a completely unknown brand (to me, at least).
See what I mean about the stakes being high?
What Makes Enterprise SEO Different
On a practical level, enterprise SEO requires more strategy, planning, and patience than regular SEO.
Scalability & Automation
Whether it’s building links or setting up microdata for product listings, the work multiplies exponentially on an enterprise site.
And that number grows even more after a merger, acquisition, or new product launch.
Even with a team of SEOs, doing all of that manually is a poor use of everyone’s time. Enterprise SEO requires tools that enable you to scale and automate SEO tasks.
Local search continues to grow in importance, with 78% of local-based searches resulting in an offline purchase.
For large enterprises with franchises or a branch network, the SERPs should serve up location-specific content in a way that’s consistent with their brand and drives conversions.
And the best way to do that is to use content templates that allow you to answer key user questions: usually addresses, hours, reviews.
That’s what Meineke did to drive a 50% increase in sessions. As one of the biggest auto repair businesses in the country, name recognition wasn’t a problem, but keeping up with the increasing importance of local search was.
The company focused its SEO efforts on “near me” optimization and voice search. The result was a 30% increase in visibility when compared with its two nearest competitors.
Multiple Sites or Subdomains
Many enterprise SEOs have to manage the varying, and sometimes competing, demands of multiple properties while also maintaining some sort of uniformity.
Wayfair is a big enough site on its own, but the parent company actually owns four other ecommerce furniture brands.
Joss & Main, Perigold, AllModern, and Birch Lane sell millions of products each, and Wayfair boasts that it sells 18 million items altogether.
Without a holistic approach to SEO, there’s a lot of potential for duplicate content, keyword cannibalization, and content inconsistency.
The greater the authority, the higher the possibility for bad PR.
Negative news and discussions can quickly dominate branded search results.
Imagine you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and there are over 14,000 searches for your name in a month. Three of the top five results are negative stories that make claims against you that aren’t true.
No matter how good your PR team is, you need a sophisticated SEO strategy to serve up more accurate SERPs.
That’s another aspect of enterprise SEO: undoing the damage caused by unfair claims.
The Fortune 500 CEO story wasn’t hypothetical. It really happened to one of Terakeet’s clients.
To remedy the problem, the agency used a combination of content strategy and technical SEO to highlight the CEO’s accomplishments and demote unfavorable stories.
They also made changes to his personal website, Wikipedia page, and even responded to claims about him in community forums.
Companies with non-enterprise sites get bad press occasionally too. But the impact, and the solution, is typically not as far-reaching.
To Sum Up
The higher the stakes, the more impactful SEO is on a website.
When done well, enterprise SEO can help brands further dominate in their industry.
Brands that fail to execute enterprise SEO properly risk damage to their reputation and bottom line.
Search engine algorithms change constantly, and in terms of agility, non-enterprise sites have the upper hand.
Enterprise sites have brand authority in their favor, but they need consistent, effective enterprise SEO to maintain that dominance.
Featured Imahe: Paulo Bobita
All screenshots taken by author