Enterprise SEO is a whole different ballgame to SEO for SMEs.
Not only are enterprise SEOs working with much larger sites, but they're also taking on far more responsibility in terms of the scale of traffic, conversions, a whole host more stakeholders, and more potential problems and issues to contend with.
Working with enterprise-level sites and businesses means a shift in tactics, processes, and overall mentality.
Many SEOs will never get the opportunity to work on an enterprise project. However, those who do see the channel in a whole new light and openly share the unique challenges, processes, and expertise needed to drive success (and prevent failings).
As Grant Simmons of Homes.com commented:
No. SEO for large sites is not about scaling small site SEO. And ‘large sites’ are not 1,000 pages. There’s process & distinct expertise required to dissect & prioritize site challenges and scale solutions that are most likely to work.— Grant Simmons (@simmonet) September 7, 2020
As we can see from this single Tweet alone, there's also the hotly debated topic of what falls under enterprise SEO. But we'll discuss that soon.
In this guide, we'll dive deep into enterprise SEO, sharing insights into the challenges commonly faced and how these differ to those on traditional, smaller-scale, SEO projects.
Specifically, we'll look at:
- What is Enterprise SEO?
- Why Enterprise SEO Matters
- The Challenges of Enterprise SEO
What is Enterprise SEO?
This is the million-dollar question and one that has divided the SEO industry for some time. There are many different ways that marketers define enterprise SEO, some based upon the size of the site, others upon the size of the business.
The reality is that this is one of those "it depends" scenarios.
On the one hand, the argument is that enterprise SEO is all about working with large sites, typically those with hundreds of thousands into millions of pages.
On the other hand, many argue that enterprise SEO relates to the business's size, that this is all about working with big companies with complex processes, large numbers of stakeholders, and huge revenues.
But perhaps the common ground is that these are both enterprise scenarios. Maybe they are just different situations, each of which has its own challenges and obstacles.
It depends is the correct answer here to size. I've done audits on multi-billion dollar global enterprise businesses with sites in the 10k page range, and on small business sites under 10 employees with 100 million pages.— Alan Bleiweiss (@AlanBleiweiss) September 7, 2020
It's safe to say that we can see how both of these could classify as enterprise SEO, but the reality is that this often is a mix of both of these areas.
Look at a business like Amazon; they have millions of pages and billions in revenue.
Take Apple; we're in precisely the same situation.
But what about a business that has a smaller site (in comparison), yet is still bringing in big bucks? Take WeWork, for example.
If you're looking only at URLs, this site is tiny in comparison to Apple or Amazon. If we're defining 'enterprise' solely based on URL count, it wouldn't necessarily fit the bill.
Why Enterprise SEO Matters
Enterprise SEO brings a whole host of challenges and problems that don't exist when working on smaller sites for smaller businesses.
Publishing a new piece of content? That could mean brand teams, legal teams, compliance teams, product teams, and more who each need to have an input and sign it off.
Fixing what could look like simple technical SEO issues? This could mean weeks of working with developers to fit into their sprint, get buy-in on prioritization, or figure out the specific solution.
Enterprise SEO is very different, and what works for driving success for smaller sites and businesses usually won't cut it. Of course, many of the fundamentals are the same, but large-scale sites have many additional layers of complexity.
The Challenges of Enterprise SEO
Where enterprise SEO gets interesting is when we turn to look at the specific challenges faced by those working on large sites or for large businesses, and diving deep into how these should be considered.
We've already mentioned that SEO at scale is about more than tactics. Knowing how to tackle certain challenges head-on can help you overcome the issues present in enterprise environments. That's why we've looked at eight different considerations that need to be made and understood.
1. Cross-Team Collaboration and Corporate Environments
To succeed in enterprise SEO, you need to work well with multiple people and stakeholders within your organization.
One of the challenges that enterprise SEOs face that rarely exists when working with smaller businesses is integrating seamlessly with other teams in a corporate environment. That means making sure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal.
But there are often internal hierarchies that will need to be managed, and compromises will need to be made.
There may only be a couple of people signing off on ideas, content, or resources with smaller sites and businesses. Move to enterprise business, and it's not unusual for this to go many layers deep.
Success here is all about communication and understanding the bigger picture. When you're able to adopt the mindset that SEO is just one part of a much larger marketing puzzle, it becomes easier to understand the challenges and priorities that other stakeholders face. Work with others, not against them.
2. Getting Buy-In and Prioritization
Perhaps an extension to the challenge of needing to work with multiple stakeholders across multiple teams, all with their own agenda, is that of getting buy-in and your recommendations actioned in a reasonable timeframe within your own department.
Again, it's all about communication (notice a trend here?)
You're not the only person fighting for a developer's time to go over page functionality and code, and you're not the only person in need of the legal team's time to review your content. This means you need to be able to justify why your actions are a high priority and acknowledge which aren't urgent.
Often, this can be solved by two things:
- Keeping things simple
The more you're able to educate other stakeholders on the importance of a completed task, the easier you'll find it to get buy-in and timely action.
You don't need to send a 200-page SEO audit to a developer; far from it. You need to understand the most efficient way to brief in tasks within your organization and take the time to understand what works best for everyone involved.
And any two businesses are rarely alike.
That said, the reality is that you need to learn how to best get things done as an enterprise SEO. Otherwise, your strategy won't get implemented.
3. Crawlability and Indexability
When you have tens or hundreds of thousands of site pages (or more), crawlability and indexability can become an issue.
When you're working with smaller sites, you don't need to worry as much about these issues. And if there are problems, it's usually a fix that can be done relatively quickly. However, enterprise SEOs need to worry about these two issues for their large-scale websites. As we reference in our guide on this topic:
Two other factors play a significant role in SEO – crawlability and indexability.
Yet, most website owners have never heard of them.
At the same time, even small problems with indexability or crawlability could result in your site losing its rankings.
And that’s regardless of what great content or how many backlinks you have.
OK, so we're pretty sure that every enterprise SEO is aware of these two factors, but they're massively important when working with large sites and are challenges that rarely present themselves with smaller sites.
But let's break this down.
The fact is that large sites can be difficult for search engines to crawl and index in cases where the crawl budget isn't being optimized. Add in pages that sit many levels deep into a site, duplicate content, canonicalization issues, keyword cannibalization issues, crawl errors, orphan pages, and more. It's easy to see how crawling and indexing become more difficult on large sites.
While there's no denying that these factors are important for any site, the scale of these can extrapolate on larger sites.
4. Legacy Site Issues
If you're working on an enterprise site, you'll find that legacy issues quickly become far more apparent than when working on traditional SEO projects. From legacy technical problems due to historical migrations, link issues, and more, the scale of these issues can present a wealth of challenges that need to be overcome.
Oftentimes, enterprise sites have had multiple people working on projects and iterations of the site. You'll often need to unpick the context behind certain issues without being able to speak to anyone who was involved in their rollout at the time.
But let's not overlook the issues that surround legacy CMS systems. If you're working with a small business and struggle to implement the tactics needed via their CMS, you can suggest a rebuild in WordPress (or similar), and there's a good chance that it'll be live in a couple of months with minimal sign-off. CMS migrations for enterprises can take years, and will rarely be signed off simply on a recommendation from the SEO team.
The reality is that you'll need to work around issues; rather than overcome them from the ground up... another challenge that is only usually faced in enterprise scenarios.
5. Multiple Locations, Sites, or Subdomains
When you work on an enterprise project, it's common to find that you're dealing with multiple locations, multiple sites, or multiple subdomains.
While not uncommon (especially with local SEO projects) with traditional campaigns, they're certainly not as complex.
At the enterprise level, you might find yourself managing projects across different countries and languages (bringing in a large-scale international SEO requirement), that the business owns and manages many different websites (each needing their own strategy) or has multiple subdomains that content is spread between.
And while these are all challenges that can be overcome, they're another level of complexity that most SEOs don't have to face.
6. Traditional Fixes Don't Always Work
You need to be prepared to tackle problems in a totally different way when you're working with an enterprise business. While that doesn't mean the fundamentals are always too different, the processes certainly are.
Let's say you identify keyword cannibalization issues, where multiple pages target the same intent for a keyword. An SEO working with an SME can usually get sign-off to merge pages (or even remove those no longer needed) pretty quickly, even if that means cross-checking with other teams.
But, rarely, an enterprise SEO can go into a CMS and remove and redirect pages; there will be an approval process that requires a sign-off by multiple stakeholders. And that's not accounting for the justification on why it needs to be done in the first case. You'll need a business case for everything you want to do. And that's not how many SEOs who are used to testing their theories out work.
It's a different way of working.
7. Optimizing Templates
Work on a large site, and you're going to need to get used to working with and optimizing templates.
Why? Because of the sheer scale that you're working with.
It's not practical to rewrite meta tags on every page or even control canonical tags, noindex tags, or more. And you can think of templates as the backbone of enterprise sites. Working in this way makes it easier to make changes at scale, whether that's optimizing PageSpeed, rewriting tags, or controlling how the pages are crawled and indexed.
8. Quickly Finding and Fixing Issues
Working with a large enterprise-scale site offers a totally different challenge for site audits and quick fixes.
Maybe you run a weekly crawl of your site using the SEMrush Site Audit Tool to help you quickly find and fix issues? A top tip here is to split a large site into sections and crawl each one frequently. It will be easier to spot issues as they arise, before enabling you to dig deeper to find the cause.
You need to find and fix issues that occur as quickly as possible. There will be far more people working on a site who could roll out changes that you, as the SEO, weren't aware of.
But again, it all comes down to processes. By this, we mean your own processes that you've adapted to work for your project.
Think about how you can monitor the top-line metrics by ongoing monitoring of core KPIs across things like crawl errors, broken links, non-indexable pages, and more. Know where the baseline is, and if you see these issues increase, there's a chance they're pointing to a wider underlying issue.
You can use the SEMrush SEO Toolkit to help you to see a top-line overview of performance across multiple metrics.
Enterprise SEO is about adapting your processes and mindset to understand which tactics you should be using. Perhaps more so.