How many of you out there have taken on a large business as an SEO client and just been appalled at the state of their Web properties? Some companies either think they don’t need to do SEO, or they try to and, well, make a mess of things. Whether you’re with a company that could use a little help, or you’ve recently taken on a big business as a client and need to right a lot of wrongs, Tom Critchlow has you covered. He’s about to share some of his own experiences, and offer some tips on how to get back on track. Or, you know, get on track in the first place, if that’s where you are.
Tom asks for a show of hands of who’s involved in big business SEO. Lots of hands. He says after this session, some of you may reconsider. Hmm…
He says he’s going to provide a lot of tips that small businesses can benefit from as well, maybe not now, but later.
Tom says one of the biggest problems is that big businesses don’t focus on the small things, like changing title tags. When doing SEO for big business, think big. Think of something that’s really going to move the needle. Big picture thinking is creating content vs. creating 1,000 pieces of content. They’ll respond well to big ideas. When trying to pitch in these environments, pitch big ideas that will crush the competition.
You might say, “But I’m never going to get the budget for that big project!” Justify the budget with pilot projects. Run a trial on a microsite, a subdomain, just one part of the site. It requires less budget, but has measurable results. Then you can go back 6-12 months later and say hey, this worked. Now I want more money to do it again, but bigger. That’s how you get the big budget.
The Lean Enterprise
There’s a circle of activity that every business goes through. You have to get through the loop as fast as possible, but there’s a bigger vision and an end goal. The loop is:
Businesses have to get through this as quickly as possible. This also applies to a pilot project for a big business.
Let’s talk about Zappos. They have 50,000 product videos. Whether or not this was done for SEO, building out a process and team to deploy them is a phenomenal asset for their SEO. Far too often, this kind of thing gets lost in the small-minded things, like putting a few hundred words of content on a page.
The interesting thing is, these videos aren’t that great. But they still have a lot of power. What Zappos is really doing is investing in page types. Invest in improving your page types, or building new page types. Good page types are not sufficient but they are required. Start making your pages earn their rankings.
Amazon is a perfect example. Their pages rank everywhere. Partly because of the number of links, but also because their product pages are huge. They have everything you might want to know on that page. Look at the Amazon Kindle page. They lay out everything. Every objection you might have is addressed, every question you might have is answered. For Tom, that’s an easy SEO project. Invest in making pages better. You’re going to have a hard time ranking if you don’t have good page types.
Invest in Data
Tom says he loves Rand Fishkin and SEOmoz, but for big sites, the ranking data from SEOmoz won’t cut it. Instead, you should invest in one of the enterprise solutions: Brightedge, Conductor, Covario, Searchmetrics. When your client comes to you and asks what happened to their rankings, it’s not enough to say, “Oh, there was a Panda update.” You need to show them the data. These tools will give you the data when you need it.
Invest in tools that allow for competitive intelligence. Monitoring, tracking, and investigating competitors is necessary.
The information architecture of a Web site is bad enough. The org chart of a company can be even more confusing. But if you’re working on a big business project, you have to know the company’s structure. You have to know whom to talk to, what their roles are, who can get things done. If you have a PR problem, you need to know who to go to.
The content gap in the org chart: It’s not uncommon for the only shared hierarchy for content producers to be the CEO. The missing link is Chief Content Officer. More big businesses should have a Chief Content Officer. The way most businesses are structured, several people may be producing content. The problem is, the CEO can’t be there all the time to resolve disputes.
You may also have freelancers or other content writers, but that’s not good enough. You need someone who knows what quality content means, how to get it, how to maintain it. Those are things the other senior members of the org chart don’t care about.
Understand the roles of your colleagues and teach them how to help you. Everyone can help SEO but in very different ways. Sometimes one person shops around the SEO strategy to the other departments, but people don’t buy into it. How can we educate everyone in the company about SEO? Not just in a general way, but in a specific way?
Enterprise is about getting shit done, but that’s sometimes difficult. There was a blog post [he’s not sure where] and one of the points was, “And then you just…” But in-house, there is no “and then you just.” It’s not trivial. We try hard not to rely on deliverables as the things people pay for. They pay for results. Unless your recommendations translate into action, there’s no value.
Zappos quote: “I think we’ve done a good job over the last couple of years getting SEO worked into the flow of the company.” This is important. It’s not just a one-off project. It’s not just changing title tags. He’s making the whole company educated about SEO. Effecting change is changing processes. Whether it’s changing them or creating new ones. You can do anything once. How do you make sure it’s repeatable, scalable, and gets done? Processes are the most important thing you can change. You have to examine them, find the holes, find the problems before you can fix them. Changing processes will have massive results.
Anything you do on a one-off basis is worthless. You change something, and then it gets overwritten a week later by someone else. You have to make sure that what you’re doing is going to last. Figure out a process for how content gets onto the site, and how SEO is embedded into is. Get SEO into the process, not just the end result.
You created an infographic, and you get 100 links. Woo! How can you create one every week? How can you create something that gets links for 12 months? There are things you can do that are far more scalable than one-off projects.
This is the secret to getting things done. How do you actually change the processes? Project management is the shared language, and everyone needs to speak that language to get anything done. In SEO, we talk all the time about competitive analysis. Next time, call it gap analysis. Everyone knows what that is.
Consider performing a SWOT Analysis: strengths, weaknesses, oppportunities, threats. [Tom provided a link at this point that explains the SWOT analysis in more detail, but I missed it. I did see it was on sciencedirect.com, so check that out.]
Tom recommends, for any large site, prune aggressively. Is removing crappy links really going to help things? He says absolutely. If you have a lot of microsites or subdomains, removing some of them is going to help you. One of the first things he says at the beginning of a project is, how can we reduce things? What can we get rid of? It’s very valuable to trim out the fat.
Google Webmaster Tools is one of the best ways to do this. It will tell you what you can get rid of.
Here’s an example of a failure to consolidate content. Gucci has more than five million Facebook fans. But the content they promote on Facebook doesn’t exist on the main Gucci site. Consolidate your content onto the places it matters. They’re not leveraging this activity. It’s not rocket science. Think about how thin you’re spread. Try to consolidate to the places it’s going to make the most sense.
Tom explains how to hack biz development. One way is by leveraging partnerships. It can get you links you couldn’t get otherwise. He wrote a blog post about it on SEOmoz a while back. It’s valuable, but people flamed his blog post for it. So here’s the actionable tip: If you want to get business development done as an SEO or agency, find a C-level, sit down for 20-30 minutes, go to their LinkedIn profile, see who they’re connected to, send a few messages. This is going to produce syndication, partnerships, acquisitions, opportunities to build widgets, etc. It’s an actionable way to hack business development. Forget guest posts. Get a regular gig on Huffington Post. That’s the kind of BD he’s talking about.
Get in bed with Google…but be careful. Say Google was testing a new video format. They contact you to test it, you do it, it messes up your site, your rankings tank, and then Google stops taking your calls. Tom says that’s TOTALLY hypothetical. You must remember, Google is looking out for their own best interests—not yours.
Also remember, your market is not static. Build industry reports that show movement as well as competitive intelligence. For big business, the market is not stationary.
And that’s it for now! We’re breaking for lunch, and then reconvening for a session from Bob Rains called “Why I’m a White Hat Now.” Ooh, sounds like one you wouldn’t want to miss!
About the Author
Michelle Lowery is an ardent word nerd, but is also known to say "y'all" from time to time.