Because of their size and complexity, large organizations present some very interesting SEO challenges. The two biggest:
- Many different groups of people are involved in Web site design and implementation decision-making, so making things happen quickly is difficult.
- Any time many people are involved in decision-making, the chances greatly increase that one person just won't believe you. SEO can be pretty non-intuitive at times, and you don't always have time to give people with no knowledge on the topic all the education they need to buy in.
The SEO's Role
Building a search-friendly organization involves all parts of a company, from top management to product managers to sales and customer service reps. The two main groups a search marketer will need to deal with in the organization are Web site developers and marketers.
Hopefully, the SEO is seen as part of the marketing department, but that's not always the case. After all, the SEO's job is to grow the volume of activity for the organization, just like the rest of the marketing department.
Because the SEO is the newcomer, and the peculiar requirements of search engine optimization aren't generally understood, the SEO must first be the evangelist/teacher to the rest of the organization. Ultimately, you need the organization to buy into two major things:
- Smart SEO is good for the business (and all its departments).
- Search engines will impose specific requirements on what you can and can't do.
If the SEO accomplishes this, they have already made some great progress. Once people buy in, you have willing learners, and it becomes possible to work on the nuts-and-bolts mechanics of SEO with them. With that base of understanding, the rest of the SEO's job becomes easier. This requires that the SEO is able to speak multiple languages, including developer-speak, marketing-speak, and PR-speak.
Web Site Development
Someone needs to build and maintain the Web site. Software developers have their own biases and prejudices based on their experience, and what they're familiar with. Their intentions for the business are good, but SEO classes generally aren't part of their curriculum.
Developers will also make critical recommendations, such as the content management system (CMS) they think you should use on the site. A bad recommendation can completely sink your chances for SEO success.
The developers need to understand why SEO works the way it does. Here are some good initial points to make to a developer:
- A crawler is just a software program.
- Over relatively short periods of time it visits tens of billions of Web pages and must interpret them.
- Reading text is easy; performing optical character recognition (OCR), or speech-to-text, is hard and they don't do it.
Just these three points may get you most of the way there with a developer. There are other things to cover with them, but these basics should get you started.
Marketing impacts a Web development project in four critical ways:
- Defining the overall requirements of the site. For example, what are you selling or promoting on the site? If you have many products or services, which ones are the most important?
- Branding is also a part of the picture. The nature of your brand may be a strong influencing factor on the Web site, and marketing will want to make sure that the site enhances the brand, rather than detracts from it.
- Marketing may also impose design requirements. You could be in deep trouble, for example, if someone in marketing falls in love with the idea of building an all-Flash Web site with little text-based content.
- Because link building is a critical component of SEO, public relations is also a part of the picture. Good link building programs are not unlike good PR programs, and the PR department can play a critical role in link building.
The approach to the marketer is to make them understand that working with search engines provides a huge business opportunity.
Show them how much traffic their leading competitor's site is getting by using tools that provide basic traffic data, such as Compete or Quantcast. Then do the back-of-the-envelope calculation on revenue. Everything usually seems to get easier after that.
There are many other aspects and steps in this process, but SEO success starts with the basics. The SEO must get everyone on board with the program first. Once the different departments are on board, they will become engaged in the process, and the SEO's chances of having a positive impact multiply.
Join us for Search Engine Strategies London February 17-20 at the Business Design Centre in Islington. Don't miss the definitive event for U.K. and European marketers, corporate decision makers, webmasters and search marketing specialists!