What is corporate SEO?

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It's a tough way up!

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You may wonder sometimes what corporate SEO is all about and what makes it different to forms of SEO.  You relate it to enterprise SEO as a concept but would like to have a fairer idea as to what it actually entails. So I am going to explain what corporate SEO means to me and share my impressions from an inhouse perspective.

The main area of business at organisation where I work is cultural relations via education promotion, development and partnerships in a mixed commercial and non profit environment. With that in mind this article may not suit every reader, but it may go some way to providing a useful insight into corporate SEO.

Definition and context

Unlike the SEO done in small and medium enterprises (SME), at a large enterprise, there exists a different breed of SEO. This kind of SEO deals with human and work environment factors that can add a considerable level of complexity to the workplace. Such complexity can go from just being moderate to very severe, and if you aim for success, it certainly needs to be taken into account  as early as possible into an SEO project.

The Environment

I am trying to take this to the basics. So I ask myself this question: ‘At what point do you find yourself doing  ‘corporate SEO’ ?’

I’d say that as complexity starts building around your work environment, and you find yourself more regularly dealing with tasks that are not genuinely SEO-related, you inevitably find yourself closer to be doing corporate SEO. Let me split the explanation into three main areas:

Company size

Would you say that it all starts getting ‘corporate’ in organisations of over 100 employees or even less?  Perhaps the organisation grows from that to hundreds of employees, and from that to tens of locations nationwide, and eventually into a large network of overseas operations…  it all then gets corporately more complex (or you could say complicated), not just for the SEO but for all other business areas within the enterprise: marketing, branding, IT, PR…

Web network size

You could be dealing with a single website with a significant number of technical issues, a large amount of content with several dependencies and connecting with quite a number of stakeholders, and end up facing up a considerable level of corporate hassle. You’ll be doing corporate SEO then

In turn you could be dealing with a complex network of websites dependant of a dispersed network of offices across the globe. Each of these country operations may then be running their websites with more or less ties from the central office. Every country operation within the network and their respective country website may need guidance, direction and training. You’ll then need a global SEO strategy that takes into account the overall corporate strategy plans. This then turns into Corporate SEO.

Dependencies and stakeholders

Somehow I tend to relate the dependencies to the stakeholders. So this could be a typical scenario in the large enterprise:

  • the brand department who will want to enforce their branding strategy
  • the Content department who will want to ensure that content is innovative, compelling and engaging
  • the Business managers who are usually driven by revenue will understandably ask things like:  ‘what is the value of doing this… or that?’
  • the Comms and PR department care about what is said about the company: the message
  • IT & web infrastructure department who want to ensure the smooth running of a safe web network.

As an SEO Manager you will need to work in harmony with each of those stakeholders, understand and work around the politics surrounding this environment and find a way to fit in in order to take forward your agenda.

The characteristics

Doing SEO in a highly corporate environment makes it hard to take advantage of a timely opportunity the environment may bring you. You will not be lucky enough to have the flexibility to execute an swift adhoc tactic despite how unique such opportunity may be. Chances are that you may need something that is not easily at hand:  web server space, embedding of a script of a site, content usage permission, approval from the sector team owning the content, the go-ahead from a key stakeholder, etc..).

See what I mean? before you can execute you have carefully plan, persuade others, get buy-in, get support, budget….  it is not easy to swiftly execute as efficiently in a corporate environment as it is in an ordinary environement working for a small or medium-size website.

The typical ninja-like tactics that you learn at the conferences will make your more knowlegeable, help you understand your job better and contribute to your overall education, but you will not always be able to bring all new skills and learning into your job if you work in a corporate environment.

A strategy plan needs to be devised, and that plan needs to take into account some key factors such as dependencies, resources, allocation of tasks, delegation, reporting, stakeholder’s buy-in and sign-off, cooperation from teams and more importantly: an approved budget.

Corporate SEO work is ‘different’  in many ways, some of which are:

  1. the often sizeable bureaucracy makes processes harder to carry out
  2. the hierarchical culture at the workplace may easily hamper any of your proposed actions
  3. successfully integrating SEO into the business and organisational processes is challenging
  4. there is a constant need to lobby around and gain stakeholders’ buy-in for your project/s
  5. you are often requested to prove benefit of your recommended implementations, so brush up your analytics skills and be prepared present data in an attractive manner
  6. the need to have a highly strategic approach to everything you do
  7. the need to have strong technical SEO skills and knowledge and understand your platorm inside out

Conclusions

A highly tactical SEO strategy based on taking advantage of opportunistic situations won’t be as effective as an strategic and organisational approach to SEO .

Corporate SEO is more about taking advantage of the industrial strength elements of the environment:  often the biggest wins are on optimising the technical platform, on training others to do the SEO and effectively integrate it into their jobs or on improving the workflow of integrating SEO onto the content production process for global replication.

Success depends much on factors like:  the feasibility of your strategy, the level of global buy-in you get, your budget, how successfully you integrate the SEO into the business, how successfully you work in teams,  and overall the successful delivery of your strategy.

I hope to have been able to shed a bit more of light on the concept of Corporate SEO. Please feel free to voice your opinion in the comments if you think I may have missed anything useful.

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