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Enterprise SEO: Planning Your 2020 SEO Strategy

Most enterprise-level organizations expect a strategy for SEO before the fiscal year begins.

This strategy is usually communicated up through the key stakeholders (Directors, VPs and even C-levels) who tend to show an interest in SEO for the company.

Once the strategy is agreed on and confirmed by all involved, it will act as a sort of reference throughout the year as the SEO team lead (Manager, Director or sometimes VP) to report against progress and key performance indicators (KPIs) that could include revenue increase, team efficiency increase, or other metric everyone has agreed on.

Having been through this process on numerous occasions while working both within the organization and as a consultant, I put together an outline of what to consider when getting your strategy in place.

As I mentioned in the 10 Important SEO trends for 2020 by Search Engine Journal:

“…Google is continually updating to optimize search results based on user intent rather than a focus on content/page to keyword matching.

‘SEOs need to understand the nuance of what this means with their content as well as have a firm grasp on Google’s past updates leading to this trend.”

The latest trends include patent releases by Google the last couple of years (Neural Matching, RankBrain, BERT, etc.), webmaster guidelines best practices updates, and any trending searches that could be coming up for growth opportunities.

Your 2020 SEO strategy for enterprise SEO should reflect all of the latest trends with the addition of plans for team improvements and additional help to increase efficiency.

Below is a recommended outline that sets your strategy to encompass all that is important for 2020 in SEO and includes the needs an enterprise SEO strategy has that sets you apart from the smaller SMBs.

The outline isn’t “one size fits all” since every organization is different – from team structure to communication across the organization, technical issues (or none at all), to agency and/or consultant and reporting tools.

Let’s dive deeper into each point so you can decide if what I recommend fits your organization.

Technical Foundational SEO

Every enterprise SEO organization I have worked with/for has always needed some form of technical and/or foundation SEO.

If a website has issues surfaced in Google Search Console, or other reporting tools, more often than not any effort made to increase SEO from growth strategies will fall flat.

The key to this part of the strategy is to communicate that this part should be flexible. Engineering hours should always be allocated for bug fixes and larger projects to resolve any major issues.

Reporting on success for your technical SEO at an enterprise level can vary.

If reporting on revenue increase, estimate an overall .5 or full position improvement for the main domain resulting in an increase in CTR and therefore a revenue boost from the additional traffic.

I have found some organizations I work for like to state that the technical SEO fixes fall under a simple “keep the lights on” (same as stress testing and general engineering processes) and therefore won’t need any key performance results.

Whatever you decide to add under this strategy for projects or checklists, I highly recommend including this in your strategy no matter how well off (or how bad) your site’s foundation is.

Google Search Console & Bing Reported Issues

500 errors, soft 404s, AMP issues, structured data issues, crawl rate, etc. All of these should be checked regularly and addressed quickly if anything should come up.

Crawl Reports: Content & Bug Fixes

Hopefully, your organization has crawling tools to report on issues that Google or Bing won’t tell you.

Similar or duplicate content, non-compliant URLs, canonical issues, internal linking issues, etc should all fall under fixes just as the the GSC and Bing reported issues do.

Page Speed Improvements

While page speed is important for SEO, it is also important for conversion improvements.

If your organization has conversion optimization, or user experience team(s) this is a good opportunity to line with additional teams to gain more exposure and prioritize any fixes identified to improve page speed.

I will usually identify pages (or sets of pages) that have good SEO value but tend to be slow and determine a KPI to a specific time at the “time to interact” (TTI) level.

If your company doesn’t have AMP, this is a good opportunity to set a strategy on which pages should have AMP counterparts.

If you have AMP, they will most likely need improvements, or could need some fixes within the year. Allocate time under a strategy that defines where the pages are at, and what work needs to get done with AMP.

Every organization is different, so add any issues you have now or could potentially see when search engines update their algorithms or update their guidelines.

By allocating engineering time for technical SEO this will avoid any discussion on prioritizing and fighting for resources later in the year ensuring the work will get done, and the site will see improvements from SEO work by the end of the year.

Growth Projects

Playing “whack a mole” alone doesn’t work for enterprise SEO.

Planning for larger strategies that focus on growth potential will show your organization that you can impact the business in a positive way with SEO.

Understanding trends, new position opportunities (discovery, answer boxes, etc) and keywords being searched by your target audience is key.

At Nordstrom, my team met with the buyers that were identifying fashion trends each season. We would look at up and coming designers, brands that were trending hot, and new style trends that were hitting the market.

My SEO team used reports to see what people were searching which helped us target those terms and related terms (for neural matching) and generate pages for them that the merchandising team added products for.

Other companies I have worked with will use local search trends with popular things to do, trendy food and restaurants, etc.

If you don’t know what to optimize for at the start of the year, define a strategy called “seasonal trends” or “food trends” that allocate time from resources needed to optimize when you are ready to define those exact trends.

Reporting of growth opportunities is probably easier than the other strategies you will have in your 2020 SEO plan.

With a simple keyword analysis you’ll be able to:

For Discovery and Answer box, use your current numbers and estimate a percentage increase in traffic then revenue.

Keyword Optimization

Look at any low-hanging fruit with gap reports that you could gain some potential.

Some possibilities for improvement that should be easy include:

New Keyword Search Trends

This is where your trends come into play. Set a strategy around new opportunities that could get you ahead of the competition.

Discovery Optimization

Keyword discovery is fastly playing an important role in 2020. Google and Bing are anticipating what a user wants before they search. If your site isn’t optimized for this, then you’re missing out.

Answer Box Opportunities

Answer boxes have been around for a while now and have proven to be lucrative for SEO. Sites that have taken the time to optimize and monetize this position are winning at the SEO game.

Even if you just have list “growth opportunities” as an overall strategy for 2020 and define what that looks like later, by including them in your 2020 strategy you will be a rock star at your enterprise SEO organization.

Neural Matching Optimization

The Why

Google is releasing updates around the neural matching algorithm regularly.

What this means for SEO is that focusing on user intent more so than just optimizing a page for a keyword is becoming more important to your enterprise SEO success.

Chances are that at an enterprise level, the site has been optimized for SEO in the past and needs some updating.

Given that this is an improvement on what already exists, you can estimate a slight increase to the existing pages, or focus on pages that might have dropped in 2019 from the various updates.

Current Content Adjustments

Take a look at pages that are doing well in impressions, position, and revenue and revisit them to ensure that synonyms are mentioned on the pages.

New Content Synonyms & Internal Linking Strategy

Write articles and blog posts on related terms and link to those pages to keep them at the top of the results throughout the year.

Having this in your strategy will show your key stakeholders that you are keeping up with the latest SEO trends and will stay ahead of the competition throughout the year.

Cross-Organization Communication

One aspect that sets enterprise SEO from the small or medium businesses is that within a larger organization there are multiple teams that deal with SEO.

Weeding through the bureaucracy and red tape that it takes to get any SEO work done is the enterprise SEO’s main role.

Determining a strategy of communication across these teams will guarantee support and that work will get done within the year.

Establishing improvements to report against with regards to communication can be tricky.

If your company has tools like BrightEdge or Conductor you can reference usage reports or dashboard access as a key performance indicator.

If you don’t have such tools available grab a report on how many meetings you have each month with each team, or use reports on SEO revenue for each vertical you communicate with.

SME Communication

Determining subject matter experts (SMEs) within each team you work with will make your life easier in the long run.

If you don’t have people you work with now, make it your strategy to establish who these people are and how you plan to educate and/or communicate with them.

Engineering Communication

Engineering holds the keys to the castle and if you don’t have a working relationship with the team you won’t get your work done. If you need to focus on product or project managers to get to engineering then be sure to outline that in your strategy.

Key Stakeholder Communication

Enterprise SEOs need executives and key stakeholders across the organization in order to help prioritize SEO as the business level.

Oftentimes, you will heard teams say “The business sets the priorities” when you ask why something isn’t getting done, or why your project moved down in the queue.

If you have buy-in from the business then your SEO projects won’t fall down.

Coming into enterprise corporations on numerous occasions I have found that this part of the strategy often gets overlooked or isn’t documented.

By defining what it is your plan to do throughout the year to keep communication flowing, the overall health of SEO for the site and for the business will continue to grow.

Team and Tools

Another key aspect of the enterprise corporation is establishing a good SEO team with clear roles and responsibilities, along with an agency and/or consultant to assist in work and help champion SEO with reporting and crawl tools.

All of these play an integral part in the overall success of SEO within a larger organization.

Reporting on key performance improvements can be a bit tricky since it doesn’t directly relate to revenue.

However, by determining a solid strategy you can show improvements in efficiency and overall growth from SEO that will affect the bottom line.

Agencies and Consultants

If you don’t have an agency or a consultant to help you with your enterprise SEO, I highly recommend you find a good one.

Check your ego at the door by taking advantage of the extra help and the back-up expertise when you find other teams challenge your recommendations.

Setting a strategy on finding an agency and/or consultant is key, and once you have one be sure to have a solid plan to utilize them throughout the year.

Team Additions

As your SEO will grow throughout the year it’s good to have a plan for new hires that can assist with the additional work. In my article The 4 Pillars of SEO, I define what the key aspects to enterprise SEO success are.

Falling in-line with the strategic recommendations in this article, your hires can take on each aspect as a specialization and turn into team leads as you grow.

If you avoid thinking hierarchy and lean more towards roles and responsibilities, then your enterprise SEO will benefit and your team will be a strong unit in the long run.

Reporting and Crawling Tool(s)

Whether you have tools and need to review and maximize current costs (I managed to cut the SEO budget by including a tool review one year by $600,000) or you need to add new tools, it’s important to list them as part of your strategy.

If you’re adding tools that you didn’t have before, and need to justify the spend, this is a good time to say this is a team efficiency improvement as a KPI.

By including the above three in your strategy, it will help you to get buy-in from finance for headcount and the costs associated with the added costs.

Remember that you aren’t spending money on advertising that your SEM counterparts do. However, this is where your overhead comes into play.

At the end of the day, your return on investment will still be much higher than any paid advertising channel so document what you need and fight for the budget.

A complete strategy that encompasses all of the latest SEO strategies, as well as organizational team growth and improvements, will provide a holistic view into the role SEO plays within the organization resulting in overall growth for the business.

This content was originally published here.