Three Big Realities of Enterprise SEO

Enterprise SEO is a very different animal. It walks differently, it talks differently, and it takes no prisoners.

Having immersed myself in Enterprise SEO for last the several months, I have to admit there were some realities even I wasn’t prepared to wrap my head around. As I mentioned in my post almost a year and half ago The Art of Big Corporate SEO, it is radically different from working with mid-sized businesses.

Consider this post an addendum to the first post.

For the most part, it’s still on the money, and a great primer to prepare you going into Corporate SEO. You really will be a “Special Forces” SEO when you come out the other end of an Enterprise SEO engagement.

You’ll have unconventional SEO warfare skills: knowledge-based keyword research and optimization, entity building expertise, and learning how and when to slide the right levers over here to make the SERP over there more amicable to your client.

It’s deft work and the truest essence of the invisible hand (manus occaeco). There are three big realities you have to understand once you’re engaged in Enterprise SEO. They’re going to make you wince, they’re going to be hard to swallow.

It took me a long time to adjust to these realities; I won’t lie, it won’t be easiest thing you’ve ever done. This post will add another year or two battle-hardened knowledge to your mental repertoire.

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Reality #1: SEO Eats at the Kiddie Table

Yes, that’s right. Your place at the table is an entirely different table all together. It’s akin to family get-togethers at holidays: the “adults” eat over here so they can have adult conversation, and the “kids” eat over here so they don’t bother the adults.

You may have a budget, but you don’t get much of a voice. You have to fight to have your voice be heard over the drone of the “adults”. And you will fight for every last syllable.

There is a big wall both internally and with the client: no one understands what you and your team do. Nada. Oh, sure, they know it has to do with keywords and search engines and traffic. But beyond that, it’s just blank stares.

Nearly everyone thinks you’re a pseudo-developer who doesn’t need to be involved in content strategy, website architecture, or new website marketing initiatives. They think you simply build “stuff” and make it rank. Leave all that “strategy” to adults, kiddo.

Ok. Maybe that’s not a big shocker. But, when the marketing budget for your client is the equivalent of what most small business make in gross profit for in a single year, it’s crucial you’re involved early and often. It’s easier to clean up a glass of water than 50 gallon fish tank.

Educating the Masses

Getting your voice requires a constant barrage of education. You’ll spend half your time educating clients and internal teams.

Think something is a really bad idea and threatens your progress with the client? It’s not enough just to say it, you have to educate them on why it’s a really bad idea. It’s phone calls, emails, PowerPoint decks, and more emails.

And, while the concepts are complex, you have to be able to break it down to simpler components to get your point across. Sounds simple enough, right? It isn’t. People don’t necessarily like being told their idea could be detrimental, and permanently scar search efforts.

Feelings will get hurt, people will get butt-hurt, sanity will be called into question, but all the while you have to keep educating. It’s the only way to build trust with your clients and internal teams; it establishes your authority. And, it helps you establish a voice so you are more readily included in the adult table conversations.

Reality #2: He Who Holds the Brand Makes the Rules

Again, this probably didn’t make you fall out of your chair. It’s a given. But, if you think brand is some gooey, subjective, flexible term to your client, you’d better rethink your stance.

Brands are you new friend

Brand is gospel. It really is its own life force: it has a certain pattern of speech, it looks a certain way and only that way, and when it enters a room, it expects everyone to observe a moment of silence.

You might call it idolatry; they call it BRAND. Get ready for BRAND to flatten a lot of necessary SEO strategy, get ready for BRAND to flat-out reject great strategic search tactics that not only helps them win the SERPs but could drastically improve the user experience, and get ready for BRAND (knowingly or unknowingly) to derail your search progress for even the most basic SEO.

Even with the best client relationships, where you get inside track to what they’re planning a year or two in advance, BRAND is always working in the backroom, just out of sight.

BRAND is surrounded by a legal team, and BRAND loves them. BRAND does whatever they say and will not go against the advice of that council. BRAND isn’t bendy and doesn’t care what might be best for it outside of the people that worship it. BRAND is a narcissist and has incessant need to be loved by everyone.

Channeling Your Inner-Gumby

The bald-faced truth of most SEOs (myself included) is we want it our way and we push hard to get it.

When you’re in Enterprise SEO more often than not, no matter how right you are or how hard you push, BRAND dictates how you will proceed (no matter how off-base it is).

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This is where flexibility (your inner-Gumby) comes into play. You need to prepare yourself to lose battles that are important. You will win a very small percentage, but you’re mostly going to lose.

And, when those battles are lost, this is where you earn your Special Forces badge.

When BRAND takes away the straight-line path, you have to use all your creativity and signal knowledge to get done what you need done. It’s never easy, and it never goes black hat. It’s really SEO’s version of CQB (close-quarters battle): small weapons in tight spaces.

Because the easy thing to do is give up, and let restrictions be the excuse to not get the metrics you need.

Reality #3: No One Plays in the Sandbox Nicely

Enterprise SEO also means that you’re going to have to play with a lot of agencies.

You’d think that because you’re all professionals, albeit with different functions in a campaign, that everyone is working toward the same goal: client domination. And, that’s true. To an extent.

You’ll be working alongside another agency that’s tasked with social, another that’s tasked with paid search, and another that’s tasked with PR. And, being an SEO, you’ve got ideas how you can optimize each of these pieces so they work for the BRAND and form like Voltron to create vortex of authority, trust, and signal.

NEWS FLASH: no one’s really interested in that. They’re interested in being the hero and galloping in on the white horse with news of victory.

Get used to platitudes, deaf ears, and every other agency’s expert. Think of it as aggressively working together-separately. Everyone is as nice as they have to be, but not an inch more. There isn’t a solve for this one, as far as I can tell.

Again, no one wants to be told their idea isn’t as great as it could be, no matter how you position it. You do your job, advise to the best of your ability, and when they don’t do it, you keep your head down go about doing your job.

No More Secrets

Now you know the three most-shocking realities to Enterprise SEO, at least from my experiential point of view.

I’m sure there are others that I haven’t mentioned, but for me, personally, these were the biggest head-turners. But, like anything (i.e. algorithm changes), you adapt, overcome, and integrate them into the flow of your SEO work and how you get things done.

And, to be honest, I’m a better SEO for it. It’s forced me to break down internal walls and be more creative with how perform SEO. And, chances are it’ll have the same effect for you too.

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