Across every industry, vertical, and product/service category, search and SEO culture has emerged as the beating heart of a successful enterprise marketing operation.
SEO insights provide business intelligence not only to marketing but to operations, product development, and customer service, among others.
Enterprise search enables brands to not only respond to, but actually get ahead of consumer demand in position, and be equipped to capitalize on trends as they emerge.
In this increasingly digital world, where inbound marketing is powering rich, fulfilling customer interactions and relationships, success in enterprise SEO is success in business. That’s no exaggeration.
And it all hinges on your ability to build and nurture enterprise SEO culture.
What Does Successful Enterprise SEO Culture Look Like?
You would be forgiven for thinking culture is a bit of a buzzword – but it’s a lot more than that.
At the enterprise level, SEO culture is:
- The way your SEO team interacts and collaborates internally and across the organization.
- How SEO is prioritized by leadership, and how the budget is allocated as a result.
- The mixture of people, process and platforms that drives marketing performance.
- A shared mindset and commitment to better serving and scaling the business.
- Knowledge, beliefs, habits, and best practices that support SEO, and how the business benefits from SEO.
Building an enterprise SEO culture is challenging, but the benefits are well worth it.
In SEO organizations with a positive culture, search is recognized as integral to the business and championed across business units.
Let’s take a look at five specific ways you can build and protect this culture in your own organization.
Five Ways to Build an Enterprise SEO Culture
- Start with a common objective and shared goals.
- Build trust and rapport inside SEO and across the brand.
- Develop and invest in your people.
- Shore up operations with empowering processes and technology.
- Establish a Center of Excellence to replicate successes and support organizational maturity.
1. Start With a Common Objective and Goal
What is your SEO vision and mission? How does it align with your company’s broader business goals and objectives, and what key results will move those forward?
Developing a solid understanding of the landscape in which you’re building this culture is critical to its success.
This is where a modified SWOT analysis can help. Take stock of your strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities from both an SEO and an organizational perspective.
SEO is not an island. You don’t want your team operating in a silo, disconnected from the organization as a whole. List internal barriers to a results-based SEO culture across the organization, and begin formulating the ways you’ll overcome them.
Enlist the help and support of cross-departmental leaders and any C-suite stakeholders in developing your SEO vision.
Don’t create it on your own and try to sell it to them after the fact. Help them develop their own understanding of what SEO brings to the table from day one.
2. Build Trust and Rapport Inside SEO and Across the Brand
Creating a culture of trust is no small feat – it’s an ongoing process that takes an unwavering, everyday commitment. Trust can take years to build, and just moments to break.
In enterprise SEO, you might also be dealing with trying to build and nurture trust across time zones and cultural boundaries; with internal teams and third-party contractors alike.
Again, this is where getting stakeholders involved early on in meaningful ways can pay big dividends later on.
HBR author Amy Jen Su, author of “The Leader You Want to Be: Five Essential Principles for Bringing Out Your Best Self – Every Day,” advises that there are a number of concrete steps you can take to build trust within your team.
Keep these in mind as you bring on new team members and scale your SEO operation:
- Hold regular one-on-one meetings.
- Be fair when giving feedback to team members and cross-departmental colleagues.
- Don’t wait for people to raise issues with you – approach those who may be struggling silently.
- Acknowledge that failure will happen and be okay with it when it does.
- Be clear about who serves as the point person for important contacts across the brand.
- Set ground rules and communicate them clearly.
- Be accessible to team members and cross-departmental collaborators alike.
- Implement a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and model healthy conflict for team members, instead.
Su also recommends that leaders provide coaching and mentoring opportunities to those interested or those who show potential.
This brings us to your next culture-building step.
3. Develop and Invest in Your People
How will you keep SEO team members engaged and feeling fulfilled?
Despite their incredible responsibilities and the size of the website or network of sites they manage, enterprise SEO organizations tend to be small and close-knit.
In fact, the typical in-house SEO team has 2–5 members, regardless of whether the business has fewer than 100 employees or more than 1,000.
The skills required for these SEO positions are both broad and highly specialized, and span both the technical and the creative.
In addition, succeeding inside an enterprise organization takes a whole other skill set – business acumen, reporting mastery, exceptional communication skills, and political awareness among them.
It’s essential that you don’t burn out these “unicorn” employees and churn through them. They’re in short supply, and once your organization becomes known as a toxic place to work, you’ll struggle to find qualified applicants at all.
Develop hiring and onboarding best practices that will enable you to find the best fit not only for the skills gap you need to fill but for the culture you’re trying to create, as well.
- Do our HR policies and strategy support SEO team members and make them feel safe?
- Are we addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion in real, meaningful, and measurable ways?
- Do SEO team members have access to training, certifications, and other educational opportunities to keep them engaged and at the top of their game?
- Are we being proactive in providing professional development and mentorship or relying on team members to self-identify with their needs?
- Are we creating a culture where open communication and collaboration are rewarded?
4. Shore up Operations With Empowering Processes and Technology
Documenting standard operating procedures and fleshing out reporting processes may make your eyes glaze over – and those of your team members, as well.
Make sure you’re using technology to intelligently automate as much of the redundant, rote work of enterprise SEO as possible.
Free up team members for more impactful pursuits such as interpreting the output from those tools and evangelizing SEO successes with cross-departmental teams.
SEO has the capacity to provide invaluable business intelligence. Make sure your enterprise team is equipped with the technology and processes to:
- Understand and activate real-time opportunities gleaned from consumer search data.
- Make real-time content and offer optimizations that better deliver on customer expectations.
- Dynamically adapt to real-world events in your vertical and potentially interruptive political, social, economic, and technological happenings.
- Have both a high-level, birds-eye view of SEO performance and the ability to dig in and get granular.
- Combine search data and other business intelligence to capitalize on new opportunities and emerging trends.
You can read more about how search and business intelligence work together to support enterprise goals here.
5. Establish a Center of Excellence to Replicate Successes and Support Organizational Maturity
Finally, all of these processes and best practices you’ve developed must be made replicable and scalable. The best way to achieve this is through the development of your enterprise’s SEO Center of Excellence.
This is where the mindsets, skill sets, and toolsets that power exceptional SEO performance come together in a living, breathing repository you’ll keep updated as your operation evolves.
Your Center of Excellence will guide onboarding, training, professional development, adherence to internal and industry best practices, performance frameworks, and more.
As you grow your team and your enterprise SEO strategy evolves, the Center will serve as a single source of truth for your team.
This is where you’ll share learnings, celebrate successes, strategize, evangelize, and mature as an organization.
I share more about sharing SEO insights and inspiring interorganizational action here.
- Building a healthy, sustainable enterprise SEO culture takes time and an unwavering commitment from leadership.
- So-called soft skills – communication, collaboration, and curiosity among them – are integral to a positive culture.
- SEO culture isn’t exclusive to the SEO team. Early and ongoing support from the C-suite and other department decision-makers is essential.
- Investments of time and budget must consider the SEO organization’s people, processes, and technology to produce the balanced approach required for long-term success.
- Enterprise SEO culture, best practices, and knowledge are made scalable and replicable through an established Center of Excellence.
- What Is Enterprise SEO?
- 8 Enterprise SEO Skills That Add Value for Your Team & Career
- Enterprise SEO Guide: Strategies, Tools, & More
In-post image created by author, July 2021