“Content is king”. This refrain is beginning drive all search marketers crazy: we all know great content is an indispensible part of an organic search campaign, but too many articles overlook the difficulties of content collaboration in an enterprise SEO environment (If you are unsure about my use of “enterprise SEO” I’ll defer to Ian Lurie’s spectacular checklist).
When you sign on to do work for a big brand client you have instantly given up your content autonomy. Content ideas, keywords and revisions are run through a seemingly endless gauntlet of client and/or agency departments which can seriously impede your ability to deliver results. All too often content ideas sit at the bottom of a client’s inbox and are never implemented. The key to getting your recommendations implemented is to understand how all the different stakeholders fit together and then to build a level of trust and consensus with these partners. Here’s a list of the key players and how to deal with them:
The Brand Team: For better or worse, brand teams often hold a conservative attitude surrounding content and content changes. They see change as a potential deviation away from their brand identity and have the power to drag their feet if they don’t agree with your keywords or overall content strategy.
In other words, they are the gatekeeper and you need their buy-in to make it anywhere your SEO initiative. Show them keyword volume. Beat them over the head with analytics and keyword referral data. Anticipate their questions and provide them with answers, ROI and case studies.
But don’t forget to pick your battles- there will be some titles, keywords and copy that are already steeped in internal politics. In this case, give them your recommendations, keep records of what was (and wasn’t) implemented and remind them of the potential visits/conversions they are missing.
Copywriters (and anyone else who writes stuff): Content creation can be handled by the client, agency or through a collaborative process. Most SEOs fancy themselves to be adequate copywriters, but the truth is that skilled writers really do make a difference. The trick is to get as much good SEO baked into the content creation process as possible. This means keeping copywriters and anyone involved in content production up to date on the latest editorial SEO tactics. Along with education, developing checklists or content scoring systems for the essential page elements (URL, Title, Meta-Desciription, H1, etc.) is a great safety net- bonus points if you build an automated scoring system into the CMS.
Partners: If you are working with a big enough client, odds are that you will at some point work with content that references other partner companies/programs. Managing this relationship isn’t your job, but you can help the situation by doing great work the first time. Be proactive and discuss what partner content can and cannot be used on the site and if partner linking can solve some of these issues. There’s no bigger headache than trying to get a second wave of content revisions approved by both the client AND partner teams.
Legal: No one rains on an optimization parade as quickly as a legal department. If you are in the enterprise SEO game then odds are you will run up against highly regulated industries (financial services, healthcare, insurance, etc.). You need to respect these boundaries and do your homework. If you are too focused on your keyword research you might be making recommendations that will surely be shot down by the legal team. Also never forget about compliance with Section 508 of the American with Disabilities Act: In 2006, Target was forced to pay a $6 million settlement because its website had insufficient image “ALT tags” for blind customers who relied on screen reading software.
Side-note: Online marketing is also creating new regulatory wrinkles in the paid search and social channels. For example, how should a tiny PPC ad box fully disclose a drug’s warnings and side effects? How should personally identifiable information disclosed via social networks and analytics be handled within a company’s marketing department?
- Your content recommendations should be easily understood. Include your keyword research and the lists of approved keywords for all on-page optimization. If you are including technical components (e.g. schema.org markup), be sure to provide sufficient details.
- Measure your results. Creating new pages costs money and eventually these costs need to be justified to the CMO or CEO. Baseline visibility and analytics reports are mandatory for any enterprise SEO campaign. Without these numbers you have no story to tell and no way to receive credit for your work.
- Practice diplomacy. This isn’t an SEO specific suggestion, but it bears repeating. Turning your client into an SEO evangelist is not always easy but creating allies will help you get your content recommendations implemented.