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April 10, 2007

Organic SEO with Big Companies

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[covered by Marie Howell, Bruce Clay Europe. Marie joins us from Bruce Clay’s London office for SES NY and will be adding her session recaps to Lisa’s this week.]

Jeff Rohrs (of the Sausage Manifesto), as charismatic as ever, introduced and moderated the panel which included the highly respected Bill Hunt, Marshall Simmonds from Define Search Strategies, Tanya Vaughan from HP and Brendan Hart from National Geographic.

Bill Hunt
In his fast-paced presentation, Bill Hunt advocated syncronising and integrating all of your company’s team – web, IT, tech, marketing, etc – when working to optimise a site.
In a large organisation, segmenting the programme works best. Working with Brand level programs, group level programs and Corporate Level Programmes with the different department creates a more holistic approach to SEO.

Corporate Level Programmes: Develop long and short term strategies to maximise search as a marketing vehicle.
Group Level: keyword research and prioritisation, coordinate approach
Brand Level: implementing on page, page edits etc.

Bill advocated screen shots of competitors’ ranking better than the company as a good way of showing that their system is not working and what they need to change / improve. He also referred to optimising RSS feeds as a great way of distributing content.

As search is the most measurable marketing activity that we have, it is so important to measure effectively. There are a number of issues that need to be covered from a site audit, including compliance audit, a link popularity assessment through to identifying problem items and getting the template right. Bill also advocated create a style guide and show where all of the key things from search should be as a clear visual tool to your company / client. Bill discussed the MOM – missed opportunity matrix, as mentioned in his book with Mike Moran and how that informs clearly and in a highly effective manner. Bill returned to his seat after suggested showing the management the cost of NOT optimising and offering a way to do this.

New York Times Case Study
Marshall Simmonds from Define Search Strategies.com explained how his company had taken the New York Times on as a client and then doubled their traffic in a mere 9 months.

He commenced by sharing some striking statistics, and his starting point of how can this be organised across a company with many different publications such as the New York Times. With 11-15 million documents in that publication alone, a specific organisational structure was required and an SEO-friendly template was needed.

One of the major problems with a large organisation is the resistance to change, especially within publishing so it was a case of encouraging the editors to merely enhance their writing styles and not change them.

The methodology that works for big brands, according to Marshall, is to Organise. Analyse, Educate, Execute and then Track results. And then, when this process is complete, to constantly revisit each of the action steps. There is ALWAYS something that can be done to make the site better, even when ranking on the first page for many keyword terms.

Marshall expanded upon the way to work with large companies (or, indeed to organise your colleagues within your large organisation) by stressing the need to organise an SEO program manager and then engage a team of marketing , tech, research, editorial and even sales to ensure an holistic approach (reinforcing the earlier point by Bill Hunt).

Naturally a large, and, indeed any size of organisation, will need to see a quick set of results as a reinforcement that the approach to SEO is working. In an endeavour to do this, Marshall’s team analysed to see what could be amended to work this quick change. These small changes, whilst the entire site was being analysed, doubled traffic in just 9 months. This offers a lesson to all companies trying to SEO their site: which small changes could generate major results. Cleaning code, tags, template changes that affected entire sections etc would be the larger changes that would follow after a time of in-depth research.

When Marshall’s company took over the SEO of the NY Times, one of the biggest challenges was that the paper was not indexable: an enormous problem for organic SEO. To counteract this, the registration wall was pushed back 5 clicks. This, naturally, resulted in a huge boost for the site.

Marshall stressed that the education of company staff is paramount. Getting the message across and teaching SEO best practices is invaluable as is ongoing training. However, it is important to remember that best practices will be different for each department. They will be, in newspaper circles, checklists before you can publish. Editorial would get a different approach to marketing, sales, IT, etc. Again, in measuring and tracking, company executives would get one report, marketing another, etc

In the Q & A session, Jeff asked the panel about IT resistance. Tanya explained how it does take time and effort to understand the resistance of the IT department and it takes tenacity to ensure that the IT dept understand the reasons why and that the SEO dept need to understand why and educate.

Marshall explained how passing the credit to the IT dept works well, too. Everyone does need credit for their work. Marshall mentioned The Golden Triangle report and stated that the goal is merely to get onto the first page. The click throughs may be less, He referred to a report that mentions that searchers are scrolling to the bottom of the first page and working up, to avoid the advertising.

Even when you reach the top 3, it does not guarantee traffic. You MUST look at the snippet to ensure that it is compelling and it delivers what the majority of searchers are looking for.

An excellent session to kick off the conference part of SES NYC with lively interaction between panellists and audience: lots of great questions and some excellent nuggets of information generously shared.

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One response to “Organic SEO with Big Companies”

  1. Seo Design Solutions writes:

    On that note, I have one brief comment to toss in the mix. “Mod Rewrite!” – which should be the mantra for any IT team who works for a conglomerate with a behemoth / content management system. Just remember as long as you don’t see any strings ?18726-h27 for pages and search engines see relevant (SEO friendly) keyword-rich text, this should eliminate 45% of any potential clashes between the two divisions as they battle for supremacy.



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