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Enterprise SEO: Fortune 500 Natural Search Questions Answered

by Jeremy Dearringer

I recently sat on a search summit panel for a Fortune 500 company. Their natural search questions covered ROI, social media and the management process. These were my answers to those panel questions.

What does enterprise SEO look like as a management process in the next few years?

As digital relevance marketers, we will continue to expand our understanding of data and metrics associated with success. We will use this information to make objective decisions that guide our actions to accomplish organization goals, rather than just departmental goals.

As metrics, such as full attribution tracking, start to paint the big picture we will begin to realize that each marketing channel has a vested interest in the success of another. We will understand how email marketing, paid search, social media, public relations, natural search and other forms of digital marketing support and become dependant on each other. Sometimes a stand-alone digital marketing vertical may not demonstrate direct ROI, but may be essential for the success of another.

What will become even more important as a result is the human element. How do we earn buy in from all parts of the organization? We will look to foster collaboration between departments rather than competition.  Departments generally associated with bottlenecking the marketing process, such as IT, legal and compliance must be respected and brought into the conversation early in the process. Non-marketing elements, for example, such as legal and compliance will be challenged to speed up the content approval process without sacrificing brand integrity allowing large organizations to become more agile.

How is social media impacting natural search?

Social media has always impacted search. SEO professionals have been using social media to win search since around 2003 when social bookmarking sites such as Delicious became popular. Others soon followed such as Digg and Stumbleupon. These platforms became popular content marketing channels. Great content that was effectively marketed through these channels would garner in-bound links that were critical for SEO success in competitive markets.

As with social bookmarking sites, Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin became social media tools used for content marketing. As these social platforms became more widely used by the general public it was no surprise that search engines such as Google and Bing would want access to the valuable data these sites collect related to brands/entities, people and web content. What do shares, Likes, tweets, retweets, followers and networks communicate about the value and relevancy of piece of web content to a search query?

First and foremost these social signals are allowing modern search engines to further personalize search results based on a searcher’s social circles, habits, etc.

Further, social signals will be and are being used as a check on traditional search signals such as links. Search engines will use these signals to determine false positives. That is if traditional links communicate relevancy and trust related to a certain brand or piece of web content, do social signals and user behavior back that up?

What trends or innovations are changing the way in which natural search is measured and ROI is justified?

Analytics companies such as Omniture, Webtrends, KISSmetrics and Google’s Analytics are enabling digital marketers to further track attribution. That is if the first touch or exposure to a brand came through a non-branded search, how do we attribute value to that form of marketing when the final touch came from an email nurture campaign? Who is responsible for that lead/sale? Email? Search? It’s likely both. We need to go as far as possible to track the behavior of customers and prospective clients as they interact with the brand over time through channels such as natural search, digital ads, social media, news media and email. Those technologies ARE available today.

A study by eConsultancy found that a major retailer only credited generic, non-branded SEO with 1,663 sales based on last touch attribution when in reality generic SEO was responsible for 23,923 sales. Generic, non-branded SEO appeared in the path to conversion of 78,117 sales. “Generic SEO gets credited for 14 times less sales than it deserves on a flat attribution model.”

What is the big problem related to natural search that we’re all trying to solve?

How do we become digitally relevant? Search engines determine digital relevance. What data are search engines using to determine digital relevance? That’s the easy part.

Now for the hard part. Implementation. How do we successfully act and implement based on that intelligence? How do we efficiently create great content that our customers and prospects will find valuable? How do we market that content? How do we make that content accessible to search engines with limited IT resources, content management platforms and dated server environments? Can we get IT, legal, compliance and various marketing specialists on the same page? Slingshot SEO can help.

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