“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.”
Enterprise SEO budgets revolve primarily around people and tools. The SEO team is not only challenged with third party SEO tools, but even the tools on their work PCs, project management tools, custom in-house applications, etc…
The challenge then is to find ways to combine all the different ways you can buy, build, or use different free and paid tools to do better work.
Custom SEO applications could add millions of dollars of value, and allow you to do work without disrupting merchandising, content and IT processes.
Questions Worth Asking
How much budget is the team given for enterprise tools?
Who approves and purchases SEO tools, subscriptions and software?
What tools are available in-house to update meta tags, and page copy?
Do you need to build a custom application just for adding, updating, and managing SEO meta and copy data?
What tool(s) should the team use, purchase or lease to perform web log analysis of search engine crawl activity?
What tool(s) should the team use to diagnose 3xx, 4xx, and 5xx response code issues?
Who should SEO work with and what is the process to fix hard and soft 404 issues?
Who and what tool handles 301 redirects?
Who manages Google and Bing Webmaster Tools access? Who should get access, and what level? What happens when a user no longer works at the company?
What non-SEO (legacy or 3rd party) tools are commonly used in the company for analytics, reporting, operations, product management, finance and accounting, etc?
Everything from Microsoft Office to Tableau to IBM Core Metrics to the various ERP systems are all fair game, and worth basic discovery. You never know what functions/data/intel you can uncover.
Your boss may not outright understand the need for paid tools such as Screaming Frog, Conductor, Ahrefs, SEMRush. Getting autonomy to spend on expanding your toolkit may take time and trust. How should the SEO team justify monthly, annual, or one-time expenses on tools?
Tip: keep a spreadsheet or deck, and constantly update it with each tool, its key purpose, and its log-in info. It comes handy with new team members, budgeting, and serves as a reminder to actually use them.
What enterprise-level tools access should IT and other cross-functional teams grant the SEO team?
What are the primary and secondary sources of SEO reporting?
Let’s say that you suspect your primary reporting suite, Google Analytics, is overstating or understating SEO traffic and sales. What secondary data sources should you use to debug, to continue reporting performance?
What Webmaster Tools functions and data should you look at weekly, if not daily?
What platform builds your company’s website(s)? What type of servers, languages, frameworks, code, databases, make up the site infrastructure?
Who builds XML Sitemaps, and how does their process work?
On day 1, what supporting tools should the company hook the SEO team up with:
- Mac or PC?
- Microsoft Office or Google Docs?
- Project Collaboaration tools such as Trello, JIRA, Slack, Microsoft Project?
- Document storage apps such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or internal hard drives?
- Communication tools for email/messaging: Outlook, Skype for Business, etc.?
What involvement should cross-functional teams have with enterprise SEO tools such as Conductor, Keyword Planner, Webmaster Tools, etc.? Who is expected to teach how to use them?
What specific purpose and objectives should the SEO team have for the various tools, software, or subscriptions?
Tip: The marketplace is crowded with hundreds of options, and sometimes even the most popular & expert recommended tools might not help your enterprise. Assess the situation: your budgets, your work computer’s capabilities, IT restrictions, Legal or confidentiality issues, RFP/RFQ processes, existing reporting capabilities, annual goals and performance reviews, and daily processes. All of these factors influence how you spend, and how much value you get from your toolkit.
<rant> In college, I did some telemarketing and even door-to-door sales, and I hated it, but I figured that’s business. When I discovered SEO, I was instantly attracted to the self-empowering core of its being: the idea that as a person, you search for answers to questions or problems on the web, find the available answers and options, and then decide on your own whether to buy something or not. Maybe business didn’t have to be always about outbound / forceful marketing.
And yet, in the SEO business, vendors constantly cold-email and cold-call you for trials, demos, and “quick” half-hour phone calls. It’s the most ironic thing. Sorry guys, but if we need you, we’ll look for you, and if we find you, and like what you’re offering, we’ll contact you.
Work is a constant battle of time and project management, especially in 20, 50, 100+ year old large organizations. Faux work is an area where you must (learn to) say No, cleanly and decisively.</rant>
Every tool or software makes a difference. Take existing in-house tools and use them, improve them. Build new in-house tools instead of paying for expensive enterprise subscriptions if possible. Get creative with all the existing code, databases, and systems in place, and remix something new for SEO use. Learn to use APIs to build stuff without programming it. Automate stuff as much as possible. Write test scripts to automate testing. And, remember, just because you work in an enterprise, you don’t always need enterprise packages and plans.