If you’ve been in the SEO industry for a while, you’ve probably come across some pretty large and challenging websites to optimize. It’s no doubt that a large website can be a very intimidating beast! You absolutely MUST approach it differently than your normal 10-20 page website, or you are absolutely destined to crash and burn.
SEO for large sites and companies often requires flipping the model on how you normally run a campaign – with a focus on sweeping changes that affect many pages rather than small edits. The line of thinking is often more high level and less in the weeds.
For our purposes, I’ll define a large site as one that has 100 or more pages (could be dynamic or static). And chances are if you’re working on a site of this proportion, then there is probably a lot of money on the line. No pressure, eh!
Now I know what you’re saying. Who the hell is this guy, and why should I listen to him? That’s understandable. But just to let you know, if you’re in a situation similar to what was described above, I’ve been walking in your shoes (with some degree of success) for quite some time.
I’ve been working with big brands and large sites since 2007.
And now, I want to show you how to kick ass and take names on your large-scale SEO campaign. As a BONUS, since large sites are often owned by large companies, I’ll get into that a little bit too.
There are TWO ways you can win at SEO for large sites and/or companies.
From an optimization standpoint…
From an optimization standpoint, approaching large websites requires covering several bases.
1. Do Your Research
I can’t stress this enough. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Do heavy research on your client, their brands/products, their best/worst keyword options, competitors, industry, and pretty much everything else. As your doing it, be sure to archive it. This will help you in the future when the client asks why you did something? You’ll have facts and in-depth research to show.
For example, I spent nearly two months on the Scotts campaign doing initial research and familiarizing myself with products before I did a single thing on their website. Now I’m not saying you have to (or even should) do research for that length of time, but do what you have to do in order to be on top of your shit!
2. Map Out Website Hierarchy
One of the things that has really helped me in doing SEO for larger websites, is to map out the website’s hierarchy. This is for all of the people that just like to dive right in feet first. Take the time to understand how the website is built from a structural standpoint.
I recommend doing this in an Excel spreadsheet (or something comparable).
Here are some things to look at:
- Which pages link to which?
- How does the site flow?
- How does the site navigation tie together?
- How many layers are there?
- Which pages are most important?
3. Tier Off the Pages
What do I mean by Tier? Basically, I mean sectioning off the site’s pages into Tiers. Tier 0 being the homepage, and every other page Tier according to how many clicks away from the homepage they are. This should tie into the website hierarchy.
For instance, a Tier 1 page would be one click away from the homepage, while a Tier 4 page takes four clicks to get to from the homepage. In SEO, pages that are closer to the homepage are often deemed more valuable by search engines, so this will give you a relative measure of the importance of each page on your site.
|About > Mission||../about/mission.php||Tier 2|
|Services > SEO||../services/seo.php||Tier 2|
|Services > PPC||../services/ppc.php||Tier 2|
|Services > Consulting||../services/consulting.php||Tier 2|
4. Think Big, Not Small
With a large website (especially a dynamic one) you may not be able to edit each page individually or in a timely matter. So throw that idea out the window. Instead, try to think of SEO tactics that can be more one-size-fits-all.
With a dynamic website, many things are simply just variables that change dynamically based on how they are pulled from a database. For example, as a page title you might be looking at something like this in the code:
<cfoutput query=”get_building”> <title>#name# – #city#, #state_name# – #site_name</title> </cfoutput> - See more at: http://agent-seo.com/seo/seo-for-large-sites-companies/#sthash.cGRnuJoS.dpuf
Since the site is dynamic, changing the order of something here may not only affect one page, but may affect literally hundreds of individual pages. In cases like this, try to think of structural SEO changes that are good for the whole.
5. Identify & Prioritize Website Issues
Once you’ve identified all of the potential SEO pitfalls, list them out using a Microsoft Word, Excel, or something of the like. Then, prioritize the SEO issues by most impactful to least impactful. Once you do this, you should be ready to create a plan of attack.
6. Create an SEO Roadmap
The SEO Roadmap is your detailed plan of attack that will help you prioritize and organize your efforts for the beast of a campaign that lies ahead. Use it as your bible, and don’t waver from it. Trust me on this!
Here is an Example SEO Roadmap for you too take a look at. It is pretty bare-bones, but you’ll get the idea.
7. Pre-Defined Structure
Since you’re going to be spending a lot of time on this site, you’re going to need to find a way to cut corners without losing quality. One way to do this is to use predefine structures. I like to use this for page titles, URLs, and stuff like that.
Tier 1 Page Title:
Target Keyword #1 - Target Keyword #2 - Company Name
Tier 2 Page Title:
Page Name - Target Keyword #1 - Company Name
Tier 3 Page Title:
Category Name - Parent Page Name - Company Name
Tier 4 Page Title:
Sub-Category Name - Parent Category Name - Company Name
See how this helps you save time, stay organized, and create quality, all while cutting a few corners.
8. Focus Your Efforts
You created an SEO Roadmap for a reason. Stay focused, work on the right things. Remember, work smart and not hard!
If you’re a couple months in and have done work on all pages, examined new trends, or have had new issues come up…don’t worry…it’s okay (and normal) to reprioritize things. For example, once I’ve completed work on all Scotts pages, I plan to go back through and re-examine the top-tier pages to see how I can improve them.
9. Attention to Detail
Remember when I told you to think big, not small. Well, as you get farther and farther into the campaign (after you’ve identified the bigger issues), it will be your attention to detail that makes you successful.
Being able to pick up and improve the small things are what takes an SEO campaign from good to great!
10. Record Your Successes & Areas to Improve
Big companies have lots of people to answer to, which means that they’ll be wanting detailed reports on areas that you’ve had success, and areas you feel need to be improved. Make sure you have everything that you’ve done (all successes, failures, or anything) documented.
Point to things such as:
- Website traffic trends
- Ranking reports
- Website conversions/ROI
- Or whatever else makes them happy?
From a consulting standpoint…
When you have a large scale website on your hands, chances are you’ll be asked to do more than just on-site work. From personal experience, I know that in addition to on-site work I’ve had to provide consulting on structure, etc. Here are some tips that should help you handle it effectively:
1. Be Available
A large company with a large website is going to need tons of attention and lots of TLC. Make sure to make yourself available to them to answer questions, solve problems, or just be generally helpful.
This will go a long way in creating a relationship of trust, which can help you build a solid reputation (and may help you win business in the future).
2. Be Educational
The more time you take to educate your client, the less skeptical they will be overall. Teach them SEO. They’re already paying you, so it doesn’t make sense to keep your secrets secret. By sharing your knowledge and approach with them, they will understand WHY you are doing certain things and will be more apt to TRUST your judgement on all things SEO.
FYI – This is also a good reputation & trust builder!
3. Be Honest
Be honest with your clients, even if it hurts. Don’t be afraid to tell them where their site is lacking from an SEO perspective, or where it is doing well for that matter. Over the long-term, a client will appreciate your honesty and they will trust your opinion more.
FYI – Be careful with this one. Don’t confuse being honest as your chance to rant about a client’s crappy SEO. This approach may be considered extremely rude! Always take a professional approach, and be courteous throughout the process.
4. Always Have An Answer
Clients will have lots of questions. Be prepared to answer them, and make sure that they answer you give them is right. If this means saying, “I’ll have to get back to you on that one” then so be it. Just make sure you answer their question correctly and in a timely manner.
Again, this will help build lots of trust. Are you getting a theme here? Hope this helps!
Image credit: NASA