Enterprise SEO (or enterprise search engine optimization) is the type of SEO that’s focused on large, branded websites. These are sites that have tens of thousands to millions of pages competing for the top spot in Google’s search results.
The scope of work that’s required in order to leverage SEO is larger and significantly more than what would be required in order to do SEO on smaller sites for those types of pages.
This is due to the fact that they’re typically more complex in nature and they require larger teams of SEO professionals in order to successfully navigate them through their respective industries, niches or verticals.
In our latest SEO analysis series, we are analyzing large, branded sites like Amazon, Walmart, and others, to name a few. We hope to bring our latest insights and knowledge into the SEO ranking factors on these sites to help you, the SEO professional, leverage your skills on similar sites that need a bit of love and care when it comes to overall SEO maintenance.
When done right it’s important to remember that there are many factors involved in achieving success with enterprise SEO, so let’s take a closer look at our first analysis project: Amazon.
About The Crawl Strategy
Amazon is a large site. So we crawled a large sampling of their URLs – approximately 423,000 of them. This is the breakdown of the results of the final crawl:
- Total URLs crawled: 423K
- Internal URLs: 146.7K
- External URLs: 295
- Resources: 276.1K
- Uncrawled URLs: Approximately 767.6K
The key to implementing recommendations in enterprise SEO is prioritization and scale. You want to make sure that you prioritize what’s important in terms of ensuring the correct implementation, while also making sure that you don’t have to work for hours on millions of URLs.
This is where things like scale and prioritization come in.
For example: you may assign certain things to your team that need to be fixed now, while taking into consideration things that need to be fixed later.
Another example: maybe you have to add Schema.org structured data in the form of JSON-LD to thousands of URLs.
Sometimes this may mean creating a program that can handle the implementation for you.
Or it means hiring some staff to help you increase your results.
Either way, the prioritization of tasks and scaling massive website changes are the things that will help you succeed in enterprise SEO.
Enterprise SEO Strategy
Amazon doesn’t need links. They need better organization and UX. For example, for many reviews, they are not separated out by product. Many reviews are extraordinarily confusing – one review talks about one product, but a different product is showing on the page.
This has nothing to do with their UX – where different variations of the product are shown on the page. Sometimes the reviews are talking about an entirely different model.
Let us be clear: many of these issues are going to make Amazon.com more visible to Google crawlers.
Clearly Amazon has a lot of marketing already behind the fact that they are a household name. They don’t necessarily “need” these types of improvements. Nor do they need Google.
But, many of these improvements could open doors to something that would otherwise be inaccessible to Amazon in its current configuration.
Very Old SEO Best Practices
It may be hard to believe that Amazon is using the keywords meta tag. Most of the major search engines deprecated this meta tag around 2009, and no longer use it for ranking.
Although, it is possible that Amazon could be using it for reporting.
However, because of the nature of how it’s optimized, this is something we doubt.
Many Many Blank URLs
There are approximately 126,900 blank URLs using the formatting below. There’s no purpose, rhyme, or reason that we can see. They are just…blank.
If these URLs are not serving any purpose, we recommend making sure that they are deleted. Even if they are not being indexed, Google could eventually – potentially index them anyway.
Even if they are blocked.
Inefficient Cache Policies Impacting Core Web Vitals
While on the whole, Amazon does have some good things going for it in terms of page speed, there are several opportunities that we recommend taking advantage of.
One of those is with static assets (such as product images) that are not being served with fast enough download speed.
If Amazon wishes to speed up things like Core Web Vitals, we recommend setting a cache header on the server response. This allows for that server response to tell the browser that assets do not need to be downloaded yet again, which also leads to reduced server requests.
As such, by implementing this, efficient HTTP caching can help speed up page load when it comes to repeat visits.
Strange Canonical Attributes
SEO best practices dictate that canonicals – in most cases – should be self-canonicaled to the page itself. Most canonicals look like they canonical back to the main category (node) within the page sequence itself, rather than being self-canonicaled to the page.
In some cases, this is a logical approach.
However, for most sites, and especially Amazon, we recommend making sure that the canonical points to the page itself.
Some Pages Are Visible To Google, Some Not
However, Google’s mobile-friendly testing tool shows that even on the rendered version of the page, what shows up to Google does not show any:
- Text content on the page
- Page links
- Footer links
- Anything on the page is not visible to Google based on their current version of the mobile-friendly test.
Overhauling the architecture of Amazon’s overall code is highly recommended, to make sure it renders well according to W3C standard coding best practices.
There is nothing wrong with Amazon’s overall backlinks. These are at 19.6 billion, one of the sites with the most links on the web.
The strangest thing about Amazon’s backlink profile is that the majority is composed almost entirely of nofollow links.
With the severity of these nofollow links, we recommend that Amazon examine and do a cleanup of these types of links, rather than keeping almost everything at nofollow.
Image Optimization is Nonexistent
There is absolutely no image optimization happening on Amazon. They are all random names and image dimensions such as:
But, Amazon is doing one thing right sometimes: they are using Google’s webp image standard, which is the latest image standard that is optimized for fast loading times.
However, this is not something that is always being done. For most of their images, it looks like they are using .jpg images. This is fine, so long as they are well-optimized for the page.
We recommend that Amazon take the approach of naming images in this fashion: /product-name-product-number/.
Where the product name would be the short name assigned to the product, and the product and/or model number.
Different Versions of URLs Load at Once
Even though URLs have canonicals on them, multiple versions of URLs all load at once. This is not good from Amazon’s perspective, because this can cause duplicate content issues.
We recommend making sure that these URLs are 301 redirected to the main canonical.
Only the following URL should load in the browser:
There are also trailing slash issues. For example, the following URL loads:
Instead of only this one loading:
This is likely causing significant crawling issues where Google is concerned.
TLS protocols are properly supported, but there are some weaknesses on the server. Older versions of these protocols are enabled.
It is recommended that Amazon update these TLS protocols so that they include the latest and greatest supported TLS protocols.
The analysis has also revealed that there are weak and vulnerable cipher suites. These are considered security risks.
What are cipher suites? They are sets of instructions that enable secure network connections by using Transport Layer Security (TLS).
Cipher suites provide algorithms and other protocols which are required to provide secure communications between servers and clients.
Weaker cipher suites actually allow attackers the ability to intercept (or change) data while it’s in transit between the client and the server.
While it may not show up as a relatively big deal in an audit, weaknesses in cipher suites can cause significant issues down the line when hackers steal data.
Schema.org Structured Data
Amazon could really make a killing with structured data. They do have authority, backlinks, and brand recognition – something that should lead to increased exposure through featured snippets, and the like.
However, Amazon does continue showing up #1 for certain products, even ranking above the brand website:
There is still opportunity to improve for other queries, however, such as Alienware (Dell beats Amazon in this case):
There are other examples.
But this is where implementing correct Schema, according to Google’s best practices, can work.
If Google’s rich snippet tool can’t crawl it or detect it, then Google may not be able to do so as effectively either.
Overall User Experience
It seems to us that Amazon’s overall user experience could be significantly improved. Here are several examples:
Reviews are not sorted by most recent by default. They are disorganized – one example we saw featured reviews from 2020 to one from 2018 to one from 2019. And they are in a jumbled mess, leading to confusion about which reviews apply to which products.
Sometimes, reviews are lumped in with all the same product page, even though the page itself does not apply to a particular product being reviewed.
We recommend making sure that things are sequentially organized from most recent to least recent by default, and then let the user decide which one they want to use.
Their new customer service process takes 3 or 4 more steps to reach a person, when working with their former process, it was easy to find a phone number or a way to rapidly find a human person to speak to at Amazon. It seems, however, that the goal of finding a real person to speak to was made much more difficult, because there isn’t a way to directly contact a person at any point of the process.
Instead, there are several convoluted steps you have to take, and some steps may not result in a contact, especially if they do not match the reason why you are calling.
We recommend making the customer service process as quick and easy as possible to follow, so that customers can reach a human who can answer their questions and resolve any issues quickly if needed.
The SEO Team
As you may have guessed, the type of technology that’s required in order to take on enterprise SEO requires large, complex teams working together in unison in order to meet certain criteria and objectives for success.
In many cases, this means having a very large SEO team that’s fully dedicated to meeting these objectives.
These teams may have a variety of different roles, skill sets and experience so it’s important to assemble the right people that can deliver success with enterprise SEO.
When you’re working on larger sites, it’s important to have SEOs and other members on the SEO team who have a deep understanding of HTTP, HTML and other web technologies.
Additionally, it’s important to make sure that there are those on the SEO team who can work with developers to build things like XML sitemaps, as well as properly structure URLs and set canonical tags appropriately.
Squeezing out every last bit of page experience and Core Web Vitals improvements should be a vital part of your strategy.
When dealing with weaknesses in image optimization – such as not having the width and height as part of the image tag, or large image file sizes, it’s always preferable to make sure that these types of media elements are optimized properly.
This can contribute to some improvement to Core Web Vitals scores, and it also makes things more efficient because the browser does not have an extra step to “guess” what the image sizes are supposed to be.
Schema.org microdata needs to be validated and ensured to be correct across operating systems and platforms. So long as it validates according to Google’s structured data testing tool, depending on your processes, you should be fine.
Compliance and Quality
As we all know, the search engines and Google in particular have been very keen on adding additional signals that help them determine whether or not a site is reputable or can be trusted.
Typically this means that there are certain requirements such as having privacy policies for example.
Additionally, it’s important that the SEO team is aware of any regulations or compliance requirements for how they work with particular sites.
Why? Well, if there’s a violation it could lead to big problems with Google and other search engines ranking these pages so it’s important to be proactive about this.
In order to properly implement enterprise SEO, it’s important to do a technical audit in order to determine the following:
- What pages are indexed and where?
- What pages can be removed from indexing or de-indexed altogether?
- What sitemaps you need and how they should be structured for optimal crawling and indexation?
- What are the structure and URL settings for these pages?
- What are the image sitemaps requirements?
While this may seem like a significant list of questions, it’s important to remember that without doing a proper technical audit any changes made on these types of sites can be putting them at risk of being penalized or having problems with Google at some point.
The scope of enterprise SEO also means that there’s typically a lot of content to audit and review prior to making any changes or launching an SEO campaign for these types of sites. This is not your standard type of content audit where you’re looking at 10 pages or so.
This is more like hundreds of thousands, or even millions of web pages in some cases, and thus it’s important to remember that you can’t neglect this part of the process because it can also lead to problems down the road with search engine indexation and rankings.
What Are the Top 3 Reasons Why Companies Fail With Enterprise SEO?
While enterprise SEO is an entirely different type of game than smaller sites, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t pitfalls along the way.
One of the top reasons a company may fail with enterprise SEO is not executing the project properly, or starting the project off on the right foot. Both of these are critical processes to have in place if you hope to run a successful enterprise SEO project.
Here are some common reasons why companies fail with enterprise SEO:
Failure to Properly Assemble the Right Team
When you’re working on enterprise SEO, it’s absolutely essential that you have the right team of people who are passionate about this type of work.
Typically there are more people involved with the process, especially if these sites are really big and complex, so it’s important to staff them accordingly.
More complex sites have much more work involved, and it’s not just a matter of optimizing a few pages and calling it a day.
In order to get the most value from enterprise SEO, it’s important to assemble a team of technical people, strategic thinkers and marketers in order to bring about optimal results.
No Clear Goals in Place
It’s really important when you’re running an enterprise SEO campaign that there are clear goals in place.
This means that there are specific pages that need to be optimized, you have metrics in place that can help determine how successful your campaign is and what needs to be changed or improved on.
Without goals it’s impossible to measure success, so this is a critical component of working with enterprise SEO.
Larger projects that make up the majority of enterprise SEO contracts can suffer from analysis paralysis if you don’t have enough team members.
This is where you have team members that are doing almost nothing but analysis, and are very short on execution.
In addition, hiring unqualified team members to lead enterprise SEO efforts can also cause you to shoot yourself in the foot, and you may need to revise
This is why it’s so important to vet and make sure that you are hiring the right team who will work well together for your SEO success.
No Clear or Documented Plan For Success
Now that you have the right team of people on board, it’s also important to make sure that there is a documented plan for success.
This means that you need to set benchmarks and identify all areas of opportunity; this includes any broken links, internal/external linking structures, content gaps etc.
Entity architecture – how are these pages connected to each other?
In other words, you need to understand the theme of the page and how it fits into the overall site as well as any major keywords that should be focused upon as part of the strategy.
Finally, another consideration is having a good plan for measuring success.
In enterprise SEO it’s critical that you have tracking in place to measure success.
This means both on-site analytics as well as Google Analytics.
You should also have a set of tools in place that can help you monitor everything from your rankings, indexation and crawl rate to other KPIs (key performance indicators).
How many people are typically involved with enterprise SEO?
Typically there are more people involved to handle enterprise SEO than there are for smaller sites.
As mentioned, it’s important to have a designated project manager who will keep track of all of the details and help oversee larger tasks.
You can also expect that there will be roles dedicated to quality assurance, web analytics, technical/code optimization as well as someone in charge of link building and social media.
There should also be a designated person who can focus on the analytics and metrics for this project.
They will need to be able to understand how it’s all connected so that you can measure success accurately. This is not just about link building, but other areas such as content creation, social media engagement, etc.
Elements of Successful Enterprise SEO
While it may seem like there are a lot of potential pitfalls to work around when you’re working on enterprise SEO, the good news though is that it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.
The reality is that many companies are succeeding with these types of campaigns, which means that if they can do it, then so can your organization.
Here are some of the leading factors behind a successful enterprise SEO campaign:
One of the keys to success with enterprise SEO is good communication throughout your team.
It’s important that everyone on your team understands what their role is, how they’re contributing to the overall cause and how they can improve on what they’re doing for your company.
Good communication also comes in the form of reporting, which is something that needs to happen regularly in order for you to make sure you are keeping track of where things stand.
This helps prevent problems with analysis paralysis because if you know what’s going on, it’s easier to prevent this from happening because you can manage it before it gets to be too much.
Transparent Goals between Teams and Departments
With your goals and needs documented, it’s important that everyone agrees to these terms and has clear expectations for what is expected of them.
Because there are so many people involved with enterprise SEO, you need to make sure that there is a system in place and an infrastructure where each person can check in on progress and know where things stand.
Good communication also happens when everyone is on the same page; this means that if you are hiring new people, they need to be able to jump in with both feet initially (at least the first week or so) to make sure they understand everything.
They don’t have to be experts, but it’s important that they can speak the language and understand each part of the process so that they aren’t wasting time later on.
An Iterative Approach
One of the pitfalls often found with enterprise SEO is trying to do too much at once.
The problem with this is that you have no idea what works and what doesn’t, so it’s difficult to know whether or not your time is being put toward a successful campaign.
That’s why it’s important that you take a phased approach where you tackle each part of the process in sequence while also having some checkpoints along the way, such as measuring the success of specific initiatives.
This also means that you need to assign different people to each part of the process so they can be responsible for their own tasks.
Know Your Target Audience
When you’re working with enterprise SEO it’s important that you know who your target audience is.
This helps to ensure that the type of content on your site appeals to them, and that there are no obstacles along the way for this specific demographic.
Many organizations fail when it comes to enterprise SEO efforts because they don’t have a clear understanding of who they’re targeting, and how the efforts they put forward will benefit them.
For example, if you’re trying to sell computer parts, but your page is written for somebody who normally buys books, you may not be matching your content to your audience effectively.
By the same token, why would anyone from your target audience buy from you if you’re not writing your content to fit their buying habits and searches?
Knowing Your Competitive Landscape
It’s important that you have a clear sense of your competitive landscape.
What are the other organizations in your industry doing? What sites are they pushing for? How can you differentiate yourself from them?
This is one of the reasons why enterprise SEO campaigns often fail, because companies don’t do their research or put enough time into finding out what’s going on in their industry.
If you’re not familiar with what your competitors are doing, it makes it much harder to compete and succeed because even if you put the time and effort into developing a successful campaign, you won’t be able to compete with sites that already have a strong presence in search because they’ve been around longer and have more content.
They may also have much stronger content than you, because they know the industry better.
But, that’s not a big deal, because you’re going to beat them with a better marketing strategy. It’s important to note that a better marketing strategy does not just happen. It requires research and planning.
This is where this type of competitor research comes in. By finding things out about what the other site is doing, it’s possible to reverse engineer their strategy.
Then, you can figure out what you can do to become more competitive and how to create and execute a unique SEO strategy that will beat them.
There Is Always Room for Improvement on a Website, Regardless of Your Industry
No matter how good your site looks, there’s always room for improvement. Even if a program says your site is 80 percent correct according to a technical audit, an SEO professional can help you boost your rankings and traffic.
By performing a thorough analysis of your pages, their technical attributes, along with their keyword/traffic/links gains and losses, it’s possible to really nail down exactly why a site could have lost its traffic in the first place (if indeed that is the reason why you are pursuing an audit).
And a qualified SEO professional can help you perform that analysis accurately and effectively.
Best practices exist for a reason: they’re effective! But don’t get caught up in perfectionism – it’s still important to take action. Otherwise, you’ll end up with nothing.
Always be on the lookout for ways to improve your site – even if it looks good according to an audit. There’s always something that, if looked at from another perspective, can cause serious issues with your overall site’s performance.
Drilling down into a site and using one’s brain for the analysis can help supplement the issues that an automated audit may find.
Also: an automated audit may not always reveal all opportunities! Creativity can help you find alternative solutions and approaches that could work just as well, or they can improve significantly on what was done before.
And don’t forget to take action! As Jason Hennessey of Hennessey Digital says – “action creates results!” It’s important to move forward and not get caught up in the trap of total perfectionism.