|seo for BIG companies|
and the issue of spam techniques
ok, at the risk of being inflamatory, I want to wax lyrical about this, but also really want to find out peoples opinions on this.
I work for an seo company that does a number of bigger clients, and hoping to do more and more, as more and more are turning their attention this way - theres actual money to be made with this.
The issue is this: what big companies do you know, in the present climate, who will be willing to entertain "non-spam" techniques - i.e. changing visible page copy, re-arranging website into more logical order etc.
I can tell you, hardly any. They have content management systems, pages that change constantly, marketing considerations - they are NOT looking for solutions which will cause them even more work and headaches in their change control. They have dynamic databases, badly structured sites or mainly graphic sites.. the list goes on. All the problems which you see on non-corporate sites. The difference is, they are not looking to hire SEO which complicates matters further - they just want a non-intrusive methodlogy which they can farm out and forget.
So: its a matter of this: do technically spam techniques, which can be non-intrusive, not get in the way of their precious layouts, of content management, OR loose the contract. Simple.
So.. technical spam ethics go out the window. I'm not talking about hardcore spam, not even cloaking, 500 domains each with one keyword, off-topic keywords etc. I'm talking about all the low-intensity technical spam techniques most of us know about.
I personally get quite frustrated when people wax lyrical about how you can do a perfect seo job with not even the slightest technical spam - content, structure etc etc. It seems to me there are different levels of SEO - personal website, small - medium clients who are ameniable to alterations, and all the rest which want an SEO service with no hassle or extra complication whatsoever.
In other words, there's no such thing as a standard SEO methodology. There is no absolute holier than thou ethical SEO methodlogy - not in the real world, and not if you are trying to target the bigger fish (who incidently are tehmselves looking more and more at SEO in difficult economic times).
All this holy, perfect SEO does really get on my nerves, and I'm sorry if I'm coming accross rude, but its just not as simple as some would make out - especially if this is your living. I don't wish to offend anyone, but I think this is a real issue that probably divides a fair number in the SEO community.
So I would really like to hear what people think, whats the consensus on this - especially those who have bigger clients who really don't want to know about serious changes to their website.
Great post, mr_dredd2
Interested in what others might have to say.
Just one small remark: wouldn't those clients prefer for exactly those reasons -
they just want a non-intrusive methodlogy which they can farm out and forget - a PPC style of SE promotion?
I couldn't agree with you more!
The big companies will ask you if you can get the results....you will say, "Yes, this is what needs to be done.".....and they will give you no room for change.
It is tough working for bigger clients. The easiest way to work with them is to do it all off-site, this way you aren't stuck getting approval for every little change. This, of course, has some draw backs. You don't get the PR boost of working with the 'real' site, and it is tough going to get directory listings
And this is why the little guy will win when it comes to real SEO. Not with stuff like PPC, but with stuff like google. Its far easier to win without spam - because to beat spammers above you, all that needs to be done is to inform the engine involved.
We recently had this situation with a client. We built a doorway domain that drove traffic to the site. This built the client's confidence in that we knew what we were doing and a taste of the ROI. I will put money on the fact that we will be involved in the redesign of the main site sometime next year so that SEO will play a part. I think the actual SEO part of this work is easy (stress wise) compared to the relationship/politics involved with working with the clients and their other vendors.
I too have had the pleasure (or curse) of working with a couple very large companies. In many ways they are much more difficult to deal with than a small or medium sized company. They are very concerned with "corporate branding" and they are very apprehensive to make any changes to their site. I have found that off-site stuff (as Littleman said) is usually the only option for companies like this. It is more difficult in some ways. When dealing with a big company I have also ran into many levels of management where no one can make a decision and by the time the do decide, the search engines have changed. Very frustrating!!
On the flip side, I have also noticed that very small companies and mom and pop sites are almost as difficult to deal with. These will be people who have very limited marketing budgets, don't understand how to run a business, fall in love with their terribly designed web page, and come to us as a last resort. Becuse they have a very limited understanding of the web it is very difficult to explain anything to them. In my experience, the medium sized companies are usually the best to deal with and usually get the best results as well.
>who will be willing to entertain "non-spam" techniques - i.e. changing visible page copy, re-arranging website into more logical order etc.
I agree with you Dredd, hardly any.
>So: its a matter of this: do technically spam techniques
And whose fault is that? Could it be the SE's, who whisper quietly that cloaking [and I mean IP delivery]could/may/possibly/will/won't get a site banned. Or is it the self appointed gaurdians [the SAG's :)]of all that is moral and correct on the Internet?
I agree with the basic premise here mr_dredd2 because Iíve worked in both situations.
Not only are some of these points youíve made quite typical but thereís the whole communication problem as well. Which department handles SEO? Are we talking marketing or web maintenance? When the price goes up because of a new campaign is there suddenly a whole new set of management types that you need to deal with?
|The easiest way to work with them is to do it all off-site, this way you aren't stuck getting approval for every little change. This, of course, has some drawbacks. You don't get the PR boost of working with the 'real' site, and it is tough going to get directory listings - Littleman |
Exactly, although I have been very lucky in my past life, (working with Fortune 500 companies) getting good directory listings. There really is an art to this and you have to select something that the company has to offer that is unique and hasnít been explored yet or the directories havenít covered. Directories expect and accept that larger corporations have multiple listings. If you can capture a few of these off the main site with a domain you control and then build a site with doorways (content rich) and such around it then youíve got a good chance of building on your PR and doing some creative linking.
Linking is another big problem I see with larger corporate sites. The internal linking often stinks. If they cleaned up what they already had they could find a significant boost.
|I think the actual SEO part of this work is easy (stress wise) compared to the relationship/politics involved with working with the clients and their other vendors. - dwedeking |
Amen! I think once the corporate world begins to see the significance of optimization as a marketing tool and not a webpage maintenance tool the level of openness to exploring new opportunities widens.
There are also legal issues with large corporations, even if you run an off site campaign for them. Watch out when you find you have to run everything through the management channels and then through legal :)
|When dealing with a big company I have also ran into many levels of management where no one can make a decision and by the time the do decide, the search engines have changed. - DrCool |
So true, so sad, yet so funny!
This rings a bell..
"We have a site, you can't touch the content. And we don't want any spam technichues used that can hurt our reputation, but we want more traffic from better rankings. They must be FREE, not PPC."
i work for a company like that in some ways. My whole model is around PPC (or SEP).
I see where everyone is coming from, but I guess we have been lucky.
The larger companies we work with have actually been easier to deal with than many of the midsize businesses. (Although the time it takes to complete something is extended a bit) They have been willing to make whatever changes we see fit. But, we are very sensitive to their branding issues up front which puts them at ease. They have the financial and human resources necessary to respond if they really want to. The trick is to make them want it. The Ma and Pa's just take a little extra time in educating them.
The biggest problem we do have when working with larger companies is we aren't given the ability to do the work ourselves. We have to pass it off to someone else to make the changes. In fact one of the Fortune 500s, we were hired by a marketing consultant (With the companies full knowledge and review of us), and send changes to an outside web development team. Nothing like 3 outside companies trying to communicate the business mission :) !
thanks everyone very much for the replies. and it seems the experiences are (somewhat) shared.
what interests me about this is the different takes on "spam" e.g.
If a search engine wants to have big companies feature in their listings (and i can't see why they don't), then this would mean being relaxed, to a degree, about the amount of technical spam that it takes to put them there.
Ok, some are up there anyway, but some big comapnies are no where to be seem.
So, i wonder if there's a point where search engines realise that technical spam will have to become entertained, to some degree, in order to have a successful and comprehensive search engine..??
>So, i wonder if there's a point where search engines realise that technical spam will have to become entertained, to some degree, in order to have a successful and comprehensive search engine..??<
From where I sit ... there is an awful lot of "technical spam" (if there is such a thing) already being employed and it seems to be highly successful and remains undetected or punished by many SE's.
It seems the big corporations want it all ... including remodeling the web to suit their every (inflexible) whim and wish. There are PPC's and there are pay to list SE's with featured listings, and then there is Google and the Ad Words feature. Each SE is designed on a different set of algos in order to deliver what their particular business model is geared towards. If the BIG corporations won't let you do your job ... then use whatever tactics are necessary.
Go for the PPC's and featured listings and paid listings and Ad Words ... and a good print advertising campaign to back it all up. If that doesn't work, I tend to agree with bigjohnt ...
>Sure. Good bye.<
If it is a big company and they do not want their copy changed you will either have to build an alternate site, use cloakin or invisible frames with a breaking out of fram tag.
The big companies are dinosaurs - always have been and always will.
The managers are more interested in their own position in the heirarchy than in any actual benefit to their company. Most are cringing sycophants! who couldn't make a decision if they tried.
As with all creatures - it is a case of evolve or survive - those that fail to adapt will be wiped out.
20 years go IBM was the be all and end all of the computing industry - now it is microsoft. In another 20 years it could be someone like internet.com
There was a survey of the top 100 UK companies by capitalisation 100 years ago and now of the top 100 of 100 years only 6 (I think) survived and they were in completely different markets from he ones they were in 100 years ago.
I will work with those who appreciate what we are doing. The better they do the more work we are likely to get. Stick with those who will adapt, your chances of long term gain are much higher.
>> "We have a site, you can't touch the content. And we don't want any spam technichues used that can hurt our reputation, but we want more traffic from better rankings. They must be FREE, not PPC."
Tee-hee-hee. I know that. I've never had to deal with the real monsters, but I've dealt with a few really quite small companies who behaved in exactly the same way. You can get the same protectiveness in small companies when the site was built internally (MDs nephew etc) as corporate types display, when they are assigned to the WEBSITE PROJECT OF DOOM
During the initial meeting, you start talking to them about the options, on the page vs off the page criteria, link pop, PPC, etc and no matter how carefully and slowly you try to explain it, gradually you see the shutter go down and the glint of panic in their eye. Half of it they don't understand, and the half they do get, scares them
At that point you know they are thinking "The site sucks and someone has to tell that to the boss. Hmmm, that'll be me then. Gulp"
Some of them are really good though, small businesses can be very responsive. Once you've got the boss "on board" everything is easy. Thats harder to do as companies get larger, and things get delegated down the chain of command. Also, a big company spends tens of thousands on a corporate site. The you (the SEO) comes along and points out how badly it is designed. That threatens a few empires, and that causes trouble
A lot of it comes down to education and communication, I think. When you just have 1 or 2 people to deal with who appreciate what you ar trying to do, its not so bad. When you need to go through 6 or 7, some of whom may be between indifferent and actively hostile.... *shudder*
I took several approaches at the problem:
1) Get a fresh domain and start from scratch. It's a hard sell.
2) Allow me to take the content you have there, and reroll it to a new page that is 100% optimized and slightly different. I leave the old page at the same old url.
Usually, they will go for #2. If you can show them that they won't be hurt. It often involves using their template, but simply getting control of the majors (title, metas, page headers). The thing I notice, is that once you show them the same page optimized and it look virtually identicle to the old page, they'll go for it and just scrap the old page.
#4 is the most productive. Educating the people who are doing the templates and some of the content can go a long ways. Getting them to think in terms of seo for simple things like titles, metas, and page heading can do a great deal of good in a short time.
The separate domain route is often a tough sell - it's also tough for you to build.
Great THread!! This is exactly why I love these forums! I work for a small SEO company and about a week ago we landed a fairly big contract on a big website with all the "problems" mentioned...
Looks like we're gonna have our hands full in the new year... :)
I'll add one more objectionable client behavior: screwing up work that you have already done. We have one site that we optimized, and told the client what was OK to change and what wasn't. Instead, their so-called web guy used old page templates, overwrote changes, added duplicate and unrelated meta tags. The site now ranks highly for a phrase (low traffic, unfortunately) totally unrelated to the company's business because of the bogus header info.
We fixed stuff once, and guess what was back a month later? We offered to come in and fix their templates, etc., but they felt they could handle it themselves.
They've been a fine client, but they would do a lot better if they didn't shoot themselves in the foot every time they touched the site. Fortunately, a good part of our work has involved a domain we control and many rankings were saved. If we didn't have that fallback, our relationship might be quite a bit more strained.
I can't tell you how much I agree with all the concerns brought up in this discussion...
here here ... :)
We've had many similar experiences working with large and small firms. With larger clients we are often called in when the site is ready for optimization (once the web developer has it almost wrapped up). Often times we provide the client with a report that outlines static vs dynamic pages, text in text format vs image format, link text, headers, page templates, frames, Flash, etc. The have it all right there in front of them, basic guidelines to go by and pass off to the web dev team. It gets ignored by everyone and then they go spend half a mil on banners and such. Great SEO wouldn't replace the whole online media budget, but it could make a serious dent. As long as there are free search services, the smaller site can stand against most of the poorly designed larger sites.
Branding and brand image is often the barrier to SEO. In the good ol' days you could register 40 domains put 10 pages on each all using a standard page template the looked identical to the actual client site. Each would have very similar content but would be just different enough to target different phrases.
A similar approach can still work, though content has to be more varied. It can sometimes help to add static "informational pages" on the client domain which can be placed in directories. They need not be highly integrated in the client site but should be seamless as an entry point. Getting back to them isn't necessary though its nice if the visitor can get back to a page that is very similar.
I've been working for one client off and on over the last five years. They've got 4,000 pages with an eye on 30,000 -- and all the issues people mention here come up in spades. OUr answer has been eductaion.
We've evolved a way of getting SEO into their content creation system: a simple template which asks the creator to choose one keyword phrase for that page -- the phrase that they would like search engines to recognize the page for -- and then the template presents a checklist of ways to incorporate that kw into the HTML.
After the client realized that most people don't ever read the actual page title, they were willing to yield control over that tag. So writing the title tag and description meta tag became part of the content creation workflow.
After the client learned that they could control H tags with CSS, they were willing to require an H tag phrase on each page.
Likewise, there's no threat to client branding in making sure that you choose keyworded filenames for images, pagenames and directories. Once that issue was clear, the client was eager to fold it into the workflow as well, instead of allowing arbitrary, geek-ified abbreviations.
A more recent victory has been the inclusion of title attributes in key anchor tags. Again, it's not hard to wrap that into the content creation workflow, once the client is motivated.
Good internal linking matters a lot to search engines. But it also makes good sense for site navigation and usability - so again, the client is willing to take more and more input from us on that issue.
Our process still doesn't touch one word of their copy although some of the more savvy content creators are catching on.
In this case at least, client education has gone a long way, but it has been a long, extended process.
Don't overlook setting up an affiliate program for your large clients.
By doing that, you harness the flexibility and rapid response of smaller entrepeneurial sites for your bureacracy-shackled client.
As a consulting firm you could propose managing the program for them (perhaps via BeFree, Linkshare, CJ or someone like that) and design landing pages for your client that link the affiliates to your clients products.
Just a couple examples of large businesses that are using affiliate programs to venture into the click-and-mortar arena are Walmart, Staples, American Express and Dell. But go visit BeFree, Linkshare and Commission Junction and you will find many more.