How Fortune 500 Companies Handle Their SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) has been a popular strategy for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Because companies can decide whether to take the time and effort to rank for highly competitive, high-traffic keywords or minimize spending by ranking for less competitive, lower-traffic keywords, and see benefits no matter what their budget is.
Fortune 500 companies are some of the most powerful and high-earning companies in the world, and because of their access to capital and resources, they’re able to approach SEO differently. Learning from this approach can give you insight into your own SEO strategies, and perspective on how your business fits into the grand scheme of things.
What Makes Fortune 500 Companies Different
Fortune 500 companies are just companies, and like all companies, they stand to benefit from increased traffic to their site and increased brand recognition. However, there are a series of factors that set them apart from small- to medium-sized businesses, and those factors have a heavy influence on how they approach SEO as a whole:
- More access to capital. First and perhaps most obviously, Fortune 500 companies have more disposable capital. Their revenue streams are much higher, their cash reserves are ample, and they command enough credit to spend whatever they want on their inbound strategy. They’re several worlds away from startups, whose SEO budgets are sometimes limited to only a few hundred dollars a month.
- Capacity for in-house work. Because of their size and recruiting capabilities, it’s easier for Fortune 500 companies to create an in-house team, or at least assign designated SEO managers to oversee the work that is done. Smaller businesses tend to delegate SEO strategies to one person, who may not be an expert, or rely solely on external sources to provide the work.
- Brand recognition and authority. Fortune 500 companies start SEO campaigns with a pre-existing level of brand recognition and authority. They’ve typically been mentioned thousands of times on the web already, giving them a perfect leg-up on the link building side of things.
- Greater competition. The flip side to the high recognition and authority is that Fortune 500 companies often face stiffer competition, usually from other Fortune 500 companies. Instead of competing with the mom-and-pop shop down the street, they’re squaring off against giants, rendering any small-scale SEO strategies ineffective.
- Greater risk tolerance (usually). Because they already have a widespread online presence, these companies can also afford to take greater risks in content promotion and link building. However, due to their size, they are sometimes more vulnerable to fluctuations—one ranking decrease could result in thousands of lost visitors.
Because of these factors, Fortune 500 companies are almost forced to engage in highly competitive, high-volume SEO campaigns using in-house team members as much as possible.
Fortune 500 SEO Goals
The goals of the average Fortune 500 company are the same as the goals of any small- to medium-sized business: get more traffic to the site, and get more site visitors to convert. However, rather than zeroing in on a handful of keywords to rank for, Fortune 500 companies usually focus on more high-level factors.
They look at metrics like domain authority and organic visits, rather than relying on keyword rankings, because they rank for so many keywords. Similarly, growth must be measured over a longer period of time; since budgets are made annually and minor fluctuations will occur more frequently, most Fortune 500 companies try to examine SEO progress on a year-by-year basis. This gives them a more high-level view, and allows them more time to adjust and make things better.
However, this also makes it harder to determine the cause and effects of the campaign. Since the campaigns are larger, and cover more ground, tying a change in organic traffic to an adjustment in a strategic approach can be difficult. Larger companies have dozens of people working on inbound traffic strategies, and tracing the root causes for positive or negative changes is next to impossible.
Fortune 500 SEO Approach
While every Fortune 500 company has a unique approach and a unique situation, most rely on one of two approaches to SEO, or a combination of them.
Building an In-House Team
Since they have the budget for it, most Fortune 500 companies do try to hire an in-house SEO team. Sometimes, it’s a division of the overall marketing team, but oftentimes it’s an independent wing of the organization. Using skillful recruiting and careful consideration, they only hire candidates well-versed in the mechanics of SEO, and aren’t afraid to make staffing changes if they aren’t seeing results.
Because they do the work in-house, they have more control over their efforts—which can be a good or a bad thing, depending on who’s at the helm.
Hiring an Agency
Even with an in-house team, many larger companies still enlist the help of a specialized agency. In some cases, this is a way for the company to hedge its bets—rather than investing in only one team, they invest in two and see which pays off more. In other cases, the agency is secondary to the in-house team, and the in-house team decides which responsibilities to delegate to the outside forces.
If there’s one thing to take away from the average Fortune 500 SEO strategy, it’s that they take a very high-level perspective; they budget on an annual basis and examine metrics from a distance, trying not to worry about any minor fluctuations that could exist only through random chance. Even if your budget is small or if you rely on an agency to do most of your SEO work, try to adopt this mentality. Your SEO is a long-term strategy, and you’ll need to take a step back if you want to evaluate its true effectiveness.
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