Why good technology can’t fix a bad process

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Several SEO myths and misconceptions are killing enterprise ecommerce and enterprise retail businesses. This article will explore some of them to show how enterprise SEO is unique, and not quite the same as traditional search engine optimization.

To be effective, enterprise ecommerce SEO should be strategy-oriented. And yet, that’s rare to find. Why?

What follows are business-critical problems and lost opportunities I’ve come across while consulting on SEO strategy with some of the biggest brands and corporations in the world.

  • We’ll begin by looking at the current scenario, with its vast array of ineffective practices.
  • Then we’ll define the biggest problems in enterprise ecommerce SEO today.
  • Finally, we’ll discuss diverse challenges, and ways to overcome them to thrive in a difficult, hyper-competitive business climate.

Enterprise ecommerce SEO: Let’s face facts

Reality is often harsh and sobering. Yet facing up to facts is essential to fix problems and boost SEO effectiveness.

The litany of woes is long – and painful.

  • Business owners and shareholders alike suffer low financial gains, thanks to poor business performance, low productivity and frustrated economic growth.
  • Corporate governance, risk management and controlling bodies (like boards and leadership) are unaware of problems until too late. Or else, they hesitate to intervene promptly to address problems.
  • Without risk monitoring processes or reports on external opportunities, they resort to benchmarking and reviews of past growth and financial efficiency.
  • Goals, objectives and projects are often misaligned. Cross-functional teams are dysfunctional. They leave money on the table, and market share remains untapped.
  • Without oversight and control over business-critical categories, as well as inefficient integration with business strategy, individuals and teams fall short of targets.
  • Often even outside specialists called in to help fix the problem are thwarted. Their critical analysis is questioned, and they are labeled “difficult to work with.” No wonder the best, most brilliant minds quit – and companies lose valuable people.

But these are not the biggest hurdles. Those lie elsewhere – in strategy and process problems.

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Chaotic SEO strategy

SEO strategy for enterprise ecommerce is essentially a “business strategy.”

Enterprise SEO is not about Google. It doesn’t operate in a silo. And it’s not obsessed with tasks and deliverables.

On the contrary, a good SEO strategy for ecommerce companies and omnichannel retailers focuses on:

  • Business goals and requirements.
  • Optimizing processes and workflows.
  • Ways to get desired outcomes.
  • Achieving a positive impact on KPIs.

Poor process and workflow

Enterprise processes are often in pretty bad shape.

Nobody quite expects the business strategy to work. Each department falls short in revenue generation and productivity. Sales and marketing plans are poorly implemented.

A Google-oriented SEO strategy misses business goals and financial KPIs while overlooking lucrative opportunities to dominate the ecosystem.

Whenever processes and workflows support analysis and decision-making, an SEO strategist can identify ways to rake in millions in added revenue. But due to bad processes, these opportunities largely go unseen.

All the while, management behaves like a bus driver in an old American action comedy who speeds crazily along the highway, confidently announcing: “Trust, me! I know what I’m doing.”

Sadly, this is not a movie. The threat is real.

Addressing these problems should be a top priority for business leaders. Brushing things under the carpet with a cosmetic re-design or technology makeover only worsens economic damage.

Enterprise ecommerce SEO: The challenges are real

Next, let’s look at the key challenges unique to enterprise organizations – and see how intelligent SEO can help with them.

Lack of quality data is deadly

To put it bluntly, at many ecommerce enterprises, data often cannot be trusted at all! Using weak data to determine future plans and strategies is doomed to fail.

The train has derailed… even before it leaves the station!

Whenever SEO consultants propose changes based on only limited data, their suggestions are viewed as an added “cost” – rather than as glorious opportunities to expand the business.

Today’s business strategy requires access to granular data that can be mined extensively.

Smart data analysis is rare

Superficial keyword research limited to collecting high search-volume phrases, thanks to a limited, non-flexible budget is a recipe for disaster.

A deep analysis of search data that’s broken down by eCommerce category and sub-category can uncover hidden opportunities and untapped assets.

The future belongs to a company armed with:

The data can intelligently guide content producers to include critical and unique technology information for each product category and sub-category.

Yet time and resource constraints mean that only a few enterprises get it right. Opportunities and strategic intelligence often go unseen. What you don’t measure, you cannot manage.

Missing data is a vexing problem

Whenever data is incomplete, you can get only an inaccurate picture of reality.

Either the data isn’t rich in detail, or it:

  • Lacks breadth to cover enough of the customer journey.
  • Hasn’t been broken down into a granular category or local-level.
  • Wasn’t adjusted and rinsed to provide a reliable and trusted picture.
  • Isn’t tailored for unique internal targeting, by buyer intent or geographic location.
  • Hasn’t been benchmarked against potential markets and qualified customers.

All these problems make data less trustworthy. You cannot use bad data to make good decisions.

Growth stalls and slows down, both in the short and long term. This leads to economic damage to the enterprise, along with its external owners and shareholders.

And that isn’t all.

There are also three other major problems that plague ecommerce enterprise SEO:

  • People.
  • Processes.
  • Workflows.

People, teams and collaboration

Cross-functional teams only rarely align in their goals, objectives and projects.

The problem begins with bad data and poor decisions based upon it. The lack of analysis affects implementation. In turn, this impairs business goals and financial KPIs.

But when information is locked away inside silos:

  • Work has to be duplicated, losing productivity.
  • Co-operative teamwork suffers.
  • Roles and responsibilities are unclear.
  • People start doing whatever they feel like.
  • Focus shifts to deliverables, instead of business objectives.
  • Priorities aren’t set correctly.
  • Emphasis is upon technology and platforms, rather than business KPIs.

To change this, you should improve business processes. But sadly, there are often problems there, too.

Business and sales process

Business processes are often based on technology, systems, features and IT… instead of business requirements.

To do this effectively, you will need:

  • Better data quality.
  • Complete and comprehensive datasets.
  • Broad and deep data for all categories.
  • Internal contributions across departments.
  • Teams and specialists working together.
  • Effective leadership to guide it all.

You would readily uncover gaps that can be fixed quickly if your enterprise SEO strategy ensures that all necessary data is:

  • In place.
  • Tracked all the way through the buyer’s journey.
  • Constantly benchmarked against your full potential.

Enterprise SEO is not centered on Google, but on business performance and economic results.

If you only track search volumes and rankings but ignore how it translates into sales and profits, you cannot quantify the cost of making any changes. But armed with the right data, you can build a strong business case for a higher budget to make profitable tweaks.

When presented with such information, a board or leadership that doesn’t act on it would be liable for dereliction of duty. Leaders who fail to exercise their judgment, discretion, knowledge and expertise to leverage data will risk damage to their reputation. And maybe even incur penalties and punishments for behaving irresponsibly.

Sub-optimal workflows

When guided by incomplete data or inaccurate datasets, an SEO strategy will not be maximally productive. So the organization will underperform on its financial KPIs.

  • Collaboration among teams is weak.
  • Processes are not properly aligned.
  • Goals get disconnected from overall business priorities.
  • Lack of measurement leads to missed chances.
  • Boards overlook opportunities (or fail to intervene promptly).
  • Leaders don’t spot specific needs they must fill.
  • Role-based specialists struggle to deliver value.

Enterprise ecommerce SEO: Solutions, tips and strategies

Now that we’ve discussed the flaws and problems with enterprise SEO, we’ll address potential solutions.

Let me begin by stating an overriding principle. Many companies try to solve poor business processes with technology, digital transformation, or re-platforming. I can’t say this clear and loud enough:

You can’t solve a bad process with technology!

When business leadership is weak, or when sales plummet because marketing is out of sync with customers and markets, a technology overhaul alone won’t fix the problem.

Companies that hire SEO agencies and consultants to carry out SEO-oriented tasks no longer enjoy the results they had back in 2005. That version of Google no longer exists!

Enterprise SEO and traditional SEO services may be similar, but they are not identical. If you measure them by the same yardstick, without a focus on business strategy, process and workflows, then the impact might appear small.

This post is already rather long. So let’s briefly highlight solutions and opportunities to get a good head start with enterprise ecommerce SEO.

In a future article, we’ll dive deep into specific elements and discuss case studies of client companies that engineered remarkable transformations after simple tweaks to a broken process.

Action steps for ecommerce SEO

  • Enable people with a process, workflows and technology that allows for workflow optimization… and avoids reinventing the wheel.
  • As a company owner and investor, you should understand the business-critical importance of enterprise ecommerce SEO and embrace all necessary changes that lead to improvement.
  • As process-oriented SEO consultants, marketers, sales, and ecommerce professionals, we play a key role in the adoption of a process that delivers top-priority business goals.
  • Shiny object syndrome is real. And it is bad for business. Cover the basics first. Business-critical KPIs demand our attention. Beware of the “tools mindset.”
  • Re-platforming, site-redesign and digital transformation processes may aim to transform the business. But they will not be successful unless the fundamentals are firmly in place.

And always keep this in mind:

Technology and digital transformation alone cannot fix the root cause of the problem: a bad process.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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About The Author

Trond Lyngbø is the founder of Search Planet and a senior SEO Consultant. He has over 20 years of experience in SEO, e-commerce, content strategy and digital analysis. His clients include multinational Fortune 500 corporations and major Norwegian companies. Trond has helped grow businesses through more effective search marketing and SEO strategies. He is most passionate about working with e-commerce companies and web shops to develop and expand their omni-channel marketing initiatives.

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