Learn 14 essential considerations for mapping out an SEO-friendly enterprise-level site structure and implementing an SEO governance plan.
Site structure is crucial for any enterprise SEO service to implement, but the essential optimizations go well beyond the scope of what’s seen in traditional corporate SEO.
An enterprise site must adopt a digital marketing strategy that looks at all of the fine points of a site, usability, and elements in your organization’s control.
Here are tips you can use for any enterprise site to create a structure that will work today and in the future.
An enterprise SEO strategy can be massive.
Marketing teams are handling hundreds of campaigns, content marketing adds countless pages to a site, and even social media may be handled by an enterprise SEO agency, internal team, or mixture of both.
So, what can you do to keep everything in order and running smoothly?
Governance helps in a variety of ways, both in the B2B and B2C worlds, and will provide processes that help:
Every enterprise SEO strategy should start with a governance plan so that there are rules and processes in place that all teams can access and follow.
Policies, standards, and processes ensure that digital marketing strategies don’t conflict, reduce errors and help enterprises maintain consistency.
An enterprise site must take website accessibility into account as part of its overall SEO strategy. Large companies, such as hotel chains, are being sued for not being compliant.
Even outside of that risk, being compliant should be part of your overall site structure strategy.
It’s good practice. Anyone doing SEO work today should put a major focus on making their website WCAG and ADA compliant.
Since this is a massive topic, see this guide for more: How to Avoid Costly WCAG, ADA & 508 Accessibility Penalties.
Internal search is so important, even in traditional SEO, because users have a very low attention span. Unfortunately, people don’t want to click three or four links to find the page or product that they’re interested in on your site.
One simple addition to your site structure is adding an internal search.
The search should:
As part of your internal linking and content strategy, you should add search suggestions to guide your website’s users in the right direction.
Creating URL guidelines is essential and while it’s part of governance, it must be explained a little further to fully understand.
One of the SEO fixes no one wants to make is to go back and have to redirect hundreds of pages because cross teams created the same content and used similar URLs. For example, teams can create:
All of these pages may work and have different content. Unfortunately, this is one of the ways that you’ll frustrate and confuse anyone who visits your site. Create URL guidelines that include:
However, when your enterprise SEO strategy spans multiple countries and languages, you may need to allow the use of certain special characters for European sites and disallow them for US websites.
Consider where the business is expanding now and, in the future, to create better URL guidelines to follow.
These guidelines are essential when working with multiple teams or an outside SEO agency. Even if all of your operations are in-house, creating guidelines will ensure future team members remain consistent with their URL creation.
You probably didn’t expect a guide meant for companies using an enterprise SEO solution to include information on the main navigation of a site. Still, it remains one of the most critical elements of site structure.
Designing the main navigation menu is one of the most important aspects of site structure, and it will also make your site easier for search engines to crawl.
A few recommendations here are:
Shallow site structure is vital, and what this means is that a user will click three or fewer times to reach every page on your site. Enterprise brands must spend time planning for a shallow site structure.
An enterprise business will lose considerable users and revenue if they force users to click more than three times to reach the page they want to visit.
Site taxonomy is also important. What this means is creating a logical URL structure, such as /business-unit/service-name. Users should never have to leave the subfolder to find other services from the same business unit.
Navigation may seem trivial, but it’s a part of SEO strategy that receives far too little attention.
Once your navigation is in place, you can move to your internal link strategy that can span cross-business units.
Internal linking should be a part of every SEO strategy – it’s fundamental – but it’s even more critical for an enterprise SEO strategy to use interlinking extensively.
When you have strong internal linking, it’s easier for a search engine to crawl your site, and it’s even more important for visitors.
This is an SEO tactic you can use across multiple domains across multiple languages, with a few nuances to consider.
For example, if the enterprise operates in various countries, you must make sure cross-linking between sites and hreflangs are properly assigned.
A few tips for creating your internal linking strategy are:
Ideally, you’ll use an SEO tool that can help you automate this part of your site structure to some extent. An SEO team should develop these guidelines and assist with the strategy.
So, when creating your content marketing strategy, add in internal linking as part of the SEO tasks that cross teams discuss. Following the same guidelines and procedures across teams can be difficult, but it’s a vital part of enterprise level SEO
Another SEO tactic that should be in use across every enterprise site is breadcrumbs. As part of your digital marketing strategy, you should spend time helping visitors navigate your site as easily as possible.
For example, if you land on Walmart from a search engine and are on their “comforters” page, you’ll see breadcrumbs for:
While simple, this helps Walmart direct its site users to pages of interest. Enterprise brands must use breadcrumbs, especially as their content marketing efforts increase.
When contributing and building an enterprise website, you can work with one SEO team or many. Often, you’ll work with an enterprise SEO company for a handful of websites under the enterprise organization.
As an SEO expert, it’s vital to be mindful of keyword usage, optimization, and cross-unit competition.
What often occurs is that every team is running its own enterprise SEO campaign. For example, let’s assume that the company has sites in:
SEO work on the Spain and Italian enterprise websites won’t conflict with each other due to the language difference.
However, there can be a lot of SEO effort lost when working on the U.S., U.K. and Irish sites if cross-business units are competing with each other.
Teams across business units and sites need to try and collaborate as much as possible.
Enterprise marketing can easily cause conflicts among multiple teams and units. Therefore, enterprise brands should conduct SEO audits frequently to lower the risk of teams working against each other rather than together.
As an SEO specialist, you know the importance of creating proper categories and subcategories. When developing enterprise SEO governance, it’s crucial to spend time creating categories and subcategories.
The goal is to help search engine bots and humans have a logical way to traverse your site.
Ideally, the categories and subcategories would be simple enough to follow that people could change your URL with a high likelihood of reaching a valid page. Additionally, these sections make it easier to create logical navigation that’s easy to follow.
So, while this tip isn’t revolutionary by any means, it’s an area every enterprise SEO service should focus on when first optimizing an enterprise website.
Pagination is vital, especially for larger ecommerce sites where a category of products may have 100+ pages. A few things to consider here are:
It’s crucial that you spend time on the site’s pagination and remain consistent across all related sites under the enterprise’s control.
Even sitemaps have their limits, and while some enterprise sites will never reach these limits, others will blow past them. So, you can split up sitemaps logically to avoid hitting the following limits set by Google:
For example, large ecommerce sites can easily reach these limits. So, you could break the sitemap into smaller chunks, such as by product type or category.
Inside the enterprise’s CMS, you can do some preliminary work to keep issues with site structure from occurring. For example, you can create or use modules that will:
Redirects are a significant challenge, and there are a lot of redirect mistakes that can take a major toll on an enterprise’s SEO. When multiple teams are working on a site together, this can lead to:
For example, if sites are merged or a business is acquired, hundreds or thousands of redirects can be put in place. So, you should have a system in place to:
Otherwise, if the pages are stuck in a redirect loop or produce a 404 error, you’re going to lose a lot of SEO potential in the process. This can also directly impact your website’s crawl budget.
Core Web Vitals are talked about a lot lately and they’re critical on the enterprise level, too. You’ll want to pay attention to a few things:
You must pay close attention to Core Web Vitals, especially across multiple domains and servers.
We’ve covered a lot of points, but there are a few additional areas that are vital to touch upon to ensure the enterprise organization stays on track with your SEO solution.
You need to remain consistent. While this is easy when working on a basic website, it’s challenging when working for an enterprise company. For example, one enterprise SEO firm may divert from governance and protocols, which can lead to issues across the board.
Protocols and procedures must be implemented to enable the company to run an SEO campaign that drives results consistently.
Otherwise, throughout the life of the business and as its sites and content assets grow, you’ll find yourself doing more SEO fixes than bringing value to the company.
If protocols or procedures change, ensure everyone in the enterprise organization is on board with the changes, from the social media manager to members of another SEO team working on international sites.
When running a backlink campaign, it’s common to run an audit, eventually, to learn what links are gained and lost. However, you need to also focus on the basics of search engine optimization and conduct routine site audits.
Enterprise-level SEO is all about checks and balances.
However, audits go beyond running fancy enterprise SEO tools to check for broken links or redirect loops. You’ll also want to include internal audits as part of the overall workflow of the business. For example, let’s assume that another team is handling local SEO.
Before the team publishes any of the pages, you may:
Corporate SEO has a lot of checks and balances. It’s up to you to create these checks and balances as part of your search engine optimizations efforts.
Of course, full site audits should be conducted periodically so that you can catch errors that may slip through the cracks.
Every enterprise SEO company should have control over the enterprise’s overall architecture and site structure. The key is not to waste the crawl budget and your SEO effort in the process.
Often, teams go overboard with their content strategy, and it takes away from other pages on a site where there’s a lot of value.
As part of the site structure and overall governance, it’s crucial to:
For example, enterprise SEO often includes working with numerous teams and service providers.
One team may hire a news generation service to publish new industry news on the site, and these pages may be thin content and even duplicated.
Governance must handle these pages properly, ideally with noindexing, so that you’re not losing value in the SEO work being done due to crawl budget issues.
If you have strong governance in place, it will help maximize the value of the enterprise’s search engine optimization.
Enterprise approaches go beyond traditional, local, and technical SEO because there are so many moving parts. Governance and the fine details matter more than getting a backlink or having content go viral on social media.
Every enterprise SEO company should review the site(s) that they’re working on to ensure that a well-formed site structure is in place.
Once you have a good foundation for your site structure and the proper protocols and procedures in place, you can focus more on traffic and conversions.
Featured image: Shutterstock/aliaksei kruhlenia
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Ludwig Makhyan is a technical SEO expert with over 20 years of experience in website development and digital marketing. Ludwig … [Read full bio]
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