I remember my first big website… Ahhh…
I am pretty sure it was bikebandit.com. It was around 5 million pages. Man, I had a lot of fun working on that site. We did some pretty advanced stuff, all of which I cannot talk about now.
Since then, I have worked on around 100 large websites, meaning sites with over 1,000,000 pages or more.
SEO for large websites is a different animal than your basic 1,000 or 10,000 page site. In this post, I’ll talk about some of the issues to watch out for.
You Need to Make A Case for Each Project
There are really two issues
- Larger websites need a larger SEO budget. More pages optimized, more technical work, more links and more content.
- Larger websites have so many interested parties, it can be hard to get work pushed through without making a ROI case for each project
Furthering point 2, it is critical to show website owners how much additional traffic they’ll receive if they get to the first page of Google.
If they reach a top spot on Google and get 33% of the hits for a search term that’s used 15,000 times per month, they’ll get 5,000 additional hits every month. If the company’s historical conversion rate is 10%, then that’s 500 additional customers every month. If each conversion is worth $100 in revenue, then that’s $50,000 in additional revenue every month.
You have to be able to make a case like this for each project based on numbers.
This can be very hard, especially if your optimization project is say page speed or optimizing images. Or if it is an extensive keyword revamp that hits 100,000 pages (for this it is easiest to do some type of percentage growth overall).
But an experienced SEO professional will know how to select the right projects, project them and present them correctly to the interested parties, so that it can get pushed through.
The Company Isn’t Agile Enough
If there are too many people involved in decisions and/or those people are afraid of change, that is going to set your SEO back a notch.
How do you deal with that challenge?
Well, if there are too many people involved your only choice is to streamline.
But if they are just afraid of change (think Going mobile, HTTPS, etc) you might want to tell a quick story.
Once upon a time, there was a company called Blockbuster. In the early 2000s, Blockbuster had an opportunity to buy another company named Netflix for just $50 million. But Blockbuster refused to buy Netflix. Eventually, Blockbuster lost $11 billion, shuttered its stores, and went out of business. Today, Netflix is worth more than $40 billion.
What happened to Blockbuster? The company didn’t embrace changes in technology. It stuck to its old business model of renting DVDs and even VHS tapes in a retail environment. Blockbuster could be flourishing today, but it refused to be agile.
That kind of a story, or another like it (preferably one that is more related to the projects you are working on), will help convince stakeholders that embracing change by accepting new search marketing strategies is how they’ll stay alive in this cutthroat competitive environment.
There Are Too Many Processes
This is probably one of the biggest issues. Too many processes or even “overthinking” projects.
This one is tough. Those processes are there for a reason.
The key thing here is to make sure you are getting your SEO work added to each development cycle. The company should be working in 15 to 30 day sprints and if there is a major reason you need to touch the site for SEO, their should be a patch done.
Also, while Q&A is important for large sites, it should not take more than a few days. Otherwise, you might not get your work through.
Here is the issue in a nutshell.
- Person comes up with SEO idea
- Idea is presented
- Management ask for ROI anaysis
- ROI analysis is done
- Technical specifications are created
- Technical specifications are refined and confirmed
- Development work is done
- Development work is reviewed
- Work is completed and submitted for next sprint
- New version of the website is pushed live
Someone familiar with SEO for large websites will do this.
- Present a deck with the idea, the ROI and the technical specifications
- Management will approve and developers will get to work
- Development work will get completed and reviewed
- New version goes live
See how important it is that the SEO took the time to do the work upfront?
Some large websites have been around for a while.
If you’re tasked to optimize one of those sites, you might find yourself dealing with some outdated technology.
That makes your job more challenging, but not impossible.
Common issues are:
- No content management system, so you can’t modify pages without a developer
- Working with sites in different technologies that don’t talk to each other
- Older sites that are not set up for mobile
- Systems that are not flexible and hard to add modern SEO strategies to.
The best thing you can do is try to create a company culture of always improving your technology. It is like anything in business, you need to invest at the right time.
If you are way behind, revamp or watch your site die.
Analysis paralysis works its way into many projects. It’s certainly not unique to SEO. But it is way too common!
Here are the issues.
- Getting stuck looking at big list of projects and not knowing what to do first
- Getting stuck trying to figure out the best way to do a project
It really helps to have a director type in the mix. Someone who like to take charge and push things through.
Even Simple Updates Take a Lot of Time
One of the most frustrating things, is even if you have a really small update, sometimes it can take a really long time. Want to tweak a title on a page, it could be weeks, months or more because it is not a business priority.
We can just leave this one at that.
The Other Side of the Coin: Great Qualities of Big Websites
Thus far, we’ve only touched on the challenges that you face as you offer your SEO services to a company with a large website. However, a large website can often make your life easier in a number of ways. In fact, I prefer to work on bigger sites. So while this post might seem negative, it is really just because of the topic.
There are so many opportunities!
Here are a few of them.
- They have great domain authority. Large websites have often been around for a while. That means they’re likely to have great domain authority (DA). Run your Moz analysis of the site that you’re optimizing and you’ll likely see that the its DA is healthy, if not strong. That’s going to make your SEO efforts a little bit easier.
- They generally rank better. Google tends to smile on sites with thousands of pages of quality content or products.
- They use templates. Although it’s true that older sites often use older technology, they’re still likely to use some type of templating technology. That means you can just make a change to the template and that change will be spread out across thousands of pages. That is nice.
- They make more money. Big websites are big for a reason. They’ve got a lot to sell or a lot of content that people want to read. As a result, they’re probably earning their owners a great deal of revenue.
- They have better brand strength. The fact that larger websites have better brand strength benefits you for two reasons. First, it makes your life easier when it comes to ranking the site. Second, it means you’ll have a high-profile brand that you can use as a reference for marketing your SEO services.
Wrapping It Up
Optimizing a big website offers a unique set of challenges. However, with the right know-how and plenty of experience with optimizing smaller sites, those challenges can be overcome. It’s also important to realize that big websites also make an SEO professional’s life easier in many ways.
Good luck optimizing larger sites. If you have questions, you can always shoot me an email.