What is Enterprise Search? Definition and Examples

There are a lot of different ways of tackling digital marketing at the enterprise level — and even some confusion about what enterprise actually means.

Is it a large company or other organization?

Is it a network of many websites?

Is it a global brand, or a particularly large and complex website?

Enterprise marketing can apply to each of these scenarios. In this column, we’re going to dig into some of the other frequently asked questions people have about one particularly important and important aspect of digital marketing at the enterprise level: Search.

What is Enterprise Search?

First, it’s important to note that in information management, enterprise search applies to the ways in which organizations make information accessible internally.

However, for digital marketers, enterprise search applies to how enterprise organizations’ websites and large, complex websites or site networks themselves are found online.

Enterprise entities may have more complex technical issues, hundreds or even thousands of sites and online listings, millions of webpages and/or products, challenges of scale in workflows, numerous stakeholders to consider, and more.

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As a broad topic, and depending on the needs of the organization, an enterprise search strategy might encompass web development, SEO, content, link building, social media, apps, voice search, review management, and more.

Enterprise search is the totality of your online presence, anywhere and everywhere people search to fulfill needs relevant to your business.

Wait, Aren’t We Talking About Enterprise SEO?

Not entirely.

Enterprise search engine optimization (SEO) is specifically how those webpages and sites are optimized for indexing and ranking by search engines.

It’s a set of strategies and best practices that aim to achieve improve online visibility and earn higher rankings for vast numbers of webpages – in the hundreds of thousands or millions.

Consider the huge number of webpages for a large, well-established enterprise like eBay:

Screenshot from search for [site:ebay.com], Google, September 2021

Or IBM:

Google search for site:ibm.com.Screenshot from search for [site:ibm.com], Google, September 2021

Of course, these are some of the world’s largest organizations, but even smaller, newer companies like Chewy.com have hundreds of thousands of webpages, and thus potential SEO rankings, to manage:

Google search for site:chewy.com.Screenshot from search for [site:chewy.com], Google, September 2021

Enterprise search requires that you begin with SEO fundamentals and scale them dramatically.

It is the natural evolution of traditional SEO, which first began on websites with just a handful of pages coded with simple HTML and CSS.

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Today, enterprise search encompasses the multitude of strategies that the world’s largest organizations rely on to maintain powerful revenue-generating positions at the top of Google, as well as the customer experience elements that drive revenue and brand reputation.

It requires a customized strategy based on how each enterprise desires to be found online and its top target keywords. However, a few best practices have begun to emerge that are helping enterprises launch new campaigns with fewer challenges.

Enterprise search includes processes to create sometimes large volumes of optimized, top-quality content, improve search engine rankings, page speed, and mobile optimization, building backlinks, and dealing with all of the various challenges of SEO workflows at this scale.

Managing enterprise search requires that marketers have a unique understanding of the tools, technical components, strategy, and reporting required to make progress on this level.

Why is Enterprise Search Important?

A comprehensive, cross-channel enterprise search strategy is necessary for the visibility of any large organization online.

It helps large organizations stand out among competitors, build authority, and ultimately achieve higher and more consistent search rankings.

It also ensures that search insights are being put to the best use possible to inform new product features and updates, customer service tactics, loyalty programs, and more.

After all, a customer typing a query into a search engine or speaking their question to a voice assistant is perhaps the most direct line of input and feedback between the brand and its customers.

Without this cohesive approach to search, large organizations inevitably fall by the wayside to savvier and more aggressive competitors.

The organizations that prioritize enterprise search often invest heavily in time, manpower, and financial resources, but the results are worth it: top rankings for the world’s most competitive keywords.

Who is Typically Involved in Enterprise Search?

Often, an organization will have a portion of a department or an entire department devoted to enterprise search because it can be a massive undertaking.

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It involves coordination with the other marketing channels of the organization and all teams responsible for SEO, from technical SEO and development to link building and PR, and on through content creation and editorial.

Internal enterprise search teams may include web developers, SEO analysts, copywriters, data entry professionals, digital marketing/SEO experts, and one or more digital marketing directors or managers, among other roles.

External agencies that specialize in enterprise search are another common route for large companies, as they have the framework, practices, and teams already established.

Agencies can have a similar or lower cost as internal teams, but the tradeoff is the lack of control that companies have when they outsource.

Sometimes, this works in the organization’s favor when the agency performs well independently. In other cases, companies can become too reliant on an agency and suffer when results fall short or when internal teams lack the knowledge to check the progress of the agency.

If an organization has the resources and willingness to learn, it can often be preferable to manage enterprise search campaigns internally.

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Each approach has its pros and cons, but one thing is for certain: Enterprise search requires a specialized skill set for both the managers and employees involved and a substantial, consistent effort.

How Do Enterprise Search and Traditional SEO Differ?

Enterprise search involves taking proven traditional strategies and efficiently scaling them at the highest level across dramatically more pages than traditional SEO:

  • Traditional SEO prioritizes a single website usually with dozens to hundreds of pages.
  • Enterprise SEO is often performed at scale for hundreds of thousands of pages to millions.

There are also differences in the keywords that are targeted. Generally, enterprise search is a more aggressive approach due to larger resources available and higher stakes at play:

  • Traditional SEO often focuses on improving rankings for long-tail keywords or a combination of the long and short tail.
  • Enterprises will often primarily focus on improving rankings for more competitive short-tail keywords.

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As you might imagine, the investment involved in enterprise search is much higher:

  • Traditional SEO can be performed with a relatively small, scalable budget, often starting at as little as $500 to $2,000 per month.
  • Enterprise search budgets can easily become a large portion of a substantial marketing budget, often $20,000 at the lowest end per month.

Learn more about average client budgets for SEO here.

Synchronization with other team members and organizational players becomes a lot more complicated in enterprise search:

  • In traditional SEO, teams are smaller and often easier to coordinate.
  • With enterprise search, teams can be vast and require significantly more work to coordinate, communicate with, and structure.

Indexability and crawlability are major considerations in enterprise SEO. Indexability refers to the ability of a search engine to add a page to its index, while crawlability refers to the ability of a search engine to crawl a webpage for data.

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  • In traditional SEO, smaller websites are typically already both indexable and crawlable, and if they are not, they can be adjusted without much effort.
  • In enterprise SEO, when dealing with tens or hundreds of thousands of pages, indexability and crawlability become far more complicated and the main priority.

Enterprise search might also introduce issues of global presence and the need to localize content and experiences.

How is Enterprise Search Similar to Traditional SEO?

Despite these differences, the foundation of enterprise search remains similar. Quality, original content is a top priority along with abiding by the latest technical, mobile, and UX best practices.

Content Reigns Supreme

Content is king in both arenas. High quality, authoritative, relevant, engaging, and original content wins rankings, plain and simple, whether you are optimizing a small website or thousands of pages.

On-Page Optimization Practices Are Similar

Many of the best practices for on-page optimization for traditional SEO are similar for the enterprise, such as H1 and other heading optimization, meta title and meta description optimization, alt tag usage, content structure, and keyword usage.

Quality Backlinks Matter

As one might expect, quality backlinks matter for both traditional and enterprise search.

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It can often be easier for enterprise organizations to gain backlinks due to name clout, however, the impact of a few high-quality backlinks can be more dramatic for a traditional SEO campaign.

User Experience Always Matters

UX plays a central role in both enterprise and traditional search.

Google continues to reward the websites that load the fastest, provide relevant content, limit or avoid obstacles to what users what, and offer what its algorithms consider a quality overall user experience.

Technical Issues Inhibit Progress

Quickly fixing technical issues such as mobile compatibility or slow site speed remains essential for both traditional and enterprise SEO.

However, it can be substantially more complicated with enterprise SEO, often requiring teams of developers and managers.

Overcoming Organizational Challenges in Enterprise Search

Despite the great rewards of a successful enterprise search strategy, there are a plethora of unique obstacles and challenges that must be addressed.

Achieving organization buy-in: Multiple stakeholders, managers, and employees are involved with enterprise search, requiring digital marketers to gain the commitment of these important parties in order for a campaign to move forward.

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Efficiently mitigating technical obstacles: Technical problems are painful yet manageable by one or two developers in traditional SEO; in an enterprise organization technical problems are substantially more complex due to the sheer volume of pages and require teams of developers and managers to fix.

Learning enterprise SEO platforms: Sophisticated enterprise SEO platforms are required to monitor, track, coordinate and report SEO progress. Although these platforms make life easier for everyone involved, there is always a learning curve involved, and some parties within the enterprise may struggle.

Bulk content creation and management: Teams of skilled writers are required for enterprise content creation, but this can be an area that is fraught with challenges. Although working with a content agency can sometimes be the solution, if the content is handled internally, planning and coordination is a must to avoid bottlenecks.

Every enterprise will have to create its own unique protocols and best practices for its particular search presence and business goals.

However, a few recommendations can help enterprises overcome the above-mentioned common obstacles:

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Set quarterly goals: The end of each quarter provides an often ideal timeframe to review campaign progress and ranking improvements in great detail. Although more frequent monitoring may be required by some members, a quarterly report can keep the entire team motivated and on the same page as a campaign progresses.

Perform regular SEO audits: Nipping SEO problems in the bud is always recommended for enterprise organizations. Although it may not always be possible to catch technical problems when they are small, regular, even daily SEO audits can ensure that many technical problems are caught before they become crises.

Prioritize communication and information sharing: Utilize tools like Slack, Trello, Asana, and others that facilitate communication among technical teams, employees, and stakeholders. These tools also help coordinate teams and provide a centralized view of the progress of a campaign.

Repurpose content wisely: Ensure that unique content is being repurposed wisely to avoid inefficiencies – for example, blog posts can be edited into short video scripts, social posts or blogs can also be edited into infographics, social posts can easily be created from blogs, and so forth. Coordinate content teams to create synergy and to ensure that original content is consistently being created for all channels.

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With the right carefully managed internal team or external agency and executed efficiently, your enterprise search strategy can help your brand claim a larger long-term market share and significantly improve its online visibility.

More Resources:


Featured Image: Urbanscape/Shutterstock

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