Corporate Culture – the biggest obstacle to successful SEO

17/06/2021, SEO

Corporate Culture – the biggest obstacle to successful SEO

Even after 22 years of business consultancy, I am constantly reminded of the degree to which an organisation’s culture is the single most crucial factor that determines future growth.

I have lost count of the number of times I have seen key decisions being made on the whims, biases, and personal preferences of decision-makers within an organisation. This behaviour persists even in the face of robust data contradicting those poor decisions.


Developing an SEO-friendly Culture

At its most basic level, SEO is a simple process. You figure out who the audience is for your product/service/cause, analyse the topics they care about most, research how they search for those topics online and then create content that satisfies their search intent.

SEO is, therefore, a reactive process. You first establish the demand and then meet it with a supply of high-quality content.

My experience is that, in larger organisations, the most common obstacles to this process are often the most senior people within that organisation.

  • “James is working on a client project and wants to write about it in our blog.”
  • “Samantha has an interest in fintech sustainability and wants to write an article on this topic.”
  • “Dave would be very upset if we removed his five-year-old article on transfer pricing in the Philippines that no-one has ever read.”

There is nothing wrong with having articles on a site not that were intended for search users. There are often valid reasons for producing content for visitors arriving from another source. What often does need revising is the notion that your public-facing website exists for anyone other than your audience.

In the same way that a business should be customer-centric, a website should be visitor-centric. It cannot and should not be a receptacle for your senior executives’ ramblings and obscure passions. Every page on your site must earn its keep. If a page doesn’t have a valid reason to exist, it should either be improved or removed. Ask yourself, “If it cost us £100 per month to have this page on our site, would we still keep it?”


How do we fix this?

Changing culture is hard. It’s one of the hardest things for any established organisation. This is the primary reason why smaller, younger and more dynamic businesses steal market share from established competitors with deeper pockets. A conservative culture is the prey on which disruptive start-ups feed.

Prospective clients and future employees will gain a sense of your company’s culture from the worthless content published on your site. Those tedious articles act as implicit signals to reveal a neophobic and inflexible mindset.


One small step

Proposing an entirely new and expensive content strategy is unlikely to gain buy-in from senior decision-makers. They are biased towards the status quo and fearful of doing things differently from “how we have always done things here”.

From my experience, the most effective way to instigate change is to provide indisputable proof that the existing approach is a financial liability. You won’t need to assign any meaningful budget to obtain this evidence.

I recommend that you don’t attempt to propose sweeping changes or an entirely new content strategy. All you need is one piece of well-researched and well-written, optimised content. 

You publish the new article, track its value in Google Analytics and monitor its progress. Once you have sufficient data, you then extrapolate the data to estimate the future value of similar content to the business. That single article is used as the bait to catch an even bigger fish.

Once you have data to show that a budget of £10,000 could add £1m of turnover, you might see how quickly that culture can be changed. If even that evidence fails to persuade, I suggest you start to look for alternative employment. Your problems are likely to be far greater than a non-productive website.