June 19, 2024


Immortalizing Ideas

Your guide to the first 90 days as an enterprise SEO director

If you’ve enjoyed every SEO job you’ve had in the first 90 days, kindly remove yourself from this article for being a liar. 

We good? Awesome. 

Did you know that 33% of employees quit their job within the first 90 days that they’re employed. 

That’s a sobering fact. 

The kind that makes you want to get not-sober as you kickstart for your first 90 days as an enterprise SEO Director. 

Enterprise SEO departments have a high turnover rate due to cultural challenges because other departments don’t understand SEO or how to work together. 

At the risk of stating the obvious, your first 90 days as an enterprise SEO Director sets the stage for the rest of your time at the company. 

Have you found yourself asking these questions before:

  • How do you make a business use case for more budget for SEO?
  • How do you scale your enterprise SEO department? 
  • How do develop alignment with Product and Editorial? 

Over the next few articles, I’ll help you answer these (and more) questions, based on my experience as an enterprise SEO Director. Starting with

Become a strategic player

In due time, you can show up to Zoom meetings acting like “the champ is here,” but not in the first 90 days.  

You’ve got massive plans afoot for an SEO makeover for your enterprise company. 

  • Site architecture changes.
  • Removing old content.
  • Possibly building a new website.

It’s a lot to take in.

So I recommend starting with developing relationships. You want your enterprise SEO department to be seen as a strategic player on a bigger team. 

Allow me to paint you a picture. 

It’s your second week as the new SEO Director. SEO is a brand new department at the enterprise company. Everyone is excited to have you join the team. 

Until you start to notice other departments are already doing SEO, but do not realize they are doing SEO. 

In the second month as the new SEO Director, you present your observations of the challenges and offer new solutions to the executive team. Your presentation goes well. 

Later, you find out those other departments are not happy with you presenting the challenges you see in their department. 

This is not what you want to see in your first 90 days as a new enterprise SEO Director. This is a common problem SEO professionals face as SEO is still relatively new in enterprise companies. 

SEO Directors need to position themselves as a strategic partner that flows and moves with other departments. 

You will lose credibility and trust without empathy

Getting SEO done on a website with millions of webpages requires other teams’ resources. 

Enterprise SEO teams are never self-contained. Instead, SEO departments lean on the resources of other departments to get things done. 

The hardest part of my job as an enterprise SEO Director is selling SEO to other teams. I have to persuade other teams that my goals can help impact their goals. 

So how do we find common ground?

The key to finding common ground with empathy. 

You need to understand what your engineering, editorial, design and other teams care about. You need to look at their goals and priorities and build your goals and priorities to align with them. 

If you come to the table with audits, deliverables and recommendations, you start to lose social capital. You’re turning people off by getting too into the SEO terminology weeds. 

For example, instead of saying “I need to set the SEO strategy,” say “I need to align our SEO strategy with your work so my team can make better decisions.” 

Let’s say that the marketing team’s Q3 goal is to scale the international audience. 

As an SEO, you might see opportunities in site architecture, page layouts and technical improvements. 

Ask yourself: Are there SEO improvements we can make that support the scaling of international audiences? 

You need to overlap your SEO opportunities with the marketing team’s strategy. 

But your deliverable is documentation of the process into the strategy. You don’t want to skew the conversation by talking about deliverables as audits or keyword research. Your communication is the deliverable. 

Your SEO deliverables don’t exist for change. Your SEO deliverables exist to create documentation and standardize the process. 

This way of looking at SEO deliverables will help set the landscape to get the resources you need to execute in your first 90 days. You may need to negotiate for resources.

As the SEO lead, you want to communicate that you understand the strategic initiative and that your strategy supports it. 

My SEO Director 30-60-90-day plan

Days 1–30

Focus: Learning

Priorities: Get up to speed on needs and challenges for the Content and SEO team and [Company Name] as a company. Understand the expectations [Your Boss’s Name] has for me, learn how the internal processes and procedures currently work, and start to explore some of the challenges facing [Company Name] and Content and SEO.

Learning goals:

  • Read all of the relevant internal materials available to me. Ask across teams for recommendations of articles, reports, and studies I should review. Get up to speed on [Company Name] as a company and the industry. Gain product knowledge. (Metric: Reading completed)
  • Get access to the accounts (email, Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Asana, Workfront, Contentful, Google Drive, WordPress, etc.) I’ll need to do my job. Spend time familiarizing myself with each of them. Determine what tools/software we are missing. (Metric: Task completed)
  • Listen to 10 recorded customer calls (good and bad). (Metric: 10 customer calls listened to)
  • Understand the need for my open roles to adjust job descriptions if needed. Align with interviews and questions for each interview. (Metric: Task completed)

Performance goals:

  • Organize the Content and SEO tech stack. (Metric: Establish a list of tools, budget and logins)
  • Kickstart content inventory research and recommendations on the top 25 pages. (Metric: Content Audit completed on top 25)
  • Initiate Technical SEO research and break down priorites-based team org structures (Ex: thin content edits to the editorial team, sitemap tweaks to engineering team) and recommendations for the overall health of the website. (Metric: SEO research completed with top 10 priorities)
  • Dive into a Competitor Analysis that is focused on content and SEO only. (Metric: Competitor Audit of top 5 competitors completed)
  • Begin to build and document Content & SEO Strategy for FY2022 through the next 3 years based on audit findings. (Metric: Task completed)
  • Prepare content style guide and deployment checklist to align with SEO best practices. (Metric: Task completed) 

Personal goals:

  • Meet with [Your Boss’s Name] and key stakeholders from product, engineering, editorial, PR, etc. Introduce myself and learn about their roles within the organization. (Metric: Ten meetings held)
  • Set up recurring meetings with everyone I’ll need to work with on a regular basis—including cross-functional and external partners. (Metric: Regular meetings set and attended)

Days 31–60

Focus: Contributing

Priorities: Perform my role as Director of SEO at full capacity, with a decreased need for guidance. Start to explore how I can make a unique impact within the SEO channels and [Company Name].

Learning goals:

  • Analyze current SEO performance so far and establish key metrics and benchmarks I care about (sales, leads, revenue, etc.) and share findings across departments and key stakeholders. (Metric: Task completed)
  • Explore Content and SEO workflow improvements to document in SEO strategy. (Metric: Task completed)
  • Listen to five recorded customer calls (good and bad). (Metric: Five customer calls listened to)
  • Continue to work with the Talent team to review candidates for the open roles. (Metric: Task completed)

Performance goals:

  • Create a Wiki page SEO tech stack for future reference and guidance. (Metric: Task completed)
  • Share Content research and initial findings (and Competitor Analysis) and recommendations on the top 25 pages to teams and align across departments to tackle recommendations. (Metric: Content Calendar created with research findings included in workflow along with Best Practices documented in Wiki)
  • Share Technical SEO research (and Competitor Analysis) and recommendations for the overall health of the website to teams and align across departments to tackle recommendations. (Metric: Get recommendations in team queues for completion (i.e. Sprints, Asana, Jira, etc.))
  • Continue to build and document SEO Strategy for FY2022 through the next 3 years based on audit findings. (Metric: Task completed)
  • Begin Backlink SEO research (and Competitor Analysis) along with recommendations. (Metric: Competitor Audit of top 5 competitors completed)

Personal goals:

  • Schedule coffee or lunch with someone from the company I haven’t gotten to know yet. (Metric: Task completed)

Days 61–90

Focus: Taking initiative

Priorities: Start assuming more autonomy and finding small ways to practice leadership skills. Start to explore SEO goals for the rest of the year.

Learning goals:

  • Work with the Analytics team to establish consistent automated reporting. (Metric: Task completed)
  • Listen to five recorded customer calls (good and bad). (Metric: Five customer calls listened to)
  • Continue to work with the Talent team to review/hire candidates for the open roles. (Metric: Task completed)

Performance goals:

  • Kickstart quarterly content research projects based on website ownership.
    • Onboard Blog Content Manager to kickstart quarterly content research for the blogs. 
  • Establish monthly, quarterly and yearly goals for the SEO team. (Metric: TBD)
  • Share SEO Strategy for FY2022 and beyond (hiring, resources, prioritization, etc.). This will include key findings from the research along with a content calendar, technical SEO project roadmap, and reporting metrics (content, technical, backlinks). 
  • Sync with PR and Social teams to begin to talk about an Influencer/Ambassador strategy. (Metric: Task completed)
  • Develop a Content Distribution Playbook to work across departments. (Metric: Task completed)
  • Develop a Technical SEO Playbook to work across departments. (Metric: Task completed)

Personal goals:

  • Schedule coffee or lunch with someone from the company I haven’t gotten to know yet. (Metric: Task completed)

Your first 90 Days as an SEO Director is a fresh start for you and your company

Most enterprise companies don’t have an SEO strategy at an executive level.

During your first 90 days, you want to build a foundation for your SEO strategy that aligns with the bigger marketing and product strategy. 

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

Anna Crowe is a Frank’s Hot Buffalo sauce advocate (leading with obvious priorities), writer, marketer and SEO nerd. Over the last 12+ years, Anna has successfully run SEO and content programs for brands like Dollar Thrifty Rental, Marriott, Hilton, Hearst Magazine, Mailboat Records, Philip Morris International, Bloomin’ Brands and Brother USA and many more. She enjoys burritos and puppies (in that order) when she’s not moonlighting as a soccer coach. https://annaleacrowe.com/