Hi there, everyone! Ben Fisher here again, and welcome to the fourth installment of our Local Search at Scale series of articles. This series of articles is aimed at large enterprises and franchises to help them handle the ever-evolving world of local SEO.
Here’s a quick recap on what we’ve covered so far:
The first installment—How to Best Tackle Local SEO as a Large Enterprise or Franchise Business—was an overview of the topic at large. This included the top five problems enterprises/franchises often face when trying to boost their local SEO efforts, and the top five tips for how they can improve them.
The second installment—How to Understand Where Enterprise Marketing Budgets Are Most Impactful in Local SEO—was a deep dive into why large organizations always seem to have such a hard time understanding why investing in local SEO efforts is so important.
The third installment—How to Solve the Problem of Communication When Working with Enterprise Brands—took a look at why communication at large enterprises presents such a unique challenge to these big organizations and provided tips on how to overcome it.
In this installment, we are going to examine the “too many cooks in the kitchen” phenomenon that can happen in any business but is particularly common with enterprises.
Too Many Cooks
I would be remiss if I didn’t start this section off with at least a passing reference to the famous (infamous?) Adult Swim sketch of the same name. If you’re unfamiliar, Too Many Cooks was a short film that aired on the Adult Swim network back in 2014. It was such a unique combination of parodying the sitcom intros of the late 80s/early 90s and slasher horror films that it instantly went viral.
If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and head to YouTube to check it out…but don’t say we didn’t warn you if it leaves you with an unsettling feeling in your stomach! And be sure any little ones you may have in the house aren’t watching it with you.
But speaking of unsettling feelings…if you’ve ever worked at a larger company and tried to get anything of substance done, you know that there are a lot of people who need (or, probably more accurately, want) to be involved in the process. This can significantly gum up the works of any operation, particularly one with as many moving parts as a local SEO campaign.
When we are talking about “Too Many Cooks” in the context of working with an enterprise or franchise system, we see this all the time, unfortunately. It’s not uncommon for different departments, teams, and individuals to all want to have a say in a particular project or initiative. And while collaboration is usually a good sense, in this example this can lead to a lot of back-and-forths, delays, and an overall lack of progress.
This phenomenon is often referred to as “analysis paralysis” or “decision by committee”. In these situations, the desire to involve as many people as possible can actually be counterproductive. Rather than moving forward with a clear plan of action, the project becomes bogged down in a sea of opinions and ideas.
This can be a real problem in the context of a local SEO campaign. An SEO campaign requires a variety of different tactics to come together, including keyword research, both on- and off-page optimization, and more. Each of these requires a high level of expertise and having too many people involved can lead to conflicting advice and a lack of clarity.
A real-life encounter I was involved with personally illustrates this perfectly. I was working with a franchise that wanted to create a consistent plan for naming Google Business Profiles as well as create an expansion strategy at the same time. They decided it would be a good idea to involve the agency of record (all 15 staff members), the legal department (five people), the brand/marketing department (four people), and some leading franchisees (six people). Then there was our team (one person…yours truly). That is a total of 31 people, with different ideas, voices, feedback, motivations, and preconceived notions.
In the beginning, it was a mishmash of ideas with no clear strategy or direction. Good ideas would be discarded and more than a few weeks were wasted going around in circles.
When everyone finally had their say, we removed all unnecessary people from the meeting and brought it down to one representative from each group. They would be the final voice for their department, while others from the departments would still have their say, making it a win-win scenario.
By taking this final step, we were able to draft an initial strategy that all departments were happy with and they could each go their separate ways to start implementation. Total time after a restructuring of people? Two more meetings and less than a week. Pretty good considering the first round took a month!
Do You REALLY Need to Be Here?
This leads us to the next part. It is important that, at the onset of your local SEO campaign, you assign roles to your team members and give them clearly defined tasks that they need to accomplish and own.
It’s important to assess whether each team member’s participation is critical to the success of a particular task or meeting. If not, it may be better to exclude them and only involve those whose presence is necessary. This not only helps to prevent delays but also frees up resources to focus on other tasks that are more critical to the campaign’s success.
In large enterprises, there are a lot more people involved as opposed to a business with just a single location, and most of them will need to be kept apprised of the bigger details. But to speed things along and avoid having too many cooks, it’s probably wise to have semi-regular “status update” style meetings with those folks (typically upper management) that don’t have a lot of actual tasks assigned to them, while the actual “doers” on your team meet can meet much more frequently.
And speaking of the doers on your team and assigning roles, make sure that you assign somebody to take diligent notes at the frequent meetings and have that person summarize and prepare those notes for the less frequent meetings you have with the top brass. You can quickly communicate what happened in the previous month (be sure to highlight your wins!), and what’s in the month(s) to come.
Finally, it’s important to keep an eye on the overall campaign’s goals and objectives. This means regularly checking in on whether the campaign is on track so you can make adjustments as needed. This is particularly important when dealing with large enterprises, as it can be easy for the campaign to become derailed due to changes in the business’s priorities or other unforeseen circumstances.
Help the Decision Makers Early On in the Process
Hopefully, somebody on your team (probably you, if you’re reading this!) knows what you need to do to move the needle for each franchise location in terms of local SEO. It’s even better if your team has several people who are knowledgeable—not only is this definitely a “the more the merrier” type situation, but odds are good that you’re going to have to make the case early on in the campaign to the senior executive staff about WHY you need to do the things you’re going to have your team do.
As I mentioned previously, many higher-ups at enterprises may very well have a difficult time understanding the value of the small-yet-necessary things that need to be done to move the needle…things like regularly uploading high-quality photos to your Google Business Profile (GBP) or coming up with a reliable schedule for well-constructed GBP posts.
One way to help decision-makers understand the importance of local SEO is to provide them with real-world examples of the impact it can have on a business. For instance, you can share data on how optimizing Google Business Profiles and building local citations has helped other businesses in your industry improve their search engine rankings and drive more foot traffic to their physical locations.
It’s also important to emphasize that local SEO is a long-term strategy that requires ongoing investment and maintenance. This means that they need to be prepared to commit the necessary resources like time, money, and staff to ensure that the campaign is successful over the long haul.
They might wonder why the organization doesn’t just back up a Brinks truck of cash to the nearest PPC company and blow the entire budget on pay-per-click ads. Presenting them with a good case at the onset of the campaign of what is critically important for this local SEO campaign will likely save you the time and effort of having to re-educate them down the road.
Do Your Best to Not Overlap Responsibilities
There is no denying that for a medium to large enterprise with dozens of locations, a comprehensive local SEO campaign is going to be a Herculean project. There are lots of little things (and quite a few big things) that need to happen in the right way and at the right time in order to really start to see a difference in the rankings themselves and the secondary benefits such as increased foot traffic.
We’ve previously covered many of these tasks that need to be done, as well as the importance of assigning them to the right people. But one surefire way to throw a wrench in an otherwise smoothly-operating machine is to have multiple people or teams assigned to the same job (e.g. link building or proper citation management).
Have you ever heard of the Bystander Effect in psychology? If not, the TL;DR of it is that an individual is much less likely to act in a situation that requires action (such as standing up to a bully or helping someone who is in danger) if there are other people around. The effect is more pronounced if there are more people around—we have a natural tendency to assume someone else will jump in and help out.
If more than one person is in charge of (or even working on) a task, the odds of it slipping through the cracks grow exponentially…and you likely don’t need me to tell you that you want to do everything you can to avoid that! Mitigate that problem before it ever becomes one by making sure that, in the early phase when you’re assigning roles and tasks, no two people or teams are in charge of the same thing (especially the same thing for the same franchise location).
As someone who’s been in the SEO game since 1994 (yes, I know I’m dating myself), trust me when I say that while local SEO isn’t rocket science, it can quickly become a tangled web the larger the enterprise is, the more locations are involved, and yes—the more cooks there are in the kitchen.
Like many other large projects, it can help dramatically throughout the duration of the project to be super organized, communicative, and meticulous when first setting everything up. Having clearly defined roles, well-defined and attainable goals, and doing everything you can at the onset to ensure everyone is on the same page will save you tons of time and stress down the road.