Conductor News SEO

How Large Companies Manage SEO

When I joined Conductor, I was coming from an agency where the number of keywords managed for clients was in the hundreds, maybe a thousand in a few cases.  One of the things that surprised me the most was how many keywords large companies manage at once.

The amount of keywords depends on how many domains or brands the client has. But once I was behind the scenes helping to engineer the product at Conductor, I noticed that large companies had many more thousands or even tens of thousands of keywords.

Managing a few thousand was hard, but managing tens of thousands? How did they do it? We’re not talking about having a huge SEO team either. I started digging into how large companies manage SEO and here’s what I learned:

Looking at keywords on a micro level doesn’t scale.

The larger the client, the larger the website. There were more locations, product lines or services offered.  These exponentially grew the number of keywords the SEO had to manage, track, and optimize.

If I were to manage them individually it wouldn’t scale. For example, let’s say I had 80 product lines and 20 locations. It would take forever to aggregate and report on that data. That’s where Conductor’s software Searchlight made so much sense to me. It constantly and automatically collected and aggregated the data and updated reports.

marketer using searchlight

Not only do products, services, and locations increase keywords that need to be managed, but with the explosion of mobile devices there is now another dimension to consider. Every type of device that sites and your audience are using – desktops, tablets, phones – all impact SEO. It becomes very important to have something that can do all of it for you behind the scenes.

Not only do products, services, and locations increase keywords that need to be managed, but with the explosion of mobile devices there is now another dimension to consider.

Large-scale SEO happens in buckets and the buckets can change.

There are a lot of different software packages that can collect and aggregate data. But the big question I found important to ask was: How quickly can I move the data around? Can I quickly pivot large sets of data into new categories and see the impact in a different way? That’s something I found hard to do.

To me it was important because I wanted to quickly see how data looks from a different angle. Pivoting big data takes a long time if you’re doing it in Excel alone. As many know, while Excel is easy to use, it simply crashes when you throw enough data at it.  With small clients, Excel combined with other tools can work.  But at the big data level, you need something that can scale with the size of your datasets.

But I still thought there were a few disadvantages to an SEO platform.

There’s so much data. What if I missed something?

I was worried that I would lose the granularity in reporting that I was used to. What if I missed some small detail because it was deep in the data? Data can hide in the zoomed out big picture. Not to say the details weren’t actually there – they were always just a few clicks away.

As long as you remember to deep dive into your data sometimes, the net effect is positive.  Looking at the larger picture, I noticed trends that I couldn’t see deep into the weeds of the data. I also found I was less worried about little bumps in the road when I saw that they didn’t actually make a big impact overall. I could stress less about a bump and focus more attention on long-term trends that mattered. By moving the details a click away in reporting, I could see the impact of all my SEO efforts combined.


That also made it easier to communicate to other shareholders who weren’t interested in the very smallest detail. Executive teams want to know the bigger impact.

Looking at the larger picture, I noticed trends that I couldn’t see deep into the weeds of the data.

Consider the time it takes to get things done.

I was worried that with a platform with so many features, it would take time to really start getting value from it. I sometimes describe Searchlight as the “Photoshop for SEO.” I’m not really kidding. If you’ve been using Microsoft Paint, jumping into Photoshop can be intimidating.

But like the graphics professionals who have spent the time to learn Photoshop, climbing the learning curve of complex software pays off. Yes, you have to spend more time right now to get the same thing done, but once you have put the time into learning it, the platform begins to really work for you. It saves you time.

In the end, managing SEO for large companies requires a platform that can handle the bigger data.  It won’t crash when it needs to report on tens of thousands of keywords.  It does the time-consuming aggregating and reporting automatically for you in the background.  It does push the details a few layers down, but that only makes it easier to see the SEO trends at a more comprehensive level and keeps you from getting distracted by little things.

And yes, it does take time to learn; you’ll spend time at the beginning just figuring out the software platform.  But once you do, you have access to all its power.


Learn more about how large companies manage SEO by watching our webinar with Justin Schoen, Natural Search Program Manager at REI.

Banner image via Photo Criticism

  • Akash Agarwal

    It’s a great topic and very useful too. A lot of things to learn from this article. Thanks a lot for helping us in this way.

  • So this is how they make it work. Incredibly interesting article that gave me a new perspective on SEO and big companies.

  • This is incredible to see how large scale companies are able to handle all of those keywords.