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Why Toilet Paper Is More Important To Big Brands Than SEO

We all know that big brands can spend a small fortune on advertising and technology budgets. SEO advocates could hardly expect big brands to spend millions on search engine optimization efforts, but one might be surprised to see just how little money is spent on organic search engine visibility.

We took the top 10 largest retail chains and found that on average, they employ around 361,400 employees. After some basic math we roughly computed that these companies spend:

•Over $2 million dollars a year on free coffee ($2,1684,492)

•$1,693,774 per year on toilet paper expenses (12 sheets a day per employee)

•Over $21 million per year on pens, binders and calendars

•Over $15 million per year in wasted paper ($84 per employee per year)

•Over $142 million in printer paper and toner per year

And next to nothing on search engine optimization!

While these numbers are far from exact, it is safe to say that few big brands want to give SEO even a minute fraction of their budget. It often seems that the larger the brand, the less likely organic SEO efforts are implemented on their Web site. While million-dollar budgets are often allocated for extensive Paid Listing campaigns, most organic proponents are lucky to squeeze a few dollars out of big-brand wallets for even basic SEO steps.

There are many reasons why large companies often keep organic SEO in the closet, and it is certainly not its relevancy. Roughly 77% of search users choose organic over paid listing when searching, and 67% choose organic search when purchasing. Study after study indicates that people are less likely to click on paid search ads than organic search engine results.

For example, a Oneupweb Study found that search users are up to six times more likely to click on the first few organic results than they are to choose any of the paid results, while an Enquiro eye-tracking study showed that 50% of users begin their search by scanning the top organic results. With stats like these, it can be surprising to see that according to a 2007 Oneupweb study, only 40% of the top 100 retailer sites are optimized well or moderately well for organic search, and 27% show no signs of any organic optimization at all.

So with organic results driving a commanding number of clicks, why do SEO efforts so rarely make it beyond proposal phases? Here are just a few of the obstacles facing organic SEO implementation in large companies.

Ease of maintenance: Large companies can have complex IT structures, cumbersome tools or CMS systems that make SEO implementation difficult.

Tracking Metrics: Clear and detailed reporting is not available in organic SEO, which can make ROI difficult to establish. Since SEO is still a mystery term for many organizations, SEO proponents have difficulty gaining acceptance among upper management and company decision makers.

Legality: Most big brands have big names and wallets to protect; therefore site copy can be minimal as legal departments safeguard the brand by slashing content. Search engines love regularly updated unique content; legal departments do not. This means that many SEO campaigns can be crippled before they get off the ground.

Free platform: Many board members' first question is "why pay?" There is a common misconception that organic is a free platform; in actuality, very little Internet marketing is "free". SEO can be more accurately defined as a maintenance fee. Your site needs to be prepared for the engines and periodically realigned. Big brands that think SEO is a complimentary service will be rudely surprised when less relevant competitors begin overtaking important keyword positions using SEO tactics.

No need for SEO: Big brands are usually already visible for certain keywords like brand terms. Many companies feel that visibility already exists and they do not have to pay an agency to optimize their site, if they already rank. As long as customers can find them, it is not worth the investment. In actuality, these brands usually rank for branded keywords and some general terms, but are not ranking for the infamous long tail of search. The long tail of search, or the massive list of search terms that are not high-volume, can substantially affect your brand's online conversions.

Internal department clashes IT/SEO: While SEO has been around for some time, it still has not found its department home in highly structured big brands. There are often internal conflicts regarding the department responsible for SEO costs. IT sees it as a Marketing cost and Marketing sees it as an IT cost. Even when budget issues are resolved, IT can often be weary of allowing SEO agencies to alter coding, URLs and other site features. Big brands that employ design and creative firms that are not SEO knowledgeable can also encounter huge obstacles in creating search engine friendly aesthetics.

Takes time and money... no guarantee: Organic SEO is not always cheap to do on a large scale. It takes multiple resources to handle a Fortune 500 or 1000 Web site. With no guarantee to give, C-level executives can be hesitant to sign off on natural SEO initiatives. This is the hardest selling point of all. Being able to validate high-cost and time-consuming projects usually requires some hard-hitting metrics to persuade non-savvy CEO's. While SEO has shown massive ROI's for companies of all sizes, few predictions or guarantees can be made on how SEO will affect brand visibility, e-commerce and other interests.

It is no easy task to persuade big brands to sign on to organic SEO projects. Big brands are late adopters, and as such, are losing massive ground to smaller brands and savvy competitors that are making SEO an integral part of their online marketing strategies. As big brands begin to see the large ROI of organic optimization, more and more companies will begin adopting SEO--and in many cases, all they will have to do is cut back their paper clip intake by 5% to afford it.

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