A CMO Guide to Corporate Governance and SEO

written by Janet L Bartoli | Thought Leadership

December 5, 2019

In recent years I’ve met many CMOs and other senior leaders of marketing teams within some of the biggest known brands regardless of industry or location.

Each seems to inquire about this one area. 


Why is A Governance Model Critical to Your Marketing Operation Success?

Because what occurs without it is chaotic and confusing. What’s worse is that without an effective governance and well-defined direction, you may lag behind your competition precipitously. 

There are many moving parts that must occur in each of your digital marketing channels. Take content production, which may be a separate delivery center from your SEO or web development areas, should always be in sync with what those best practices are. Content marketing team lead decides they need to develop a new page of content for the new product launch. They decide to get started and begin building out the new content. 

The problem arises when the following questions might need to be asked:

  1. Does legal need to be consulted?
  2. Does the team need additional training to properly optimize in their new CMS?
  3. Has the SEO team been consulted on URL structure, information architecture placement?

You can imagine the long list of other details and as your team and those surrounding it grows, so do the list of stakeholders, tools, and so on. 

In just the last year, I’ve met with two very different types of business.

One, a fairly large Canadian bank, and the other a top three telecom company.

The challenge was to figure out how to get their teams aligned, adhere to current industry standards, IT, analytics, and sales all in line and find a solid way to get things implemented.

Their internal SEO teams were also being left out of the entire process as well, leaving any recommendations out of the integration process.

SEO Programs Experience Roadblocks & Challenges

It is not uncommon for enterprise SEO programs to experiences one or many of these over the course of time

seo governance

Where do you begin? 

It starts by assessing your current digital maturity. Most organizations do not have a defined set of standards, little or no documentation or defined processes and ill conceived strategy with mismatched KPIs across teams. 

Depending on your organization, your digital marketing team may not be widely recognized as a formal discipline within your company. If that is the case, your role in establishing governance and a DCOE is going to be very important to the progress of the organization.

There must be a consistent experience globally. If you’re an international brand, you’ll likely encounter many complexities including shared processes, best practices and standards from APAC, EMEA, LATAM, and NA, all requiring you to have this in place so that everyone works from a consistent script.

I've compiled a list of considerations for you here

  • As you evaluate your digital maturity, look to see if you’re finding lots of inconsistencies across your website pages or other sites associated with your brand.
  • Is your social media handled from the bottom up; making for a fragmented or confusing user experience?
  • Are you using leading edge technologies to support your digital marketing efforts?
  • Is there an effective method to evaluate these tools?
  • How do you evaluate each of your marketing activities to ensure the cost, impact, and overall success of each campaign?
  • How often do you find your cross functional teams not sharing or leveraging one another to work in a coordinated and efficient manner?

Some of these questions, and points, will help you determine your need for governance. If you find you’re headed in that direction, I invite you to read on.  

What does a digital governance framework look like? 

Here’s an illustrative view of what one of our client’s governance model might look like

BCG corporate governance

Starting from the top – in the Headquarters area, you might have in place Brand Strategy, Media Strategy and a Global Marketing Strategy in place, but I’ve found many missing program sponsorship. 

Program sponsorship, generally the executive stakeholder, who sponsors or backs the process, the digital marketing programs, and oversees their efforts in getting the necessary attention and visibility each requires. 

This person(s) is key in making sure nothing is missed or overlooked, or ignored. The SEO has a swim lane, and all recommendations are implemented according to priority level and effort. Content is integrated within all digital teams, connecting calls to action, social media editorial calendar, and IT’s publishing timeline. 

Under the HQ level is the Digital Center of Excellence. A layer just as important as the one that precedes it. If you have no area where innovation, goal setting, performance monitoring, and best practice including industry standards lives, you’ll be met with chaos.

The Subject Matter Experts 

Having a subject matter expert (SME) that can speak to each of your marketing activities and  who can oversee all process, standards, tools & technology are set for the company globally, will also make things run more efficiently. 

Related Supportive Resources:

Getting Granular - The Future State of Your Governance Framework

In order to greatly impact the direction and future state of your programs, you may want to shore up your program by including the following components, which you’ll see in many governance planning

  1. Process & Collaboration – This seeks to instill a culture of building and sustaining a world-class (SEO, SEM, Analytics, etc) program with programmatic learning, skills development across the organization.
  2. Skills & Training – Bridging the skills gap. This is what enables your team to remain current, and ahead of the curve and ahead of your competition. Define ownership, governance, and management of all digital marketing activities for that particular discipline, i.e. SEM, SEO, etc
  3. Measurement – In order to maintain and support your strategy, you must define and maintain KPIs to measure the effectiveness of that marketing program, and its contribution to business imperatives. 
  4. Technology – Allow for use of the most efficient, leading edge technologies to support your program will ensure your program becomes the most successful it can be. Avoid shortcutting or underspending in this area, as it will under-resource your team and provide for lackluster results.

Recently, our team has been working directly with a well-known ecommerce client, and we’ve devised a version on this theme. There is a need to focus on all four areas, however, as we work with our clients, we develop a very customized framework. 

Not all teams are built the same.

This particular client has an off shore engineering team that has been operating within its own silo. They are in need of training ongoing, as well as restructuring to understand that the SEO team, based in the U.S., should be the ones governing the SEO program. 

There’s quite a bit of work on their end, as I’ve helped roll this out with them, but they will be far more efficient and successful once they pull it all together operating as a unit. 

If you need any help in developing a governance framework for your organization – Click on the button below, and someone from our strategic account team will connect with you to discuss how we can help build an efficiently run governance model for your business.

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