Author: George Nguyen
You, as an enterprise SEO, are responsible for making recommendations that improve your brand or client’s search visibility. The problem is that—even though you’re held accountable for the site’s visibility— you don’t control all of the levers that actually move the needle in the right direction.
At the enterprise level, other teams play a big role: aligning with the content and development teams, for example, is non-negotiable. But, those teams have their own priorities that they’re also accountable for—how do you get them to shake off the inertia and add SEO to those priorities?
At Wix, Nati Elimelech, our head of SEO, devised a scoring system that aligns our platform’s SEO product roadmap and compliance standards with the 30+ product teams responsible for implementing them—while keeping those teams motivated and minimizing time spent in unnecessary, repetitive meetings.
At BrightonSEO, Elimelech presented the lessons we learned in creating and implementing the SEO scoring system. While our exact process may not be suitable for every situation, it can serve as a compliance system or framework for others and showcases creative problem solving at scale.
Table of contents:
How to make an SEO scoring system work for your organization 01. Keep your system simple and actionable 02. Select the right criteria for your system 03. Keep the admin simple 04. Create a competitive environment 05. Don’t rock the boat
The Wix SEO scoring system
At Wix, teams are organized by product (e.g., Wix Blog, Wix Events, Wix Bookings, etc), each with their own goals and KPIs. Separate from those goals, they also have SEO updates that they need to implement in order to build search engine-friendly products and deliver capabilities to our users.
The benefit of such a system (compared to working directly with each team and developer) is that it’s scalable. This allows us to bypass:
Knowledge gaps, which are common when working with colleagues that don’t do SEO for a living,
Prioritization bottlenecks, which can occur when teams and stakeholders don’t know which issue to approach next,
And, meeting fatigue, which could cause friction at every step along the way to success.
“This is a system used by over 30 product teams across Wix. That means hundreds of engineers, product owners, product managers, and even upper management. So, even senior management looks at the scoring system.” — Nati Elimelech, head of SEO, Wix
How the Wix SEO scoring system works
Keep in mind that the Wix SEO scoring system (or any similar system) is not simply a report card—it’s a collaborative tool that helps colleagues prioritize and understand what’s important and what’s not. It allows them to see the road ahead so that they can plan to resolve SEO issues throughout the year—without sacrificing their own goals.
The centerpiece of our scoring system is a user-facing Google Looker Studio dashboard that displays scores for each team. These scores reflect their progress in implementing a spectrum of SEO criteria and capabilities (such as the ability to manage SEO settings by page type, for example).
The scores are calculated within a Google Sheet that feeds the Looker Studio dashboard. And, the scoring system is weighted, so resolving important issues will increase a team’s score more than a simple fix would.
This means that, at any given time, any team member can reference the SEO scoring system to evaluate their progress or the progress of other teams. Company-wide, teams have a mandate to meet a certain score threshold by the end of the year. While delicate to balance, these elements can come together exceptionally well to create a culture of SEO across the entire organization.
How to make an SEO scoring system work for your organization
Our scoring system successfully motivated teams to prioritize SEO in product development. However, we had to carefully balance a range of factors—some of which we didn’t encounter until after the system was launched—to ensure that the competitive environment it had fostered was also a healthy environment to work in.
01. Keep your system simple and actionable
Your dashboard should embrace simplicity and action items to help management make informed decisions. This will help you get around the potential conflict of interest that can occur when appealing solely to teams:
“When SEOs ask for other teams to fix something in their product. That ‘ask’ is not really about asking them to do something: It's about asking them to not add a new feature to their product or not fix a bug or not make their own product better. So, you're basically asking them to stop making their own product better and take care of SEO.” — Nati Elimelech
Most people would agree that improving SEO capabilities makes for a better product, but even so, that reasoning rarely influences decision making at this level. “But when management knows about it, and when management can know where everyone stands and can prioritize, then things happen,” Elimelech explained.
Our scoring system is ideal for this purpose because it provides a simplified score for a top-level overview as well as more detailed information (as shown in the image above) to enable the teammates responsible for resolving issues.
Another benefit is that it’s a self-serve system, which helps minimize unnecessary meetings and repeated explanations. And, since the score calculations all occur on the backend, that helps us further manage time spent on upkeep.
02. Select the right criteria for your system
Select widely applicable criteria for your scoring system because you’re looking to create the largest possible impact by setting goals that apply to everyone (or nearly everyone). For us, as a website builder, that meant scoring teams by page type.
“[Fixing] a specific product page won't change much. But if you perform fixes or improvements to all of your product pages, that’s scale.” — Nati Elimelech
You’ll also need to balance the quantity and diversify your criteria:
Limiting criteria to 20-30 items over the course of the year helps you ensure that each fix still moves the needle for individual teams. An overabundance of requests diminishes the value of each individual fix, which could create inertia and demoralize teams.
Including both basic and advanced criteria empowers teams to plan appropriately for more time-consuming tasks.
03. Keep the admin simple
The SEO scoring system exists to save us, as SEOs, time. “If we created an overly complex system that we always have to maintain, and that breaks easily, that time will just be reallocated to maintaining the system,” Elimelech said.
To that end, our system uses Google Sheets for calculations and as a data warehouse. Each page type appears as a column and is flagged as “true,” “false,” or “not applicable.” Then, calculations are performed based on the other page types that the team is also responsible for.
“That means that I have created some of the most obscene formulas ever put on a Google Sheet.” — Nati Elimelech
Whether you use Google’s tools or another platform, make it easy for your team to manage the system so that it’s reliable for your other colleagues who need to take action based on it.
04. Create a competitive environment
When asked to fix SEO issues, teams would largely play along, but there was still an atmosphere of “Well, should I improve my own product or should I listen to the SEO recommendations?”
To create a lasting culture of SEO across teams, we had to motivate them, so we made the scoring system viewable by everyone at Wix. Everyone can see how their team is doing and compare that to the performance of other teams.
While this created enthusiasm for improving their scores (some even sent celebratory emails), there were some potential downsides to consider, which I’ll discuss next.
05. Don’t rock the boat
Once your prioritization system starts gaining traction with teams, you’ll still need to strike a delicate balance to keep that momentum going.
“I think that the biggest lesson we've learned was that once they're hooked, if something— anything—is not in the scoring system (which means if fixing it won't raise the score), they will not do it.” — Nati Elimelech
Stakeholders will get upset and frustrated if their scores change when they haven’t done anything to “deserve” the decrease, which can be troublesome because you’ll need to add new requirements. This is especially true when Google announces a change to its requirements.
So, your system needs to be fair and transparent. Fairness leads to stability, which stakeholders crave. This means that you’re not going to suddenly change score weighting or introduce or remove criteria. And, when you eventually need to do so, it also means that you will communicate those changes far in advance to ensure that teams can continue to trust and follow your system.
You can’t beat the system
As you create and implement your own system to scale SEO across your organization (or your client’s), remember that the system’s purpose is not to eliminate your personal workload—it’s a tool to help you direct and collaborate with other teams.
You’ll still need to focus on and maintain your system, especially with regard to the greater search ecosystem as Google updates will force you to adapt. You’ll still need to engage with teams to ensure that the system is working for them. If you can do so effectively, you’ll be able to move SEO forward for the entire business.
George Nguyen is the Director of SEO Editorial at Wix. He creates content to help users and marketers better understand how search works. He was formerly a search news journalist and is known to speak at the occasional industry event.