SEO: Not just for marketing

If your strategy to keep customers happy is to send them to an unknown site when they need help, then you can be sure they’ll express their pent-up emotions about your product over there too. Quick process flow: Customer with problem>Google>link to public Q&A forum>Read other problems>Read incorrect solution>Google>Blood pressure up>Call niece and complain. Fix that scenario with this brain-dead bootstrapping guide to search engine optimization (SEO) for people whose job is something else.

You’re missing all the benefits of search engine optimization Google SERP levitonif you’re only applying it to your pre-sales web content. Your home page certainly needs SEO and chances are you know that. But what about your troubleshooting and support information? It’s already written, but can your customers find it?

Any content producer can follow the concepts here to apply SEO to your web-based support content so that customers find the right help when they need it.

This is not a dark-arts, hack-the-system post with quick tricks. I’m also not going to admonish you to publish relevant, good writing. Furthermore, there are more actions you can take beyond these to improve your customer experience and your profit margin too. I’ve made a number of assumptions here, such as your web site file structure, your domain being found by Google and your ability to define and measure success. I’m also not going into advertising, paid search, authority, linking, and other advanced tasks. This a very simple primer about organic SEO.

Shortest SEO get-started guide ever

End goal: A link to your web page–accurate support information–appears near the top of major search engine results pages. Talk with the folks running your internal-only search tools if you’re working on search within a corporate domain and not for the general public using Google or Bing. For simple SEO, consider the following:

Step 1. 20 minutes. Come up with a list of terms that you think your target audience is using in order to search for your information. Be very specific and focus only on the content of one web page at a time. For the purposes of SEO, we’ll label the terms on your list keywords. Each keyword can be a 2 or 3-word phrase, not just a single term. For now make a long list and divide it into categories if it gets too long. This is a first-draft brainstorm list that you’ll use to discuss with other people.

Step 2. 60 minutes. Show your list to two other people and ask for input. You might cross off 90% of your original list. You might add new keywords that you didn’t think of on your own. Expand your list by finding synonyms or parallel keywords that are related to your most promising entries so far.

Pare down the list to the best 3 keywords for a single web page or topic. Can’t abandon your favorite terms that land at number 4 though 8 on the list? It could be a signal that you need to change the scope of your topic so that it provides narrowly defined information. Provide less information in a way, just tightly focused on a single purpose. If you create new topics, work on keywords for them separately.

Step 3. 60 minutes. Verify that a measurable number of people actually use your curated keywords. The volume of traffic for your keywords is important. Low volume issue: If only 4 people each month ever type your carefully planned keywords into a search engine, then they will do almost nothing to help your troubled customers because your customers are likely not even using those terms. High volume issue: Too many searches could indicate that the general public is looking for something else with the terms that you’ve chosen. It could be very very hard to rank well in search among all that competition. Use your best judgement to find the right balance of accurate keywords that have reasonable volume.

How do you verify the volume you ask? With free tools of course. Search the web because this research task is beyond the scope this blog post. I’m confident you can get a general sense of keyword traffic with a little effort though. Free tools have strengths and limitations that an SEO specialist can overcome. More info:

Step 4. 60 minutes per topic. Revise and then publish the text of your most important support pages so that all the keywords appear in these two areas: 1. The title. 2. The opening paragraph.

It might be awkward to fit all your keywords into the title, so use common sense and create something that both summarizes the content and has meaning. There is a character limit that provides the most benefit, but just be concise. The order of the words in your keyword phrases matters here. Keep using the exact order for multi-word phrases.

If you can only use 2 of the 3 keywords in the title, that’s okay. Use them all in the opening paragraph though. More than one time if you can. Go ahead and make it awkward and redundant because this is about search rank, not perfect grammar. Use the keywords liberally throughout the body content also, that will help.

Do not use the same keywords in the content of a bunch of topics. That would be creating competition among your own information, which makes it harder to rank well in search engines. You’re already competing against millions of other web pages, don’t make it harder.

You can do a lot of other SEO tasks that can help you rank well. For example, you might want to ensure that the URL of your page includes the keywords. You might also measure where you rank before revising your content and then every couple weeks afterward. If you see no changes after a couple months, try different keywords.

Extra resources

About the author

John Andrilla is a technical communicator with a passion for teamwork, project management, writing and editing. Recognized for “using optimism to move mountains.” LinkedIn profile: https://bit.ly/active-voicer

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