Attracting the consumer’s attention in a busy marketing landscape is tough enough. Now throw in having to compete against business giants who dominate Google’s top search results, and the chances of getting noticed are even slimmer. To stand out and have Google pay attention to you (and to get into those top search results), requires two things: (1) your unique product documentation and (2) Google being able to find it. A solid microcontent strategy takes care of both.
Why your SEO efforts might not help you rank
Focusing your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts on optimizing your company website may help your company rank a bit higher in search results, but it is a lost battle if you are seeking the attention that steals market shares from your competition. Why? Because Google’s job is to recommend the most valuable, unique content based on what Google thinks a person intents to find. And since countless websites within your product landscape laud the same (or very similar) offers and values, Google looks the other way.
Use the power of your product content
Want Google visibility? Go public with your unique product content. Unlike dotcom content, which thrives on phraseology the rest of the marketing world also subscribes to, your microcontent has the power to exploit unique details and precise instructions, differentiating your product content from that of your competitors, especially if converting hundreds of value-loaded PDF pages into thousands of valuable, unique HTML microcontent pages. In the end, numbers help your success. The more unique content, the more likely Googlebots run into you, and the more likely you’ll end up on the first search results page. But first, you have to allow Google to see you and take your content public.
Signs of an effective microcontent strategy
A successful microcontent strategy should show the following:
- Improved search rankings by allowing search engines to see your content.
- Increased company and product awareness through increased web visibility.
- Increased customer base by allowing discovery about your company and verification of products.
- Engaged current customers through the continuous availability of relevant, authoritative content.
- Increased alignment with integrated marketing suites by providing microcontent that can be leveraged in email, mobile, social and ad campaigns.
Implement your microcontent strategy
This section outlines the steps to naturally increase your web visibility and search engine ranking.
Step 1 – Perform a web search audit
Before designing or implementing a microcontent strategy, perform a two-step web search audit to identify current strengths and weakness. For both the branded web search (queries that contain your company or product names) and the un-branded web search (queries that do not contain your company or product names), record the following:
On which search results page (number 1, 2, 4, 9) is your company or product first mentioned?
Does the search result link to one of your own URLs or are results dropping you off at third-party sites such as review sites or community forums?
What type of content do the results link to? Are they product web pages, PDFs, e-books, marketing assets, product pages, demo requests, sign-up or log-in pages?
Is the content dead-end content, i.e. do links lead to content that provides no opportunity to directly engage with your company or access your authenticated product documentation, such as PDFs, review sites and community forums?
What value does a prospective customer receive from clicking on any of the search results? Does the listed information present content that would help the customer become successful?
How consumable is the content? With readers expecting quick, to-the-point answers, how digestible is the information that was returned?
How does the content stand out from other similar content? Does the content present something unique about you or your company?
Perform a branded web search. In Google, perform a branded search for your company and products, i.e. enter searches that contain your company and product names (separately and in combination with a task or product feature). For example, if your company is in the business of selling a customer relationship management (CRM) system called “Customer Alliance Network (CAN)”, type in any queries that include your business or product name (“Customer Alliance Network” or “CAN”). Search with any combination of words a prospective customer who is looking specifically for one of your products may use.
Perform an un-branded search. For an unbranded search, use generic terms a customer may use who is not aware of your product or company. For example, if you are in the business of selling customer relationship management (CRM) systems, only type in non-branded queries such as “CRM,” “customer relationship management systems,” “sales management systems,” “installing CRMs,” etc.). Search with any combination of words you think a prospective customer who is looking for a solution to a specific task or problem may use. Keep in mind that prospective customers may not be familiar with technical terms or industry terminology.
Step 2 – Survey your customer base
In an effort to find out what has been working for your company so far (you are still in business after all), find out how your customers first learned about your company and product:
Find out anecdotally how your customers heard about you or your products and services. Have your marketing team set up a “Where did you hear about us?” survey or have your sales teams ask new customers during their first interactions. Collect the data and review. The answers maybe telling of how well your online strategies perform and an indicator on where to step up efforts. Note especially the most frequent and the least frequent answers.
Step 3 – Assemble a microcontent strategy team
Whether you are starting from scratch or converting your PDFs into consumable and SEO-friendly microcontent, you need a team to determine content:
Establish a microcontent team consisting of inter-departmental subject matter experts such as marketing managers, content strategist, user experience designers, support and success agents, customer strategists (i.e. technical writers) and product managers.
Create a web-accessible content repository to house your microcontent. As a customer engagement and success tool, MindTouch lends itself perfectly to housing and managing microcontent that is SEO friendly out-of-the-box.
Grant access to the content repository for your microcontent strategy team. With MindTouch, you can establish intricate authoring workflows and restrict access as necessary.
Step 4 – Review audit findings
Review audit findings and, with your team, determine where to focus your strategy. Pay special attention to these findings:
Most of your customers hear about you from word-of-mouth or through review sites. It’s time to take control of your product messaging and to build your own authoritative content.
The first mention happens after page 2 of search results. Your target customers likely will never see your company name or learn about your product since few users look beyond page 2.
Third-party search results. These search results lead users to dead-end interactions, i.e. readers have no opportunity to further engage with the company and its web assets.
Content is large and/or served in PDFs. You are missing the opportunity to leverage, unique, already semantically-rich microcontent to boost your visibility, especially if PDFs aren’t text based and aren’t meticulously optimized for search engines to crawl.
Ask yourself why Google may have considered the listed content unique and valuable. Consider all aspects, including on-page SEO efforts (tagging, linking, etc.) as well as tone and word choice. While you may never know exactly why Google gave preference to one page over another, this type of questioning puts you in the right mindset when planning new content and creating new pages.
Step 5 – Create quality, unique microcontent
As emphasized throughout this article the most important task you can perform to increase your search ranking is producing high quality, unique web content. High quality web content is not only properly structured and tagged for SEO, but must be relevant and valuable to a user’s search intent (i.e. what a user is trying to find).
Assign the creation of microcontent. Whether you are simply breaking out existing documentation or writing brand-new articles, leverage your team's subject matter experts.
Create useful content. Based on the entered search, Google’s algorithms decide whether your content contains the most relevant and authoritative content. Google’s advice is simple: Make pages for users, not for search engines.
Break unwieldy content pieces into microcontent. Although there are many SEO considerations such as keyword inclusion, image tagging, page titles, page URLs, linking and mobile responsiveness (all of which are implemented in MindTouch without having to write a line of code!), the most dramatic impact to your web visibility is producing microcontent. Break your content-heavy documentation (especially dead-end content like PDFs) into easily scannable and digestible sections. Aside from readers loving the quick consumption of microcontent, more content also means more links, and more links means an increased chance for the Googlebot to take notice.
Step 6 – Make your product documentation public (!)
If you fear that revealing too much product information may hurt your business, you may have a resistance to turning product information public-facing. But by keeping content hidden, you are depriving yourself from attracting new customers, and--ironically--risk losing your market share.
Naturally you should never share any proprietary information such as secret formulas, algorithms, proprietary scripts, engineering plans, workflow details, research and development plans, marketing and business strategies, or any other business or product details that could compromise your company's livelihood. But if you keep your valuable product content closed off to the world, you will lose out on strengthening your competitive edge. And in the meanwhile, your competition is still getting their hands on your product information. All they have to do is watch YouTube videos, read third-party reviews or purchase your product.
Take these steps to take your microcontent public without compromising your business:
With your microcontent team, identify which information to turn public and which to keep hidden as proprietary information. MindTouch, for example, allows great flexibility with permissioning users and groups and restricting whole sections from public view.
Create public-facing microcontent that does not reveal proprietary information. Here are a few examples of "safe" public content:
Write snippets on how to use your product.
Offer best practices on solutions.
Provide lists of the third-party integrated products.
List and give answers to FAQs.
Provide advice on maintenance.
Provide information on support procedures, etc.
The above are only some of the many examples of providing information safely to prospective buyers. Provide any information that will help your prospective customers fall in love with your product. Remember, if you hide your content behind a login, Google cannot find your content and hence cannot list it. If prospective and current customers search for your company's solution and cannot find information, it will appear as if you didn't exist or as if you didn't care.
Step 7 – Collaborate with your marketing suite tools
Make your microcontent strategy part of your overall marketing strategies to connect content strategies across all web properties and campaigns (email, mobile, social and ad). Collaborate with managers of your marketing suite tools to align objectives and to record monitor big changes to properly evaluate cause and consequence.
Step 8 – Audit your microcontent strategy
In conjunction with your marketing suite reporting, periodically perform a web search audit as outlined in step 1 above. Take action where necessary to continue improving your web presence.
Step 9 – Extend your reach
After implementing a microcontent strategy that takes your content public, increase your visibility even further by embedding Mindtouch Touchpoints.