How Technical Communicators Can Contribute to Search Engine Optimization
On July 25, 2017, I presented a webinar entitled How Technical Communicators Can Contribute to Search Engine Optimization for Seek and Find, an IDEAS Online Conference. The two-day online conference featured five 60-minute concurrent sessions in two tracks and attendees were able to choose from 11 unique presentations. The below information is a summary of my presentation and you can also find this article on the IDEAS website.
Thanks for reading this article and I invite you to reach out to me with any questions you may have about this topic.
What Is Search Engine Optimization?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving a website’s ranking on search engine results pages. Google wants to rank relevant and trustworthy content higher and there are a number of ways you can increase your visibility. First and foremost, there really isn’t SEO without a good content marketing / information development plan because SEO and content development go hand in hand. By developing good content and then applying SEO best practices, you can increase your visibility in search engine results pages.
So why does this matter to a technical communicator? Technical communicators produce so much great content, but without applying SEO principles like using scientifically researched SEO keywords in the content, customers may not even find the content. Keywords are the words people are using to search for things online. By using keywords appropriately in the content you develop, you can increase the chances that customers will find your content and ultimately engage with it. By working with your digital marketing team to understand your keywords and other things you can do to help with SEO, you can engage your customers, create a better experience for them and ultimately reduce the number of technical support calls that your company receives. You can also repurpose your technical content for your company’s content marketing strategy.
I this webinar, I spoke about search engine optimization and how technical communicators can be involved. In this summary and conclusion article, I’ll cover just a few of the many things you can do to contribute to your company’s digital marketing strategy.
Search engine optimization has become pretty involved and also very technical over the last few years. If you decide that you may need help after reading this article, I invite you to learn more about our affordable SEO packages.
Break Down the Silos
In many companies, there are silos across functional groups and even within teams. People will give each other tasks but not use the other function to make things even better for the customer. For example, a technical writer creates a white paper on how some type of technology works, but the writer doesn’t know that using SEO keywords in the paper when applicable will actually help boost the search engine rankings, thus bringing more visibility to the paper and the company. Instead, the technical writer emails a PDF to the web team asking them to add the white paper to the website without any SEO discussion. This is a prime example of a missed opportunity.
An SEO strategy team should have four main functions:
- SEO Manager
- Content Creator
- Social Media Expert
Depending on the company, these may be individual roles that are in-house or outsourced, or some of these roles may be combined. In any case, get to know the people in these roles. Seek to understand what these people do and how you can contribute to the SEO efforts. Chances are you can make some quick tweaks to your process, like the keywords in the white paper example. This could lead to long-reaching effects on your SEO efforts.
I recently sat down with a colleague of mine to talk about her previous experience as a Technical Communications Manager for a global business. Her team produced over 1300 documents a year in 24 languages. She resided within an integrated marketing team, and despite her efforts, she didn’t know anything about SEO until she attended one of my digital marketing workshops. With all of that great content that her team produced, they could’ve done much more to contribute to the SEO and content marketing strategy.
During the IDEAS webinar, I asked the attendees (primarily technical writers and content developers) if SEO keywords were shared with them. A whopping 73% said no! What a missed opportunity for writers to increase visibility on search engines.
I also asked the audience if their content went through a round of search engine optimization, meaning things like keyword optimization, Meta content (title, description, keywords and alt / image tags) optimization, hyperlinking, etc. I was guessing about 20% did and I was close – I believe it was around 18%. Again, here’s another missed opportunity to improve SEO rankings.
Break down the silos and meet with different functional areas regularly to discuss your SEO and content marketing strategies. Don’t just throw things over the wall. I guarantee your business will be stronger and your customers will benefit from it.
Repurpose and Recycle Your Content
As I mentioned previously, SEO and content go hand in hand. The good news is that you don’t always have to start from scratch. If you look at the content that’s already on your website, you’ll probably be surprised at how much you already have, from website copy to brochures to instruction manuals. Take advantage of the content you already have by reusing this content in other ways. For example, if you create instruction manuals, you probably have some great information in there that would be helpful to extract and make more visible through blog posts or articles. You could even bring the content to life in new ways such as creating a series of YouTube videos. You can then promote the repurposed content through social media. You can incorporate the keywords from your SEO team into the content to help increase its visibility in search engines. Recycling content is a great way to bring visibility to all the helpful content that’s stored away in PDFs.
Get Google to See Your Gated Content
Companies have gated content, meaning content behind a firewall, for a variety of reasons: they charge a fee for it, it’s proprietary or they want to capture email addresses for marketing purposes. However, Google doesn’t like it. Google can’t access gated content so Google can’t index it; therefore, customers can’t find it.
It can make good business sense to have gated content. If you can’t get around keeping the content gated, but you want Google to know about it, there are all kinds of ways you can do this through content marketing. Here are a few examples.
- Reuse some of the content in new ways. Let’s say you have some training modules that are gated because your company charges for them. You could write a blog post that talks about one specific piece of the training and then have a call to action with a link to the training page to get more information. You don’t have to give away the whole training content in your blog post – you can talk about the topic in general and then provide one or two potential solutions, guiding the customer to the training landing page for more information. That way you give them enough information to capture their interest in learning more.
- Once you’ve developed your content marketing strategy, make social media a part of it so you can engage customers. Find out which social media channels your customers use and then promote your content there.
Above all, make the content on your gated landing page engaging and educational so that when people land on it from clicking on your marketing content, it will make them want to take action. Adding a teaser is also a good way to engage people.
Make Sure Your Website Is User-Friendly
Google is big on user-friendly websites. The more user-friendly your site is, and the more relevant your content is, the higher you should rank in search engine results. How easy and quick is it for customers to find content on your website? Have you done any usability testing recently? And is it mobile-friendly as Google now expects? Here’s another great opportunity to work with your web team. With your knowledge of your products and / or services, you could help rewrite website copy on pages that aren’t ranking highly. You could also do some usability testing to make sure the content is organized logically and is in the language of your customers, not yours.
There is so much that technical communicators can do to contribute to an SEO / content marketing strategy. By breaking down those silos, reusing content including gated content and contributing to the website, technical communicators have the ability to improve their company’s search engine rankings, leading to reduced customer support calls and more satisfied customers.
About the Author
Hi- my name is Chris Raulf and I’m the founder of Boulder SEO Marketing, a boutique digital marketing agency located in beautiful Denver and Boulder, Colorado. My team and I assist local, national and international customers with all of their search engine optimization, Pay-per-Click (PPC) social media, and content marketing needs. Our self-paced, non-technical online SEO training allows anyone to implement a powerful online marketing strategy and I’m here to answer any questions you may have.