First, how many of you know what a “SERP” is?SERPs typically have paid results & “organic” results. You can pay for placement, or you can earn your placement.We’re focused today on organic results and how to improve them.
So far, most attention on SEO has been on pre-sales content because it drives revenue.But we’re seeing increasing interest in improving the findability of post-sales content because it can improve self-service – and therefore customer satisfaction.
A large software company optimized the keywords they used in their support articles. They saw hits more than double, and support calls related to the topics in the articles they optimized dropped by more than 30%.
As writers, we should want to improve the findability – and therefore the value – of We’re working with a company who found that by simply setting expectations for authors around improving findability, their findability improved.
These figures are updated through September 2013.
These figures are from February 2013.
The requirement for“conversational search” was driven by Apple’s Siri and Google’s voice search, where people tend to word their queries in a different way. (And semantic search is needed to support conversational search.) For example:How old is Barack Obama?How tall is he?How old is his wife?
It’s worth noting that:1. All of these hits contain the words “best wireless routers” in the page title2. The 4th link, from Newegg, isn’t actually a page of the “best wireless routers.” Instead, it’s a list of wireless routers at the best prices – so even here, you can see that semantics may not matter as much as keywords.
First, when we say “keyword,” we may be referring to a single word or to a multiple-word phrase.Short tail keywords tend to be commerce-driven, while long tail keywords indicate a deeper level of interest – and are often support-driven.In fact, there are many implicit differences between short tail and long tail beyond the obvious – as the next slide shows.
Now we’ll look at the process in detail – and we’re going to look at two distinct parts:How to improve your rankingHow to improve your CTR (“Click-Through Rate”) – which is almost as important as the ranking itself
Before – the keyword is too general; it doesn’t say enough about what this content is about, and it will compete with many other pages that also discuss the same topic.After – the keywords are far more specific
If you’re really organized, you can plan out your keyword strategy by building a list of target keywords and then making sure you’ve got content to match.But that’s hardly necessary to achieve success. What is important is to pick the keywords that people are actually searching for.
We’re assuming that you’re publishing high-quality content – that should go without saying – but it’s important to know that Google says no factor is as important than quality.
For technical documentation, you shouldn’t worry about this – unless you’ve written something that’s particularly helpful to people who are still in the buying process.
“Rich snippet” improves the appearance of your listing on the SERP, which can raise your CTR even if your page rank remains the same. But results vary wildly, depending on your specific implementation of rich snippets and your competitors’ snippets.
We’ve worked with one company in particular who tells their authors, “pick a keyword – any keyword – rather than do nothing at all.
Create deep, original, engaging content
Why SEO is Good for Techdocs, PG Bartlett, LavaCon 2013
Why SEO is Good for Techdocs
Business impact of findability
Overview of improving findability
Mysteries and myths
Details of improving findability
SEO Goal: Visibility
SERPs = Search Engine Result Pages
Google AdWords (Paid advertisements)
Organic search results
But Isn’t SEO Dead?
Yes – for “black hat” SEO
– You can’t fool search engines any more
No – for high-quality content
– Search engines want to meet customers’ needs too
February 2013: page 86 of SERPs for “wireless router”
October 2013: last SERP is page 32
Why Improve Findability?
What’s the Value of a Higher Ranking?
Impact of optimizing your support articles?
Impact on customer satisfaction & retention?
On-Page Optimization – Under Your Control
1 keyword (maybe 2)
Place keyword in:
Headings (H1, H2)
Description (meta tag)
– Don’t overdo it
But My Authoring Tool Has No Title Tag!
Then you’re not authoring in HTML
So you must learn how your content transforms to HTML
Specifically, how do you generate:
– H1 & H2 headings
– Meta description
Off-Page Optimization – Under Others’ Control
Links from other highquality sites to yours
Server location &
When to Optimize?
– May lose readability
– Costlier point to make changes
• Even worse if you localize
– Better-quality writing
– More efficient
• Better results if you localize
Keeping Up With
Search engines want to deliver relevant results
2011: Panda – focused on “quality” content
2012: Penguin – focused on spam
– Keyword stuffing
– Link stuffing
Keeping Up With
Hummingbird: new search algorithm
– Biggest rewrite since 2001
– Not an update – whole new algorithm!
Announced September 26, 2013
– But had been running “for a few months” – without incident
– Conversational search
– Search based on meaning (“semantic search”), not strings
What Should You Do?
– Google understands search queries; e.g., “how old is” = “what is
the age of”
– Our advice: think about conversational queries – not just
– Google doesn’t just look at strings any more; it also considers
synonyms to assess what your page is about
– Our advice: search for your own keywords to find what Google
considers relevant; use synonyms where appropriate
Does Semantic Search = Keywords are Dead?
No: keywords still matter
You have to speak your customers’ language
What About Google Knowledge Graph?
Derived from CIA World Factbook, Freebase, Wikipedia, etc.
570 million objects, 18 billion facts about & relationships
Supports semantic search
Knowledge Graph example
Does Knowledge Graph know your products?
How Long is Your Tail?
“Short Tail” keywords: 1-2 words
– “wireless router”
– “digital camera”
“Long Tail” keywords: 3-6 words
– “how to install Linksys router”
– “best pizza in Golden, Colorado”
– “troubleshoot Linux installation problems”
Which Kind of SEO are You?
Hyper-optimize & share
Bonus points for
Exploiting search engine
Optimizing most of your
• What do your customers search for?
• What are profitable keywords to optimize for?
• What are my competitors doing?
Google AdWords account/Tools & Analysis/Keyword Planner
You think of keywords
Select “Keyword ideas” tab
Google suggests other keywords…
From: Metrics-based Publishing at Symantec,
Bob Lee, Shared Engineering Services
• Determine target keyword list
• Group keywords (for example: product-related keywords)
• Group for language and region
• Select 1 keyword for each page (maybe 2)
• Do NOT optimize multiple pages for the same keywords
• Keyword placement (title, headings, links, description)
• No keyword stuffing!
• Unique title
• Get social
• KPIs (time on page, visitors, etc.)
• Analyze keyword performance
• Monitor site performance