Why SEO is Good for Techdocs, PG Bartlett, LavaCon 2013


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PG Bartlett, head of product management for Acrolinx, presented why findability (SEO) is important for techdocs, how to improve findability, and separated myths from facts.

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  • 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

    1. 1. Why SEO is Good for Techdocs PG Bartlett @LavaCon
    2. 2. Today’s Discussion     Business impact of findability Overview of improving findability Mysteries and myths Details of improving findability
    3. 3. SEO Goal: Visibility SERPs = Search Engine Result Pages Google AdWords (Paid advertisements) Organic search results
    4. 4. 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
    5. 5. February 2013: page 86 of SERPs for “wireless router” Duplicate content Nonsense October 2013: last SERP is page 32
    6. 6. Why Improve Findability? Pre-Sales Post-Sales Increase Revenue Improve Support
    7. 7. What’s the Value of a Higher Ranking?  Impact of optimizing your support articles? Hits Support Calls  Impact on customer satisfaction & retention?
    8. 8. Let’s Optimize!
    9. 9. On-Page Optimization – Under Your Control  1 keyword (maybe 2)  Place keyword in: – – – – Title Headings (H1, H2) Description (meta tag) Links  Keyword density? – Don’t overdo it  Title – Unique
    10. 10. 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: – Title – H1 & H2 headings – Meta description
    11. 11. Off-Page Optimization – Under Others’ Control  Links from other highquality sites to yours  Social links  Server location & performance
    12. 12. When to Optimize?  After publishing – May lose readability – Costlier point to make changes • Even worse if you localize  When writing – Better-quality writing – More efficient • Better results if you localize
    13. 13. Search Engines
    14. 14. Google Isn’t Everything Ask, 2.6% Yahoo, 11.4% Bing, 17.9% AOL, 1.3% Google, 66.9% US Search Market Share
    15. 15. Google Isn’t Everything Google*, 4.7% Soso, 3.7% Bing, 0.5% Sogou, 7.8% Qihoo, 9.6% Baidu, 73.0% China Search Market Share * Google left China in 2010
    16. 16. But still… Alfresco says 75% of queries on their support knowledgebase come via Google
    17. 17. Keeping Up With
    18. 18. Keeping Up With  Search engines want to deliver relevant results  2011: Panda – focused on “quality” content – – – – Original (unique) Substantial Linguistically correct Few ads  2012: Penguin – focused on spam – Keyword stuffing – Link stuffing
    19. 19. 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  New capabilities – Conversational search – Search based on meaning (“semantic search”), not strings
    20. 20. What Should You Do?  Conversational search – Google understands search queries; e.g., “how old is” = “what is the age of” – Our advice: think about conversational queries – not just keywords  Semantic search – 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
    21. 21. Synonyms
    22. 22. Does Semantic Search = Keywords are Dead?  No: keywords still matter  You have to speak your customers’ language
    23. 23. What About Google Knowledge Graph?  Derived from CIA World Factbook, Freebase, Wikipedia, etc.  570 million objects, 18 billion facts about & relationships among objects  Supports semantic search
    24. 24. Knowledge Graph example Does Knowledge Graph know your products?
    25. 25. Sure, if you sell pizza.
    26. 26. But for other products, maybe not…
    27. 27. How Long is Your Tail?  “Short Tail” keywords: 1-2 words – “wireless router” – “digital camera” – “pizza”  “Long Tail” keywords: 3-6 words – “how to install Linksys router” – “best pizza in Golden, Colorado” – “troubleshoot Linux installation problems”
    28. 28. Which Kind of SEO are You? Short Tail Long Tail Content type Marketing Technical Competition Other companies Yourself Objective Beat competition Get found Success Measure Revenue Support Tactics Hyper-optimize & share Optimize Bonus points for Exploiting search engine weaknesses Optimizing most of your content Depends on SEO experts You
    29. 29. Your SEO Process Improve Rank & CTR
    30. 30. Improve Rank
    31. 31. SEO Process Keyword Research Keyword Management Keyword Mapping Pre- & On-page Optimization • What do your customers search for? • What are profitable keywords to optimize for? • What are my competitors doing? Off-page Optimization SEO Metrics
    32. 32. Google AdWords account/Tools & Analysis/Keyword Planner You think of keywords Select “Keyword ideas” tab Google suggests other keywords…
    33. 33. From: Metrics-based Publishing at Symantec, Bob Lee, Shared Engineering Services
    34. 34. SEO Process Keyword Research Keyword Management Keyword Mapping Pre- & On-page Optimization Off-page Optimization • Determine target keyword list • Group keywords (for example: product-related keywords) • Group for language and region SEO Metrics
    35. 35. SEO Process Keyword Research Keyword Management Keyword Mapping Pre- & On-page Optimization Off-page Optimization • Select 1 keyword for each page (maybe 2) • Do NOT optimize multiple pages for the same keywords SEO Metrics
    36. 36. SEO Process Keyword Research Keyword Management Keyword Mapping Pre- & On-page Optimization Off-page Optimization • Keyword placement (title, headings, links, description) • No keyword stuffing! • Unique title SEO Metrics
    37. 37. SEO Process Keyword Research Keyword Management • Get social Keyword Mapping Pre- & On-page Optimization Off-page Optimization SEO Metrics
    38. 38. SEO Process Keyword Research Keyword Management Keyword Mapping Pre- & On-page Optimization • KPIs (time on page, visitors, etc.) • Analyze keyword performance • Monitor site performance Off-page Optimization SEO Metrics
    39. 39. Improve CTR
    40. 40. How to Improve CTR • Compelling & SEO friendly title • Trustworthy and “readable” URL • Relevant description • Readable, no grammar and spelling errors
    41. 41. CTR Not Always Relative to Rank “Rich snippets” change the math: 30% to 150% increase in CTR! (Or not…) What about this?
    42. 42. Rich Snippets (“Structured Data”)  Types – – – – – – – People Products Businesses Reviews Events Videos Others (recipes & music)  Encoding options – Microdata (recommended) – Microformats – RDFa
    43. 43. Our Best Advice for Good Results  Place keywords appropriately – Prominent locations – Body text as needed
    44. 44. Our Best Advice for Better Results  Place keywords appropriately – Prominent locations – Body text as needed  Choose keywords carefully – Relevant – Unique
    45. 45. Our Best Advice for Great Results ClickEvery key measurement depends on creating & sharing Rank original, engaging content Engagement Conversions deep, throughs
    46. 46. Thank You! PG.Bartlett@acrolinx.com