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Making Customer Support Part Of Your SEO Program
There's been a lot of discussion around breaking down silos within marketing departments, and columnist Casie Gillette notes the benefits of breaking down inter-departmental barriers as well.
One of the greatest things I saw when working in-house was the integration of the customer support team and the marketing team.
Each week, the marketing team would meet with members of the support team to discuss any new marketing initiatives that were launching, any testing that was occurring, and anything else the support team needed to be aware of.
The customer support team in turn would provide us insights into what people were calling about, what questions they had, what issues they had, and what problems may be occurring on site. The information was invaluable.
What I’ve found since then is that this integration of support and marketing isn’t common. And that’s a problem.
Your support team can be a key factor in both your overall marketing program and your SEO program in particular. Keeping an open line of communication between the two departments can result in better content, links, and more customers. Here’s how:
Content Needs & Ideas
One of the biggest challenges businesses often have is ensuring the content on the site gives buyers the information they are looking for. If the information isn’t there, people aren’t going to buy. In fact, according to data from the 2014 B2B Web Usability report, 83% of people (B2B buyers, at least) will leave a site if they can’t find the information they are looking for.
Enter customer support.
Between live chat, social media, support communities, and call center data, you can get a great feel for what is lacking on a site. Find out:
- What questions are people asking?
- What exactly are they looking for?
- Is the information on your site?
- If so, where? If not, where can it be added?
This data can also provide insights into site usability. If visitors are asking questions and the related content is already on the site, they likely can’t find it. How can you make it more accessible?
The nice thing is, aside from simply asking your support team to track questions, live chat services like Olark will store the conversations, giving you the ability to go back in and see what was asked. Social media and support communities are both publicly available and can be easily analyzed. However, getting this information first hand is always useful.
Once you have the data, take the most frequently asked questions and turn them into assets on the site. When doing so, keep in mind where that content should live. For example, a product question could live on a product page or perhaps on a product FAQ page. A more general question, however, might make a great blog post.
Here are a few types of content that can be generated from customer data:
- FAQs (Product or General)
- Blog Posts
- Tool Tips
I can’t believe I’m using Google as an example, but they actually do a really nice job of creating video content from their customer questions in their Webmaster Tool video series.
At the end of the day, the type of content you create will be dependent on your site and your audience. The key is simply ensuring you are giving your audience what it is they are looking for.
Bonus Tip: Find positive feedback in the data? See if you can create testimonials, case studies, or product reviews for the site. Unbounce has a great list of posts on how to use testimonials for marketing.
Along with identifying content needs, customer support data can give you insights into how customers and potential customers are talking about your product or service.
- How do they describe your product?
- What phrases are they using to describe a feature?
- Is any on-site wording unclear?
One of the more difficult parts of an SEO program is getting away from using internal jargon and describing products or services the way your customers do.
Keep in mind however, your customer support team may be so used to answering questions that they don’t even notice the way people talk about your business. Take the Zappos approach. They make all employees, regardless of their role in the company train on the phone for two weeks.
Don’t have that kind of time or bandwidth? Listen in on a few calls, take a look at live chat logs, and/or monitor social for a bit.
Link building is actually one of my favorite side effects of customer service. In fact, in June 2013, I wrote a post here on Search Engine Land about the power of the customer when it comes to link building.
There are so many statistics about customer service, but the one that always sticks out to me is this:
A happy customer will tell an average of nine people about a good experience but an unhappy customer will tell nearly twice that.
So go give your customers bad experiences! Just kidding. I love this quote because it means people are talking about their experiences with brands. They are talking about them in real life, on social media, and on websites…websites with links.
I already mentioned Zappos above but they are known for their fantastic customer support and in turn, people talk about them online all the time.
Last fall I watched a great presentation by Crystal King of Keurig, where she talked about how their social media team and customer support team are each empowered to make customers happy. Because of that, when you scour the web, you see plenty of social posts along with news stories and blog posts about Keurig.
While your customer support team can’t do everything to drive links, the organization should think about how a positive customer experience can lead to more business, more referrals, and for the SEO team, more links.
Your customer support team is an invaluable source of data. If you can’t set up weekly or monthly meetings with them, work on figuring out a way to get information from their team to the marketing team. You just might find some really great stuff.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.