Are you a technical communicator who works at a globally operating business? If so, are you involved in search engine optimization (SEO) at your company or have you potentially gone through formal training in this area? If not, make sure to read this article. I’ll try to explain why it’s crucial for technical communicators to be involved in SEO. Also, at the end of this article, I’ll discuss the importance of technical communicators as it pertains to international SEO and how you could actively support this effort.
First of all, you play a pivotal role in producing content that customers need. However, if your customers can’t find what they’re searching for online, you’re doing a disservice to your customers. Quite likely, your customers are searching for content through a search engine and not your website, so even if you have a perfectly laid-out and user-friendly website, customers may not be finding what they’re looking for. Close to 80% of all clicks will go to the top 3-4 organic (non-paid) search results on Google and other search engines. Thus, the content you produce must be found within the top few search engine results, or potential customers may visit your competitor’s website, or they may even get frustrated because they can’t find the content that’s hosted on your site and give up. This is what SEO is all about.
1. Understand and Educate Your Colleagues About the Google Algorithm
Here’s how it works briefly. Google has algorithms that sort through the billions of web pages to find an answer to a searcher’s question. There are over 250 main ranking signals that Google uses to sort through all these pages, and the signals change all the time. One of the signals and changes that Google made in the last year was to favor high-quality content. Sites that had thin, low-quality content and many advertisements found themselves demoted, and sites with high-quality content were promoted. As a technical communicator, you can have a lot of influence here – create high-quality content using keywords, which are explained below, and you can help your customers find what they’re looking for, thus reducing frustration and technical support calls.
You have an opportunity to use your skills and work to contribute to your company’s SEO program, as you are a bridge between marketing and customers. Here are some ways that you can become involved with SEO at your company.
2. Break Out of Your Silo and Learn More about SEO
As a technical communicator, you may be in a silo within your department and may not have regular access to the resources that work on SEO at your company. However, I highly recommend that you break out of that silo and get involved. The more people that can contribute to your SEO efforts, the better. I recommend having the following resources for an SEO team:
You can help fulfill that role of a content creator. You already have all of this great content, and you can reuse it in other ways to help with your SEO strategy. So meet with the SEO manager/team to learn more about your SEO strategy and ways in which you can help.
At a bare minimum, you need to understand and use target SEO keywords in your content. A keyword is a word or a string of words that you enter into a search engine to find results. By incorporating keywords into the content that you already created, you’re connecting customers to your content. Without adding keywords, your customers may not find your content, so even if it’s the best user manual that you’ve ever written, it won’t matter if people can’t find it by searching online.
3. Produce High-Quality Content Using Keywords Your Customers Are Searching For
You’re already producing technical content that your customers need – now you need to make sure that the content has the right keywords. With technical manuals, customers may search by the product name or the type of document, so this may be more straightforward. Work with your SEO manager to see how customers are searching for these types of documents so that you can incorporate those keywords into the content.
You also have an opportunity to create content using other keywords that your company is targeting. In addition to favoring high-quality content, Google has recently been favoring long-form articles as opposed to shorter blogs. You could offer to become a guest author on your company’s blog as a “Technology Tip” specialist and write about some of the common questions that your customers have, using the SEO keywords. You could also take that some content – or some other type of content – and turn it into a video script. Another idea is to create a white paper, write a snippet for it and use it in your company’s email blast with a link to the paper on your website. There are all kinds of possibilities.
4. Reuse Content
The great thing is that you already have much content, so you shouldn’t have to create much from scratch. Using the “Technology Tip” idea, you could take a common procedure that your customers struggle with and turn it into a long-form article by adding an introduction that explains the procedure and a conclusion with a call to action, such as linking to a video or a user manual. This wouldn’t be much of an effort, and it would bring the content to life for your customers.
Join your SEO team, and brainstorm ways that you can reuse your content. For example, learn what the top customer calls are for your main products, and see how you can incorporate content that addresses the concerns into your marketing messages. Lead them back to your website to learn more and have the instructions laid out there – not stuffed inside a PDF, where you then force your customers to search. There are many opportunities to reuse existing content.
5. Help Drive the International SEO Process
I frequently consult with globally operating businesses to help them streamline their multilingual SEO and digital marketing efforts. Having worked with several large and Fortune 500 companies, unfortunately, the larger the company, the more difficult it is to get all the required team members to work together so that a revenue-generating international SEO strategy can be implemented. There are many reasons why this happens. For example, upper management still doesn’t understand the importance of SEO, there’s no dedicated person or group assigned to drive the international SEO strategy, groups who are involved in the process are not willing to allocate money from their budget to the effort, technical restrictions, and so on.
As a technical communicator, I believe you have a tremendous opportunity to help bring people and departments together so that the entire company can be more successful. Frequently, the content that you are developing will get translated into multiple languages. Here’s an idea: When the marketing team tasks you with writing content for the website, ask them to provide you with the target SEO keywords for every page that you’re supposed to write. Before delivering the now optimized content in English, ask them if the content will get translated into multiple languages. If so, ask them if the marketing team is working with the localization manager so that the target SEO keywords get transcreated and not just translated.
There’s a lot more to global SEO, but I hope that this article has piqued your interest. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have an invite you to send me a message or to connect with me on LinkedIn.